The 10 hottest tablets coming in 2011

The 10 hottest tablets coming in 2011

Summary: There are an obscene number of new tablets coming to market in 2011. Plenty of them are safe to ignore. Here are 10 that are worth anticipating.

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I have an announcement to make. I will not be releasing a tablet in 2011.

Feeble attempts at humor aside, nearly everyone has a tablet in the works.  It's the technology's industry's latest gold rush. With Apple selling 15 million iPads in 2010 and projected to sell as many as 45 million in 2011, everyone wants a piece of the public's sudden infatuation with multitouch slabs of silicon.  From the world's biggest computer companies to obscure little parts makers, there will be an obscene number of companies releasing tablets this year.

So, which ones are safe to ignore and which ones are worth your attention? Here is my list of the 10 most significant tablets to watch for, at least until someone else announces another new one next week. The bottom line is that if you're feeling the urge to buy a tablet right now (currently, the two main choices are the iPad and the Samsung Galaxy Tab) then my recommendation would be: Don't do it. Wait for one of these 10 instead.

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Photos: The 10 hottest tablets coming in 2011

10. Notion Ink Adam

The Adam tablet from Indian startup Notion Ink has been germinating for a long time -- maybe too long. Notion Ink finally unveiled the product in December and started taking pre-orders. It's an Android 2.3 tablet with a custom interface. It's Eden UI offers a drastic re-think of the Android interface, based on vertical panels (here's a demo from CES 2011). The other unique thing about the Adam is that it uses PixelQi technology, a low-power transflective display that is viewable in full sunlight.

9. HTC Flyer

Half of the tablets on this list are powered by Android and HTC is one of the powerhouses of the Android ecosystem. Unlike rivals Motorola, Samsung, and LG, who all unveiled high-end tablets at CES 2011, HTC was remarkably silent on the tablet question. However, the company is reportedly planning to launch a 7-inch tablet called the HTC Flyer in March. The tablet is rumored to run Android 2.3 (rather than 3.0 Honeycomb) but have a special version of the HTC Sense UI designed for tablets. The Flyer could get Honeycomb as an upgrade later this year and HTC is also reportedly working on a 10-inch tablet (the "Scribe") running Honeycomb and connecting to Verizon LTE.

8. Acer Iconia

Acer tried to beat the tablet deluge at CES by announcing its Iconia tablet at the end of 2010. Unforutnately, the Iconia is still getting lost in the shuffle, and that's a shame. The Iconia is a power tablet. This thing features dual 14-inch touch screens, a Core i5 CPU, and a full range of computer ports to match the average laptop. It also runs the full version of Windows 7, which will make better for productivity tasks but harder on battery life. The most innovative thing about this one is that the bottom screen has multiple input options, including a full virtual keyboard, a multimedia controller, and customizable touch gestures. Lots of companies have envisioned making the dual touchscreen idea work, we'll see if Acer can pull it off (and do it at a reasonable price).

7. T-Mobile G-Slate

Another promising tablet that's flying under the radar is the T-Mobile G-Slate, which is being built by LG. The two companies haven't released many official details about the tablet, other than it will run Android 3.0 Honeycomb and connect to T-Mobile's new HSPA+ network. The tablet, also called the LG V-900, is expected to have a 9-inch screen, a dual core NVIDIA Tegra 2 processor, and Micro USB and Micro HDMI ports. Bizarrely, recent rumors have also surfaced that the G-Slate will feature a glasses-less 3D display. That would be a terrible move that would likely doom an otherwise promising tablet.

6. Samsung Sliding PC 7

Another Windows 7 tablet that is legitimately intriguing is Samsung's Sliding PC 7. It looks like a normal 10-inch tablet, but includes a slide-out keyboard that turns it into a fully functional laptop. The hardware manages to deftly combine slimness with keyboard usability, based on the demo at CES. For those who don't want to carry both a laptop and a tablet, hybrid devices like this could carve out a new niche. This one has a 1366x768 screen, up to a 64GB solid state drive, 2GB of RAM, and built-in 3G and WiMAX chips. Since it runs all of that hardware and the full version of Windows, battery life and cost could both be concerns.

