Best New Tablet Computers
Tablet or touchscreen computers have been common for nearly a decade, but 2010 has suddenly turned into the Year of the Tablet, thanks to Apple’s modest entrance into the fray. Suddenly, tablets are back, full of the promise that users can leave behind their clamshells and keyboards and have the Internet at their fingertips anytime. Designed to be thin, lightweight and (usually) of limited power, tablets cause some critics to wonder whether many people have much call for the device, or if a good smartphone might be enough. This question is left to you, dear reader.
Opponents declare that the machine is dumbed down and just doesn’t do enough without a real file system, Adobe Flash support or an integrated camera. Still, it’s hard to resist the Apple mystique, the lure of tens of thousands of applications from the Apple Store and pricing that starts at just $499. (Units with 3G networking, which will let you access the web from anywhere, cost $130 more. Additional storage space jacks up the price, too.) Since when has Apple been the bargain choice in a product category?
Best for: If Apple is correct, everyone. Starts at $499, apple.com
Toshiba Satellite M505 Touch
The Toshiba Satellite M505 Touch offers a super-bright 14-inch screen, a mammoth 500GB hard drive, a slot-loading DVD drive and a standard copy of Windows 7 Home Premium. But what the M505 Touch offers that most tablets can’t is something far simpler: a keyboard, which lets you pound out a message much more quickly than onscreen tap-typing allows. Alas, you’ll pay more for the privilege, and 3G isn’t available.
Best for: Executives who need a physical keyboard but still want a touchscreen. $1,059 and up, toshiba.com
Fusion Garage Joojoo
The product of substantial controversy, the Joojoo began its life as the CrunchPad—a hardware device commissioned by the popular tech blog TechCrunch. It has a 12.1-inch fingerprint-resistant screen, videoconferencing capabilities and a completely web browser–based operating system that supports 1080p video and Adobe Flash (read: YouTube). Too bad there’s no 3G on the device, which means it’s more of an around-the-house tablet than one for the road.
Best for: Users who really want an iPad but hate Apple. $499, thejoojoo.com
Lenovo IdeaPad U1
A wild new idea in computing, the Lenovo IdeaPad U1 (slated for release in summer 2010) is more than a tablet: It’s actually two devices in one package. At first blush, it appears to be a standard Windows 7 laptop, complete with all the connectors and features you’ve come to expect from a portable PC. But flip a switch, and the screen pops out from the shell that envelops it. Boom! The U1 is now a lightweight, simplified tablet with its own homegrown Linux-based operating system.
Best for: Those who pack light but don’t want to manage two separate computers. $999, lenovo.com
Slimmed down and running an Android-based operating system, the ICD Vega is the alt crowd’s answer to the iPad: a sleek tablet with a simplified OS that feels more like a cell phone than a PC. One major difference—with a 15.6-inch touchscreen, the Vega will be one of the largest tablets on the market when it’s released (no date announced as of press time), yet it will still weigh less than three pounds. Its 32GB of internal storage can be expanded with add-in SD cards, and a front-facing camera gives the Vega promise as an impromptu videoconferencing device.
Best for: Patient buyers who want to make a statement. Price not available at press time, convergeddevices.net
Archos 9 PC Tablet
In many ways, Archos’s tablet PC is everything critics wanted in the iPad, sans the Macintosh OS. For starters, it’s a real Windows PC, running Windows 7 Starter Edition on its 8.9-inch touchscreen. A bit smaller than the iPad, it nonetheless brings most of that device’s features along for the ride, including Wi-Fi, a 1080p high-definition display, and a very thin (2/3 of an inch) and light (less than two pounds) body.
Best for: Budget buyers who want a full Windows experience. $550, archos.com
CHRISTOPHER NULL is a technology writer and a blogger for Yahoo! Tech.