Tablets, Tablets, Tablets: PhoneDog's Buying Guide

Noah Kravitz
 from  Oakland, CA
| August 26, 2010

Tablet computers have never really taken off with mainstream buyers, at least not until the iPad frenzy that gripped the world's holders of disposable income starting earlier this year. While so-called "convertible" notebooks, with their keyboard and touchscreen design, have been around for awhile, we seem to be approaching the Golden Age of all-touch slate computers. Or, at least, the Golden Age of every OEM on the planet trying to sell you one. Whether or not the world really wants a thousand and one new touchable slates remains to be seen; could be that everyone who was interested in a tablet already bought an iPad. No matter, though, as late 2010 into early 2011 should bring a veritable flood of touch computing choices. 

Bigger than a smartphone, smaller than a laptop: Here's a quick roundup of some of the tablets on, or soon to be on, the market:

Tablet Computers: Available and Coming Soon

Apple iPad

Apple iPad (iOS)

  • What's Good: Excellent display, performance and battery life. Access to 1000s of apps already.
  • What's Bad: Too large and heavy for comfortable e-Reader use. No multitasking. No camera. 
  • Buyer Beware: FaceTime video chat is such an obvious fit for iPad, a new iPad with camera has to be coming soon.
  • Remember: If you plan to use iPad for watching video, you're going to want a case or stand with which to prop it up.

iPad Product Hub

Samsung Tab

Samsung Galaxy Tab (Android)

  • What's Good: Tab is modeled on the high-performance Galaxy S line of smartphones and will run Android 2.2.
  • What's Bad: Tab's user interface looks like a knockoff of Apple's iOS.
  • Buyer Beware: While Tab's teaser site advertises video calling and "augmented reality," we won't know what that means until the product launches on September 2nd.
  • Remember: 7" may be too small of a display size for a full-on tablet computer. Or it may be a more portable - and reading-friendly - alternative to iPad's 9" screen.

Samsung Galaxy Tab: More Information

Notion Ink Adam

Notion Ink Adam (Android)

  • What's Good: Adam's display will use Pixel Qi technology, which aims to combine the best attributes of e-ink and LCD for reading and Web/multimedia applications.
  • What's Bad: Since we've only seen Adam in early prototype form, it's hard to say.
  • Buyer Beware: This thing has been demo'd at trade shows for going on a year now, but only Slashdot has been privy to any real details on the family of devices. Vaporware? Hope not!
  • Remember: Android tablets will soon be a dime a dozen. Adam looks like it has enough to distinguish it from the pack, when it finally ships. Pricing has been set at $399-499, depending on options.

More on Adam at DroidDog

Dell Streak

Dell Streak (Android)

  • What's Good: It's a giant smartphone. It's a tiny tablet. It's got a 5" screen and makes phone calls on AT&T.
  • What's Bad: Ships with Android 1.6, which is, like, so last century. 5" display is awful big for a phone.
  • Buyer Beware: Streak is only available direct through, and they charge a restocking fee on returns. So it's pretty much impossible to get hands-on with this thing before buying it ... unless you're the gambling type.
  • Remember: Everyone is promising Android 2.2 upgrades, but until they've rolled out you're still stuck running 1.6 (in Streak's case). Not that that matters in all cases - just something to keep in mind.

Dell Streak: More Information


Tablet Computers: Rumored and/or Expected Soon


Motorola "Stingray" (Verizon / Android)

  • The Rumor: Verizon and Google's "iPad Killer," in time for the Holidays. Android 3.0, dual cameras with video chat, and some form of mobile TV on board. Built my Motorola, powered by Nvidia's Tegra 2 chipset, and quite possibly marketed as a "dual-core" tablet computer.
  • Our Take: This should be the litmus test for tablet popularity in the United States. Verizon put "Droid" on the map, even though most people still don't know what "Android" is. Can they do the same for tablet computing? And will this thing support full-on FiOS TV? Stay tuned.