5. BlackBerry PlayBook

I was at the event last fall where RIM announced the BlackBerry PlayBook and my first impressions were not very good -- mostly because RIM kept it behind glass. However, the company had demo units available to caress at CES (see demo) and the PlayBook looks like it could become a factor in the tablet market, especially for businesses that are already invested and committed to the BES backend infrastructure. This is a 7-inch tablet, so that limits its appeal a bit -- except for the vocal minority who claim to like the smaller form factor -- and it faces the same concerns about battery life and price as Windows tablets. Still, the hardware feels great and the QNX operating system appears to have been successfully adapted for tablets. BlackBerry die-hards alone could turn this one into a winner.

4. ASUS Eee Pad Transformer

ASUS believes that the iPad has two weaknesses -- lack of choice and limited productivity (content creation) -- so that's where the company is focusing its energy in tablets. At CES, ASUS unveiled its line of four tablets, and three of them were aimed at content creators. The most interesting was the Eee Pad Transformer, a 10-inch tablet with a dual core NVIDIA Tegra 2 CPU that will run Android 3.0. The most innovative thing about this one is that it has an optional keyboard dock that also functions as an extended battery, giving the device up to 16 hours of life. If Android and ASUS can pull off a tablet UI that also plays well as a laptop when the Transformer is in dock mode, then this one could be highly useful. It will also be interesting to see if people prefer this dockable keyboard on the Eee Pad Transformer versus the slide-out keyboard on the Samsung Sliding PC 7 or even ASUS Eee Pad Slider (a cousin of the Transformer).

3. HP webOS tablet

I think we can safely call this one the "X factor." Hewlett-Packard will officially unveil its webOS tablet on February 9. This has been in the works since HP bought Palm last summer. Putting the resources of HP behind the massive potential of webOS could be great combination. Also, don't forget that HP has a decade of experience building tablet hardware (even thought it was as part of the long defeat for Microsoft's Tablet PC). For HP's new webOS device, we're expecting a 10-inch tablet with strong tech specs and a tablet-optimized UI that should rival both iOS and Android in usability.

2. Motorola Xoom

When Google is ready to make a leap forward with Android, it anoints a hardware partner to work closely with the company on the new software and produce a device that will be initial concept vehicle of what Google envisions. For its Android 3.0 tablet OS, Motorola is the chosen one. And, interestingly enough, the Motorola Xoom will not only be the first Honeycomb tablet, but it will also be the first tablet to run on Verizon's new 4G LTE network (a.k.a the new mobile superhighway). This 10-inch widescreen tablet has drool-inducing tech specs and is expected to launch by early March, although the 4G version won't land until mid-year. The one big drawback is that the Xoom could be pricey. It will reportedly cost $700-$800. There might be a lower subsidized price, but that would include a two-year Verizon contract and a data fee of at least $20/month. Keep an eye out for the Wi-Fi only version of the Xoom, which is expected to launch later this spring. That one might be more competitive on price.

1. Apple iPad 2.0

The iPad remains the king of the category and, even with the invasion of an army of challengers, it's difficult to see a scenario in which the iPad won't retain a commanding market share lead when we get to the end of 2011. It still has too many factors in its favor: usability, battery life, a massive catalog of apps, and price. The last factor might be the most important. Price has been the iPad's greatest marketing weapon, and rivals are having a very hard time meeting the iPad's price tag while still offering a comparable experience. The iPad 2 probably won't bring any revolutionary new changes -- it will likely be a little thinner and lighter, have an upgraded processor, and feature front and rear cameras -- but the most important thing about the iPad 2 is that it could give Apple a further advantage in price. After manufacturing over 15 million of the first-gen iPads, Apple will be able to squeeze out more efficiencies, and the component costs will have decreased over the past year. The result: Apple will be able to pack in more and better technology for the same price with the iPad 2. Meanwhile, the company could decide to drop the price on the first-gen iPad to further undercut its rivals.

This was originally published on TechRepublic.

Topics: Hardware, iPad, Laptops, Mobility, Tablets

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  • This story brought to you in part by...

    Linux
    The operating system that keeps on giving.
    Choice is a good thing.
    Dietrich T. Schmitz, ~ Your Linux Advocate
    • RE: The 10 hottest tablets coming in 2011

      @Dietrich T. Schmitz, Your Linux Advocate

      Unfortunately, it's the applications that matter and I'm afraid Linux doesn't have any that I want or you could force me to use. The only choice Linux offers is a bad one.

