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Best Tablet to buy in 2011 – Reviews of top 10 list most popular tablets

The tablet market, led by iPad really exploded as a market in 2010 and they will destroy other large portable devices in terms of sales for this year as well. What is different in 2011 however is the amount of new models the hardware manufacturers unleashed on the market, making it hard to chose (aside some obvious and popular choices). We did not differentiate based on the operating system, either Android or iOS (although we gave extra points for the availability of popular applications depending on the platform)

If you are like us, you want the best in exchange for your hard earned money and the tablets are quite expensive, especially the most powerful ones. We’ll try to make your choice  easy by listing an easy top (at least in our opinion) of tablets recently launched and also describing pros, cons and specific features for each tablet. For many positions, our top tablet list will also match the top selling tablets as well since for large numbers of units sold, the public opinion tends to coincide on technical qualities as well.

We hope you’ll enjoy reading all the reviews we added for our top tablet list of 2011, as much as we enjoyed writing them. We’ll also keep this list updated to by adding any new tablets newly manufactured in 2011 if they manage to achieve the needed quality index to be part of our list. We’ll also try to find out the best places to buy your tablet by scouring the online store for the best price available / possible sales as well.

10.ViewSonic gTablet with 10″ Multi-Touch LCD Screen, Android OS 2.2

ViewSonic gTablet is one of the cheapest tablets we tested. Among the most notable features is the very fast Nvidia Tegra 2 chipset, a dual core cortex A9 CPU running at 1GHz and Android 2.2. The Internet browser is more than capable and includes Flash support, the norm for Android 2.2 tablets, the video playback is plenty fast support MPEG-4, H.264 and VC-1 for 1080p easy decoding and  expansion MicroSD memory slot supporting up to 32GB additional memory. The gTablet also has a 1.3 mega-pixels front facing camera and 16GB internal memory.

Specifications

  • 10.1-inch TFT-LCD with LED driver system and 1024 x 600-pixel resolution
  • 1 GHz NVIDIA Tegra 2 processor (dual-core ARM Cortex-A9 CPU)
  • Wi-Fi: 802.11b/g/n
  • 16 GB internal memory
  • microSD slot for expansion using optional cards up to 16 GB
  • 1.3-megapixel camera
  • Music playback: AAC, AMR, WMA, and MP3
  • Video playback: S1080p H.264/H.263/ VC-1/MPEG-2/4/WMV9/DiVX 4/5
  • Video encoding: 1080p H.264/MPEG-4 Video
  • Connectivity: USB (slave), mini USB (host) microSD slot, 3.5mm stereo headphone jack
  • Battery: 3650mAh Li-ion polymer battery for up to 8-10 hours of battery life
  • Dimensions: 10.5 x 6.8 x 0.54 inches
  • Weight: 1.55 pounds

Pros: multi-touch, full USB port, microSD expansion port, very fast, Nvidia Tegra 2

Cons: LCD angle not the best in the class, a little bit on the heavy side

Conclusion: Overall a worthy 10″ tablet if you need a cheap solution

 

9.Samsung Galaxy Tab (WiFi)

One of the most popular tablets in 2010, Samsung Galaxy Tab returns in its WiFi only version with a price cut to match. Samsung Galaxy Tab was the first popular Android tablet and also the first one to match the original iPad in terms of features. Very light at 13.6 inches, a beautiful screen and a speedy 1GHz A8 Cortex processor completes the hardware package while Samsung dutifully added popular options including a large supported codec list. One of the very few tablets to support MKV, DIVX and XVID out of the box.

