CES: So many tablets...but do I even want one?

CES: So many tablets...but do I even want one?

Summary: CES is all about the tablets this year, and with good reason. There's money in them thar hills! But I think I'll pass.

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CES 2011

I'm a gadget junkie. I admit it. My wife knows it (and hates it), my wallet knows it, even the PR folks who pitch me stories know it. So I follow CES and the gadget lust grows day by day. Suddenly, my Droid Incredible is looking decidedly not incredible. My perfectly nice 42" flat panel TV? Well, it doesn't have have a 21:9 aspect ratio. I'm almost embarrassed to admit it's only 720p.

Intel's Sandy Bridge CPUs make the sad little Core i5 in my MacBook Pro get performance anxiety and let's not even talk about the little Panasonic camcorder I got on the cheap when Circuit City went out of business.

The only devices that fail to inspire any real must-have-it-who-really-needs-a-401k desire, however, are the ones that I'm following the closest, both for the Google and Education blogs. I'm talking about tablets and they just aren't doing it for me.

Maybe I'm just old. Maybe I just spend too much of my day typing to think about something that lacks a keyboard. I don't think it's the former. I'm pretty firmly Gen-X and can run circles around more than a few Millennials and their digital nativeness. I don't think it's the latter either. When I'm not banging away in a keyboard, I'm Swyping away on my smartphone.

So what's my problem with tablets? Everyone else on the planet is buying iPads as fast as Apple can manufacture them, even with a new model right around the corner. News out of CES is utterly dominated by tablety goodness and I'll be the first to give serious thought to their implications in schools and places where content consumption trumps content creation.

However, I can't get my head around having both a smartphone and a tablet (and a netbook and a notebook and a desktop, for that matter). 10" tablets will fit in my eVest, but remain too bulky to carry everywhere. 7" tablets are a great size to carry everywhere, especially as we see models emerge that are thinner than Samsung's Galaxy Tab. Yet I'm never without my phone and find it really hard to justify a phone with a 4" screen and a tablet with a 7" screen. It just feels redundant.

If the tablet isn't going to come with me and sit on my desk at home in favor of my eminently portable phone (on which I can watch videos, play games, read books, listen to music, and surf the web until the cows come home), then how can I shell out $500 for something that can't even make phone calls.

My ideal device, actually, would be a 5" widescreen, high-definition phone. Big enough to allow for more satisfying consumption, small enough to Swype and thumb-type efficiently, and a fine size to fit in a loose pants pocket or one of the smaller pockets on said eVest.

But a tablet? And a phone? And most likely a notebook of some sort in my messenger bag? It's not going to happen. I need a more compelling phone or perhaps something more along the lines of Samsung's sliding PC (only fast-forwarded 18 months to a point when tiny processors and system boards can meet all of my content creation needs).

I'll check back on CES in 2012. Maybe they'll have something that does the trick. Until then, I'll keep looking for cool ways to use tablets in classrooms and the enterprise. But for now, if I'm buying gadgets and slick bits of electronic kit, it's going to be cameras and TVs and tools that do things better or differently than either my phone or my computers can.

Topics: Hardware, Laptops, Mobility, Tablets

Christopher Dawson

About Christopher Dawson

Chris Dawson is a freelance writer, consultant, and policy advocate with 20 years of experience in education, technology, and the intersection of the two.

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22 comments
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  • Yup, only idiots own both iPhones and iPads

    [i]However, I can?t get my head around having both a smartphone and a tablet[/i]

    Then again, there are a lot of idiots out there. Apple's revenue figures attest to that!
    NonZealot
    • Atrix is the game changer Kudos to Motorola

      They found a product that will replace, laptops, desktops and everything in between, including the iPad.
      Uralbas
    • RE: CES: So many tablets...but do I even want one?