RIM BlackPad (BlackBerry OS or BlackBerry/QNX)

  • The Rumor: RIM's tablet computer will be marketed as the "BlackPad," but may not run BlackBerry's OS. Rumor has it that RIM will make good on the $200 Million they invested in QNX Software Systems by having QNX develop a brand new platform for the Pad. 

  • Our Take: RIM, like everyone else, is likely going to bring a tablet to market within the next six months, or at least bluff loudly about the idea. Thing is, why would they roll out a brand-new, tablet-only platform when they just launched BlackBerry OS 6 on the Torch? Hmm. RIM's touchscreen efforts have so far fallen short, though OS 6 is actually kind of cool - or would be if it ran on decently fast hardware.

Samsung Reality

HP Palm Pad (webOS) and Windows Slate (Windows Phone 7)

  • The Rumor: HP will launch a WIndows Phone 7-based tablet computer later this year and a webOS-based tablet in Early 2011. HP's EVP of Personal Systems said so. 
  • Our Take: HP is wise to make good on their investment in Palm while continuing to support their base of Windows-loyal customers. And they're big enough to do both, no question. Problem is, it's been a long time since Palm made a splash with webOS, and with every day that goes by they lose more mindshare. Will webOS 2 - and a new smartphone - launch in time for the Holidays, or will we be waiting until "early 2011" to see something, anything, new from Palm? If we have to wait that long, it just might be too late for what might be the most awesomest of the awesome new mobile OSes.



    Best Buy Rocketfish Tablet (Android)

    • The Rumor: Best Buy CTO Robert Stephens loves him some tweeting, and he's told the twitterverse that a Rocketfish (Best Buy's house brand) Android 2.2 tablet with video chat capabilities is in the works. Add that to BB's recent comments that tablets will be a "focus" of theirs for the holidays, and you've got yourself one tasty low-budget rumor.
    • Our Take: On the one hand, who's going to buy a Rocketfish tablet computer? On the other hand, I have a Rocketfish wireless rear speaker thingy and it works just fine, so why couldn't they do a computer? On the third hand, you guys know that Best Buy Mobile sponsors some of our videos and giveaways, so ... well, so nothing, I just figured I should mention that in the spirit of non-sequiter style full disclosure.


      ASUS EeePad

      • The Rumor: One-time kings of the netbook, ASUS has two or more tablet computers in the pipeline for release in the coming months. One was supposed to run Windows 7 Embedded Compact, but that's clearly not a very good name so they dumped it in favor of Android. The other is going to run Windows 7. 
      • Our Take: ASUS makes tons of cheap, decent PCs and Netbooks and Nettops. So of course they're going to make a tablet or three, as well. Odds are they'll also be cheap and decent.


      windows phone 7

      Windows Slates from Dell, Sony, Toshiba, and Others

      • The Rumor: There are a ton of tablets coming. Some will run Windows 7. How this may or may not relate to Windows Phone 7 is still unclear. But I'm sure it'll all be clear soon enough. You know, like how Android OS fragmentation is clear.
      • Our Take: 2011 will be an interesting year for Microsoft. Frankly, we're just not sure how the market will react to Windows Phone 7, seeing as MSFT saw fit to kill Windows Mobile 6.5 support dead in its tracks some six months before WP7 was slated to ship. How that may or may not relate to Windows Phone 7 is still unclear. But we're sure it'll all be clear soon enough. You know, like how Android OS fragmentation is clear.

        There are also a good ten, twenty, or maybe three hundred prototype Android OS tablets being shown off at trade shows or at least being talked about in vaporware form by CEOs and PR people. We'll see how many of those actually come to be. Not to mention the Fusion Garage JooJoo, which predated iPad and yet never actually shipped ... right? Then there's the Sharp e-reader, which looks more like a 3D-capable tablet than an e-reader to me, at least in this mockup. And Archos already has a slew of ill-received Android tablet/PMPs on the market. Of course don't forget about the so-called "$35 Indian Tablet." Ahem.

        For more, go check out the great work by Harry McCracken and Technologizer, whose "iPadversaries" tablet roundup was consulted many times during the compilation of this guide. Also, iPadversaries! Wish I'd thought of that title!