Portability and mobile computing are truly the wave of the future when it comes to technology and the PC consumer market. People are demanding more power, speed and updates at a fascinating rate which has led to multiple improvements and a healthy dose of competition between the companies who are building these computers. First it was laptops, then a few years ago the netbook was introduced. Today people can carry a smart phone in their pocket and have nearly all the capabilities of a PC. But recently there has been a huge shift in popularity from the smaller computing device to a slate PC tablet.
Slate computers have the advantage of a larger, more vibrant display that can properly render full web pages in amazing detail. In addition, the majority of slate tablets have capacitive touch screen where you can swipe the screen with your fingers.
However with so many options out there it can get confusing when deciding which brand to go with. A byproduct of the rapid rate of improvement in these devices is the lack of consumer knowledge each time a new model is released. I want to clear the air about some misconceptions and give you more details so you can choose the correct slate tablet PC to buy.
- Dell Streak - Dell has released it's version of a tablet PC with the Streak. Although this is more of a phone sized tablet, it has received some very positive reviews from its users. The Dell Streak comes equipped with the Android OS, 512 MB of RAM, built in GPS, a 5 inch LCD screen with a resolution of 800 x 480 pixels, two cameras and the ability to expand storage with a MicroSD card. They have announced an upcoming 7" model and may have plans in the works to release a full sized 10" model in the future.
- Asus Eee Slate - Asus has a history with tablets and slate PCs, but they are preparing to release one of the first Windows 7 tablets that is officially endorsed by Microsoft. The Asus Eee Slate EP121 boasts a much larger amount of RAM capacity, either 2GB or 4GB, a large high resolution 1280 x 800 pixel screen and even an HDMI output port so you can connect to your HDTV. They may not be the most powerful name out there but they have vast experience with tablet design and their newest model has already caused a buzz in 2011 at the CES convention. Check out the cool ad at the end of this bulleted list. They are also releasing two Android 3.0 Honeycomb powered tablets around the spring of 2011 which will be a notch below the specs of the EP121, but at a lower cost.
- Advent Vega - This slate PC was released in late 2010 in the UK, but it has many cool features, most notably a very reasonable price. The Vega runs on the Android 2.2 Froyo Operating System and has the computing power of a dual-core processor. The front facing camera is a decent 1.3 MegaPixels, but the screen size is better at a resolution of 1024 x 600 pixels.
- Motorola Xoom - Because of the popularity of the Droid, which propelled the Android OS into significance, many folks believe that the Motorola Xoom will be the closest competitor to that fruit company's slate computer that we've all heard of! In fact they won the 'Best of CES' award this year at the biggest electronic convention in the world. The specs are pretty impressive, with a 1280 x 800 pixel resolution, 1080p video playback and a 2 MP and 5 MP camera, facing the front and rear, respectively.
- Blackberry Playbook- As one of the major smart phone providers today, there was little doubt that blackberry would enter into the slate PC game. The screen resolution is a notch below the Xoom, however the Playbook's front facing camera is actually 3MP, a bit of an improvement over many other tablets. In addition to 1080p HD video playback, it also has expansion ports for micro USB and micro HDMI. The screen is 7" and the processor is a dual core for maximum performance. The other added bonus is that the Blackberry 4G network will come with the Playbook if you decide to upgrade from the WiFi only model. As always, BlackBerry will remain corporate friendly with their seamless compatibility options.
- HP TouchPad- HP is beginning to focus on the tablet market and will release their version of the TouchPad which will run on the proprietary webOS operating system which they purchased from Palm a few years ago. With specs that will rival any slate tablet PC on the market. The Palm derived OS become prominent with the release of the Palm Pre and it was widely known for it's impressive multi-tasking capabilites when compared to other tablet operating systems. While more details are upcoming, if you wait until summer this may be the latest and greatest in the slate PC world.