Specifications:

  • Android Froyo (2.2); CPU: 1GHz A8 Cortex Processor;
  • Battery: Li-Polymer, 4000mAh
  • Memory: 16GB Internal Memory; Up to 32GB Expandable Memory (microSD)
  • WiFi: 802.11 a/b/g/n; USB 2.0; Bluetooth 2.1 Connectivity
  • Audio: MP3, OGG, AAC, AMR-NB, AMR-WB, WMA, FLAC, WAV, MID, AC3, RTTTL/RTX, OTA, i-Melody, SP-MIDI
  • Display: 7.0″ WSVGA Display; 600 x 1024 Pixel Display Resolution; 3.54″ x 6.05″ Display Size; 16M TFT Display Technology
  • Video: Codec: Mpeg4, H.264, H.263, Divx/XviD Format: 3gp(mp4), wmv(asf), avi(divx), mkv, flv
  • Size (LWH): 4.74 inches, 0.47 inches, 7.48 inches
  • Weight: 13.6 ounces

Pros:

  • beautiful screen
  • Price it its WiFi only incarnation
  • excellent audio / video codec support
  • microSD expansion slot

Cons:

  • the processor is slow for 2011
  • upgrade to Honeycomb unsure

Conclusion:

The original 3G Samsung Galaxy Tab was one of the most popular tablets last year and the new WiFi model, while somewhat underpowered for 2011 keeps delivering a good experience, especially considering the price. A beautiful screen with excellent codec support and light size makes it ideal for quick video watching or eBook reading.

 

8.T-Mobile G-Slate

LG manufactured a very nice slate with a LCD size somewhere in between the popular sizes of 7 and 10 inches. At 8.9″, G-Slates is VERY light at only 13.44 ounces and looks very sharp with its 1280×768 inches, it packs an HDMI port which is very handy considering that it can also decode 1080p, the popular Nvidia Tegra 2 chipset and a whooping 1 GB internal memory. Runs the latest and greatest Android Honeycomb 3.0 and has one of the best cameras we have seen (2MP front facing, 5MP rear). It is important to notice that the tablet is 4G capable out of the box. We would like to see this tablet on more providers beside T-Mobile.

Specifications

  • Google integration with preloaded Android Apps
  • dual core 1Ghz CPU
  • Android 3.0 operating system (Honeycomb)
  • 5.0 MP rear-facing camera with LED flash and stereoscopic 3D recording
  • Full HTML web browser with Flash 10.1 support
  • Nvidia Tegra 2 chipset
  • 32 GB of RAM
  • 1 GB of memory
  • micro USB port
  • mini HDMI port
  • LCD screen resolution of 1280×768
  • Size (LWH): 7.48 inches, 4.74 inches, 0.47 inches
  • Weight: 13.44 ounces

Pros:

  • high resolution LCD in 8.9 form factor looks very sharp
  • 1GB memory
  • Android Honeycomb 3.0
  • 1080p capable with HDMI output
  • 4G

Cons:

  • T-Mobile only
  • somewhat expensive
  • no expansion port

Conclusion:

LG created a winner choosing a non-standard (at least for now) LCD size. If the price is not a problem for you, you’ll get a classy slate with excellent multimedia features and fast 4G Internet access on T-Mobile network. The three speaker design is also a first and help increase the sound quality. Battery life is also very good providing anywhere between 8 to 10 hours depending on the usage.

 

 

7.Blackberry PlayBook

 

PlayBook is the first tablet released by BlackBerry and one of the best designed tablet we have ever seen. With a stunning 0.9 lbs in weight, 0.4″ (10mm) thin PlayBook is actually thinner than iPad 2. The tablet is build around a 1GHz dual core CPU, a standard for most of the tablets released in 2011, comes in three different models (with 16, 32 and 64GB of storage) and the also 2011 standard 1GB RAM. What sets it apart from the competition though is the excellent multimedia capabilities and the QNX based OS that also provides Android compatibility. The battery life was measured at around seven hours, one hour more than Samsung Galaxy Tab but three full hours behind the Apple’s iPad 2.

The web browser is plenty fast, scoring around 2360 at SunSpider JavaScript test, very close to iPad 2 and Motorola XOOM.