      @NonZealot
      Zealot, don't project your flaws onto others. Just because you don't want an iPad doesn't mean others don't, whether they own an iPhone or not.
      But then again, maybe standing on your soapbox and frothing at the mouth every time the subjects, Apple, iPad, iPod, Mac etc. come up, is the new sanity of this 2nd decade of the 21st century.
      MG537-23482538203179240121698430309828
    • Some people drink the Apple juice

      Some people just drink the Apple juice and fall into that marketing trance. I saw a guy the other day who had a iPhone and a iPad. Paying for both with a Data plan?? How is this better? You have to have two products? Only a Apple fan can understand this.
      jscott418-22447200638980614791982928182376
      • RE: CES: So many tablets...but do I even want one?

        @jscott418 <br>So how would it be different if it were a person with an Android phone and an Android tablet? Or a Windows phone and a Windows tablet? Or a Blackberry phone and a Blackberry tablet? Please keep being small-minded (and poor) while the rest of us use technology to help us make money.
        Wakemewhentrollsgone
    • only idiots prejudge people based on the gear they owe

      and superlative idiots prejudge people for buying Apple products.
      theo_durcan
      • RE: CES: So many tablets...but do I even want one?

        @theo_durcan

        Absolutely correct.
        Wakemewhentrollsgone
    • RE: CES: So many tablets...but do I even want one?

      @NonZealot
      Didn't you contribute to that revenue?
      kevintxu
  • RE: CES: So many tablets...but do I even want one?

    That is the same situation as me. Between my feature phone and my laptop I don't have a need for a tablet. I just can't get into it and think its a passing fad. You do a lot of input and that is why the tablet will not work for you. I agree its kind of bulky and very overpriced for what it does. I'm waiting for the 6 month mark when people start complaining of back problems from being hunched over on one due to its awkwardness to hold.
    Loverock Davidson
  • RE: CES: So many tablets...but do I even want one?

    Why Tablets???? I get along fine with a blackberry Bold and when I need more umph I tether it to my Netbook.
    jacquemo
  • RE: CES: So many tablets...but do I even want one?

    Chris you must have read the blog Have been writing in my mind My sentiments exactly on Tablets. High on coolness, but I don't see the return on investment for me as yet. Maybe if I can access Windows Live or Google Docs?
    dalspartan
  • I want one!

    I read and listen to music while I walk and my MP3 player recently quit working right, so I'm considering getting a 7" tablet to replace it. I think it will be light enough to carry and big enough to read from while walking. For phone calls, I have a Tracfone. I'm waiting for CES to end, then if nothing earth shattering is announced, I'll get the Archos 70 (7") with 250GB drive to hold all my music and PDFs. For $350, I don't even care that its OS can't be upgraded past 2.2, and if I want to play games, I would rather play Fallout on the Xbox on a 70" (not 7", not even 10") TV.
    nfordtchrpub
    • RE: CES: So many tablets...but do I even want one?

      @nfordtchrpub [i]I think it will be light enough to carry and big enough to read from while walking.[/i]

      Is it only me that finds that a dangerous comment?
      Badgered
  • Why a tablet?

    I managed to avoid getting sucked into the iPad mania. I just couldn't see the point of a tablet. Why would I need one? Eventually I figured I'd try the ViewSonic G Tablet for sh*ts and grins.

    After using it I find it's a perfect way to browse the web and read emails. Typing on it is still a challenge. I have to set it on my lap to type and therefore adjust my viewing angle. And typing is an awkward affair. Hopefully over time it will get easier and second nature.

    Then there's the playing games part of it which it does just fine. Angry Birds is lots more fun on a big screen.

    So basically a tablet is not a necessity and you can get away with "only" having a laptop if you want to get any real work done.

    Surf the net, read your emails and play games. That's it for the Joe User, though I could see these being pretty handy in the medical field or for inventory-related concerns.
    Hatestone Johnson
  • Don't like the Tablet form

    I tried the iPad and I just did not want to hold something like a Tablet all the time I am using it. Call me old fashion but I like my laptop. I use a iPod Touch and I really like it for its Applications. But I rarely surf the web on it. Its too small for that. So I doubt that some of these smaller Tablet's like the Dell will do well. 7" is just too small as Netbook manufactures found out.
    jscott418-22447200638980614791982928182376
  • RE: CES: So many tablets...but do I even want one?

