Perfect tablet doesn't exist: One size doesn't fit all

Perfect tablet doesn't exist: One size doesn't fit all

Summary: OEMs are building tablets in different sizes be competitive, and conversations about them keep coming back to which size is optimal for consumers. There is no answer to that, one size doesn't fit all in spite of what Steve Jobs believes.


The consumer tablet space is heating up with rivals racing to market to grab market share from Apple's iPad. Major players are lining up to release tablets to the masses, in some cases multiple models in an attempt to catch the buyer's eye. OEMs are building tablets in different sizes to try and compete, and conversations about them keep coming back to which size is optimal for consumers. Ask five people what size is best for tablets, and you'll get several different answers. The personal nature of tablets makes size one of the most important criteria for a purchase decision, and one size doesn't fit all in spite of what Steve Jobs believes.

The iPad started the tablet craze with its unique 9.7-inch display that fell between the small smartphone screen and the bigger notebooks. This size was a good fit for displaying web pages in the browser, a frequent task performed on the tablet. Samsung stepped in with the 7-inch Galaxy Tab, and the smaller screen appealed to many consumers (myself included). This size tablet is more mobile than the iPad, and comfortable to use in the hands for extended periods. Though smaller, the 7-inch screen displays enough on the screen at a time to be productive.

The iPad has been so successful that OEMs were quick to produce 10.1-inch tablets, roughly the same size as the slate from Apple. These tablets are a little bigger than the iPad, and typically have a widescreen format as opposed to Apple's 4:3 aspect ratio. These devices are thus narrower than the iPad but slightly longer in the portrait orientation. The newly announced Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 and the Motorola XOOM are both this size. This size appeals to those who believe that bigger is better for displays.

HP, LG and Samsung are introducing another size in the mix, the 8.9-inch form. This is close to the size of the iPad's 9.7-inch display, but a bit more portable. This size will appeal to those who prize mobility above other criteria, yet find the 7-inch display to be too small.

At the other end of the spectrum, some 12-inch tablets will hit the market soon. I believe these will appeal to fewer prospective buyers than the other sizes, due to the loss of portability the bigger form provides. Some will like the bigger, near laptop size display, but most won't. They will be more expensive than the others, too.

You can make an argument that the Dell Streak with its 5-inch screen is a tablet, but I classify it in the PDA category. I don't think devices slightly larger than a phone count as tablets, although I am sure some folks will disagree.

Those new to the tablet world, and that is just about everyone, must decide which size screen fits their needs for purchase. My experience testing many different tablets has driven home the importance of this decision, and not making the right one can result in an unhappy experience. It is a good idea to try out tablets of different sizes before making a purchase. This will be possible once retailers start carrying different models in stores, which should happen soon.

No matter your platform preference, make a trip to the Apple store and try the iPad for size. Then hit up a Verizon store and try the XOOM, which is a little bigger. Verizon also carries the 7-inch Galaxy Tab, so you can also test out the smallest of the bunch. The purpose is to get a feel for size before making a purchase, which will go a long way to making that a happy experience. I believe most buyers will be happiest going with the smallest form that provides the fullest user experience, and that varies from person to person.

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Topics: Hardware, Laptops, Mobility, Tablets

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  • You are right...

    And it goes further as well, once you move out of the consumer market.

    We use tablets which are IP-65 compliant (water resistent), dropable and can be operated when wearing a chain mail metal glove.

    Okay, those aren't things that the average consumer needs, but it also leaves the iPad dead last in the race...
    • Your requirements as well as less than iPad-sizes are small market, not ...

      @wright_is: ... something that could be comparable to 10"-size market.

      So yes, 10" size is the perfect size for by far most of users; lesser sizes are better for marginal groups of users which have specific requirements.

      So of course non-standards tablets will sell, but to much less degree than 10" size. It makes no sense to try to put these different formats in "equal footing".
      • RE: Perfect tablet doesn't exist: One size doesn't fit all

        @denisrs ... Look around at the world of consumer products and tell me where consumers have ever proven so willing to settle for one size of ANYTHING. Or where one form factor has so completely dominated the market over time. Apple hit the ground with the best overall execution of the tablet for most people interested in such a device ... for the time being. The nature of competition is to offer people what the current leader doesn't. If tablets are as hot as people think, the pressure will be to create MORE options, not settle for one. We humans crave variety. We weren't even satisfied with one flavor of WATER.
        Trep Ford
    • RE: Perfect tablet doesn't exist: One size doesn't fit all

      Certainly people want different sizes but the 3 - 5 inch phone covers the bases for most people who need a smaller format while a 7 inch tablet doesn't really offer a lot of options for differentiation in the user-experience, at least not with current resolutions. And if you get much larger than a 10 inch tablet, you might as well grab a laptop.

