It's been nearly eight months since Apple first launched the iPad and fierce competition is just now hitting the scene. This year is all about the tablet and nearly every major electronics company had one or more on display. With so many tablets crying for your attention, it's not surprising to feel a bit overwhelmed by all of them.
We combed the floors at this year's CES, looking for all the best and crappiest tablets in existence so you don't need to. Here's our list of eight tablets that are worth looking at and four that you should stay far, far away from with a 10-foot stick.
Tablets To Love
1. Samsung Sliding PC 7 Series
Samsung's calling the 7 Series the ultimate convergence between a tablet and a netbook. The tablet has a 10-inch LED-lit 1366 x 768 screen, a 1.5GHz CPU running Windows 7, 32 or 64GB of storage, a memory card slot, HDMI port and 3G/Wi-Fi. Release should be in March or April, priced at about $700.
Why you should get it: Samsung is shooting for instant-on just like Apple's iPad and MacBook Air — we're told cold boot is 15 seconds. The LED screen has a special ambient light sensor that should make the 7 Series a joy to read e-books under the sun. The best part is its sliding design — a keyboard when you need it and hidden when you don't.
2. Panasonic Viera
Panasonic's first foray into the tablet world brings the Viera tablets, three Android-powered tablets available in 4, 7 and 10-inches. Using Viera Connect, the tablets can connect to Panasonic's Viera HDTVs to act as a remote control or as alternate screens for viewing content to and from the home monolith.
Why you should get it: While still a prototype, Panasonic does plan to produce these tablets in the future. We love the harmony that the Viera tablets have with Viera HDTVs — flicking movies, photos and other media directly from the device to your big screen wirelessly is extremely cool and handy. This is exactly the type of innovative design tablets should be pushing to make our electronics at home smarter.
3. BlackBerry PlayBook
RIM's BlackBerry PlayBook is a real challenger to the iPad. It might have a smaller 7-inch screen, but its 1GHz dual-core processor is incredibly snappy. Apps open and close quickly — all without slowdown. Multi-tasking in the background never bugged out, even when we opened 15 apps. The PlayBook is a monster.
Why you should get it: The PlayBook is FAST. We kid you not. It's super speedy and super slick. The back's matte rubber feels really nice. It'll probably never slip out of your hand and its touch sensitive bezel was better than we expected. We think RIM has a hit, now the company just needs people to bite.
4. Ocosmos OCS9 Tablet PC
The OCS9 is one of those tablets that come with an accessory that is even cooler than itself: a sleek little keypad (more on that in a sec). The OCS9 runs Windows 7 with a 1.5GHz processor, has a capacitative 9-inch screen, 32 and 64GB SSD options, MIcroSD card, dual cameras on the front (1.3 MP) and back (3MP) for video chat, accelerometer and gyroscope, stereo speakers and Wi-Fi. Ocomos is shooting for a Q3 release.
Why you should get it: The keypad is too sweet — it has haptic feedback, control buttons for gaming and its mirror-like surface gives it a high-end appeal. A bundle comes with a spare 6,000 mAH battery and a nice leather case to fit the tablet and the Bluetooth keypad. It's also supposed to pack some high-end graphics — specifically what, Ocosmos declined to tell.
5. Motorola Xoom
Holy Moses, the Xoom is not playing around. As the first tablet to run Android 3.0 Honeycomb, the Xoom is going to kick tablet ass. Powered by a 1GHz dual-core processor with a Tegra 2 GPU, this tablet screams.
Why you should get it: LIGHTNING FAST — this is what an Android tablet should have been from the start, not that oversized smartphone that Samsung's Galaxy Tab is trying to schlep onto consumers. Android 3.0 is completely optimized for tablets. And with 4G LTE coming, Motorola really knows how to do Android justice, not only for smartphones, but now for tablets.
6. Dell Inspiron Duo
Unlike the Samsung 7 Series tablet, the Inspiron Duo uses a flip hinge to switch the screen from netbook mode into tablet mode. With a multitouch 10-inch HD display, hardware accelerated graphics for smooth 1080p HD video playback, the Duo is a great little portable media center. Windows 7 and an Intel Atom 1.5GHz dual-core processor keep this tablet from conking out even under intensive app switching situations. The Duo starts at $550, which isn't too bad, considering how it's not just a tablet, but also a netbook.
