Hot for tablet

I’ll admit it. I’m hot for tablet. Not since Lego started doing Star Wars kits have I been this excited about a new toy. I want one deeply. Desperately.

But I also have standards.

Despite all the heads she’s turned in the past few months, I’m not hot for iPad. There’s no denying the fact that the iPad has attractive qualities—it’s a marvel of industrial design with a slick user interface, a gorgeous screen, and impressive battery life. However, the arbitrary Jobs Knows Best restrictions that impair the iPad offend my sensibilities, and I can’t bring myself to pay for the privilege of submitting to Apple’s stranglehold on the device.

Despite my disdain for the attitude that governs the iPad, I would prefer a slate more akin to a big iPod touch than a fully functional Windows PC. Perhaps that’s because I’m looking for something to complement my ultraportable notebook rather than replace it. I don’t need Windows on what will essentially be a web surfing and media consumption device, nor do I want to deal with all the baggage that comes along with supporting the OS. There are plenty of viable alternatives, including Linux variants, Android, WebOS, and Microsoft’s own Windows Embedded Compact 7

Tablet lust has driven me to scour Computex reports for signs of a suitable subject, but none has passed muster. The Windows 7 slates look pricey, bulky, and I still haven’t seen a compelling multitouch-enabled interface for the OS. Devices that have taken the overgrown smartphone route look more promising, but they’re a little too barebones for my tastes.

Rather than simply lobbing criticism from the safety of the Benchmarking Sweatshop, I’m going to try to be more constructive. File this under “man seeking tablet,” if you must.

For me, a tablet’s user interface is by far the most its important element. The iPhone set the bar here, and anything less than a snappy, multitouch-infused GUI isn’t going to cut it. I can do without eye candy and fancy transition effects if they’re going to slow things down at all. First and foremost, the interface needs to feel fast and responsive. A good interface will also require a display with sufficient touchscreen sensitivity. I don’t need pinpoint stylus precision, but tracking must feel accurate and keep up with quick gesture flicks.

As for the screen itself, 10-12 inches seems like the sweet spot. I’ve spent a lot of time with the TN panels in my Eee PC and Acer ultraportable notebook, and I could live with similar displays in budget slates. However, I’d be willing to cough up some extra cash for an IPS panel with richer colors or an e-ink display that has usable text in direct sunlight.

For a device that’s perfect for video playback, a widescreen aspect ratio makes sense. 1024×600 is only going to be good enough if we’re talking about a 10″ system that’s selling for around $300, which should be doable given the price of netbooks with that screen size and resolution. I’d prefer to have at least 1280×720 pixels for true 720p playback, and I certainly wouldn’t mind the same 1366×768 resolution as my ultraportable. 1366 vertical pixels would be great for reading or surfing in portrait mode.

I’m not particular about the silicon behind the screen, but Intel’s Moorestown platform and Nvidia’s second-gen Tegra system-on-chip look like the best candidates. Fluid HD video playback is a must, and I’d like to be able to pipe 1080p content over HDMI with the audio stream intact. A robust graphics processor for gaming would be nice, too, although I could easily live without one.

Flash support isn’t negotiable, though. Regardless of how I feel about Flash’s hunger for hardware resources, I want a tablet that can access the web in its entirety. Streaming video doesn’t have to be buttery smooth at 1080p resolution, but standard-definition content better play back perfectly, and without bringing the browser to its knees.

In terms of connectivity, I’d like an HDMI output alongside analog headphone and microphone jacks. Such a device should probably have a webcam, and it absolutely needs a USB port. Really, a couple of USB ports would be ideal to make it easier for users to attach accessories like keyboards while still leaving a plug free for a charging cable, thumb drive, or missile launcher. Proprietary connectors have no place here.

Obviously, such a device needs Wi-Fi connectivity. Some kind of cellular broadband support is probably prudent, as well, although that’s an option I would definitely leave off budget models.

Solid-state storage is the way to go for tablets, and depending on the operating system’s footprint, 8 or 16GB might be a decent starting point for a base configuration. Of course, there’s going to have to be an SD card slot that allows users to expand the system’s storage capacity easily.

