CES is all about new and exciting products, and the manufacturers didn’t disappoint in showing off innovative concept devices, with technology and features that could be coming soon to a tablet near you. Do waterproof tablets sound appealing? How about a 5.1-inch tablet with a 21:9 aspect ratio? If that’s not your fancy, then perhaps a new tablet take on PC gaming? Or, maybe you prefer a device with a flexible back that doubles as a stand, or perhaps even a low-tech tablet ready to launch in the developing world.
All were on display at CES 2012.
Both Fujitsu and Toshiba showcased waterproof Android tablets, with the Fujitsu Arrow already on market in Japan. These aren’t splashproof tablets like the Pantech Element headed for AT&T. These tablets are fully functional even when dunked in water, as evident by the demos.
But why would anyone need a fully waterproof tablet? The intent, as we learned, is not for the tablet to be used underwater, but rather to survive an accidental drop or splash. The technology actually started with smartphones, which are often ruined when a user is trapped in a rainstorm without an umbrella, or they, embarrassingly enough, drops it in the toilet. Steam and humidity can also be a smartphone killer. Just ask anyone who left their iPhone in the bathroom while they showered.
Now that technology is moving up a few display sizes for tablets, where they might find a good home in the kitchen, where they are protected from spills, and bathroom, for bath-time reading.
Screen Sizes Galore
In 2011, mobile tablets came in three main sizes: 10.1-, 9.7-, and 7-inches. Samsung expanded that to include 8.9-, 7.7-, and finally 5.3-inches with the Galaxy Note. Going forward, consumers are likely to see Android tablets with 13.3-inch displays, and maybe even an extra-long device with a 5.1-inch display and 21:9 aspect ratio (pixels across by pixels up), as Toshiba concepts demonstrated.
Typical mobile tablets have a 16:10 or 4:3 ratio. Most HDTVs have a 16:9 ratio. The 5.1-inch display is extra thin, making it easier to grip, and we can see it fitting nicely on a universal remote/tablet combo, or maybe a large smartphone.
The 13.3-inch display is very intriguing as it would make for a great home-theater tablet, especially now that quad-core tablets support 1200 x 1920 resolutions. Even though Toshiba showed it off, Samsung would also be a likely candidate to release a Galaxy Tab in that size in the coming months. It would fit nicely with Sammy’s home theater focus.
Sony had what is perhaps the most far-out concept tablet at CES in their new Windows 8 Vaio. Sony did not reveal much, only stating that the back of the device is flexible and that it expands to act as a tablet stand. The tablet also pairs with a keyboard “wirelessly,” which probably means via Bluetooth, but good luck getting the tight-lipped Sony reps to admit even that.
Sony also had a Windows 8 slider Vaio on display that is very similar to the ASUS Slider Android tablet and Samsung Sliding PC 7 Series shown at CES 2011, which never officially launched. The sliding Vaio also includes a Sony stylus that docks in the front of the keyboard, but again, details on the pen were slim.
Not to be outdone by Sony with innovative concepts, RAZER introduced the Project Fiona gaming tablet. This unique device includes two Wii Nunchuck-style controls on the tablet sides, each with a thumbstick, trigger, and five buttons. RAZER promised to launch Project Fiona in 2012 provided there is enough gamer interest, which judging from the crowds gathered around the RAZER booth to check out the gaming tablet PC, shouldn’t be too difficult to gin up.
The tablet will run a third-generation Intel Core chip, and the display units had a high-end Core i7. Underneath, it will run Windows 8, and can function as a Windows 8 tablet PC. Games will run locally, but RAZER is looking to OnLive to support the tablet with its cloud gaming service. The tablet has a g-sensor for motion gaming (ideal for racing games), and game controls can be mapped by the user via a settings menu. However, RAZER is working with game developers on Project Fiona support for future titles.
RAZER is also looking to users for feedback on Project Fiona. Reps claimed that while the controls on the demo unit were fixed, they heard from many gamers who would prefer them removable, which RAZER is now considering.
Finally, the tablet that perhaps stole the show at CES 2012 featured the least impressive specs, but the best story behind it. The OLPC XO 3.0 is designed for children in developing countries, and depending on the configuration, can costs as little as $100 per unit. The tablet features a Marvell Armada PXA618 processor along with 512MB of RAM, and is just as tough as any rugged tablet we’ve kicked around the office. It has to be, considering it may end up in areas where tablet repair opportunities are very few and far between.
The XO 3.0 is unique in that it can be charged via a solar panel or even hand crank, and it features a Linux-based operating system called Sugar, though can be built for Android. Sugar was designed specifically for children, and because it may come to various countries with different languages, it is not very text heavy. Instead, the swipe- and tap-based navigation relies on pictures symbols, which the team here honestly had trouble figuring out. But after a quick walkthrough, we were able to successfully operate the tablet and experience the simple and effective educational apps.
Check out OLPC to learn more about the organization and XO 3.0 tablet.