      The only tablet I'll ever buy will be running Windows because I want a tool, not a toy. I already have a phone that does everything an iPad does and more so why would I force myself to carry around a brick with a phone OS on it?
      tonymcs@...
      • RE: The 10 hottest tablets coming in 2011

        @tonymcs@...
        Those Linux "toy" computers run about ten times more of the internet's servers than Windoze computers, Linux is not a "toy" as if only children install Linux on their computers. Linux is the choice of PROFESSIONALS and power-users, whereas noobs & ignoramouses with the programming abilities of an average child are nearly the only ones still using Winblows and AOL. :-)

        The Linux kernel, before google got involved, already crushed Windoze in terms of stability & security, the bloatware factor (system resource inefficiency=Winblows), and as with most things Google does, their implementation of Linux crushes Winblows-mobile in terms of features (if using KDE not Gnome for desktops, that also crushes Win7...so long as you pick the Linux programs that have the best features and stability which I'll admit takes some time to sort thru all the copious choices, but the average teenager or semi-computer-literate user can gain from using Linux at home or on their smartphone/tablet). I also like how Linux allows me to protect my user-files by taking those partitions offline anytime I restore or upgrade my O.S. files...all with 256-bit AES and filesystem-level encryption on RAID'ed hard drives; the access to FREE multiplayer versions of Doom, Civilization, WoW, etc without a monthly server-subscription fee doesn't hurt either. It's only a matter of time before Google overtakes MS because... Hotmail's interface & features aren't even in the same league as gmail's, bing MAPS has few features compared to googlemaps with GPS and real-time traffic, etc across the board, and...

        Only one more month until Android is no longer just a "phone OS"...it's worth the wait, even if only for:
        1. Google's superior GPS/maps
        or
        2. Google's real-time voice-to-voice translation that Apple & MS don't offer, but even aside from those 2 types of programs:
        . . . OVERALL, google simply makes superior software than MS -- though the outgoing Eric Schmidt's views on privacy and serving the customer are as atrocious as Bill Gates'.
        . . . In contrast, MS has copied their competitors or bought small/innovative corps rather than having much of their own innovation for more than a decade. Let's see MS do real-time voice-to-voice translation on a weak/slow cellphone's hardware as Google is already implementing in Android devices and continues to improve what is already the best mobile/real-time voice translation software... MS will just copy Google's translation software and implement it deficiently compared to Google . . . JUST LIKE MS HAS ALREADY DESIGNED BING TO COPY GOOGLE.COM's SEARCH RESULTS AND BING-MAPS IS A HORRID IMITATION OF GOOGLE-MAPS. :-)
        Anonymutt
  • RE: The 10 hottest tablets coming in 2011

    ASUS said their start price will be $399 for a dual core one running Honeycomb. That one will be mine!
    BioNerd
    • RE: The 10 hottest tablets coming in 2011

      @BioNerd - that's like buying the cheapest thing on the menu no matter the price and then getting home and sitting on the pot all night long. You get what you pay for.... cheap!!!
      beau27
      • Yeah right!

        @beau27 If I said, hey... Let's build a PC, you can have that Foxconn main board and I'll take this ASUS... Would you be okay with that?

        I guess my real question is, "do you consider over paying for the cheapest thing on the menu a good thing? Remember, in Apple's case what you pay for isn't quality but exclusivity.
        slickjim
      • RE: The 10 hottest tablets coming in 2011

        @Peter Perry
        Many people, like you, claimed that the iPad was overpriced. Then came the Samsung Tab, which in many respects was the same price, but smaller and with less included. Those who want to claim that the iPad is expensive can continue to do so, but bellowing it at the top their voices because they want it to be true does not make it true.
        Wakemewhentrollsgone
      • RE: The 10 hottest tablets coming in 2011

        @ptorning read what I said and do not just comment with your BS!

