Tablets From CTIA Round Up: First Looks of Motorola Xoom, LG G-Slate, HTC EVO View 4G and BlackBerry PlayBook
Last weeks CTIA wasn’t all about awesome new phones, we also had the chance to take a look at some of recently released or coming soon tablets that look to give the iPad 2 a strong run for your money: the Android 3.0 Honeycomb running LG G-Slate and recently released Motorola Xoom, Android 2.3 Gingerbread running HTC EVO View 4G with Scribe pen, and of course BlackBerry’s big new tablet, the PlayBook. There’s a lot you’re gonna wanna know here, so let’s get to it.
This was the first tablet to really show off Google’s new tablet focused version of Android, version 3.0 “Honeycomb” for those keeping track, and was therefore the first real Android tablet ready to go head to head with the iPad. While at CTIA we got to spend a few minutes with the Xoom and to describe it in one word, it’s fast. Powered by a dual core 1 GHZ processor with 1 GB of RAM this thing was just incredibly quick. Apps opened quickly, multitasking was smooth, and with its very high-res 10.1 inch screen (resolution of 1280×800– or very, very crisp and sharp) games looked and played extremely well (just see the pic below, the graphics here are insane!). The 5 megapixel back camera and 2 megapixel front camera also took some impressive shots, though seeing as this thing is massive we don’t really see anyone using this as their new personal camera. But again, the real greatness here is its speed, which also benefits a ton from the new tablet version of Android, version 3.0 Honeycomb.
When we first picked up the Xoom we actually felt a little out-of-place with the new Honeycomb OS as it’s a complete shift from the Android you see on phones. The notification bar (the thing usually on the top of all Android phones that lets you see any new updates like a new text, email, Facebook message, etc.) is now on the bottom while the button to show all the apps is now in the top right. For those who have EVOs, Droids or any other Android phone this will take a little bit of time to get used to (it took us a few minutes just to pick up), but once you do you’ll find Honeycomb to be great. The web browser has been updated with a Chrome like look for web browsing that takes full use of a tablet’s much larger screen (for example the tabs look exactly like they would on any Chrome browser on your computer and are much easier to navigate than the iPad’s Safari browser), GMail now supports having your list of messages on one side and an individual email on the other, the keyboard is larger and better (typing on here was great and this was our first real time with Honeycomb. Imagine how great it will be after you spend a few days with it!), and the homescreen offers better placement of widgets– again making use of the much larger screens of tablets. In short, Honeycomb is pretty great.
The graphics on the Xoom– yeah, its incredible!
Now the Xoom isn’t perfect. For example, the size of 10.1 inches may be a bit large for those with small hands or with small amount of room in their bags (though it is incredibly thin), the upgrade to 4G on the Verizon Xoom (there is now also a WiFi-only Xoom in stores for what we consider a much better deal at $599 for 32 GB) requires you to send your Xoom back to Motorola for a few days (which looks to be incredibly frustrating to say the least), and the Verizon price of $600 with a 2 year contract seems to us to be way to much (the iPad 2 WiFi+3G on Verizon starts at only $630 and that doesn’t require a 2 year contract. The Verizon Xoom by comparison is $800 without contract). Though even with this the Xoom isn’t a bad tablet, and if you want something with a very nice, large screen and a lot of power this should be great for you (though again, we’d recommend the WiFi model over the Verizon one, at least until the 4G update is pre-installed on new Xooms).
This is T-Mobile’s first Android 3.0 tablet, and like the Xoom it too is very impressive. With a much more pocketable 8.9 inch screen, equally powerful dual core 1 GHZ processor, and the ability to take movies and pictures in 3D and watch them on the G-Slate in 3D this thing is a beast! Unfortunately, the viewing part of this 3D awesomeness requires you to be wearing glasses (though LG has made support here for every type of 3D glasses, from the one in the movie theater to the ones for a 3D TV to the red and blue ones that have been around for years), and while we don’t see many people (or really anyone) carrying around 3D glasses with them just to watch a video in 3D on the go, when we did put on the glasses the 3D came out pretty well– and the pictures and videos we took with the back 3D cameras came out even better.
The back cameras on the LG G-Slate, ready for your 3D movie magic
In our first look of the G-Slate we liked its size much more when compared to the Xoom, though again that’s all personal preference. In terms of performance we’re looking at a very similar beast with the same 3.0 Honeycomb, equally great screen, processor and specs, though this will launch with T-Mobile 4G right out of the box– which in the packed CTIA area we saw this in was incredibly fast. The LG G-Slate will be available for a decent price of $529.99 with a new 2 year contract (no word on price without contract) when it comes out sometime this Spring.
HTC EVO View 4G
The EVO 3D wasn’t the only major device announced by HTC and Sprint at CTIA last week, they also announced a brand new 4G tablet that looks to make taking notes on a tablet in class much easier to do.
