Last week was Computex, the annual trade show where most Asian electronics companies announce their hardware lineup for the coming year. It's an important event for the industry and for enthusiasts, but the show can be a hard to follow--the laptop-heavy announcements can get a little dry, and the show falls on the same days as the much-flashier E3.
Fortunately, unless memorizing Ultrabook model numbers is your hobby, you don't really need to read every press release from the show. We've distilled Computex 2012 down to its 7 major themes. Read on for a brief primer on the next year of consumer hardware.
Opinions on Windows 8 as a desktop operating system are definitely a mixed bag. While most people would describe the fusion of Metro and the Desktop as awkward at best, even the biggest of critics have to admit the potential for Metro on tablets is huge. We’ve had three release previews at this point to give us an idea of what the operating system will look like, but hardware could make or break Microsoft’s tablet aspirations. PC OEM’s have tripped over themselves trying to duplicate the industrial designs consumers crave, and if Windows 8 ships on 4 inch thick square tablets, they might as well not even bother. Our first glimpse of new Windows 8 tablet hardware will be on display next week at Computex Taipei, with Acer, Toshiba, & Asus showing off new designs.
Full-featured Honeycomb tablet tries to steal discount slates' thunder
TIMES ARE, LET'S SAY, challenging for anyone who makes a 7-inch tablet but doesn't also own some type of bookstore. The Kindle Fire and Nook Tablet could look the Thrive 7" square in the eye and say, "You're good, kid, but as long as we're around, you'll always be second best, see?" It hardly matters that the Thrive 7" has the full Honeycomb 3.2 OS, more storage, and superior screen resolution, because it also carries a price that's almost twice that of the Fire and without all the Amazon ecosystem advantages, to boot.
With that said, for those discriminating individuals who do appreciate the finer things in life, the Thrive 7" furnishes the highest resolution of a 7-inch tablet and costs a bit less than the Samsung Galaxy Tab 7 Plus. Graphics in games and videos on the Thrive 7" look crisp and finely detailed, with excellent black levels. It's a great tablet display for reading ebooks or websites.
On the downside to browsing the web, the Thrive 7" performs pretty poorly with web browser screen redraws and scrolling and exhibits demonstrable touch‑response lag. Several other Honeycomb tablets we've tested also suffered from such problems to a degree belying their hardware specs, but the Thrive 7" felt particularly laggy, if only intermittently. Similar problems occurred with certain other apps, on the home screens and menu screens, and when waking up the tablet. These behaviors were only occasional, but still common. Benchmark tests also showed results inexplicably lower than other Tegra 2 devices with similar specs.
The little big tablet that almost nobody has ever heard of… has died. The Cisco Cius tablet was an Android based device that was customized from the ground up to be a corporate solution, which as it turns out nobody wanted to buy. In a blog post entitled “Empowering Choice in Collaboration”, Cisco used every marketing term they could think of before admitting, “they will no longer invest in the Cius tablet”.
In a recent interview with Wired UK, Microsoft VP Frank Shaw admitted that CEO Steve Baller has an 80-inch Windows 8 tablet hanging on the wall in his office. What did you think I was going to say? “It’s his whiteboard, his e-mail machine,” Shaw said, “and it’s a device we’re going to sell.” Windows 8 was shown off at last years CES on an 80-inch Sharp Aquos touch display, however the model Shaw is referencing here is something new.
Memory makers would be wise never to take consumer demand for granted. It's a lesson all involved had to learn the hard way after the DRAM market crashed crashed a few years ago, and with the rise in popularity of solid state drives and products that use them, NAND flash memory is proving to be their mulligan. Even still, a repeat of what happened to DRAM sales is possible, and surprisingly enough, it's the Ultrabook market that's driving sales of NAND flash memory, not all those supposed PC-killing tablets.
Apple spawned the media tablet market with the launch of the original iPad a couple of years back. Two iPad updates and countless Android tablets later, its viselike grip over the tablet market remains intact. To add insult to injury for its rivals, market research firm IDC recently predicted that it could take until 2015 for Android tablets to overtake the iPad in terms of market share. Well, not so fast. For all we know, Windows 8 and not Android could eventually end up upsetting Apple’s apple cart. Hit the jump for more.
NVidia has a homerun on its hands with the new GTX 680, however in the tablet arena they are still struggling to carve out a niche for themselves. Dozens of Android tablets are sporting the latest and greatest Tegra 3, however Apple claims to have them beat when it comes to graphics horsepower, and we’ve even heard rumblings that a lack of built in LTE could hamper future OEM adoption. That’s not to say the Tegra 3 family isn’t great lineup of SoCs, but the factors listed above could be the reason VR-Zone in China has caught wind on the specifications for Tegra 4, codename “Wayne”.
The Asus Transformer Prime is far and away one of the most popular Android tablets on the market, and while that isn’t saying much, we were still a bit surprised when consumer reports left it off the list of best tablets in favor of the Sony TabletP. It’s far from a perfect device, but it does at the very least offer a few innovative features for those who still feel the iPad is an oversized iPod Touch. Owners of the device seem to have relatively few complaints, however the GPS has always been a sore spot. Turn by turn navigation apps have been all but unusable, and teardowns have identified that it may in-fact be a design flaw.
Tablets are all the rage these days, with the Apple iPad leading the pack and selling like hotcakes in stores throughout the country. Some of the more cynical Maximum PC readers may snort and say that part of the iPad's appeal is its simplicity; I've heard people comment that even a monkey could find his way around iOS. At least one monkey lover disagrees. Ken Schweller, chairman of the Great Ape Trust in Des Moines, Iowa, wants to slap modified non-Apple tablets in the hands of his hyper-intelligent primate pals to spur communication development. And he needs your help!