Android Thoughts: Tablet Paralysis: Which One Do I Choose?

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Monday, April 4, 2011

Tablet Paralysis: Which One Do I Choose?

Posted by Jason Dunn in "Laptop Thoughts Talk" @ 09:00 AM

I've been pondering getting a tablet since the first iPad was introduced, but I'm not generally the kind of person who buys a piece of technology and then figures out if I have a good use for it. I'm still not sure how useful I'll find a tablet, but I figure it's worth finding out since this is the beginning of a large wave in mobile computing...I can't just sit it out.

Long-time readers know there are some things about the way Apple does business that really irk me, so it doesn't take much for me to consider products outside the Apple ecosystem if they're viable. When it comes to tablets, that's easier said than done. I find myself leaning fairly heavily toward the iPad 2, but then an email came my way that changed things...

Last Friday I received an email from Future Shop (which is owned by Best Buy) promoting various tablets, though it's amusing to see that three of the four tablets above are only for pre-order...only Apple is in the market right now in Canada with the iPad 2 (and on their second generation no less). A couple of things surprised me, however; first, that the Motorola Xoom is only $599 for the WiFi version with 32 GB. It has a screen that's an inch bigger than the iPad 2, has expandable storage via microSD (though apparently that doesn't work right out of the box), and is $20 cheaper than the 32 GB iPad 2 in Canada. I was also surprised to see RIM pricing the PlayBook at $499 - I'm glad they clued into the fact that they weren't going to get more than that for a 7" tablet with 16 GB of storage.

Xoom vs. iPad 2: So Many Variables!

I had a brief hands-on with the Xoom at CES 2011 in Las Vegas this year, and the hardware was impressive from what I recall. I haven't had much of a chance to look at the software yet though, and that's definitely a catch for me: I easily have 60 apps that I've purchased for my iPod Touch (or my son's) and that lure of having those apps on the iPad is significant...though it remains to be seen how many of them have iPad versions available, and what it will cost (if anything) to get those versions. It's hard to get past the seemingly tiny number of Honeycomb-optimized apps for Android - shouldn't that number have gone up significantly in the past few months?

In the past two weeks I've gotten to spend some decent hands-on time with the iPad 2, and there's a lot to like about the hardware. One thing that I didn't like, however, was the 1024 x 768, 4:3 aspect ratio screen. I watched a sample movie and the massive black bars above and below the image looked utterly ridiculous. 4:3 is great for photos, but for wide screen movies? It pretty much sucks. Mobile video content is a key scenario for me, so this gives me pause. The Motorola Xoom, on the other hand, has a 1280 x 800 resolution screen, which comes out at a 16:10 aspect ratio. That's an aspect ratio much more well-suited to watching movies and TV shows.

Android lacks a comprehensive media purchasing ecosystem, so it would be mostly me watching ripped DVDs - yet when I consider my severe dislike of iTunes video DRM, it might be a wash. In both cases I'll probably end up bringing my own media (BYOM). I'm curious if I'll feel like the Xoom is too big if I go that route; I was leaning toward a seven inch tablet because I feel like that's a nice size, but it's hard to ignore the fact that the Xoom gives me a big screen and 32 GB of storage while other tablets around the same price are seven inches. If the seven inch tablets were $399 or $449, that would be a different story.

But Wait, What About...

And then there's the HTC Flyer - I'm a fan of HTC's products, so this one interests me a fair bit...though the 1024 x 600 isn't quite wide angle either (moreso than the iPad however). We can't forget the new Samsung Galaxy Tabs either - though I'm somewhat baffled as to why they went with a 10.1" and an 8.9" screen. Why not 7" instead of 8.9"? A three inch difference makes a lot more sense when it comes to product differentiation and market segmentation than a 1.2 inch difference. I'm not sure what Samsung was thinking here.

It seems like the tablet market is changing extremely fast and I'm finding it hard to pick a "winner" - what factors went into you picking the right tablet for your needs? Or are you still on the fence like I am?

Jason Dunn owns and operates Thoughts Media Inc., a company dedicated to creating the best in online communities. He enjoys photography, mobile devices, blogging, digital media content creation/editing, and pretty much all technology. He lives in Calgary, Alberta, Canada with his lovely wife, his wonderful son Logan, and his sometimes obedient dog. He's surprised how hard he's finding it to buy a tablet.

Do you enjoy using new hardware, software and accessories, then sharing your experience with others? Then join us on the Thoughts Media Review Team! We're looking for individuals who find it fun to test new gear and give their honest opinions about the experience. It's a volunteer role with some great perks. Interested? Then click here for more information.


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