The iPad has been criticized for being too heavy to comfortably hold with one hand. I don’t see slates getting much lighter without resorting to more exotic and expensive materials that I’d rather not pay a premium for, though. Manufacturers definitely shouldn’t skimp on battery capacity to shed weight. I don’t need all-day run times, but it’s hard to imagine shelling out for a slate that couldn’t surf the web for at least eight hours between charges.

Oh, and no glossy plastic. Anywhere. Ever.

As far as I can tell, no one tablet combines all the elements I’ve outlined. I’m not asking for the moon here; everything on my wish list can be found in existing tablets, netbooks, and budget ultraportable notebooks, all of which cost less than the $500 minimum for one of Steve’s slates. The problem appears to be that my current sweet spot lies somewhere between Windows 7 tablets and overgrown smartphones. Unfortunately, my tablet lust will apparently have to go unquenched for now in the hope that the two camps will converge, collide, or copulate to create the perfect slate—for me, anyway.

Comments closed
    • documetnsithemes
    • 9 years ago

    Is there a way to make it from regular cocoa powder or baking chocolate?

    §[< http://hubpages.com/hub/Cho-Yung-Tea-Reviews<]§

    • burntham77
    • 9 years ago

    Neat article. The iPad is nice, but yeah, the tablet PC thing is just not quite there yet.

    • mboza
    • 9 years ago

    HDMI out would be nice. What I would like is HDMI in too, to use as a second monitor when I am at the desktop anyway, but it is probably better just to get a second monitor.

    Still would like a hybrid tablet / laptop with a swivel screen, it might be light enough to use instead of an iPad for me, while still being a proper laptop when required (well, I would get it for the gf, rather than wait for her to buy herself a new laptop).

    • ShadowTiger
    • 9 years ago

    I have a similar list of requests for a netbook, and yet there are no netbooks that are just what I want, and its been a while since netbooks came out. By the same logic I would assume that you will NEVER see a tablet that meets all your requirements.

    I can only guess that either the companies that design these things have decided that picky consumers are a small enough demographic that they can be ignored… or that they are purposely filling the market with products that have Pros AND Cons so that no one product will stand above the rest. The second one doesn’t make sense really… but who knows it could be true.

    • lilbuddhaman
    • 9 years ago

    Do we have a date on any of these ? I’ve been getting into multiple tv series recently and would like something to watch them on, as well as something to use at work/on the job as a Schematic Viewer.

    A 10″ solid screen that I could browse wiring diagrams would be awesome. I’d have to put a Gigantic Scratch Protector on it or some kind of industrial strength hardcase, but it’d be pretty awesome. Plus my coworkers + customers would think I’m out of star trek or something.

    • Trymor
    • 9 years ago

    l[<...TN panels in my Eee PC and Acer ultraportable notebook, and I could live with similar displays in budget slates.<]l You may want to re-think that. Once you flip a TN panel to portrait, the contrast shift can be much more annoying, depending on the quality of the TN, and of course, the tolerance of the buyer. Try

    • Tamale
    • 9 years ago

    I too was hoping that the iPad would actually, you know, kinda work like a normal pad of paper. Useful pen input as envisioned by the microsoft courier concept is what I was hoping apple could actually get right that few other companies could.

    So much for wishing for ingenuity out of apple. Someone please make a dual-screen tablet like that courier tablet with excellent pen-writing capabilities and the other features Geoff mentioned. People like me would pay close to 1k for such a device if everything worked as it should.

    • sbarash
    • 9 years ago

    After owning an iPad for a few weeks, and owing WebOS and Android phones, I can tell you that iPad’s interface is NOT advanced. In fact, I think its quiet clunky and old school in comparison. Reminds me of Windows 3.x.

    Obviously the iPad’s interface is limited because of the lack of hardware resources. But the inability to change the UI, or multitask and run gadgets really limits the utility of the iPad.

    Every time I’m in the middle of working in an application, and I receive an email notification which requires me to exit the application just to quickly view the new email, I want to scream.

    Want a quick glance of your desktop to check your task list, appointment, email, and new feed gadgets? I sure do. Fortunately I still have my Android phone.

    -Stephen

      • PerfectCr
      • 9 years ago

      Multitasking is coming in the OS 4.0 update in the fall. Did you miss that? For now, I guess you’ll just to answer that email later?

    • adam1378
    • 9 years ago

    I know I will buy a tablet using WebOS right now if it was out. That is the one I am waiting for because I am in love with the software of the Pre. Hardware not so much.