Specifications:

  • 7″ 1024×600 WSVGA capacitive LCD touch screen
  • 0.9 lbs (425g) and 5.1″ x 7.6″ x 0.4″ (130mm x 194mm x 10mm)
  • 1 GHz dual-core processor
  • BlackBerry Tablet OS with support for symmetric multiprocessing
  • MP3, AAC and WMA audio playback
  • Support for high resolution video playback (H.264, MPEG4, WMV)
  • 1080p HDMI output
  • Dual 1080p HD cameras for video conferencing and video capture (3MP front and 5MP rear)
  • 1 GB RAM memory
  • Up to 64 GB internal storage (16, 32 and 64 GB models)
  • GPS, Orientation Sensor (Accelerometer), 6-Axis Motion Sensor (Gyroscope), Digital Compass (Magnetometer)
  • Stereo speakers and stereo microphones
  • Wi-Fi (802.11 a/b/g/n) connectivity
  • Bluetooth 2.1+EDR support

Pros:

  • good multimedia capabilities
  • HDMI out

Cons:

  • no 3G model yet, 4G (WiMax, HSPA+, LTE) to arrive later in the year

Conclusion:

While BlackBerry PlayBook is a really nice designed tablet, the features are not particularly appealing beyond the Blackberry users. For everybody else, there are better tablets out there.

 

6.Nook Color

While spec wise BlackBerry PlayBook is above and beyond Nook Color, in our opinion Barnes and Noble product deserves a rightful place in the list. Why? Well, Nook Color is a very interesting product. Marketed initially as an eReader with web browsing capability, it turned out to be so much more, not only due to the new official firmware upgrade to 1.2 which brought Barnes and Noble version of an app store, Flash support and Android 2.2, but also because of the huge following the tablet has and the numerous resources about rooting the tablet and transform it into a full featured Android tablet. Nook Color currently can run Android 2.3 via CyanogenMod 7 installation and ports of Honeycomb are also available. All this considering its very low price at $249 makes it the best priced tablet on the market. You can check our Nook Color in-depth review here.

Specifications:

  • CPU Processor: ARM Cortex A8-based Ti OMAP 3621 @ 800 MHz
  • GPU Processor: PowerVR SGX530 Graphics Rendering: Open GLES1.1/2.0 Hardware Scaling: 854×480 scaled to 1024×600 Video Formats: .3GP, .MP4, .3G2 ** Video Codecs: H.263, H.264, MPEG-4, ON2 VP7 ** Image Formats: JPEG, GIF, PNG, BMP
  • RAM: 512MB Hynix
  • Internal Flash: 8GB Sandisk SDIN4C1-8g
  • Removable Flash: 32GB via microSDHC
  • Connectivity: 802.11b/g/n Security: WEP/WPA/WPA2/802.1x Mode: Infrastructure
  • Display: 7″ 1024×600 IPS Display w\VividView, LED Backlight Pixels per Inch: 169 Aspect Ratio: 16:9 Colors: 16 Million Viewing Angle: 178°
  • Audio: Ti TLV320DAC3100 Codec 3.5mm Headset Jack (TRS 3-Pole) – no mic input Single Rear Speaker PWM Headphone Amp Headphone Detection Mic Amp and ADC (Mic input not available)Audio Formats: .3GP, .3G2, .MP4, .AMR, .MP3, .MID, .XMF, .MXMF, .RTTL, .OTA, .IMY, .WAV, .OGG, .ACC ** Audio Codecs: ACC, ACC+, AMR, MP3, MIDI, LPCM **
  • Battery: “Barnes & Noble” labeled 3.7V 4000mAh 14.8Wh Li-ion battery Battery Life: ~8 hours
  • Physical Specifications Dimensions: 8.1″ (205mm) L x 5″ (127mm) W x 0.48″ (12.2mm) D Weight: ~15.8oz (~422g)
  • Micro-B USB 2.0 High-Speed
  • Accelerometer
  • Input Virtual QWERTY Keyboard On-Screen Soft-Keys ** ‘n’ Home button Power\Lock button Volume Up\Down buttons

Pros:

  • price, price, price
  • size
  • LCD quality
  • community
  • best eReader on the market by far

Cons:

  • no camera, GPS and microphone
  • you need to root it to reach tis full potential

Conclusion:

Nook Color is an excellent choice as a tablet if you intend to use it primarily as an eBook reader. The current price (around $250) transformed it into the second best selling tablet behind only iPad, with over 3 million units sold which is no small feat for sure. Barnes and Noble also included a number of applications including magazine eReader, interactive children eBooks, etc which helped it become the best eReader to date. Recommended!!!

