There are some Android tablets that stand out from the crowd. Let’s have a look at three of them that any potential buyer should be sure to check out.
When the Eee Pad Transformer debuted, it made a surprisingly big splash. According to some reports this tablet is the second most popular currently available behind the iPad 2, which is surprising. It’s not as if ASUS has put much effort into marketing.
The reason for its sudden popularity is the optional keyboard dock. While many tablets have docks, the Eee Pad Transformer was designed from the ground up to work with one. Once inserted into the keyboard dock this tablet operates much like a netbook. A battery is hidden in the dock, as well, extending life to between 14 and 16 hours in most situations.
One downside of this Eee Pad is a lack of support for mobile data plans, although a 3G version is expected sometime this month.
Don’t let yourself be hung up on the dock, however – you don’t need it to make this a great device. The base tablet is excellent and it’s just $399 (the dock is an additional $150). It offers solid build quality combined with an elegant Espresso finish. While the pricing might lead one to think this is a budget option, the Eee Pad is actually on par with the competition, right down to the Tegra 2 processor.
Just released in July, the Lenovo IdeaPad K1 is the company’s first consumer Android tablet. Sex appeal is one of the K1’s greatest strengths. It’s offered with several different color options for the back panel and features a smooth design that, in my opinion, is even more attractive than the iPad 2.
Another impressive feature is the user interface. Stock Honeycomb is common on Android tablets, and any changes are usually not for the best. The K1, however, adds a convenient launcher widget in the middle of the home screen that lets users sort apps into specific categories like Watch (movies) or Listen (music/podcasts). This organization reminds me a lot of libraries in Windows 7. There are a few other extras as well, such as an App Wheel that can be used as a quick-launcher for your favorite apps.
The rest of the K1’s features are standard for Android tablets. It has a Tegra 2 processor and battery life of over 8 hours, which is a bit better than average. The only potential deal-breaker is the tablet’s relatively hefty weight of 1.6 pounds. Still, the base price of $499 is attractive.
Apple’s iPad had no serious competition until Samsung released the Galaxy Tab in the latter half of 2010. The original was quite robust, but in response to the iPad 2 it has been redesigned significantly.
The new version, called the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1, is a formidable opponent. It’s slightly lighter than Cupertino’s tablet (1.24 pounds vs. 1.35) and is approximately as thin. The design doesn’t have the punch of the K1 or the elegance of the Eee Pad, but it’s attractive in its own right and it’s lighter than either of those entries. Users can expect over eight hours of endurance from the battery. Like the other entries here, this tablet has a Tegra 2 processor.
At $499, the Galaxy Tab 10.1 doesn’t try to win on price alone. The Eee Pad Transformer is clearly better value, but its subdued aesthetics won’t be to everyone’s taste and it’s heavier. The K1 carries extra bulk as well. As a result, this tablet is likely the best choice for frequent fliers, road warriors, and other users who will often be using the tablet without a stand or solid piece of furniture to sit it upon.
In my opinion, these three tablets are the clear winners in the current Android market. The Xoom was great when it came out, but the styling is now unimpressive and the display was never great. The Acer Iconia Tab feels cheap but remains more expensive than the Eee Pad Transformer. Toshiba’s Thrive is bulky yet offers less battery life than the options above.
The market is changing rapidly, so buyers should keep a look out for the latest-and-greatest. But for now, these are truly the best Android tablets. Do you have one of these three? If so, how do you like it?