    • MadManOriginal
    • 9 years ago

    I’m just not in to the whole tablet hype. The form factor has gotten a butt-ton of attention thanks to the Apple-media hype machine but tablets have been around foreeeever. Sure, maybe not with as slicked up a UI but I have a hard time believing that was all that was holding them back. They are no more portable than sub-13″ laptops, less capable, and less flexible, and yet they are touted as portable pseudo-computers.

    I think what bothers me most is the blurring of closed or limited specific-use CE device versus flexible general-use computer and too much focus on consumption. (No, you don’t need to be neurotically ‘connected’ all the time, nor consuming media all the time. Your brain needs down time and space for your own thoughts.) Then again I don’t have a smartphone and don’t see the need for one (got off my lawn!) but at least I can appreciate the true pocketable portability they provide for those who do use them. Anything above 4-5″ is beyond that pocketable size and in order to be appreciably different needs to be at least 8-9″+ which is just as ‘inconvenient’ as a laptop.

    Having said that I can think of a few limited niche uses, personally I’d love to use one as a stationary WiFi music streamer with a remote or touchscreen option (I use a Squeezebox Classic atm) or other stationary around the house uses but carrying one around just doesn’t add up. The other thing that isn’t bad is ebooks but of course a transmissive screen is far from ideal for that…I still prefer print books anyway plus you can find used books for like $0.50 :p DRM’d non-resellable ebooks are a publisher’s wet dream.

      • Voldenuit
      • 9 years ago

      l[

    • Nutmeg
    • 9 years ago

    Tablets are entirely pointless imo. I don’t really see the need for something in between a smartphone and a notebook, with much less features and value than either.

    • moritzgedig
    • 9 years ago

    why IPS? I can’t tell the difference between TN and IPS.
    soon you will see mostly scratches and fingerprints on that display anyhow.

      • sluggo
      • 9 years ago

      On a desktop where the monitor position is more or less fixed, the difference between IPS and TN is tolerable-to-negligible, depending on the application. On a hand-held unit, however, having to hold it at exactly the right angle to get the right colors would be a lock-out, at least for me. Heck, if you’re too far off axis the TN display goes completely inverse. Not good. I want to see the right colors no matter the angle.

        • crazybus
        • 9 years ago

        It’s not just the less than ideal viewing angles you may find yourself using, it’s the fact that tablets are expected to be able to be used in portrait or landscape orientations, and TN displays typically only have reasonable viewing angles in one axis.

          • moritzgedig
          • 9 years ago

          Ah I see,
          I only looked right at the TN
          My IPS I use in both orientations.

    • crazybus
    • 9 years ago

    These are like words from my own fingertips. I want:

    -Touch optimized UI.
    -IPS screen, 3:2 aspect ratio would be ideal imo. Higher pixel density the better.
    -Robust platform that won’t languish without updates and will attract plenty of developers.
    -Network file/print ability, plus a local file browser for the requisite USB port and SD card slot.
    -8+ hour batter life with decent cpu/graphics performance
    -Multitasking
    -HDMI out

    • wira020
    • 9 years ago

    I’m betting on Android or Chrome to be the best platform.. I think I also have the same wishlist as yours and i would definitely be extra picky on weight and screen… if i can ever afford 1, it will also have to be my ereader… i see no point in lugging 3 or 4 devices around..

      • lilbuddhaman
      • 9 years ago

      Sounds great, but if it is all proprietary ( their own browser, their own ui, their own apps, their own games ) … I fear it will just not get the support from 3rd parties I want.

        • funko
        • 9 years ago

        looks like vanilla android to me

    • BeowulfSchaeffer
    • 9 years ago

    Why are there no alternative tablets that are halfway decent? Because when Apple released the iPad, the price point, features and styling shocked every manufacturer out there. Everyone went back to the drawing board because their device was not slick enough, or came in at a price higher then Apple’s. They really should have expected it.

    I agree with some posters that our best hope, I think, is whatever HTC may be working on. Vega is nice.

    And while Geoff may wish to click his heels together and say “Windows Embedded Compact 7 will succeed!” I see little chance of it gaining any traction. Chrome, Android, maybe WebOS and Apple. Why Chrome/Android? Its free baby.

      • Rakhmaninov3
      • 9 years ago

      But c’mon, Windows Embedded Compact 7 is such a catchy name! All the kids will want it!

