Some Maximum PC staffers couldn’t live without their tablets, but others show no interest in them whatsoever. It all comes down to individual use cases. No one really “needs” a tablet, but many people are discovering that a tablet is a wonderful supplement to their core hardware arsenals. In fact, Maximum‑caliber tech enthusiasts are often the folks best served by tablets.
In the following article, we’ll explain all of that, plus review the eight most-talked-about models currently available. Six of the contenders run Google’s tablet OS, Android 3.0 (aka Honeycomb). Another, the iPad 2, runs the latest version of Apple’s iOS. The final entrant is RIM’s oddball PlayBook, which is tied to a software ecosystem so funky, the PlayBook can’t really be included in any serious tablet conversation. The most oddball tablet of all—HP’s WebOS-based TouchPad—was left out entirely because it was discontinued a few weeks before we started working on this article.
Excited? Anxious? Maybe a little scared? Simmer down, amigo. Tablets are a confusing proposition, but they need not be feared.
We imagine Nvidia's CEO Jen-Hsun Huang went on a crazy high-fiving spree when it was first announced that the company's Tegra 2 mobile chipset would power Android Honeycomb tablets. Now that the sales numbers for the tablets are in, however, it seems like all he's left with are sore palms and broken dreams – at least for now.
A leaked slide of Nvidia's upcoming Tegra 2 3D platform surfaced over the weekend, revealing a few details Nvidia reportedly plans to unveil at the Mobile World Congress in February, TechEye.net reports.
There are two versions of the processor being readied, including the AP25 chip for mobile phones and T25 for tablets/slates. These parts will scale ARM's Cortex A9 processor to 1.2GHz, a 200MHz increase over Tegra 250 series CPUs. As the leaked slides reveal, Nvidia is touting the ability to reach 5,520 MIPS, compared to 5,000 MIPS on a 1GHz Tegra 2 processor.
Assuming the slides are legit, look for these Tegra 2 parts to start shipping in Spring 2011.
There's been a rumor floating around that Nvidia's Tegra 2 platform is suffering from a yield issue, one that news and rumor site Fudzilla claims it confirmed with a "few analysts." That's news to Nvidia, which denies there's anything to worry about.
"Nvidia got back to us denying the Tegra 2 yield issue but we heard that high quality screens might be difficult to get these days," Fudzilla says.
Fudzilla isn't necessarily convinced, saying if there is a yield issue, Nvidia "has the power to blame it on the high demand." Maybe so, but it's worth noting some Tegra 2 products have already started shipping, including Toshiba's Folio 100 tablet line and Point of View's Tegra 2 slates (in Nordic countries).
ViewSonic's Tegra 2-based G-Tablet didn't roar out of the gates the way the company hoped it would, and instead fell flat on its face. Citing a "manufacturing defect" that adversely affected performance and caused an unusual number of returns, Staples went so far as to pull stock from its store shelves.
According to ViewSonic, the issue isn't a manufacturing defect, per se, but a "user experience [problem] that caused all the returns." Whatever you want to call it, ViewSonic says a fix is on the way.
"We always listen to customers; while they love the hardware, they raised several issues about the user interface," Jeff Volpe, VP and GM for ViewSonic Americas. "As a result, our software partner is releasing an upgrade that will address customer concerns. Along with great performance improvements, customers will have the flexibility to use both a standard Android interface as well as a user-customizable interface which has been significantly enhanced since the product launch."
If you already own a G-Tablet, ViewSonic says you'll receive the update no later than Friday of this week via Wi-Fi. All you'll have to do is accept the request to install the upgrade.
The more we learn about Nvidia's Tegra 2 GPU the more we're looking forward to it. Tegra 2 could end up playing a big role in the emerging tablet market, providing a boost in graphics performance over what's currently available today.
According to Fudzilla, the Tegra 2 GPU will sport a Peak Fill Rate with Z reject of 1.2 billion pixels per second and will include a programmable pixel shader. It will also ship with a programmable vertex and lightning engine.
Other tech specs include support for both 4K x 4K and 2K x 2K texture resolutions, Advanced 2D and Vector engines, and in some cases, support up to WSXGA+ (1680x1050) screens with up to 24-bit color.
A user over on Android Forums claims to have gotten his lucky paws on the upcoming LG Star smartphone, a hotly anticipated mobile device built around Nvidia's Tegra 2 dual-core platform.
He posted a handful of pics of the LG Star, but of most interest are the benchmarking results. "Berryjuice," as the forum user goes by, says his Galaxy S devices was "outclassed" by the LG Star. Running the popular Quandrant benchmark, the Tegra 2-powered smartphone posted a 1759 score, which is pretty awesome for a stock-clocked phone.
Information is sparse, though from the pics we can see the LG Star sports a custom UI, HDMI port, and Android 2.2. Berryjuice also says there's an 8MP camera on the back and a front-facing camera as well.
Notion Ink has managed to keep the initial interest in its upcoming tablet alive for nearly 11 months -- no mean feat considering the fact that we have had tablet announcements ad nauseam during this period. This is also despite the fact that the Adam has been plagued by delays. However, to its credit, Notion Ink has utilized this time well by sharing bits and pieces about the slate on a regular basis.
“Total more than 20 customized applications are coming your way. Not the stretched mobile apps, but custom-made for your Adam! One for each occasion, crafted with a lot of effort and patience,” wrote Notion Ink founder Rohan Shravan.
“For the Panel system there is an OPEN GL Engine which extracts the juice out of Tegra and delivers in beautiful and smooth animations.”
Nvidia CEO Jen-Hsun Huang told reporters in Taiwan that so-called "Superphones" have a bright future. Superphones are essentially handheld devices sporting LCD screens 4-inches or larger with at least a 1GHz processor. These are bigger than your average smartphone phone, but smaller than tablets.
One such superphone is Motorola's Droid X, which runs on Nvidia's Tegra 2 platform. According to Huang, you can expect more Tegra 2-based superphones in 2011, though he didn't elaborate
Huang also suggested that, as time goes on, tablet PCs will continue to encroach on netbook territory and eventually replace the segment altogether.
We're inching ever closer to the promised bombardment of iPad alternatives, otherwise simply known as tablets. Amazon, for example, is now taking preorders for eLocity's A7 tablet built on Google's Android 2.2 (Froyo) platform.
For 370 bones, the A7 brings a 7-inch touchscreen to the table, Nvidia's Tegra 2 architecture, 4GB of Flash memory (storage), 512MB of DDR2 memory, 802.11b/g Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, 1.3MP webcam, micro SD card slot, USB 2.0 port, 3-axis accelerometer, and the ability to pipe 1080p content through its HDMI port.
It's a bit smaller than the iPad at just 7-inches, but one-ups Apple's magical device in a few areas. For more info, see our recent hands-on preview here.