We’ve complained quite a bit at TabletPCreview about the lack of next-generation Android tablets currently on the market, and we were audibly disappointed that few emerged from CES and Mobile World Congress.
To be clear, we define a next-generation tablet as having a quad-core processor and advanced display technology, be it a high pixel-per-inch count or AMOLED screen. By that standard, the new iPad qualifies because it has an Apple Retina Display with 264 pixels-per-inch, and a quad-core GPU in the A5X system on a chip (we’ll let it slide that it only has a dual-core CPU).
We were all set to lodge the same complaint at CTIA 2012 in New Orleans, but hiding in vendor booths and press gatherings were a few tablets that qualify, and a few others we previously overlooked.
Huawei and Toshiba
No tablet at CTIA fit our “next-generation” description better than the Huawei MediaPad 10. It was first unveiled at Mobile World Congress in February, with CTIA serving as another coming-out party for the quad-core device. As mentioned, the MediaPad 10 has a quad-core K3 processor running at 1.5 GHz made by Huawei, and it sports a 10.1-inch display with a 1920 x 1200 resolution. We tested it out in February, but at CTIA the device was much more stable and zippy. It ran the Android Ice Cream Sandwich operating system without a hitch, and video looked great. The audio wasn’t bad either, thanks undoubtedly to the Dolby surround-sound speakers.
Unfortunately, the speakers are rear-firing and direct sound away from the user. The MediaPad 10 also lacks a standard USB input, and instead relies on a proprietary pin connector — just like the tablets from Apple and Samsung. The iPad similarities don’t end there, as the MediaPad10 very much resembles the iPad at a glance, and I heard more than one CTIA attendee ask if it was in fact an iPad on display.
There is no word yet on a US launch date or price, but the MediaPad 10 will support both HSPA+ and LTE, so it could arrive on any carrier. In fact, Huawei reps told us to pay close attention in June, suggesting we’ll know more about it next month.
The new Toshiba Excite 7.7 also qualifies as a next-generation tablet by our definition, thanks to its AMOLED display and NVIDIA Tegra 3 processor. This is actually the third time we’ve come across the Excite 7.7, with the first being at CES when it was behind glass and labeled a “concept device,” and then again at Mobile World Congress in NVIDIA’s booth, showing off its gaming prowess.
We had great things to say about the Samsung Galaxy Tab 7.7, mostly owing to its Super AMOLED Plus display. Toshiba combined that same screen with a quad-core processor and Android Ice Cream Sandwich (the Tab 7.7 still runs Honeycomb and has a dual-core CPU), so we expect good things when it arrives in our test lab. Toshiba reps mentioned a late June launch date.
It’s been so long since we’ve written about LG, which hasn’t released a tablet since the LG G-Slate, it’s easy to think the company has bowed out of tablets completely.
That’s not the case, according to LG reps, who insist LG has not shunned the form factor and is watching the market closely. As evident by the LG Optimus Vu, they were watching the same market as rival Samsung when Sammy decided to release the Galaxy Note.
Let’s call the Optimus Vu LG’s version of the Note, as it sports a 5-inch display with a 1024 x 768 resolution. That makes for an interesting 4:3 aspect ratio, the same as the Apple iPad. Most tablets and smartphones have an aspect ratio of 16:9 or 16:10, so the Optimus Vu is more square than rectangle, and actually looks bigger than it is. LG reps commented that the Optimus Vu shape and size is ideal for magazines and eReading, due to the similar dimensions to a paperback, and the device is actually targeted at a business audience.
Like the Note, the Optimus Vu pairs with a stylus, which LG calls the Rubberdium. It is thicker than the Note’s Wacom stylus, and is closer to a #2 pencil in terms of girth. Unfortunately, it doesn’t dock anywhere on the Optimus Vu and doesn’t have the Note’s pressure sensitivity — in fact, the Rubberdium is simply a capacitive stylus. However, we found it effective for doodling notes with the Optimus Vu’s notes app, which is activated with the press of a button on the device, runs on top of the Android Gingerbread OS, and turns any screen into a notepad.
Other specs include a 1.5 GHz dual-core processor, 1GB of RAM, 32GB storage, and an update to Android Ice Cream Sandwich 4.0 coming “soon,” according to LG reps. Yes, it’s also a phone, just like the Note. The Optimus Vu is not currently available in America, and LG reps could not confirm if it ever would arrive here. It’s now available in Europe and Asia, however.
We would be remiss if we didn’t mention ZTE’s presence at CTIA, as it also had new tablets on display. Well, new tablets that were also originally unveiled at MWC, including the 10.1-inch, quad-core PF100. Unfortunately, the PF100 has a WXGA display (likely 1280 x 800), so it doesn’t meet our next-generation definition. Other than that, we couldn’t glean much after our brief time with the device as it was obviously a pre-production unit running a stock version of ICS. That said, we expect the Chinese mobile-maker to make itself known in the US shortly, just like Huawei. ZTE already has the low-end Optik on the market, available through Sprint, and we believe the quad-core PF100 will make its way Stateside sooner rather than later.