- HP Slate 500 - If you don't want to wait for the TouchPad, or simply want a better deal another good option is the HP Slate 500. The main difference between this model and the upcoming TouchPad is that the Slate 500 runs Windows 7 instead of webOS. The initial design started as an e-reader, but blossomed into a more full fledged media experience, hence the tablet design. The specs include an 8.9" LCD screen with 1024 x 600 pixel resolution, 64 GB of storage with a solid-state hard drive, and 2GB of RAM to speed things up. You may also use the touch screen with a stylus for more pen-like functionality, including hand written notes.
- Samsung Galaxy Tab - Samsung's first big tablet release has come with the 7" Galaxy tab. It is definitely worthy, but it does have a few inferior specs when compared with newer and upcoming tablets that have yet to hit the market. It has only a single-core processor and runs off the popular Android 2.2 Froyo OS. Another noteworthy feature is that the slate computer is encased in plastic, not metal. Due to this it isn't as sturdy, however this does make it lightweight.
- Fujitsu Stylistic- This model of tablet PC is made for people on the go, working both indoors and outdoors. The case is semi-rugged with a 12" display, has a solid-state 64GB hard drive, comes with a stylus and supports multiple pen-based functions including a digital notebook where you can write without the use of a real or virtual keyboard. The processor is an Intel Core 2 Duo, providing multi-threading when running several programs at once. It also has quite a bit of security built within, such as a finger print scanning sensor. This might not be ideal for the casual consumer but for a business man or contractor who is on the go and outside often, it is an impressive device.
- Panasonic Toughbook Tablet - If there were ever a blue-collar slate pc, the Toughbook series would fit the bill. They already have released laptop versions, but Panasonic is venturing into the tablet world. As a true outdoor computer, the 10"+ screen is still viewable in the sunlight and the casing is completely sealed for usability in every weather condition. If you are looking for a top of the line field slate tablet, look no further because you've found one of the best.
- LG G-Slate - The G-Slate tablet PC which will be released later this March is sure to be a hit due to the strong brand of LG. Not all specifications are currently known but what we do know is that it should be around 9" with the Android 3.0 Honeycomb OS. I'm sure this variety will be comparable with the other new slate tablet releases over the Summer.
- ExoPC Slate - This company hails from Canada and they have released quite a powerful tablet computer with their ExoPC Slate. It is a Windows 7 based slate PC with 2GB of RAM, a 1366 x 768 resolution on its 11.6" LCD screen. It comes with 2 USB 2.0 ports and a mini HDMI port if you want to connect your slate to an HDTV. Given the better specifications compared to most other tablets, it comes with a higher price tag. You can expect to pay somewhere between $700-900 for this model.
- ViewSonic G Tablet - Here is another Google Android based tablet, although it was initially released with the previous version, Android 2.2 Froyo. The LCD screen is a wide 10.1" with a 1024 x 600 resolution. The processor is a 1GHz dual core with 512 MB of DDR RAM, and 16GB of internal memory, however this can be expanded with the use of an SD card. The best part about this tablet is the price - you can probably find one around the $300 range, so what it lacks in pure processing power it makes up for with affordability.
- Acer Iconia A500 - This bad boy is shipping out to hit the market beginning in late April, and it carries an introductory price tag of $449 - a very competitive starting point indeed. The Acer Iconia tablet will feature Android's Honeycomb 3.0 operating system and it's specifications are eerily similar to the Motorola Xoom tablet. The main difference comes in the hard drive size and graphics capability. The hard drive will start at 16GB, however there will be an SD expansion slot if you should need to bump up the storage space. As for the graphics card, the Nvidia GeForce can output 1080p HD quality video via the HDMI output port, and can display 720p HD video on the tablet itself.
Hopefully you aren't completely overwhelmed after reading that list! I know it can be tedious but the fact of the matter is that most of these tablets are built with a lot of similarities. What it ultimately comes down to is how much you want to spend, how powerful a slate PC you want, and how comfortable you are with certain operating systems. For example, if you already own an Android based device, it will be very easy for you to get an Android based tablet. Do a little research, read a few customer reviews and you'll find something that fits your needs. With that, I'll leave you with this great commercial below for the new Asus slate tablet.