    After using an iPod Touch for three weeks, I must say as good as the Touch is for small apps, it is simply too small a screen to get that full web page experience. I would love to buy a 7 or 10 inch tablet for movies and web surfing. A wifi tablet in conjunction with a Virgin Mifi/unlimited data plan would be perfect. Light, portable and full featured.

    I am still waiting for Android tablets. I strongly believe that the iPad needs competition to lower the price and up the features. Meanwhile, I will use my netbook and usb 3g modem.

    Would love to use a tablet for watching ripped TV shows or movie at lunch and the occasional web surfing during breaks or lunch.
    mstrsfty
  • Spot on! It's 2 screens that we need, not 3.

    This article describes exactly what I need. My 17-inch notebook does everything. What I need is a mobile that is as big as possible but can be with me all the time (including when jogging). I don't use the mobile, except when I can't use my notebook. That mobile won't be able to do everything my notebook can, but whatever it does suffices until I can get back to my notebook.
    kingkong88@...
    • RE: CES: So many tablets...but do I even want one?

      @kingkong88@...

      I have a desktop computer and an iPhone. I use my iPhone for almost everything, but the desktop is good for syncing, and heavy duty searching/interactivity/content creation. I know I can get everything I need done with these two devices.

      I'm the computer geek in the house. My partner has a laptop, a standard cell phone, and for the last 6 months, an iPad. He had seen my iPhone, so when I described the iPad as a giant iPhone, he thought it sounded pretty cool and bought it kind of on a whim (he has too much disposable income ;-) However, he uses the iPad a LOT, as it is much more convenient than plugging in the laptop, waiting for it to power on, figuring how to position it on your lap so that the mouse will work, having it burn your lap after 15 minutes...

      Now that I have access to the iPad and played with it, I find myself gravitating to it all the time. It is instant on, light, so easy to use and functional for everything - except perhaps content creation.

      I still can't justify buying one myself, as I know I can get by with the 2 screens, however, I can completely see the attraction to the device, and if I had more disposable income (and didn't have access to my partner's), I would definitely consider it.

      I originally was a huge tablet non-believer, but the iPad is something new and useful. I don't think it's a fad. It is big enough to be useful, but easy enough to use, that my 72 year old mother-in-law, a stroke victim with only one functioning hand and fairly computer illiterate, has been composing emails to her family for the first time ever. It's pretty cool.

      Don't knock it till you've tried it. The functionality of the iPad, and the Apple ecosystem make this thing really useful and fun. A very attractive combination.
      rossdav
  • I see some value in Tablets

    I'm on week #2 of my Samsung Galaxy Tab. I've played with the iPad and don't see the value unless you don't have a laptop/netbook. The 7" Tab is portable enough to take almost anywhere. The 7" screen is about 3X larger than my Droid X. The Tab's size perfect for web browsing, reading emails, I love being able to talk on the phone AND use the Internet on a bigger screen. Now I'll be able to give my laptop a Wi-Fi connection to the Tab while I talk on the phone. Perfect for the business issues I deal with all the time. The Tab is a keeper, unless CES reveals a better alternative.
    ActionAl
  • It's not the phone it replaces, it's the laptop

    At least for me. I don't have one yet, but am really interested and watching where it goes. UMPCs, convertables, netbooks, tablets.... the latest is just a stage in the development toward the ultimate in mobile computing. I might very well stick with a cheap no-nonsense "feature" phone, which will just be that - a phone! - with 2" inch screen and fits in a tiny pocket, but coupled with something "tablety" (that doesn't ring and let's me work and play in peace).
    Maybe not the "game changer" that @Uralbas calls it, but Motorola's Atrix looks mighty cool and almost hits the spot (obviously not for everyone - my better half had a look and was totally unimpressed)
    overnout