      • Dissonance
      • 9 years ago

      /[

        • blastdoor
        • 9 years ago

        How can something be a failure and a viable alternative at the same time?

          • paulWTAMU
          • 9 years ago

          technically a decent competitor (good feature set, good interface etc) but a failure in the marketplace. It’s not *that* uncommon a phenomena.

    • Voldenuit
    • 9 years ago

    There’s no point in a tablet device without pen input. Not just writing input, but markup, content creation, augmented reality, context sensitivity and above all /[

    • Chrispy_
    • 9 years ago

    The HP purchase of Palm is what I’m expecting good results from:

    A device from a manufacturer of half-decent hardware based on a touch-driven phone OS.

    It worked for apple and I’d now like to see it in a less heavily-taxed and open format.

      • hapyman
      • 9 years ago

      Hope so… unfortunately I see HP ruining it with an ultra-glossy pad. It’ll look like one giant fingerprint after awhile.

    • ludbyte
    • 9 years ago

    Wow, you’ve designed a minor variation on existing products.

    The one that I want, that I would pay upwards of $1000 for, that would actually do something my notebook & desktop really can’t do, has a 14″ screen in 4:3 aspect ratio (that is, the size of a piece of standard letter paper), high-quality pen input, and PDF annotation.

    I could care less about a slick UI with seamless scrolling/swishing/zooming and other resource-intensive eye candy.

    HDMI output shouldn’t be necessary; you can run a monitor off USB now, and in any case your external display device could have the same wireless connectivity as the tablet; as long as it can act as a remote control, why bother with video out?

    • kamikaziechameleon
    • 9 years ago

    a man after my own heart

    • khands
    • 9 years ago

    You summed up the way I feel almost perfectly, I’d prefer a 16×10 resolution to a 16×9 though, otherwise you’re spot on.

    • [SDG]Mantis
    • 9 years ago

    I am in the same boat that you are.

    Your criteria look like the Notionink Adam with a higher resolution display. I wonder what ever happened to that product.

      • sweatshopking
      • 9 years ago

      NVIDIA delayed the product, tegra 2 wasnt ready. it should be launching within the next 2-3 months.

    • indeego
    • 9 years ago

    /[<"The iPad has been criticized for being too heavy to comfortably hold with one hand. I don't see slates getting much lighter without resorting to more exotic and expensive materials that I'd rather not pay a premium for, though. Manufacturers definitely shouldn't skimp on battery capacity to shed weight. I don't need all-day run times, but it's hard to imagine shelling out for a slate that couldn't surf the web for at least eight hours between charges."<]/ If you read this not too closely, you can see in the wild an actual mac user doing what they do best: offsetting one major complaint with justification from a totally different areag{<.<}g "It's heavy" [homer]Oooo pretty! Must have! [/homer]

      • poulpy
      • 9 years ago

      On another hand we’re talking ~700grs here…

      To put this in perspective with something that humans have held in the their hands for centuries: books, *[

        • MadManOriginal
        • 9 years ago

        You typically aren’t hitting a book page with your finger constantly while holding it with one hand – this torques the wrist that’s holding it and requires you to squeeze with your thumb to hold it.

          • poulpy
          • 9 years ago

          At the same time nobody reads standing up with one hand for hours so why would you do it with a tablet..?
          Over the years people realised that they could use their lap or a surface like a table to read from.
          Because -to go back to my example- nobody would stand more than a minute with the heaviest Harry Potter (3 times heavier than iPad?) off one hand.

            • MadManOriginal
            • 9 years ago

            You clearly missed the key to what I wrote q[

            • poulpy
            • 9 years ago

            Yet you seem to have missed that I said people _[

      • WillBach
      • 9 years ago

      I think Geoff is saying something about all tablets and tablet-like devices, not just iPads.

      • FuturePastNow
      • 9 years ago

      I’ve held an iPad and played with it. It truly is a magnificent piece of hardware. I’m not going to defend its software limitations, but there’s nothing wrong with the thing physically.

      Sadly I don’t have high hopes for any cheaper Android-ish devices to match that build quality 🙁

    • Scrotos
    • 9 years ago

    Yay a Van Halen reference!

      • burntham77
      • 9 years ago

      I missed it. Where?

