A Complete Guide To Android Tablets
Since the release of Google’s Android platform, the OS has become fairly ubiquitous in mobile phones and is now extending its reach to tablet devices. With machines offered at a wide range of price points by both brand name companies and less renowned manufacturers, it becomes difficult to sift through the clutter of offerings.
After all, the tablet market is still relatively nascent, and user expectations of what makes a good Android tablet have yet to be defined.
Nevertheless, as the tablet market grows, so do the assumptions for what they can and should be capable of, and how that coincides with a user’s specific needs.
The following guide hopes to aid individuals whittle down their choices concerning both existing Android Tablets and the Android 3.0 Honeycomb tablets set to hit the market in early 2011.
Defining Your Needs
The first thing a potential Android tablet consumer should consider is what they want out of their device. For those who only wish to check email, do social media interaction, and casually browse the internet, most products will suit their needs. For these individuals the two governing factors are affordability and reliability.
However, even if you only aspire to use an Android tablet for light use, you might quickly discover that an Android tablet is ideal for many other functions that were previously cumbersome on smaller mobile devices, such as streaming movies, playing games, or conversing through video chat.
Prospective buyers should consider not only the functions they currently make use of, but the functions previously unavailable to them as well.
Higher Pixel Resolution
Many tablet consumers hope to use the device as an e-reader. However, without proper pixel resolution, reading PDFs or websites in full page view can cause the text to become obfuscated and blurry.
If reading is a priority, users should limit their search to screens with a minimum of a 1024 x 600 resolution, with 1280 x 760 being more optimal. 1280 x 760 resolutions are only available via Android 3.0 tablets.
Ample Memory and Disk Space
Most Android tablets will come with an expandable MicroSD flash drive, allowing users to upgrade from the standard 8 to 16GB of storage space. If a tablet does not offer expansion, it is not a recommendable purchase given the constraints that may arise later on. As for memory, most Android 3.0 tablets will come with a minimum of 512MB of internal RAM.
While older Androids may provide less, some offer expansion through memory card slots. The cost of any additional memory card slots, however, should be factored in to the overall cost of the tablet.
Powerful Enough Processor
Most Android 3.0 processors come standard with dual-core processors. For older Android tablets, it is recommended consumers buy one with a 1GHz processor. Typically, slower processors will make the tablet run poorly, while faster processors will consume copious amounts of battery life.
Camera and Video Chat
While most users may not see any need for a quality camera on their tablet, the advent of video chat is slowly changing this paradigm. With the technological advances of internet communications software such as Google Talk and Skype, tablets that combine high resolution screens and high quality cameras become ideal for video chat on the go.
As USB is the standard for most external devices, having an optional USB port is something to be considered. If you want quick and easy access to flash drives, printers, recharging devices or other wired connections, having a USB port available might be convenient. However, as more and more devices allow for wireless connections, USB ports will become increasingly insignificant going forward.
Android 2.2 Tablets
With the Android 3.0 Honeycomb set to hit the market this year, the prices of older Android 2.2 tablets will drop precipitously. Many conscientious buyers, often referred to as “laggards,” choose to purchase older devices at a discounted price.
Android 2.2 tablets, while outdated in some respects, still retain enough power to suit basic user needs. The following are the premier Android 2.2 tablets on the market today:
Advent Vega (£249.99)
An affordable tablet powered by a dual-core 1GHz Tegra 2 and a 10-inch, 1024 x 600 screen, with a 1.3 megapixel webcam and 10 hours of battery life for everyday usage.
Archos 70 (£229) and Archos 101 (£269)
The smaller 7-inch tablet features a single core 1GHz ARM Cortex A8, an 8GB flash drive or 250GB hard disk, and an HDMI output. Best for light use, the screen features a modest 800 x 480 WVGA resolution. The 101 offers a multi-touch screen with a 1024 x 600 WXVGA display. It has the same specs as the Archos 70, but with a 16GB flash drive in place of the hard disk.
Asus Eee Pad (TBC)
The Eee Pad will run Gingerbread, or Android 2.3, with a proposed 10-inch screen, 10 hours of battery life and a low voltage Intel CULV processor.
