This year’s Consumer Electronics Show is over. It may be the biggest show of the year, but when it came to smartphones and tablets, most companies seemed to be holding back, perhaps waiting for the Mobile World Congress show in February or CTIA this spring. Whatever the reason, this year’s showing was a bit weak. Still, there were a few notable devices. Most of these tablets are predictable upgrades, but there are a couple nice surprises. Our favorite tablets at CES are below.
Samsung Galaxy Tab 7.7 LTE
Samsung has a lock on the “iPad but not an iPad” tablet market. The Galaxy Tab 10.1 and 8.9 are two of the best tablets of 2011 and the new Galaxy Tab 7.7 LTE is sure to join them. Aside from its odd screen size and 4G LTE connectivity, this Galaxy Tab has a unique selling point: it has a Super AMOLED screen. The Tab 7.7 has what may be the brightest, most vivid screen I’ve ever seen on a tablet. It’s fantastic and actually helps battery life too.
Even we have pronounced the BlackBerry PlayBook as dead. RIM’s first tablet launched in April 2011 without many of the core services that competing tablets had like email, but also had next to no decent apps for months. It’s been a trying time for RIM ever since, but the PlayBook at CES 2012 honestly looks like a new device. With the PlayBook 2.0 software, RIM has improved the interface, now boasts as many as 50,000 apps, and is launching email, calendar, and contacts apps that go above and beyond what a lot of tablets currently offer. It’s difficult to see the company’s fortunes turning around this year, but those who own a PlayBook will finally be able to put a smile on their face and dust off the old tablet.
Toshiba Excite X10
There weren’t a lot of exciting Android tablets at CES and even fewer that tried anything new. Despite it’s name, the Toshiba Excite X10, didn’t excite us terribly with a big price tag and rather common specs, but it is quite thin and light, which is something, right? Toshiba claims this is the thinnest 10.1-inch tablet on the market and we believe it. Thanks to the magnesium alloy shell, it’s also a lot more durable than many of the company’s plastic competitors.
Acer Iconia Tab A200, A510, and beyond
Acer didn’t have a booth at CES, but it did limo us out to a fancy hotel to show us some new laptops and tablets. Much like a free limo ride, Acer’s upcoming tablet lineup is hard to complain about. The Iconia Tab A500 was one of the first solid Android tablets, but the new A200 is kicking it up a notch, with a full build of Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich) running. The screen you see above is a new loop interface that lets you perform some common activities like visiting a bookmarked page, toggling volume, and opening some common apps. We don’t love it when manufacturers add a bunch of junk to Android, but Acer is keeping it lean, with this functional loop as one of the only significant modifications.
Acer also gave us a glimpse into some of its future plans, showing us the upcoming A510 quad-core tablet running Nvidia’s Tegra 3 processor and a 10.1-inch prototype device with an incredible 1920×1200 pixel resolution, which is higher than 1080p. The physical hardware isn’t anything particularly notable, but Acer typically goes for performance, not fancy design and we like what we see.
Razer ‘Fiona’ gaming tablet
Most tablets just try to 1-up each other, but Razer’s “Project Fiona” tablet wants to help you get actual 1-ups. This is a complete gaming tablet with a big controller built right onto each side of the screen. The concept Ryan saw at CES runs Windows 7 on Intel processors, but the final unit will hopefully run Windows 8 and cost under $1000. The guys at Razer aren’t attempting to replace PC gaming with a tablet. Instead, Fiona is more like a travel companion for hardcore gamers that want to game on the go as well. From what we can see, the controllers are not detachable, which could make storage an issue, but Fiona is still probably the most original tablet at CES.
Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga
Last year, Asus wowed CES attendees by debuting a line of tablets that docked with smartphones and keyboards in crazy new ways. This year, Lenovo took that crown. The Chinese manufacturer showed off a ton of tablets, smartphones, and laptops. I picked the Yoga as my favorite item at CES, not because it’s perfect, as it still is about 3 pounds and has a fan and all that, but because its flexibility is exactly where the laptop and tablet markets need to head. The Yoga is a 13.3-inch laptop featuring a touch screen that can be turned all the way around and used as a tablet computer. Better, since it runs Windows 8, the touch capabilities actually work too. We love this idea and hope more manufacturers look toward concepts like this, moving forward. The Yoga will debut later this year for around $1200.
Lenovo IdeaTab S2 (aka IdeaTab Transformer)
The IdeaPad Yoga is an awesome and original idea, but Lenovo doesn’t care if it’s completely original. Sometimes the ideas of others will work just fine. The IdeaTab S2 is an example of this. Lenovo wants a piece of the half-tablet, half-netbook market that Asus created with the Eee Pad Transformer and Eee Pad Transformer Prime. The IdeaTab S2 will cost about $100 to $150 less than the Asus Transformer Prime, which is currently on the market. The downside: it definitely feels at least $150 cheaper than the Transformer as well. Lenovo’s docking keyboard does extend battery life to about 20 hours (more than the Transformer Prime’s 18 hours), but it’s also plasticky and flimsy. The tablet itself is also a bit weaker, running on a dual-core processor as opposed to the Transformer’s quad-core processor. Still, Lenovo will win on price and if you’re on a budget, this may be the QWERTY tablet for you.