Editors' note: Updated January 12, 2011.
As manufacturers rush to capitalize on the attention given to the Apple iPad, there's seems to be a new tablet announced every week. We can't keep track of every slate thrown into the wild, but if you're curious to know what options are out there, we've compiled a general overview of the tablet landscape.
There's probably no explanation needed for this one. With a million iPads sold within the first month of its introduction, the iPad has quickly taken the lead position in the tablet category.
Pros: Elegant hardware; vibrant App Store; ideal for media playback; large selection of games; fast processor; responsive multitouch screen; long battery life; priced as low as $499.
Cons: Users must buy their software from Apple; existing Mac and Windows software isn't supported; lacks Adobe Flash compatibility; limited hardware support.
Historically, tablets running Microsoft's Windows operating system made up the major share of the market. These include several subcategories, such as slates, convertible laptops, UMPCs, and MIDs. Windows-based tablets still thrive, especially in niche professional applications that demand the capabilities and broad software compatibility of Windows.
Pros: Familiar interface; broadest software and hardware compatibility; Adobe Flash support; multitasking; wide range of screen sizes, pricing, and implementations.
Cons: Windows desktop interface doesn't always translate well to the touch screen without intermediating software or stylus input; typically longer boot times compared with mobile OS; cumbersome software installation; more prone to computer virus; typically shorter battery life.
Smartphones running Google's Android OS are some of the biggest competitors to Apple's iPhone. Android takes an approach similar to Apple's iOS, offering a streamlined interface based around lightweight, third-party apps.
In 2010, CNET reviewed several tablets running versions of Android up to 2.2 (aka Froyo), which essentially duplicated the Android smartphone experience onto a larger screen. Since that time, Google announced its tablet-optimized version of Android 3.0, named Honeycomb, due out in the first quarter of 2011 on Motorola's Xoom tablet.
Pros: A large variety of apps; quick boot time; third-party manufacturers competing to provide hardware; one-touch access to Google Web search; options priced as low as $199.
Cons: Many Android features and developer specs (pre-Honeycomb) are more fitting for smartphones than tablets; legacy apps designed for phone screens don't scale well; accessory compatibility changes from manufacturer to manufacturer; not all tablet hardware will support Android Honeycomb.