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The iPad's been around for a while now, and although reviews have generally been positive, their are a few Flash and USB-shaped tweaks that many consumers are clamouring for.
Luckily, every electronics company worth their salt has decided to ignore Steve Jobs’ recent disparaging comments and are currently rushing out hundreds of slate computing options in the hope of slicing off a piece of the sure-to-be-massive tablet computing pie.
With so many quirkily named Korean imports doing the rounds, we decided it was time to have a look through the top options and see how they shape up, and if they could be responsible for the iPad’s recent poor market performance.
Just in time for Christmas, here are my top ten alternative tablet options:
1: Blackberry Playbook
While the iPad itself is impressively versatile, Blackberry clearly knows their market and has positioned this as an all-business enterprise device. It’s smaller than the iPad, with a 7 inch display that matches Samsung’s Galaxy.
RIM’s Blackberry 6 OS provides smooth scrolling and with a 1GHz dual core processor, the Playbook should easily handle multitasking.
On the downside this means that any existing Blackberry apps won’t work (so it’s goodbye ‘Texas Hold-em King’) and while Blackberry is encouraging development, it could be a major stumbling block in their battle with Apple. Java is enabled however, so it won’t be a complete app-desert, and the playbook will also run Flash, HTML5 and come with an integrated mini-HDMI port and two decent quality cameras.
Overall this covers a lot of the bases business users will be looking for, but it’s top-tier specs means it’s all likely to carry a hefty price tag as well.
2: Samsung Galaxy Tab
On its release there were some who claimed that the iPad was simply a scaled up iPhone, and Samsung obviously took those comments on board for the Tab, incorporating calling (including 3G video calls)and texting from the start.
While it’s 7-Inch screen isn’t small enough to slip in a pocket, it’s lighter and more convenient than a netbook, while still being large enough to take advantage of web browsing and scrolling.
It’s a speedy device too; with 802.11n Wi-Fi and up to 7.2 Mbps HSDPA 3G connections available, you’ll have no problems viewing all those lovely 1080p, DIVX and Flash videos.
The TAB comes with a plethora of features too, and features full GoogleApps integration. The only real niggle here is the lack of any resolution-specific apps, with the 1024x600 meaning you’ll find some busier apps a little blocky.
A solid, reliable buy if you need something a little more portable than an iPad.
3: Dell Inspiron Duo
You’d be forgiven for assuming that tablets herald the death of the netbook, but Dell isn’t so sure, hedging their bets with the Duo.
Thanks to a remarkable piece of flip-screen design, this 10 Inch device converts quickly and easily when you absolutely positively need access to a proper keyboard.
While it might seem reductive, there’s plenty of oomph going on underneath the hood as well, a dual-core atom processor and windows 7 setting this at the high-end of the netbook market. That OS means you can expect flash, and its netbook status means a proper USB connection too, as well as some cutesy Inspiron design touches and a range of colours. Of course, all these mean it’ll probably come with a fairly weighty price tag attached too.
Dell plans to have it out in time for Christmas, so start saving those pennies.
4: HP Slate
After several months of teasing us with infinite possibilities, HP finally unveiled the full Slate specs recently, and it seems they are looking to go head-to-head with the playbook rather than the iPad by positioning the Slate (which should retail for around $800) as an Enterprise ready workhorse(possibly to avoid cannibalising their own Palm market next year).
The Slate is particularly useful for hot-deskers out there, coming complete with dock and carry case and some truly top-notch features. At its heart there’s an Atom Z540 pumping out 1.86GHz, 2 gigs of Ram and a crystal HD accelerator for video.
The generous 8.9 Inch screen doesn’t quite match the iPad’s, but it’s certainly big enough to take advantage of Windows 7, and there’s also a Wacom digitizer for those who want to take plenty of notes.
The Slate also packs both VGA and 3MPX Cameras and has a handy HDMI port if you need to make a quick presentation on a larger screen(or just want to play Angry Birds on a projector screen...).
Feature-heavy, fast and reliable, The Slate packs some serious business punch.