    • Hattig
    • 9 years ago

    Android is probably going to be the best option in the long run, once it is optimised for tablet use.

    Certainly a tablet should have a really good home screen, with your favourite widgets on it (weather, headlines, clock, sport scores, etc, whatever you want to wake up to in the morning). I don’t want to have to click on umpteen different apps to get these.

    I’m not bothered about the widescreen aspect myself, it’s a tablet and there’s a balance between best usability for books, websites, etc, and best usability for a single application – video.

    The PixelQI demo showed a massive difference in outdoor usage between the glossy iPad and the PixelQI display, but the colours seemed muted on the PQI display.

    However the quality standard has been set by the iPad, and it does have a decent app store and a lot of app support. It pretty much destroys the competing market for >$449 tablets because the competition is not at the same standard. Why would I spend $399 on a lesser tablet when the iPad is $499?

    • paralou
    • 9 years ago

    Yes, well said, but a little be to long…!
    As a Belgian licensed electronic engineer, since 1976 in the computer environment, and manager of a High Tech company devoted to Vision Systems Integration for Industrial Quality control in Line since 1979…my experience is to NEVER, I repeat, NEVER buy some stuff which is new on the market !
    To day, actually since 30 years (!), the companies are putting some new products on the market which are NEVER FINISHED !
    The aim is to lead some sensitive, easily affected, nervous disposable people into temptation !
    Actually, the product is NEVER finished, and received, month after month, a very small upgrade, called: IMPROVEMENT !
    In fact, the FINAL product has been created before it’s on the market, but…”let’s wait the customers according to the market level”

    This affirmation is based on a personal experience from 1980, when we installed a Pick & Place device for Hard Disk Drives from 5GB !
    They where on the market…3 years later !

    I wait buying (any) product I desire until it will responds to my real whishes (if they attain it)! Can take several months, a year, I don’t care.
    I’m not stupid enough to let me manipulate (that’s the right situation) by people without human conscience !
    The main object of the financial managers is MONEY…and they don’t care about QUALITY !
    This is my opinion based on over 30 years of experiences !
    Regards,
    Paralou

      • Trymor
      • 9 years ago

      Congratulations on that /[<30 years of experiences<]/ ... Try

    • mi1stormilst
    • 9 years ago

    Well said … except you said you want USB ports and not Windows, that hardly makes much sense at all. The # 1 reason I want Windows and USB is because of all the stuff I could hook up 🙂

    • ApockofFork
    • 9 years ago

    I am seriously at a loss as to why people other than apple can’t make a solid tablet. There seem to be a huge number out there and really the few standouts seem to elevate themselves to passable at best. As geoff has pointed out all the pieces are there it just seems like manufactures can’t seem to get it.

      • adisor19
      • 9 years ago

      Because it took Apple more than 6 years before they had the OS and hardware working well. How do you expect other companies to come out with compelling products on the market from scratch and rival the IPad/iPhone ecosystem over night ?

      Adi

        • Skrying
        • 9 years ago

        That’s complete bullshit. It didn’t take them six years. The iPad could have been released along side the original iPhone. It wouldn’t have made sense due to the expected performance, but that’s a hardware limitation and not one that took six years of Apple’s own R&D to fix, just normal progress by the likes of ARM and others. The UI is hardly a major leap from the iPhones, I’d be hard pressed to call it anything more than very minor.

        Sometimes you make good points, others you buy the Apple marketing hook, line and sinker. This is one of those times.

    • adisor19
    • 9 years ago

    The devices you’re looking for would be a widescreen iPad running WebOS with a built in Webcam, a few USB ports and an SD card slot.

    Here’s hoping HP is reading this.

    Adi

      • BoBzeBuilder
      • 9 years ago

      I’m sure HP is taking your posts into consideration for their product design.

      BoB

        • adisor19
        • 9 years ago

        That part was mostly wishful thinking. I do believe however that HP is the only company that can come up with a good rival tablet to the iPad. Android is not cut up for it and it needs a face lift from a custom UI in order to look nicer.

        Adi

    • spuppy
    • 9 years ago

    If HTC ever decides to jump into the tablet market using the Android OS, I’m pretty sure we’ll be treated to a near perfect device.

      • NeronetFi
      • 9 years ago

      Now that’s a thought…

      • Jigar
      • 9 years ago

      Agreed, they have some sensible creative team.

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