Friday, January 14, 2011

Verizon's keynote at the International CES 2011

In our previous article, we rounded up the bestest and the greatest smartphones that were outed by manufacturers at the International CES (Consumer Electronics Show) at Las Vegas, USA, this year. It’s time now to take a look at the Tablets that were on display. Again, a gentle reminder : we never attended CES. All details presented here are pieced together from Engadget’s most awesome coverage of CES and related press releases from the various manufacturers.

Similar to the slew of smartphones released, many tablets released from major manufacturers are sporting 4G for the newly launched 4G services in the US. On the whole, there were a variety of tablets on display and demonstration. It is not possible for us to go into each one of them in this post. We’re taking a look at a few top releases from major manufacturers, with the exception of the Adam, from Notion Ink. We’re not going to hide this fact – the Notion Ink Adam is close to our hearts since a small start-up from Hyderabad (yes, from our very own country of India) has put together this awesome concept, and is on the verge of bringing it to people worldwide.

1. Notion Ink Adam

Notion Ink Adam

The Hyderabad-based startup, Notion Ink, previewed a prototype of the Adam tablet last year at CES 2010. It is a device that has generated a lot of hype for its completely new user interface layer built on top of the standard Android platform, called Eden. The Eden interface uses panes to provide some form of multi-tasking between various open Apps. Hardware-wise, the Adam tablet has a decent list of goodies – nVidia Tegra 250 chip, 1 GB DDR2 RAM, 1 GB ROM, 8 GB built-in Flash memory, microSDHC slot, 10.1” 1024x600 multi-touch LCD display with an optional Pixel Qi (pronounced Pixel CHEE) dual-mode display, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, HDMI-out, 2 USB Host ports, 3.2 MP Auto Focus swivel camera, the usual sensors, GPS and stereo loudspeakers.

The biggest downside we see for the Adam is the fact that it doesn’t have access to the Android Market. Notion Ink is working with developers to get Apps to their own Apps market – Genesis, with support for the panes built-in, so these third-party apps could work flawlessly with the Eden interface’s method of viewing apps as panes. Add to that their long-winded return and warranty service policies, it is a little difficult to fully recommend this one. If Rohan Shravan and the rest of the team at Notion Ink are able to come forth with a better service policy, we would definitely recommend this as a far better option than any other Tablet out there, Android, iOS or otherwise.

The Notion Ink Adam is currently not for sale, as the pre-order limit was reached a few hours after the pre-order went live. Keep a lookout at their website for future pre-orders becoming available. It would cost $50 to ship the Tablet to anywhere in the world, including India.

Notion Ink Adam - Left

Notion Ink Adam - Right

The promo video by Notion Ink’s Adam tablet is below.

Notion Ink Adam – Official site

2. Blackberry 4G Playbook

The previously announced and highly anticipated Blackberry Playbook from RIM (Research in Motion) was announced with 4G exclusively for the Sprint network. The specs are 1 GB RAM, 1 Ghz dual core processor, 7 inch 1024x600 LCD, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, 4G, 1080p video output via HDMI, 3 MP front-facing camera, 5 MP camera at the rear. Of course, it runs the newly developed Blackberry Tablet OS powered by QNX and Adobe AIR technology.

The platform is touted to be very powerful, but since it has not yet fully launched, we would not be able to judge if it can really compete with the Android tablets and the iPad. Only time will tell, we guess.

With regard to availability and release in India, the 3G version (or at least, the Wi-Fi only version) should be released in India sometime later this year. Price can only be guessed at – but don’t expect it to cost anything less than than the Rs. 25,000 – Rs. 35,000/- (tentative) range.

Blackberry Playbook – Official site

3. Motorola Xoom

Motorola XOOM Front

The first tablet to actually show Google’s upcoming Android 3.0 Honeycomb OS (specially optimized for Tablets), the Motorola Xoom turned a lot of heads at CES 2011. The internal specs match the best offerings out there with a 1 Ghz dual-core Tegra 2 chip, 10.1 inch 1280x800 display, 5 MP camera with 720p video recording, 1080p video playback, 802.11n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and 32 GB of built-in Flash storage. Motorola claims that this tablet provides 10 hours of battery life, but usually, manufacturer claims are far higher than what we can expect to gain in everyday use.

This tablet should see a release in India sometime later this year, and would bring with it a whole host of Android 3.0 Honeycomb based tablets. Cross your fingers, and keep waiting.

Motorola Xoom Side

Motorola Xoom – Official site

4. Dell Streak 7

Dell Streak 7

The 7 inch version of the existing Dell Streak, this appears to be very nice with the Stage UI that Dell has built atop the standard Android interface. However, there’s not much else that’s changed from the 5 inch version of the Streak. You get an Android 2.2 (Froyo) based tablet, with a 7 inch multi-touch display, a 1.3 MP front camera, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, GPS and upto 32 GB of internal Flash storage. If Dell does not upgrade it to Android 3.0 Honeycomb, then this tablet would be quickly cast aside by the hordes of consumers going after the other Android 3.0 based tablets that are all set to be released this year.

Since this is a Dell product, we definitely expect it to be released in India (we wouldn’t want the existing 5 inch Streak to be all lonely by itself in India now, would we?) but we don’t know when it would be released, and how much it would cost.

Dell Streak 7 – Official site

5. T-Mobile G-Slate

To be manufactured by LG, and released by T-Mobile, this is another 4G Tablet running Android 3.0 Honeycomb. We don’t envisage this releasing in India, although it is possible that LG comes up with a 3G or Wi-Fi only version for India. “If” that’s going to happen, and “when” that’s going to happen – is a question that only the top folk at LG can answer for now.

6. Samsung Galaxy Tab 4G

4G LTE Galaxy Tab

The 4G version of the Samsung Galaxy Tab was announced at CES, and it is pretty much the same as the existing, 3G version. Again, since this has 4G connectivity, it is definitely not going to make it to India. The 3G Samsung Galaxy Tab is already available in India, and selling well. (Really – we’ve seen more Galaxy Tabs in the hands of passers-by than iPhones in the past month or so)

So a whole host of Tablets were present at CES 2011, and many of them had some killer feature or the other. The Adam with its Pixel Qi display and the Eden UI, the Motorola Xoom with Android 3.0 Honeycomb, the Blackberry Playbook 4G with the new QNX platform, and the 7 inch Dell Streak with its Stage UI – are all examples of how UI can actually make a product worth its while. Rest assured, Apple will launch an iPad 2 this year, and maybe even decide to bring it to India (much like how the second generation iPhone 3G was the first iPhone to be officially sold in India). With all these options available, which one would you be buying? More importantly, should you be buying a Tablet at all? We’ll go into that in detail in a few months, as more Tablet options become available in India, but for now, you can read our article on the worthiness (or the lack, thereof) of Tablets and netbooks in an earlier article of ours.

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