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Roundup: Five tablets that are taking on the Apple iPad

Consumer Reports News: July 06, 2011 11:48 AM

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When the Apple iPad debuted in April, 2010, it basically defined the tablet-computer category. Eventually, competitors began to roll out tablets to compete with the iPad and even offer features and capabilities you won’t find on the iPad. Consumer Reports continually tests the newest tablet computers; here’s a rundown of some newer tablets, what they offer, and how they stack up to the iPad.

HP TouchPad
The Hewlett-Packard TouchPad, roughly the size of the original Apple iPad, is HP’s first tablet computer. It is also the first tablet to run on the webOS platform, which allows for unique capabilities such as stacked-app windows (a.k.a. the “card” interface) and the pairing of webOS phones with the tablet, a feature called “Touch to Share.” The TouchPad also runs Flash video, unlike the iPad. Some apps are slow to launch, though, and there’s a dearth of them compared to those available to Apple and even Android tablets. But overall, the TouchPad shows promise. Available in two configurations: $500 for 16GB, $600 for 32GB.

HTC Flyer with stylus option

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The 16GB HTC Flyer offers a memory card slot so that you can expand its storage capacity. But the Flyer is most notable for its optional stylus, which allows you to write and draw in addition to typing and navigating with your fingers. Unfortunately, there’s no slot to store the stylus in, making it easy to lose. But the ability to draw on notes, photographs, and e-books offers a fun level of functionality to the tablet. The Flyer is available only in Wi-Fi for now and operates on the Android 2.3 operating system. $500; optional stylus $80.

Asus Eee Pad Transformer

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The Asus Eee Pad Transformer is sort of a functional bridge between a tablet and a netbook, because it comes with its own docking station/keyboard. The keyboard is designed to mimic a tablet screen, with buttons for Home, Search, Back, and Menu, among others. It can be difficult to type accurately and there’s no Delete key, so it may not be ideal if you’re doing a lot of typing. But the Transformer does provide the unique experience of working as a full-functioning tablet and a netbook-like device. Available in two configurations: $500 for 16GB, $600 for 32 GB.

BlackBerry PlayBook

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Research in Motion touts the BlackBerry PlayBook as “the world’s first professional-grade tablet,” but it lacks an email client. If you’re a BlackBerry user you have to wirelessly connect your phone to the device to read mail. But the device is lightweight, its display is crisp and bright, and the touchscreen is responsive and quick. The device has its own app store, but lacks the selection of apps found in Apple’s and Google’s stores. Its navigation gets mixed reviews; the tablet would benefit from Home and Back buttons, but the Play/Pause button on top of the device makes it easy to start and stop music and videos. Available in three configurations: $500 for 16GB, $600 for 32GB, and $700 for 64GB.

Samsung 10.1-inch Galaxy Tab

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Samsung launched the 10.1-inch Galaxy Tab last month, and so far it’s available only in Wi-Fi. It uses the tablet form of Android OS, Honeycomb 3.1, but software upgrades are planned for the future. That upgrade will feature Samsung’s user interface, called TouchWiz UX, and will feature a tray of mini-apps like a calendar and music player. It will also install a Media Hub (for downloading movies and other content), a Reader Hub (for downloading e-books), and a Social Hub (for email, instant messaging, and social networks). Available in two configurations: $500 for 16GB, $600 for 32GB.

Ready to pick out a tablet? Check out our free buying advice and complete tablet computer Ratings (available to subscribers).

Evan MacDonald

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