Numerous news outlets have named 2010 "The Year of the Tablet" because of the sheer number of tablets expected to hit shelves. Apple unveiled the most anticipated one of all this week, but the iPad is only one of many. Business advisory firm Deloitte expects tablets to sell tens of millions of units this year alone.
In the wake of the iPad's announcement, it's useful to take a look at the tablets that will soon be competing with it. None can compare when it comes to hype, but what are these other tablets going to offer?
First, though, what is a tablet? Well, imagine taking the screen off your laptop, making it touch-sensitive and having all the hardware stuffed behind the screen. That's what a tablet basically is. Tablets fit somewhere between smartphones and notebooks and typically have screen sizes somewhere between 5- and 11-inches (13 to 28 centimeters) diagonally.
Though no one has defined what tablets are supposed to do, they are primarily intended to be Internet-connected devices. Something to surf the Web with, stream videos, check email, update social networking accounts and so forth. Tablets can also be great media tools for containing videos, music and pictures. Basically, they're smartphones with bigger screens and more processing power.
The following tablet list has been divided into three categories based on available information. "It's Coming" means that it has a release date and a price. "It's Likely" means there are some details missing, but even though there may not be a release date or a price, the manufacturer seems serious about bringing it to market. Finally, "It's Just a Concept" refers to tablets that are still unfinished or have been acknowledged to just be prototypes.
So without further ado, here are the tablets you can expect to see in 2010.
Apple iPad – Apple did a great job of making the iPad a media-centric device. It handles music, pictures and video just like the iPhone, but makes the viewing experience even better with a 9.7-inch multitouch screen designed for a wide viewing angle. It runs all of the 140,000 apps available for the iPhone, too. It comes with Wi-Fi and some models include 3G connectivity with a special data plan that provides unlimited data for $30 per month with no contract, easily one of the most attractive features of the device. Apple also had the foresight to make a keyboard dock for the device. Inside is a special 1GHz processor designed by Apple. It's difficult to know how it performs before the device comes out, but early reports say it's quite fast. The iPad starts at $500 for 16GB of storage with no 3G (due late March 2010) and goes up to $830 for a 64GB with 3G (due late April 2010).
Lenovo IdeaPad U1 Hybrid – The IdeaPad U1 looks like a notebook at first, but don't be fooled. It's actually a hybrid, meaning it can switch between tablet and laptop mode. In tablet mode, the11.6-inch touchscreen shows a Linux operating system, running on a Snapdragon processor (a power-efficient microprocessor made by Qualcomm that is showing up in many smartphones). But if you take the tablet and dock it with the included physical keyboard, it switches to a Windows 7 laptop that runs on an Intel Core 2 Duo CULV processor. While it's attractive to have the best of both worlds, the IdeaPad U1 Hybrid is expected to be around $1,000 and won't come out until the second half of 2010.
Archos 9 PC Tablet – Archos has been making tablet-like media devices for years, and the Archos 9 has been available for over half a year. However, Archos' history of tablet making hasn't made the Archos 9 better than the competition. The 9-inch screen is resistive, meaning it can't support multitouch gestures. The tablet runs Windows 7, but it's only the Starter Edition. Even with these meager features, the device still costs $550.
Fusion Garage JooJoo – The JooJoo is another tablet that has beat other manufacturers to the punch. It's also one of the largest tablets, with a 12-inch capacitive touchscreen that supports multitouch gestures. The JooJoo runs differently than most of the other tablets. Its operating system is basically just a Web browser designed to be used almost exclusively for Web-related tasks. Instead of software, the JooJoo uses sites with productivity apps, such as Google's Gmail and Google Docs, to accomplish tasks. The JooJoo is available now for $500.
Haleron iLet 10 – Haleron might not be well known, but it seems to have put together a respectable Windows 7 tablet. One of the most attractive features in the iLet 10 is the Intel N450 Atom processor, which is an energy-efficient chip designed for tablets and netbooks that also contains a graphics processor so the device can handle video and other media better. The 10-inch iLet is also fairly customizable, letting customers add additional features like bigger storage, 3G Internet connectivity, GPS and more. The cost of additional features can make the price vary anywhere from $420 to more than $900.
Notion Ink Adam – The Adam was one of the big surprises at the recent Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas. It was sleek, the screen was beautiful and it seemed well made. The Adam blurs the lines between tablet and e-reader. Its screen can turn off the backlight for reading e-books, making it easier on the eyes. But when the backlight is on, the 10-inch display is quite beautiful and very responsive to touch. The inclusion of the new Tegra 2 processor means the device should also handle media quite well. The Notion Ink Adam is slated for release in June of 2010 and will be somewhere in the neighborhood of $300.
