If you’ve been paying attention over the past couple of months you’ll know that tablet PCs are big business. You’ve probably even played with an iPad if you’ve ventured into any of the many hardware retailers in your local mall.
Everyone loves the idea of a tablet PC. They’re ultra-portable, super attractive and sometimes even small enough to fit into your pocket or a small bag. What’s not to love about something that does most of the work of a laptop but doesn’t take up much more space than a large cellphone?
If you’ve only being paying a little bit of attention over the past couple of months you might also assume that Apple’s iPad is the only tablet PC available. A bit like the iPod is the only digital music player available. The reality is that there are a stream of tablet PCs heading the consumers way in the coming months. So, before you rush out and buy an iPad here’s a wrap of the tablet PC options available:
Apple has already released the iPad2 so prices for the first generation iPad are pretty good right now. A first generation 16GB iPad with Wi-Fi and 3G will set you back around R5 000, R3 899 without the 3G option, which is a great price. Of course there is the iPad2 which is lighter, faster and generally more desirable (at least according to Apple). It’s worth holding out for the iPad2 if you really want the dual cameras but it’s also worth bearing in mind that as soon as you buy an iPad2 there will be an iPad3 and shortly after that an iPad4. And you’ll want one of those as well.
Samsung’s range of Galaxy Tab devices are pretty compelling if you’re not an Apple devotee. The original 7-inch Galaxy Tab is great for reading books and such but the smaller screen size won’t appeal to all users. If you want something bigger then the 8.9-inch Galaxy is coming, as is the 10.1-inch version which mirrors the iPad’s size. The major drawback with the Galaxy Tabs are the pricing – the 7-inch is almost double the price of the first-generation iPad – but feature-for-feature they are an easy match for the iPad.
The Motorola Xoom is a great piece of hardware with a nice big screen (10.1-inch) and built to specifically run Android 3.0, or Honeycomb. The only trouble is you’re not going to find one in just any local shop. For now the Xoom’s availability is relatively limited but you can find one online. Price is also an issue with the Xoom which is not the cheapest tablet available. The Xoom is expected to be released locally in May.
HTC’s big tablet play is the Flyer, which the company showed off locally last week. The Flyer sports a 7-inch display, along the lines of the first Samsung Galaxy Tab. Naturally the Android OS on the Flyer is customised with HTC’s sense interface. Price-wise the Flyer is expected to sell for around R6 000 and will be available to South African consumers from early May. The Flyer has all the features to make for a competitive product, although the price might put users off the smaller screen size.
One of the major hardware players that have been quiet until now is Acer. The company jumped feet first into the netbook market with its Aspire range and got some good traction in that area. Now Acer is reportedly ready with its first real tablet device: the Acer Iconia Tab A500. The Iconia will run Android Honeycomb and sports a 10.1-inch screen. Official pricing and release dates for South Africa have not been announced yet.
Despite RIM’s ever-decreasing popularity in the rest of the world, BlackBerry remains a strong brand in South Africa. So it’s worth including the forthcoming Playbook on your list of potential tablet devices. If you’re already a BlackBerry fan then chances are that the 7-inch Playbook will appeal to you. For others, however, there’s every chance you’ll want to look elsewhere. Initial reviews of the Playbook have been pretty mixed though the general consensus is that the Playbook doesn’t really live up to expectations. Most notable is the New York Times’ David Pogue who points out that the Playbook doesn’t actually have its own email, calendaring and address book applications. For that users will have to tether it to a BlackBerry handset. That’s a killer for most users.
There are literally dozens of other tablet PCs heading for the market. So before you jump in take some time to consider your exact needs.
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