Why you should get it: Sometimes you just don't want to carry a keyboard dock around. Dell's distinct hinge design gives you the best of both worlds. The Duo actually doesn't feel too heavy in your hand despite its deceptive bulk. Reading text on it was visibly clear and sharp and HD video playback was silky smooth in our demo.
7. Indamixx Tablet
The Indamixx tablet is a quirky product — it's made for DJs, audio enthusiasts and musicians. It runs on MeeGo, an open source OS developed by Intel and Nokia. Included is Transmission 5.0, a music app that'll make digital audio mixing as smooth as butter. It runs on an Intel Atom 1.66GHz dual-core processor and should be out by May.
Why you should get it: The Indamixx tablet isn't like some DJ iPad app, it's for the hardcore mixer. There are so many buttons and dials that can be used to manipulate a sound file that it made our head spin looking at all the tiny options. As tablets make their way into every industry, expect to see more specialized ones like the Indamixx that will cater to specialists.
8. Archos 101 Internet Tablet
The Archos 101 is the world's slimmest 10-inch tablet at 0.5-inches thin. Even with its slim profile, the tablet packs a load of ports on one side. It's got Android 2.2 with Flash 10 enabled. Its screen is 1024 x 600 and HD video looked all right — not super sharp — but good enough. At $300, the 101 is irresistible. Tethering a smartphone to get instant 3G access is also a plus, and it's even got a kickstand in case you want to stand it up.
Why you should get it: Super slim metal body? Check. Adobe Flash? Check. The Archos 101 is a great competitor to the iPad, at a comparatively affordable price.
Tablets To Skip
1. Coby Kryos Tablets
Coby has a range of 7, 8 and 10-inch tablets all running the old Android 2.1. With a 1GHz mobile processor and low resolution screens from 800 x 480 up to 800 x 600, the Kryos line of tablets are aimed at the bargain spectrum.
Why you should avoid it: We tried all of Coby's Kryos tablets on display at Coby's booth and we walked away unimpressed. These unresponsive tablets and their useless styli reflect the exact market Coby goes for: cheap and disposable. Avoid these at all costs as there are far better tablets out there.
2. Kno Tablet Textbook
The Kno's tagline is "everything the textbook was...and will be." You can choose from a single 14-inch screen Kno or one that has two that are tethered together. The Kno's touchscreen is great for note taking — it's included stylus is pretty responsive on the screen. Note taking essentials such as highlighting text, writing stickies and making doodles in between boring paragraphs all made the successful jump from print to digital. Too bad one thing basically makes this thing dead on arrival.
Why you should avoid it: The Kno doesn't solve the problem that most students face: the weight of the textbook. With a single Kno weighing 2.6-pounds and the dual-screen Kno at 5.5-pounds, hunchbacks will continue to plague students everywhere. If you want to simulate the real life heaviness of textbooks, then go buy a Kno, otherwise, skip this one.
The WeTab was one of the first iPad clones to make it out of vaporware status last year. While many companies have defected from Linux to Android, the WeTab is still trucking along with MeeGo. It has an 11.6-inch widescreen (16:9 aspect ratio) with a 1366 x 768 resolution screen. Standard, uninspiring netbook guts: 1.66 GHz Atom processor, two USB ports and a webcam.
Why you should avoid it: For a tablet that gets so much coverage, it's only available for sale on Amazon Germany. If you live somewhere other than Germany, it's just not worth importing, especially since there are so many better tablets out there, like the ones we told you about above.
4. HP Slate 500
The Slate 500 is another run-of-the-mill tablet with netbook innards minus the keyboard. The 7-inch tablet is light and has a grippy crystalline-like back, which we liked a lot. HP specifically targeted the Slate 500 at business users, but we can't help but think that HP just effed up on it when it was announced at last year's CES.
Why you should avoid it: The Slate 500 is everything that was wrong about Microsoft's Tablet PCs back in the day. It's a full-blown Windows 7 OS with a shoddy touch interface tacked on. This thing was not built for touch. Dragging a scrollbar to navigate a web site proves this point. The touch elements feel archaic. Stay away from this hot mess. If HP had gone with WebOS in the Slate 500, we'd most likely have put this tablet on the flip-side of this list.