Thursday, May 26, 2011

Four Tablets with Features the iPad 2 Lacks


The iPad 2 has over 65,000 apps for it in the App Store, and every one of those is a feature -- most of which aren't shared by tablets that run Google's Android operating system. There are still few tablet apps in the Android Market.

There's a greater variety of Android tablets themselves, though, and each one has some signature feature the iPad doesn't -- and probably won't -- have. Here are a few examples.

Motorola Xoom -- Widescreen display

Don't think this one matters? You'd be surprised how much it does. Movies look better and waste less screen space, and typing is easier in both orientations. Laid out in landscape mode, the Xoom gives your fingers more room to type; held in portrait mode, it's easier to type with your thumbs. I seriously considered buying a Xoom just because I liked its design (insert joke about my lack of taste here).

Admittedly, it looks a bit silly to hold a Xoom in portrait mode. But there's no better way to play Air Attack HD.

HTC Flyer -- Pressure-sensitive stylus

Common wisdom says that if your tablet has a stylus, you're doing it wrong. And at $499 plus $80 for the stylus, the Flyer is definitely a niche product.

But while everyone else is making their tablets to be "better" than the iPad, the Flyer is unapologetically better for some people than the iPad is. There may still be few tablet apps available for it, but HTC appears to have put a lot of work into the Flyer's built-in apps -- like its book reader that lets you annotate and its handwritten notetaking app that syncs with Evernote.

Incidentally, the Flyer also serves as an OnLive game console, if you've got a controller handy. That's one feature the iPad's not likely to pick up for awhile.

Asus Eee Transformer -- "Laptop" keyboard

There are a lot of keyboards available for the iPad, including cases that try to transform the iPad into a laptop. The Asus Eee Transformer was designed with this idea in mind, though, the same way the iPad 2 was made to work with its Smart Cover. The laptop dock plugs into the Transformer, and even extends its battery life.

The Transformer includes its own iWork-style office suite that's made to work with the keyboard, plus a multi-touch laptop-style touchpad letting you select things onscreen without reaching up to tap the glass. And with the Transformer's MyCloud app, you can use it to control your PC or Mac, using the same controls that you would on a laptop.

Nook Color -- $250 price tag

Barnes and Noble's Nook Color e-reader runs Android under the hood and is easily upgradable to the "full" version of Android should you so desire. And it's half the cost of an iPad 2 -- enough said.

Jared Spurbeck is an open-source software enthusiast, who uses an Android phone and an Ubuntu laptop PC. He has been writing about technology and electronics since 2008.

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