While the EVO View 4G isn’t the most high-powered tablet in the bunch (particularly when compared to the G-Slate, Galaxy Tab and Xoom; it’s only got a 1.5 GHZ processor, and runs Android 2.3 Gingerbread with an updated version of HTC Sense— not a dual core processor and the more tablet friendly Android 3.0 Honeycomb), but even without all the fancy specs we still found it to be pretty solid. And we really liked what truly sets the EVO View apart from all other tablets: the HTC Scribe pen, or the ability to use a stylus to do things like draw or take notes on the screen. And this isn’t your ordinary stylus that you may remember from a few years ago in the pre-iPhone and Android years, as you still have a very responsive, touch-friendly capacitive screen underneath (meaning you don’t have to use the stylus to control the tablet, only when you want to take notes or write/draw on the screen).
Taking real notes in an eBook on the EVO View 4G
When Sprint showed it to us last week we really saw how this can change the way we use tablets in the classroom. The 7 inch display was crisp and clear, but the fact that we can easily highlight or actually write notes on pretty much any screen (whether you’re in a book reading app, browser, note pad etc.) can make this a game changer (particularly if this comes with an easy way to get textbooks on here). The Scribe pen also can record audio while your writing down notes, something that should be really handy when trying to remember what exactly the teacher was saying while you were writing.
The EVO View 4G also features a back 5 megapixel camera with second 1.3 megapixel front camera for video chat, thin aluminum design (which felt great when we held it), 1 GB of RAM (which with that 1.5 GHZ processor should provide more than solid speed), 32 GB of built-in storage, and of course WiFi, GPS and Sprint 4G.
Expect the EVO View 4G by this summer for a price still to be announced.
The incredible multitasking on the BlackBerry PlayBook
Now here is a tablet that isn’t running on Android, RIM’s (the people who make BlackBerry) highly anticipated BlackBerry PlayBook. With a sharp 7 inch screen, 1 GB of RAM and a 1 GHZ Dual Core Processor, 5 megapixel back camera and 3 megapixel front camera, and a brand new BlackBerry tablet OS the PlayBook is definitely going all out specs wise. And if you’re looking for something that can handle everything your throw at it– at the same time– the PlayBook looks to be perfect for you.
The big appeal here with the PlayBook has to be its brand new OS which is purposely designed by RIM for tablets, and even more specifically, multitasking. We literally were running a video, playing Need for Speed (which showed off some really impressive graphics as you see above), BBMing (yes you can sync this up with you BlackBerry and continue your BBMs on the bigger screen here using the BlackBerry Bridge software), browser (with Flash running) and music app all at once without any slowdowns or stutters. It really was incredible to watch (though speaking of watching, we do wish the PlayBook paused video apps when switching tabs instead of having them continue to run in the background. I mean there’s no point to have it running if you’re not even watching it). And closing and switching apps was the easiest we’ve seen yet (it’s similar to HP’s upcoming webOS Touchpad, which wasn’t at CTIA)– just swipe up to bring up all your running apps, and up once more on any particular app to close it. This is how multitasking should be.
BBM on the PlayBook
Of course the PlayBook does have a couple of major questions facing it. For one, a lot of the apps like Email, BBM (see pic above) and Calendar are designed to sync with a person’s BlackBerry to use (again, using the built-in BlackBerry Bridge software to connect, or make a “bridge”, between the info on your BlackBerry and on your tablet) so for those of us without BlackBerrys this will be a major issue (but for those with BlackBerrys this may be a major plus). This is all said to be fixed in a software update after launch, but when exactly that update will come is still anyones guess.
The second even more important question is how well will apps run on this. Sure the apps we saw ran great, but RIM just announced that this will not only run Flash apps (similar to Flash on sites online, just in app form) and PlayBook apps, but also original BlackBerry apps and even Android 2.3 apps (the latest Android for phones, not the new 3.0 for tablets). So while this means there will be a lot of apps (you can count on the 100,000+ Android phone apps already out there), how well they all run on the PlayBooks bigger screen and different software (remember, this is running something completely new, not the old BlackBerry phone OS or Android) remains a major question.
Pricing wise the PlayBook is among the best out there, matching the iPad 2 with a WiFi only version coming next month for the same prices Apple charges for its WiFi only iPad 2s ($499 for 16 GB, $599 for 32 GB, $699 for 64 GB). A PlayBook with Sprint 4G built-in is said to be coming this summer.
Of course the real question on all of this is which one of these tablets is the best, and honestly, its still way to early to tell. A lot can and will happen between now and the time most of these tablets even show up in a store (such as if Apple decides to show off iOS 5 like they did with iOS 4 last Spring, and if so what’s new there). In terms of the tablets out right now– the iPad 2 and the Xoom– we’d really recommend going to your local Best Buy or Verizon store and checking out each one side by side as while they are both very impressive tablets, they are also very different and which one is “better” is completely up to which one is better for you (for example: want to do a lot of editing of music and movies? Then you should go with the iPad 2 and its GarageBand and iMovie apps. Want a sharper looking screen with a greater ability to completely customize everything on your tablet? Xoom is your pick, etc.).
The one thing we can say for sure right now is this: these tablet wars have only just begun and it looks to be a crazy awesome fight, so stay tuned!
Posted on March 30, 2011, in CTIA 2011, First Look/Reviews, Tablets and tagged 4g, Android, Blackberry, CTIA, ctia 2011, first look, g-slate, Google, honeycomb, htc, ipad, ipad 2, lg, motorola, playbook, review, rim, roundup, Sprint, t-mobile, Tablets, teen, verizon, xoom. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.