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Wednesday, Feb. 23, 2011
Asian Android tablets stand out at Mobile World Congress 2011 in Barcelona
By RICK MARTIN
The Mobile World Congress (MWC) was held in Barcelona last week, and besides the usual fancy phones on display, an abundance of shiny new Android tablets were unveiled at the event as well. And now that the tablet-specific Android 3.0 Honeycomb OS is in the wild, we can finally get excited about these devices.
HTC rolled out a diminutive yet distinctive tablet at MWC, a 7-inch device dubbed the HTC Flyer (above). In a package that's about the same size as Samsung's Galaxy tab, the Taiwan-based manufacturer has packed in a 1.5 GHz processor (single-core), 32 GB of internal storage, and a 1024×600 pixel display.
What sets the Flyer apart from other tablets on the market is that it employs a stylus supported by HTC's Scribe software and pen technology by N-Trig. With Evernote integration, the 3G Flyer looks like a good place to jot down your thoughts. Users can even scribble in the margins of e-books. The Flyer will also feature the ability to record audio notes, plus a video service called HTC Watch and a cloud gaming service via collaboration with the OnLive gaming system.
Unlike many of its competitors, however, the HTC Flyer does not use Android 3.0 Honeycomb but will be running on a highly customized version of Android 2.3 (aka Gingerbread) when it ships this spring, which was designed for mobile phones rather than tablets. However, an HTC representative tells me that the company is looking at an update to 3.0 later in the year, though a specific date has not yet been set.
Consumers who really like pen input should consider jumping aboard the Flyer.
Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1
Samsung, whose first Galaxy Tab has been the main iPad competitor on the market, decided that it would start this year bigger and better. Seemingly not satisfied with just seven inches, Samsung raised a few eyebrows at MWC by revealing a 10.1-inch version of its tablet, which matches the screen size of Apple's iPad.
The new tablet (below), which will run Honeycomb on a 1GHz dual-core processor, has the option of either 16 or 32GB of internal storage, and boasts a 1280×800 display. It features a pair of cameras, with 8 megapixels on the back and 2 megapixels up front. Complementing the 10.1-inch display, stereo speakers make watching videos on the new Galaxy Tab fun, anytime, anywhere. But don't be surprised if we see Samsung return to the 7-inch form factor later this year, as the first iteration of the device sold very well, moving more than two million units since hitting the market in November.
Vodafone customers in selected countries will be the first to see the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 this spring, though no word yet on when it might hit Japan.
LG Optimus Pad
Not to be outdone was the other major Korean electronics maker, LG, which rolled out its new Optimus Pad (below) to much fanfare. The Optimus Pad was in prime position to steal the show in Barcelona with a viral Transformers robot-themed teaser-ad leading up to the launch. With an 8.9-inch display, LG's tablet may have hit that Goldilocks size that's just about right. It will also run Honeycomb on top of a dual-core processor, and comes with 32GB of storage and a 1280×768 display.
The Optimus' stand-out feature is that it's the world's first 3-D tablet, capable of both playing and recording 3-D video. Using dual 5 megapixel cameras on the back, the Optimus Pad captures 1080-pixel HD video in three dimensions. The tablet also has a HDMI port to allow for viewing on 3DTVs. Alternatively you can send your video to the web for 3-D viewing on YouTube. However, unlike the LG Optimus 3-D phone the company announced at MWC, you will need glasses to view 3-D movies on the Optimus Pad itself.
The 3-D function is a rather dubious addition in my view, but it does set the Optimus Pad apart from the competition. Whether consumers will use it remains to be seen. LG's new tablet will begin shipping to selected markets in March.