Friday, May 20, 2011

Tablet Impressions

Tonight I had a chance to play with a few tablet alternatives to the iPad. Having an iPad already, I certainly wasn't in the market to buy any of them, but I wanted to at least see what the competition has to offer.

Samsung Galaxy Tab ($429, 16GB with WiFi and 3G)
This was the second time I played with the Galaxy Tab, and my impressions weren't much different from the first time. Out of the 3 I played with, it's probably the easiest to pick up and use, but that's about the extent of it's advantages. It behaves like an Android phone, because that's essentially what it is - a 7 inch Android phone that doesn't make calls. I also found it to be a little bit sluggish, like you would expect from a 2 year old Android phone. After playing with it for a few minutes, I basically felt like it offers no real advantages over just a regular Android phone. It's no surprise that it's price at $429 having dropped from its original price of $599, because it can't compete at $599 and I'm not sure it should even be able to compete at $429.

Blackberry Playbook ($499, 16GB WiFi)
I found this tablet to be a little strange to just pick up and use. Most of the navigation is done with multi-touch gestures, which made it awkward not really being familiar with the gestures that I needed to know. The overall impression I was left with is that the user interface isn't the greatest, but it does have usability potential. Like the Galaxy Tab, the Playbook is a 7 inch tablet, but did not feel like a giant smartphone the way the Galaxy Tab did.

Motorola Xoom ($599, 32GB WiFi, $799, 32GB WiFi and 3G)
Another Android tablet, but this felt nothing like the Galaxy Tab. It has on screen controls which can take a little bit of time to get used to. Doing simple things like web browsing was far more desirable on the Xoom than the other tablets. Another thing I liked was the 3D view on Google Maps. I am of the opinion that 10 inch tablets are more useful than 7 inch tablets, so it's no surprise that I found the Xoom to be the most enjoyable to use. The WiFi model seems reasonably priced, but the 3G model seems overpriced at $799 while the equivalent iPad sells for $729. The user interface wasn't the most intuitive, actually a little disorganized, but that may be the fault of Best Buy more than the Android OS or the tablet itself.

After playing with all 3 of these tablets, I found things that I liked, but I didn't find anything that's giving me buyer's remorse over the iPad. Perhaps some of it is being an iOS veteran now on my 3rd iPhone, but I didn't really find any of them as easy to pick up and use as the iPad was the first time I used it. Honestly, I have nothing against Android, I find it to be the most desirable alternative to iOS, but even the Xoom didn't seem to me like a tablet I could recommend over the iPad. It will be interesting to see what the competition offers in the future. Samsung is coming out with a 10 inch Galaxy Tab, hopefully better than the originally. HTC is also coming out with a 7 inch Android tablet in the next few days called the Flyer. Hopefully they do the 7 inch form factor a lot better than the Galaxy Tab did.

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