Entourage Edge – The Edge was another darling of CES, and coincidentally is another device that blurs the definition of a tablet. The company calls it a dualbook because it looks like a laptop but both sides of the device are screens instead of a screen on one side and a keyboard on the other. On the left is a 9.7-inch e-paper display, like the dozens of other e-readers out there, and on the left is a 10-inch LCD display, just like any laptop. The LCD screen is used for Web access and using applications, and e-books can then be sent over to the e-paper screen for easy reading. Navigation is done through a combination of stylus and finger on the touchscreen. The entourage Edge will sell for $490 in March of this year.
ICD Vega – The Vega is different from the competition mostly in size. The touchscreen display is 15.6-inches, more than twice as big as some tablets on this list. Screen real estate isn't the only nice thing about the device. A Tegra processor, 32GB of storage, Wi-Fi and 3G connectivity make it a capable media device. Unfortunately, it's only destined for sale on the T-Mobile network in the UK for now.
Viewsonic VTablet – The VTablet was just barely announced a week ago. Many details about the device are still unclear, but it seems fairly generic. The 9-inch touchscreen, 4GB of storage, lack of 3G connectivity and 1GHz ARM Cortex-A9 processor certainly don't make it stand out in the crowd, though some people will like that it runs the Android operating system. The VTablet has an estimated price of $450 but no release date.
The HP Multitouch Tablet – If "HP Multitouch Tablet" doesn't sound like a very catchy product name, it's because this tablet doesn't have an official name yet. It was unveiled during the Microsoft press conference at CES 2010. All we know for sure is that it runs Windows 7, the display is multitouch capable and it's at least partially intended for reading e-books. HP plans to release the tablet in mid-2010 for less than $500.
Acer Tablet – Shortly before the iPad unveiling, Acer announced its intentions to sell a tablet sometime this year, but gave very few details about it. Acer's Chairman, J.T. Wang, mentioned the device would be inspired by the Apple iPad and then hinted there could be an app store coming as well.
ASUS EeePad – One the day of the Apple iPad announcement, ASUS confirmed its rumored tablet device would indeed be coming this year. ASUS didn't provide many details on the device aside from mentioning it would have an ARM processor, 3G connectivity and have an interface inspired by the iPhone.
Freescale Tablet – The most interesting part about the Freescale Tablet is the price. At $200, it would be far cheaper than any other tablet, real or anticipated. The 7-inch Freescale tablet can dock with a keyboard and comes with Freescale's own 1GHz processor. As expected for such a price, the rest of the hardware won't turn a lot of heads. The Android operating system and 3G connectivity are the only competitive features. There is no word on an actual release for the product. It appears Freescale may be shopping around for a carrier network to subsidize the device.
Dell Streak –Dell has shown the Streak to reporters and industry executives, but has released no details other than that it has a 5-inch touchscreen and runs on Android.
Pegatron Tablet – A company called Pegatron briefly showed a tablet at CES. Because Pegatron is a spin-off of ASUSTek, it's possible this device is similar to the ASUS EeePad. The specs seem to be different, though. The Pegatron tablet was reported to have an 11-inch touchscreen, Windows 7, an Intel Atom processor and a planned retail price of $500.
MSI Tablet – MSI showed off a fully formed tablet at CES but only confirmed the new Tegra 2 chip inside. The MSI tablet is thicker than other tablets, which could leave room for powerful hardware and a big battery, but also makes it feel clunky in comparison. From the CES demo it's clear the MSI Tablet is running the Android platform, which also opens the device up to a myriad of apps and other media enhancements.
ICD Ultra –The Ultra is smaller than the ICD Vega mentioned above, with just a 7-inch touchscreen, but is ideal as an Internet-connected media device. The Ultra seems close to production, with solid specs like a Tegra 2 processor, Wi-Fi and 3G connectivity and Android operating system. There is no release date, but the Ultra is expected to be around $250.
It's Just a Concept
Foxconn Tablet – Shown just briefly during an NVIDIA press conference at CES, the Foxconn tablet was barely acknowledged, let alone explained. The fact that it was in the NVIDIA press event indicates the tablet contains the new Tegra 2 chip from NVIDIA, but after that it looks pretty generic.
Compal Tablet – The Compal tablet was passed around at CES, but company reps acknowledged the device was little more than a prototype concept.
HTC Tablet – HTC, a popular smartphone manufacturer, was rumored to be designing a tablet. Then the company confirmed it had indeed been designing a tablet but was postponing the designs indefinitely in order to focus on smartphones.
Microsoft Courier – Months ago several video renderings of a special folding tablet design showed up and wowed everyone. The design was clean, the interface new but simple. It was accompanied by juicy details from a supposed mole privy to the design process, too. But since then there has been no new information and no indication that the device is nearing completion.