Tablets: Bruised and confused at CES 2012
CNET Senior Editor Donald Bell rounds up the tablet highlights of the 2012 Consumer Electronics Show.
LAS VEGAS--In spite of manufacturers' best efforts, the tablet hits of the past year could have been counted on the hand of a careless woodshop teacher.
Among those hits are a
Needless to say, if there had been a thin selection of tablets at this year's CES, I would have understood. But that wasn't the case.
The show floor of CES 2012 was littered with tablets--perhaps even more than the previous year. Granted, the majority of these tablets were off-brands and OEMs that will never find their way into U.S. hands, but there were big-name announcements as well.
As I see it, the tablets announced at CES came in three flavors: budget, premium, and mutant (not as bad as it sounds). Furthermore, I suspect that these themes will set the tone for tablet product strategies for the rest of the year.
My favorite tablet surprise of CES falls into the budget category. Asus unveiled the, a 7-inch tablet with an unremarkable design, but packed to the gills with jaw-dropping specs. In this case, the highlight spec is Nvidia's quad-core Tegra 3 processor, paired up with 1GB of RAM.
The price? Just $250. We're praying that it's not vaporware, because we gave it afor the tablet category.
Another Best of CES award nominee was the
Still, it's a beautiful tablet, and an important demonstration of Toshiba's engineering talent. Last year's
The same cannot be said for the
What the Galaxy Tab 7.7 does offer, though, is a stunning Super AMOLED screen with a dense 1,280x800-pixel resolution. Should Samsung release a Wi-Fi version for the rest of us, I could see Android fans quickly falling in love with the screen quality. Also, if rumors of the iPad 3turn out to be true, this may be one of the few tablets out there that can compete in the resulting resolution wars.
Finally, we have the lovable mutants. Like the X-Men, each of these tablets comes complete with its own super powers. There's the
These are the tablet options that tackle the dilemma of differentiating against the iPad by carving their own path when it comes to design. They may or may not succeed, but at least they did things their own way and represented their brand with a daring product.
On the show floor of CES 2012 there's still plenty of evidence indicating that the tablet wars are far from over. These product announcements, however, are taking a far more modest tone than last year. No one openly teased the iPad as they did last year. There were no pointed conversations about the necessity of Adobe Flash. No incredulous remarks about the need for microSD memory expansion. For most tablet makers, 2011 was an exercise in humility, and I felt that in every closed-door conversation at CES.
That said, the manufacturers I spoke with this year still seem doggedly committed to their products and the idea of offering consumers more choice. Hopefully, in time, there will be room for more than one tablet at the top.