5: Viliv X10
Details still aren’t finalised for the Viliv, but if it does half of what’s promised then it could be an impressive package.
The most notable feature is the massive 10 Inch screen with 1366x768 resolution, meaning this could be the best tablet video experience on the market, and the whole thing has been set up to handle 3D gaming and HD video
. Preview versions were running Android 2.1 back in June, but a Windows 7 version has also been doing the rounds so expect a step up for the final release, and there are also SD and USB ports and a mic jack and webcam hinting at 3G video calling capability.
Processing is handled by a respectably quick Samsung C110, and with a 32GB internal Flash memory available this is clearly aimed at the gaming and movies user.
6: Viewsonic Viewpad 7
While some are sticking to tried and tested OS, there’s certainly a huge amount of Android love going on at the moment, and you can add the Viewsonic (essentially a rebranded OlivePad) to the list, with a 2.2 OS running over some very decent hardware options given the sub-£350 ($540) price tag.
The ViewSonic comes tooled up with 3G phone capability (including a proper SIM slot) and twin cameras, but unfortunately the specs justify that low price.
While it’s passable thanks to Android, the snapdragon processor won’t be winning any gold medals, and there’s a slightly disappointing (if workable) 800x480 LCD display.
On the plus side it’s fully Google-approved so you can look forward to a solid browser come launch.
Possibly one to consider if you’re on a budget, but the market is already filling up with 7 Inch rivals so you might want to wait until the inevitable price drop before committing.
7: Archos 10/1
Yet another addition to the massed ranks of Android devices currently hitting shelves, the 2.2 Froyo-powered Archos is a very respectable all-rounder that carries a suitably pocket friendly £300 price tag but doesn’t scrimp on features.
It’s another 10 inch device, but at just under 12mm thick and under 500g it’s still a pretty portable option. There’s also a 1024x600 screen that should comfortably accommodate Android apps, flash 10 and HD capability and HDMI and Micro SD inputs surrounding the 1GHz Cortex, and it even comes with a cute kick-stand to help avoid RSI.
Definitely a viable netbook replacement, if not quite an iPad killer.
Best Buy’s shelves positively groan under the weight of RocketFish branded computer gear, so it’s no surprise to see them jumping into the tablet market with their own branded slate.
Details are still a little sketchy right now, but CrunchGear have already noted the extreme similarity to the HP Slate.
Apart from its polished 9 Inch looks, expect a Froyo 2.2 OS to provide access to apps aplenty, and a minimum 1GHz processor to provide decent multitasking capability and multi functionality to come as standard if those HDMI and SD ports are anything to go by.
There’s also been confirmation of an integrated webcam, rumours of 3G calling and expect it to be backed up by the electronics giant’s low-prices.
9: Compal Tegra
Yet another 7 Inch option now, but the NVIDIA Tegra distinguishes itself from the Android 2 pack thanks to 1080p video, Flash 10.1, SIM/SD, HDMI meaning this may be the only mini-tablet designed to appeal to the multi-media video market.
Unfortunately early reviews haven’t been glowing, mainly due to the inclusion of a still underperforming resistive screen, meaning its drag and scroll can become annoyingly clunky.
NVIDIA have promised a yearly Tegra upgrade however, which means this might be the one to go for if speed isn’t your primary concern and you need a cheap, adaptable model that will evolve with the market.
10: Kno Duo
It’s a well known fact that students are shiftless layabouts, too idle to even bother dragging across an iPad screen.
Luckily the Kno fixes this problem with its absolutely massive dual 14 inch screens.
Kno obviously think that size counts, but as each screen requires a separate battery pack, it may be at the expense of stamina.
There is a reason behind the hugeness however, as a standard college textbook will fit perfectly on here. The Kno uses an unusual Linux touch interface to create a ‘digital textbook’ rather than a traditional tablet, and is aimed squarely at the education market.
Kno promises preordering before the end of the year, and a single-screen option for those who don’t want to pile an extra $1000 on their student loan.