Dell Streak (Free with contract)
A hybrid between smartphones and tablets, the 5-inch streak has an 800×480 WVGA touchscreen and an expandable 16GB MicroSD storage.
Elonex eTouch (£159)
The extremely affordable price makes the eTouch a worthy bargain. Its 10.1-inch 1024 x 600 screen is a tad cloudy and can occasionally misread gestures, and its battery life averages roughly 3 hours per day. However, for £159 device its imperfections are relatively minor and still makes for a good tablet.
Notion Ink Adam (TBC)
Having been released at the end of last year, the Adam features a vast array of impressive specs, from a 1024 x 600 LCD or Pixel-Qi display to a dual-core 1GHz Tegra processor. It has 1GB of RAM and a battery life of 6 to 16 hours.
Samsung Galaxy Tab (£529.99)
It’s no coincidence that the Galaxy Tab is priced at the same cost as a 3G iPad. However, the device does suffer from some web browsing lag and a lackluster, 7-inch 1024 x 600 screen.
Toshiba Folio 100 (£329)
The Toshiba Folio 100 features a Tegra 2 processor, a 10.1-inch 1024 x 600 multi-touchscreen, and 7 hours of battery life. Like most other tablets, it has a 1.3 megapixel webcam and an expandable MicroSD drive, with a price cheaper than other brand name products.
Viewsonic Viewpad 10 (TBC)
In an interesting choice, the Viewpad boots both Android and Windows 7. It features a 1.66GHz Atom processor and 1GB of RAM, making it on par in terms of power with most netbooks. However, the Android OS is significantly outdated, running version 1.6 instead of 2.2.
Android 3.0 versus Android 2.2
Despite the capabilities of earlier versions of Android, going forward users should look to purchase a tablet that runs on Android 3.0. This will set consumers not only for compatibility with future apps, but also augment the overall user experience. Android 3.0, unlike earlier versions, has been specifically designed for the larger screens and processing power of the tablet.
With a virtual interface, high resolution graphics, and revamped apps and animations, Android 3.0 is both aesthetically pleasing and technologically efficient. In fact, many of the requirements for high definition media and multi-touch capability come standard in Android 3.0 tablets.
The following are a list of Android 3.0 tablets that have been confirmed for release in 2011.
Asus Eee Pad MeMo
This 7-inch capacitive display offers 1080p playback and stylus support, powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon chipset. The Asus Eee Pad MeMo also provides dual cameras for video chat, a MeMIC phone extender, and a mini-HDMI port to connect to a high definition TV. The tablet is set to release in June.
Asus Eee Pad Slider
For those who dislike touch screen keying, the Asus Eee Pad Slider has a QWERTY keyboard that slides out from behind the tablet. Featuring a 10.1 inch IPS 1280 x 800 display and a Nvidia Tegra 2 dual-core processor, the Slider is still relatively portable at a width and weight of 16.7 millimeters and 886 grams. The Asus Eee Pad Slider is set to release in May.
Asus Eee Pad Transformer
Sporting the exact same display and processor as the Slider, the Transformer will come with a detachable keyboard that transforms the tablet into a fully functioning netbook. It will also feature dual 1.2 megapixel and 5 megapixel cameras. The Asus Eee Pad Transformer will hit the market in April.
The Motorola XOOM will be powered by a dual-core 1GHz Tegra 2 processor, and has a 1280 x 800 10.1-inch multitouch-capable display, 1080p HD output via HDMI, and WiFi. The XOOM has been confirmed for release in the UK by Motorola, but to-date there’s no official word on pricing or a specific release dat.
Toshiba Honeycomb Tablet
While Toshiba has yet to give its tablet a name, the company has announced that their tablet will feature a 10.1-inch touch screen display with Toshiba’s proprietary EasyGrip exterior finish.
It will feature a dual-core Nvidia Tegra 2 chip with integrated Nvidia graphics, which will allow for Adobe Flash 10.1 support and full frame-rate 1080p playback. The tablet will come with HDMI support for connecting to a HDTV, as well as both full and mini USB 2.0 ports.
Additional storage will be available through an SD Card slot. Bluetooth and WiFi support will also be included. The Toshiba tablet will debut some time in the first half of 2011.