A good read from CNET: As manufacturers rush to capitalize on the attention given to the Apple iPad, there’s seems to be a new tablet announced every week. We can’t keep track of every slate thrown into the wild, but if you’re curious to know what your options are, we’ve compiled a general overview of the tablet landscape.
There’s probably no explanation needed for this one. With a million iPads sold within the first month of its introduction, the iPad has quickly taken the lead position in the tablet category.
Pros: Elegant hardware; vibrant app store; ideal for media playback; large selection of games; fast processor; responsive multitouch screen; long battery life; priced as low as $499.
Cons: Users must buy their software from Apple; existing Mac and Windows software isn’t supported; lacks Adobe Flash compatibility; limited hardware support.
More after the break.
By sheer numbers, Windows-based tablets dominate the category. These include several subcategories, such as slates, convertible laptops, UMPCs, and MIDs.
Pros: Familiar UI; broadest software and hardware compatibility; Adobe Flash support; multitasking; wide range of screen sizes, pricing, and implementations.
Cons: Windows desktop UI doesn’t always translate well to the touch screen without intermediating software or stylus input; typically longer boot times compared with mobile OS; cumbersome software installation; more prone to computer virus; typically shorter battery life.
Smartphones running Google’s Android OS are some of the biggest competitors to Apple’s iPhone. Android takes a similar approach, by offering a streamlined UI based around lightweight, third-party apps.
Pros: A large variety of apps; quick boot time; third-party manufacturers competing to provide hardware; one-touch access to Google Web search; options priced as low as $199.
Cons: Current Android features and developer specs more fitting for smartphones than tablets; most apps are designed for small screens and don’t scale well; built-in media player is only average.
If you only plan on using a tablet to browse the Web or utilize Web-based applications, why not cut out the middle-man? Web tablets essentially boot up directly into a Web browser, forgoing traditional UI metaphors of desktops and applications. Examples include the Fusion Garage JooJoo, and tablets running Google’s Chrome OS.
Pros: The full, undiluted Web; quick boot-up; minimal RAM and storage requirements.
Cons: Locked into one browser; few to no offline capabilities; browser may default to mobile-optimized view of some sites; Adobe Flash compatibility not guaranteed on all devices; a similarly priced Netbook is arguably a more convenient option in most circumstances.
Dedicated E-book readers used to be pretty simple and straightforward. Generally, they used e-ink on high-contrast black-and-white displays with screen sizes of 5 to 10 inches. Most offer the ability to read e-books as well as magazines and newspapers, and the most popular ones are tied to specific content vendors (Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Sony). New tablets (such as the iPad and Windows-based models) can duplicate some or all of the functionality of an e-book reader, but the inclusion of such niceties as free 3G e-book store access and the e-ink screens–which many readers find to be easier on the eyes for long reading sessions–mean that dedicated e-book readers still have a place in a tablet world. They may continue to thrive, especially as more models appear in the sub-$200 range.
Pros: E-ink screens (on most models) that are easy on the eyes; built-in 3G wireless (on some models); lower price points than most full-featured tablets; generally good battery life (compared with many color screen tablets).
Cons: Black and white screens (on e-ink models); limited touch-screen options; additional media features (audio, video, Web browsing, third-party apps) are limited or nonexistent.