 

5. Acer Iconia Tab W500-BZ467 10.1-Inch Tablet Computer

Acer Iconia Tab is a VERY interesting beast. Interesting because not only because it is a full featured Windows 7 machine, a radical departure from iOS / Android but also because it has a unique design allowing it to be used not only as a slate, but as a notebook as well, with the included docking station.

The CPU used is quite capable – Dual Core AMD C-50 and since it uses Windows 7 you won’t have to worry about the compatibility – it runs everything under the sun including Netflix, Hulu Plus, Flash and everything else you might imagine. Memory wise, it has 2GB DDR 3 RAM and 32GB Solid State memory. These specs though won’t necessarily take you as far as an iPad or an Android slate purely because Windows 7 is a more resource hog than an OS designed to be portable.

Specifications:

  • A50M Fusion Controller Hub Chipset
  • CPU – AMD  C-50 (1 MB L2 cache, 1 GHz, DDR3 1066 MHz, 9 W)
  • Genuine Windows 7 Home Premium 32-bit
  • 10.1 HD CrystalBrite LED-backlit TFT LCD with integrated multi-touch screen
  • Size (LWH): 7.48 inches, 10.83 inches, 0.63 inches
  • Weight: 2.14 pounds
  • about 6 hours of battery life
  • 2GB (2) DDR3 onboard RAM
  • 32 GB SSD, with mini-SATA (mSATA) interface connector
  • Acer InviLink Nplify 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi CERTIFIED
  • Dual Acer Crystal Eye webcams with 1280 x 1024 resolution

Pros:

  • It is a Windows tablet, meaning you will be able to use Office, Flash and everything in between
  • hybrid design, can be used as a slate or as a notebook

Cons:

  • It is a Windows tablet 😉 meaning no integrated app store, experience not optimized for a tablet
  • while 6 hours of stated battery life is significant, it is nowhere near the 10 hours provided by iPad 2

Conclusion: The best Windows 7 tablet to date, if you need to use Windows OS.

 

4.Motorola XOOM MZ600

Motorola XOOM was the first official Android Honeycomb 3.0 device (Android 3.1 to be available shortly) and a true monster hardware wise when it was first announced. While still a very solid device, design wise is a little bit behind competition (Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 and iPad 2) which are both lighter and thinner with comparable hardware specs.

Specifications:

  • A 1GHz dual-core processor, Nvidia Tegra 2
  • 10.1-inch widescreen HD (1280×800) display
  • 1GB RAM, 32GB storage
  • 4G LTE upgradeable
  • 1080p HD video support for playback
  • HDMI output
  • Adobe Flash Player support
  • Front-facing 2-megapixel camera for video chats over Wi-Fi or 3G/4G LTE
  • Rear-facing 5-megapixel camera that captures video in 720p HD.
  • “Console-like gaming performance”
  • Built-in gyroscope, barometer, e-compass, accelerometer and adaptive lighting
  • Google Maps 5.0 with 3D interaction
  • Mobile hotspot capability for up to five Wi-Fi-enabled devices
  • 730g weight
  • Battery Life – tested around 9 hours
  • Dimension: 9.8 inches, 6.6 inches, 0.5 inches

Pros:

  • fast, good multimedia compatibility
  • first tablet to officially support Android Honeycomb 3.0
  • best battery life among Android tablets
  • 33% more pixels than iPad / iPad 2
  • true multi-tasking with an easy access to the latest 5 apps used

Cons:

  • heavier than competition
  • no 4G out of the box, to be upgraded later in the year
  • while higher res, the screen is not as vivid as iPad 2

Conclusion:

Motorola XOOM is a very solid performer and arguably one of the best Android tablets to date. The cameras are better than iPad / iPad 2 and the Flash is also supported. For users that prefer openness rather than iOS closed platform, Motorola XOOM is one of the best choices.

