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Tablets buyer's guide

Posted on 1 Feb 2011 at 14:14

We reveal everything you need to know about tablets, from the choice of operating systems to the wildly differing hardware

Transport yourself to a boardroom in Cupertino, California. Imagine yourself wearing a polo-neck jumper. Before you sit the sales charts for the iPads on one side, the income flowing into your company’s coffers on the right. Feeling confident? Arrogant, even?

Steve Jobs and friends have every right to be. While the iPad may not have lived up to Jobs’ hyperbole – “It’s the best web experience you’ve ever had... Phenomenal for mail” – there’s no denying that Apple has single-handedly defined a new category of product.

It turns out tablets aren’t merely overgrown phones. Superficially accurate that criticism may be, but it misses the point: a swimming pool isn’t just a big bathtub. Changing the size of an object can fundamentally alter what it’s like to use and what it does.

It turns out tablets aren’t merely overgrown phones. Superficially accurate that criticism may be, but it misses the point: a swimming pool isn’t just a big bathtub

In the iPad’s case, it’s become a new way to read newspapers, a GPS system for truckers, a gaming device to not only rival the PSP, but in many respects beat it. And much more besides. Sure, it can surf the web and let you check your email, but that’s a given.

Clutching onto the coat-tails of Apple’s success are a legion of me-too devices, in a variety of shapes and sizes. From the 5in Dell Streak that weighs 220g to the 10in ViewSonic ViewPad 10 that approaches 1kg, the choice is bewildering.

We've dissected the strengths and weaknesses of the different operating systems – including those about to appear. And, most crucially, we lay our hands on the tablets so we can provide the definitive reviews.

Some of those tablets, we’re sorry to say, are poorly made. Some look nice, only for us to turn them on and realise their designers have ignored the user experience altogether. Some are great – except for one crucial flaw that robs them of any chance of winning an award.

Which leaves a single question: which device is right for you?

The operating systems:

Apple's iOS
Google Android
The rival OSes

The apps:

Ten essential Apple iPad apps
Ten essential Android tablet apps

The tablet reviews:

Advent Vega
Apple iPad
Archos 101 Internet Tablet
Creative Ziio 7in
Dell Inspiron Duo
Dell Streak - Android 2.2 upgrade
Elonex eTouch 1000ET review
Next 7in media tablet
Samsung Galaxy Tab review
Toshiba Folio 100
ViewSonic ViewPad 7
ViewSonic ViewPad 10

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User comments

More choices and better ones too!!!!

The ASUS Eee Pad EP121, the best out of all of the above!!!. Surely you could find out about this one, you wrote one article about it i think (
ets-arrive-at-computex), but the specs have been updated, now it has much better specs!!!.. I believe it is set to be released either Q2/3 this year!!!

By mobilegnet on 2 Feb 2011

You overlooked the most important tablets

Microsoft will dominate the tablet market:

How can you overlook the Win7 slates shown at CES 2011? Apple wasn't even there!

For instance, how about the Asus Eee Slate, a full-power PC in slate form, the most performant tablet on the market by a vast margin?

By timacheson on 3 Feb 2011

Microsoft will dominate the tablet market

PC Pro overlooked the most important tablets -- and the best! The iPad is a toy, you can have a full-power PC in slate form!

By timacheson on 3 Feb 2011

Archos 101 Internet Tablet

The Archos 101 Internet Tablet appears twice in the list, I assume you meant to show the Archos 70 for one of them?

@timacheson, I assume this is a list of currently available tablets, in which case all of the ones at CES, including all the Asus's ones and the Motorolla XOOM and yes the iPad 2, which was seen there, just not on display, are not included.

By stevenutt on 3 Feb 2011

How can "PC" Pro overlook "XXXX"?

Simple. It hasn't got an Apple logo on it.

"PC" (ha!) Pro now use this as the sole arbiter of greatness in a product.

By Lacrobat on 3 Feb 2011

Lacrobat - if you, as appears to be the case from your posts, dislike PC PRO in its current form why not just stop commenting?

I'm sure everyone would be happier if you took that path.

By longn on 3 Feb 2011

Wrong, I would be sad. I happen to find Lacrobat's posts quite amusing and refreshing, and representative of many of us living outside the Messiah's distortion field.

By TerabitTerry on 3 Feb 2011

"A collection of me too devices"

That sums up PCPro's attitude these days. All Apple had to do was enlarge it's iPod touch and it had a tablet. Nothing astonishing there no matter how many bathtub metaphors you use. The pre-existing ecosystem for the iPod Touch and iPhone makes launching a tablet many times easier for Apple than for their competitors.

Of all the tech companies in the world, Apple were the ones who had least to risk by introducing this "new" form factor. The influence they have over media companies due to iTunes gives them an advantage. This meant free publicity for Apple as all the aisling publishers struggle to maintain their influence, hoping Apple's magic can save them.

By windywoo on 3 Feb 2011

"A collection of 'me too' devices"

I'm no fan of apple, far from it, but you have to respect the obvious development work that lies behind the iPad.

All of the other tablets are, to a greater or lesser extent, usable.

The issue is that they have been released to market with no obvious innovation and some with flaws, indicating a lack of proper development and an arguable accusation of jumping on the "me too" bandwagon to cash in on the market created by the iPad.

Nothing wrong with that, but they can't expect glowing reviews for at best mediocre/workmanlike products.

By Deane on 4 Feb 2011


I've seen lots of 'pundits' saying the iPad doesn't support Flash. I was in an apple store in London this afternoon and accessed & played videos from YouTube, Google Video, BBC iPlayer, ITV Player and movie trailers on All require flash 10 to play the movie clips and none are fully HTML 5 compliant (yet).
So, why does everyone insist that the iPad can't play flash movies when it patently can?

By hughmacd on 6 Feb 2011

it can't. iPlayer doesn't require Flash to play and neither does YouTube. I'm not sure about ITV player though. You're the first person I've ever heard of that has been there...

By TimoGunt on 7 Feb 2011

In response to the 'Confused' comment, sites like YouTube & BBC IPlayer, etc serve MP4 video streams where devices do not support Flash video. Not sure if those sites are HTML5 compliant or not, but they behave in this way.

By billyfrost on 7 Feb 2011

Notion Ink Adam

This list (and this website in general) fails to recognise the importance of Notion Ink's brilliant new Adam Tablet.
Surely one of the major requirements of any portable technology is being able to use it anywhere? So far, Adam is the only tablet that's usable outdoors, thanks to its Pixel Qi technology. You wouldn't settle for a phone that doesn't work outside, so why a tablet?

By Luke_TC on 14 Feb 2011

See for yourself...

The only way to choose whether you would like the look and feel of any product is to get out there and have a play with one. I haven't decided what to buy yet although portability isn't really an issue for me personally and I suspect the same is true of a great many people - my laptop never leaves the house - I just want something more comfortable to hold and use than my laptop on the sofa and a tablet fits the bill. I have to admit though I don't understand why we always have that hostility against anything that is successful. I hate the hype surrounding Apple and iThis, iThat; I don't like the lack of connectivity on the iPad though like many I would probably rarely need/use it for that reason and likewise the lack of flash but despite all that it adds up to a lot fewer shortcomings - for my purposes - than anything else I have seen out there and at the moment the iPad still looks as though it might become my first Apple product, price being the only real stumbling block for me. Everybody should remember though that what is ideal for one person might be unsuitable for somebody else for a variety of reasons. If that were not true we would all drive the same car. (For the record I drive a BMW which as we all know are overhyped rubbish)

By coolcity on 7 Jul 2011

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