      Plus you need the devs to really take advantage of the different formats, not just simply scale the graphics. Look at how the iPad handles Mail and Calendar. That would look terrible on a 7 inch tablet.
  • A firm grasp on the obvious

    And I do not mean that as an attack on the author, but rather a firm boot in the a$$ of all the incredibly mindless fan boys who seem to hang out here.;feature-roto
    • RE: Perfect tablet doesn't exist: One size doesn't fit all

      @Economister I find that lots of folk without hands-on tablet experience have a preconceived notion what size is best. The reality is often different given a test drive, the purpose for pointing out the "obvious" of this post.
      • It extends beyond that....


        to the OS and features. A quick look at the housing, car and clothing markets tells us that one size (or color/shape/feature set/performance level etc.) do not fit all. I do not mind at all you writing the blog. I do mind all the fan boys who think they have all the answers.

        Take care
      • RE: Perfect tablet doesn't exist: One size doesn't fit all

        @JamesKendrick ... Funny how the obvious isn't so obvious to some, which is why an article like this one is so welcome.
        Trep Ford
  • RE: Perfect tablet doesn't exist: One size doesn't fit all

    Finally, someone pointing out the obvious - that one size does not fit all. That and how you use a tablet is what is important. If you use your tablet for mostly reading and a little Web surfing and portability is important to you than a Nook Color is a much better fit than an iPad.
    And Steve Jobs may have said the 10" tablet is the best size but mark my words that when Apple comes out with a smaller version Jobs will be preaching the virtues of a smaller size to his Apple fanboys.
  • 7" is perfect size for me

    I use the Archos 70-250G daily for reading books, watching videos/movies, listening to music, checking email, etc., and consider it the perfect size. Why have a tablet that is too big and heavy to use for an extended period holding it up, which cannot fit in a pocket (like the 7" A70 can), etc.?
  • RE: Perfect tablet doesn't exist: One size doesn't fit all

    I personally like the Galaxy Tab size the best. I went to Best Buy last week, expecting to like the new iPad2, but this new iPad *still* feels heavy to me, as compared to the extremely light-weight Galaxy Tab. The thing I particularly did not like on the iPad however is that you have to really set it down on something in order to type on it, at least in landscape mode. The Galaxy Tab however, you can hold and still type with your thumbs just perfectly. This is particularly important to me because I plan to use a tablet for a lot of mobile scheduling of appointments, where I need to be able to type fast and where it would be really cumbersome to have to set the tablet down on something in order to type. I'm scheduling appointments for a team of therapists, and oftentimes I'm doing this at the grocery store, in my car, etc etc... The iPad's keyboard feels inferior to me, as it is apparently meant to be *kind of* a full-size keyboard, but it really is not. I typed 12 words on the iPad2 and 5 of the words I misspelled, because of the inferior keyboard. On the Galaxy Tab, I misspelled 1 word. On the Galaxy Tab, I was just using my thumbs, and the small size makes it super-easy to type in this way. The iPad2 it seems like tries to replicate a full-size keyboard, and doesn't do it well.
    • RE: Perfect tablet doesn't exist: One size doesn't fit all

      @aglanz@... Also with Android voice feature is very well integrated so you could easily add data without typing too. As long as you have Froyo 2.2 or better. Read up on it. It works great.
    • RE: Perfect tablet doesn't exist: One size doesn't fit all

      I agree about the size. The GTab is perfect. Heck you can wear it on your left arm while motorcycling even. The dual cam would even work as a quick look back. I'm not sure if it'll work well with MC gloves on though. But the size is great. I'd get an iPad except for it's too big and less portable than the GTab. It won't be long now and I will own one. Finally a great tablet at the right size. Samsung has made some quality stuff. I'm sure this is of great quality too.
  • 14 inch

    What we need, is a 14 inch tablet. 14 inch is the size of a letter/DIN A4 sheet of paper, still the most important standards.

    And, of course, instead of a tablet, it should be an ebook reader. That way, it would actually be possible to use it on the beach or in the park.
    Bart B. Van Bockstaele
    • RE: Perfect tablet doesn't exist: One size doesn't fit all

      @Bart B. Van Bockstaele If you're designing the thing, why not ask for what you really want? Glorious AMOLED+ on one side, daylight readable epaper on the other.
  • Just go to BestBuy no need to hop from store to store

    One big difference though is that all tablets use the 16:9 form factor except the iPad. That will be it's achilles heel. I wouldn't be surprised if Apple switches to 16:9 in the next version.

    Devices like the Streak 5 are in a different category because they are more than a tablet due to it's cell phone capabilities. Same is true for the international version of the G-Tab.
  • RE: Perfect tablet doesn't exist: One size doesn't fit all

    I prefer the 7". I use the Archos 70, and it is good for my needs. I think ipad is too heavy and the keyboard is awkward. Lack of customization drove me away from iOS. 10" is too big for me i think, but curious so see the Samsung 8.9". Apps like Siftkey for tablets, make typing in landscape mode on any size tablet more bearable.