3. Asus Eee Pad Transformer TF101-A1

Recently launched, Asus Eee Pad Transformer TF101-A1 earned a top place in our list simply because of its superb design and optional docking station that can transform it onto an Android notebook if you want to do serious work.

Specifications:

  • 10.1″ WSVGA (1280×800) IPS Capacitive LED Touchscreen; Android 3.0 Operating System
  • NVIDIA Tegra 2 CPU; 1GB of DDR2 SDRAM, 1 slot, 1GB Max; 16GB Internal Flash Memory; Wireless 802.11bgn; Bluetooth 2.1
  • Mini HDMI Port; 4-in-1 Card Reader (MMC/SD/SDHC/SDXC); 1.2MP (front) and 5.0MP (rear) Webcam; Stereo Speakers; Internal Microphone; Mic-In/Headphone-Out Combo Jack
  • GPS; Gravity Sensor; E-Compass; Light Sensor; Gyroscope; 24.4W/h Lithium Polymer Battery (Up to 9.5 Hours Battery Life)
  • 40-Pin Docking Port for Optional Keyboard/Docking Station (Model Name: TF101 DOCKING) Which Provides Up To 6.5 Additional Hours of Battery Life
  • Size (LWH): 10.67 inches, 6.97 inches, 0.51 inches
  • Weight: 1.5 pounds
  • Battery Life – 9 hours of normal use

Pros:

  • Excellent IPS LCD display with superb viewing angles
  • dockable design
  • good multimedia capabilities
  • HDMI out
  • 4 in 1 card reader
  • good price compared to Motorola XOOM

Cons:

  • somewhat thick, somewhat heavy

Conclusion:

Low price ($399 at the time of writing) combined with a good design and a long battery life makes Asus Eee Pad Transformer TF101-A1 one of the best Android tablets available on the market in 2011. If you purchase the optional dock, it will add an additional 6.5 hours of battery life thanks to its included second battery.

2.Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1

Immediately after the release of iPad 2, the rumor has it that one of Samsung’s top executives notice how thin iPad 2 was and sent the designers back to the drawing board. The result is a very classy tablet that beats iPad 2 at its own game with a reported .34 inches thickness (iPad 2 is 0.35 inches thick). For comparison purposes,  Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 is also a tad lighter at 589 grams (1.3 pounds) and has a larger screen with a higher resolution (1,280-by-800 vs iPad’s 1,024-by-768). Samsung Galaxy tab 10.1 ships with Honeycomb 3.0 but will get an update to 3.1 as soon as it is available.

Specifications:

Network 2G NetworkGSM 850, 900, 1800, 1900 MHz, 3G Network, HSDPA/UMTS 850, 900, 1900, 2100 MHz

Dimensions L x B x H256.6 x 172.9 x 8.6 mm – Weight 595 grams

Display Type WXGA Capacitive Touch ScreenSize, 10.1 inches, Colors & Resolution 16 Million Colors & 1280×800 Pixels

Input/ User Interface

  • Multi Touch
  • Samsung TouchWiz UX
  • Samsung Mini Appps Tray, Gyro Sensor
  • Accelerometer sensor for UI auto-rotate
  • Ambient light sensor

Operating System: Android 3.0 Honeycomb

CPU: Nvidia Tegra 2 Dual-Core 1GHz Processer

Storage Capacity Internal Memory 16GB / 32GB / 64GB internal memory storage, Expandable Memory – micro-SD card slot for up to 32GB memory

Browser & Messaging

  • HTML, Flash, MMS, SMS, IM, Email, RSS

Camera

  • Primary – 3 Megapixels 2048 x 1536 pixels, Auto Focus, LED Flash
  • Secondary- 2 Megapixels  1600 × 1200 pixels
  • Video Recording- 720p HD
  • Video Playback- 1080p HD

Connectivity Bluetooth & USB v2.1 with EDR Stereo & USB 2.0, Headset 3.5mm stereo headset jack , RadioStereo FM with RDS