        My statement that ASUS is not a manufacturer of cheap junk is accurate and my statement that Foxconn is a manufacturer of cheap junk is also accurate!
        slickjim
  • Show me just one decent slate other than the Ipad

    I am not the biggest Apple fan on earth even if I own a few IMacs buy it is amazing to see how much they we're ahead on all the others on that matter. Windows 7 is not designed for slates, Android is lame and has no direction, Rim is on its way out and all the other new comers will have to make their way up against an incredibly well marketed product and app pool which is the Ipad and the soon to arrive Ipad 2. Honestly I wish there was at least one decent slate PC out there that I could buy today without a fruit as its logo but it seems like we will have to wait for a while. Until then, I guess the Ipad 4 or 5 will have come out. No one was able to match Apple on MP3 players in term of overall value and I am afraid that the same thing is happening again.
    gbouchard99@...
    • Please explain where...

      @gbouchard99@... I want to see where they are ahead, somebody needs to show some specifics or people are getting duped more than the Time Obama told people he was competent.
      slickjim
      • RE: The 10 hottest tablets coming in 2011

        @Peter Perry <br>Google have stated that Android versions 1.x and 2.x are not suitable for tablets. W7 tablets barely exist. WebOS tablets don't yet exist. So, in reality, there is no competition to the iPad . . . yet!

        Without in any way intending to be offensive, anyone buying a current Android tablet is buying a device that even Google admits is not suitable. When Honeycomb arrives, that may change, but at the moment its iPad or nothing!
        Wakemewhentrollsgone
      • RE: The 10 hottest tablets coming in 2011

        @Peter Perry
        gbouchard cant show specifics and neither can anyone else because there aren't any. I returned my ipad because of lack of functionality. I can't believe that I wanted to have the first one in town. Admittably it has taken a long time to see real contenders but by summer there will be so many tablets out-performing the iPad by so far that the iPad2 will need to be released just to catch up.

        This is what Apple does... they innovate and then newer better products come out and they simply don't care to join a performance race... the zune is a superior product to the ipod but between licensing and marketing their sales stagnated. My kids all want my zune now that i handed them down the old ipod... no talk needed on how they invented the smartphone industry and let it vanish... in one year they went from 8% to 16% while letting android go from 4% to #1 at 33% market share... now they are doing the same thing with the tablet market, they introduced the iPad and I thank them but without any care to creation markets, they refuse to make more than a toy (thanks TONYMCS).

        You can go all the way back to the windows race in the 90's where apple went from 92% of desktops to 4% losing out to Windows who listened and constantly developed different products and allowed innovation. Apple wants to control everything and they aren't learning any lessons.

        desktop innovation went to MS
        iPod innovation they still own yet nobody cares anymore because they have phones with mp3s on them
        iPhone goes to android thus far
        iPad - that innovation will likely go to Android as well as MS hasn't decided to enter the market seriously as of yet.

        I personally can't wait for my Motorola Atrix and Xoom.
        ShayneNeal
      • RE: The 10 hottest tablets coming in 2011

        @ptorning having owned both devices I can tell you iOS is a phone OS with no changes when moved to tablets... Now because Jobs said they don't give you the tablet experience does not mean it can't...

        Google said it wasn't optimized for tablets they didn't say it could not be!
        slickjim
  • Is there an Echo in here?!? lol...

    didn't we have this story.. last year too.. ?
    doctorSpoc
    • Hello...

      @doctorSpoc

      Hello...hellooo...hello...hello...

      See?
      Welcome to the ZDNET echo chamber.
      Dietrich T. Schmitz, ~ Your Linux Advocate
    • RE: The 10 hottest tablets coming in 2011

      @doctorSpoc

      Yes an echo, I'm trying to find what happened to all the top tablets of 2010?
      dave95.
      • RE: The 10 hottest tablets coming in 2011

        @dave95.

        I traded in my iPad for a galaxy tab and was much happier but am in dire straits waiting for my motorola Xoom... finally someone gives me my power and my storage and my ports... none of this apple single port crap - without USB and SD and an internet connection I have no use for a tablet... and I would love to create instead of just use.
        ShayneNeal
  • How the hell

    are any of those iPad wannabes ever gonna gain traction? I suppose a few of then will sell, but most of those look like road kill.
    Monkeypox
    • Just like....

      @Monkeypox

      all the Android phones gained traction against the iPhone.

      Funny how fan boy-ism and rational thought are mutually exclusive.
      Economister
      • RE: The 10 hottest tablets coming in 2011

        @Economister

        Heh, sure; I'll wager the sales figures next December will tell a different story.
        Monkeypox