Editors' note: Updated January 12, 2011.
As manufacturers rush to capitalize on the attention given to the Apple iPad, there's seems to be a new tablet announced every week. We can't keep track of every slate thrown into the wild, but if you're curious to know what options are out there, we've compiled a general overview of the tablet landscape.
There's probably no explanation needed for this one. With a million iPads sold within the first month of its introduction, the iPad has quickly taken the lead position in the tablet category.
Pros: Elegant hardware; vibrant App Store; ideal for media playback; large selection of games; fast processor; responsive multitouch screen; long battery life; priced as low as $499.
Cons: Users must buy their software from Apple; existing Mac and Windows software isn't supported; lacks Adobe Flash compatibility; limited hardware support.
CNET's Apple iPad resource page | Full review: Apple iPad
Historically, tablets running Microsoft's Windows operating system made up the major share of the market. These include several subcategories, such as slates, convertible laptops, UMPCs, and MIDs. Windows-based tablets still thrive, especially in niche professional applications that demand the capabilities and broad software compatibility of Windows.
Pros: Familiar interface; broadest software and hardware compatibility; Adobe Flash support; multitasking; wide range of screen sizes, pricing, and implementations.
Cons: Windows desktop interface doesn't always translate well to the touch screen without intermediating software or stylus input; typically longer boot times compared with mobile OS; cumbersome software installation; more prone to computer virus; typically shorter battery life.
Examples: Lenovo IdeaPad S10-3t, Archos 9 PC tablet, Asus Eee PC T91
Smartphones running Google's Android OS are some of the biggest competitors to Apple's iPhone. Android takes an approach similar to Apple's iOS, offering a streamlined interface based around lightweight, third-party apps.
In 2010, CNET reviewed several tablets running versions of Android up to 2.2 (aka Froyo), which essentially duplicated the Android smartphone experience onto a larger screen. Since that time, Google announced its tablet-optimized version of Android 3.0, named Honeycomb, due out in the first quarter of 2011 on Motorola's Xoom tablet.
Pros: A large variety of apps; quick boot time; third-party manufacturers competing to provide hardware; one-touch access to Google Web search; options priced as low as $199.
Cons: Many Android features and developer specs (pre-Honeycomb) are more fitting for smartphones than tablets; legacy apps designed for phone screens don't scale well; accessory compatibility changes from manufacturer to manufacturer; not all tablet hardware will support Android Honeycomb.
Examples: Motorola Xoom, Samsung Galaxy Tab, Dell Streak, ViewSonic ViewPad 7
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