WLAN Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n DLNA Capable

GPS – A-GPS

3G , HSDPA Up to 21 Mbps, HSUPA Up to 5.76 Mbps

Video & Audio sMPEG4, H.263, H.264, MP3, AAC, AAC+, eAAC+, AMR, OGG, MIDI

Battery Li-Ion 6860mAh, up to 10 hours estimated battery life

Other Features

Adobe 10.2 Flash compatibility
1080p HD, 720p HD video playback
HSPA+ connectivity for 21Mbps download speeds
Sound Station With GEL Woofer
Stick Type BT Headset
Reader’s Hub, New Music Hub, Social Hub
Android Market, G-mail, Google Maps, G-Talk
Twitter and Facebook Integration, YouTube
Surround Speakers
Quickoffice, Digital compass
Gyroscope

Pros: Thin, light, a true competitor to iPad 2

Cons: Popular streaming clients like Netflix and Hulu Plus are currently not available on ANdroid Platform, but this is not a particular fault of  Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1.

Conclusion: A superbly designed Android Tablet that beats iPad 2 in terms of hardware specifications design. The software however is behind of what is available on iOS.

 

1. Apple iPad 2

Here comes out top tablet of the year 2011 and with it, maybe expected, Apple iPad 2. While our winner might be contested by many, the position is based on several factors. We will start by saying that hardware is not the best we have seen, and some current Android tablets including Motorola XOOM and Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 are better. Particularly, Samsung Galaxy Tab is also thinner and lighter. The iOS doesn’t have some modern features including a real multi-tasking and widgets. Why choosing iPad 2 as our top tablet? Simple: For the way it works as a whole. We own several tablets including Nook Color, iPad 2, Windows Tablet PC devices, we played extensively with Motorola Xoom and iPad 2 beats everything else in terms of software quality for the applications available in the App Store, and if you want applications specifically designed for a tablet, you’ll find many more in Apple’s App Store than in the Android Market. For now! Also, must have streaming clients for Netflix and Hulu Plus are not yet available on Android platform (although announced) while running superbly on an iPad 2. And while the iOS UI on iPad 2 still looks like an over sized iPhone 4, it is extremely fast, fluid and never crashed on us (which we can’t say about Android Honeycomb and Motorola XOOM for example). The LCD display, while not the highest resolution is very vivid with an excellent contrast and viewing angle.

The battery beats also handily every other tablet we tested with over 10 hours of life while playing games, surfing internet and reading books. At this point, iPad  2 is by far the best in the class when it comes of battery longevity.

Specifications:

  • 1GHz dual-core A5 CPU
  • 512MB RAM
  • 16GB, 32GB, 64GB storage options
  • Front & Rear Cameras, front is VGA, rear is 720p
  • 9.7″ LED display with 1024×768 screen resolution at 132ppi
  • Video output supports up to 1080p
  • over 10 hour battery life
  • White & Black color options
  • Height: 9.50 inches (241.2 mm)
  • Width: 7.31 inches (185.7 mm)
  • Depth: 0.34 inch (8.8 mm)
  • Weight: 1.33 pounds (601 g)
  • Wi-Fi + 3G model: UMTS/HSDPA/HSUPA (850, 900, 1900, 2100 MHz); GSM/EDGE (850, 900, 1800, 1900 MHz)
  • Wi-Fi + 3G for Verizon model: CDMA EV-DO Rev. A (800, 1900 MHz)
  • Wi-Fi (802.11a/b/g/n)
  • Bluetooth 2.1 + EDR technology

Pros:

  • way more tablet optimized apps and games than Android (might change in the future)
  • must have apps like Netflix and Hulu Plus
  • excellent eco-system
  • fluid and experience
  • amazing battery life, over 10 hours in real life tests

Cons:

  • closed platform
  • 4:3 display form factor
  • no expansion slot
  • no HDMI output
  • no popular video codec support (MKV, DIVX)

Conclusion: For most of the users, iPad 2 will provide the best experience possible to date. While not without issues, specifically the lack of connectivity and video codecs, iPad 2 is the most refined product we tested. Highly recommended!