Tablets at CES 2014: The calm before the storm

What's in store for tablets at CES 2014? Probably not all that much.

Eric Franklin Former Editorial Director
Eric Franklin led the CNET Tech team as Editorial Director. A 20-plus-year industry veteran, Eric began his tech journey testing computers in the CNET Labs. When not at work he can usually be found at the gym, chauffeuring his kids around town, or absorbing every motivational book he can get his hands on.
Expertise Graphics and display technology Credentials
  • Once wrote 50 articles in one month.
Eric Franklin
3 min read
New tablets are coming to CES, but maybe not as many as you'd expect. Xiomara Blanco/CNET

Right off the bat, I need to be upfront. At the time of this writing I'm not privy to any official information about what new tablets will be announced at CES 2014.

And even if I did have some insider knowledge, I likely would have signed a nondisclosure agreement preventing me from sharing any of the juicy details just yet. And as frustrating as that is to read, it's equally frustrating to write. I get as excited about new tablets as you do.

However, just like you, I'm going to have to wait. At least a few more weeks. In the interim, this is probably the best time to start speculating on what I think CES 2014 has in store for Android tablets. I'll bring the salt if you bring the crow, if it turns out I was painfully wrong.

Don't expect much exciting tablet news
I think most big tablet announcements will be held back a few weeks until Mobile World Congress in late February. That at least appears to be the trend based on what happened last year.

We'll probably see a linear progression -- in terms of design and function -- from 2013's best Android tablets, but it'll be a few more weeks before we see the truly exciting stuff.

Budget tablets will continue to get better
I expect budget tablets to continue to be a popular category; however, with recent sub-$200 releases like theEVGA Tegra Note 7 and Asus Memo Pad HD 7, expectations -- in terms of performance and features -- for what budget tablets can offer are higher than ever.

The EVGA Tegra Note 7 should be the template for all budget tablets going forward. James Martin/CNET

Hopefully that means we've seen the last of tablets with screen resolutions of 1,024x600, which just isn't viable on 7-inch screen sizes or above. If the trends of 2013 are any indication, there's a fair chance that most new small budget tablets will feature screen resolutions of at least 1,280x800, with larger tablets bottoming out at 1,920x1,080. All while keeping prices at sub-$200 and sub-$300 levels, respectively. Hopefully.

As for components, we should begin to see a lot more budget tablets with highly capable processors like the Tegra 4 or Snapdragon 800. Both Amazon and Nvidia have gotten the ball rolling in this direction.

And even higher resolution screens
In 2012, there was a single tablet with a 2,560x1,600 resolution. In 2013, there were at least six. I suspect we'll see even more in 2014. Any large flagship tablets announced at CES will most assuredly sport at least a 2,560x1,600 resolution and we'll probably see more small tablets with 1,920x1,200 resolutions cropping up as well.

Keep those super-sharp, high resolution tablets coming please. James Martin/CNET

Pricing to stay the same
Don't expect pricing to become more affordable just yet. Large flagship tablets will still start at $400 to $500. Budget tablets will remain $140 to $200.

We may see a few new small tablets in the $229 to $300 range that offer a bit more in the way of performance and features than their 2013 counterparts.

Bottom line: tablets appear to be selling at a healthy rate, so I wouldn't expect any dramatic price drops until summer 2014, at the earliest.

Depite their tendency to be be overpriced, Samsung tablets continue to inspire plenty of interest. Josh Miller/CNET

Should you be excited or not?
CES is simply no longer the only game in town, and increased focus on the worldwide market means shows like Mobile World Congress will only continue to rise in importance for mobile device.

Will any tablets of note debut at CES? Most likely, but don't look for companies to roll out their big guns until February. Look for CNET's CES coverage to continue this week and through the show's end January 10.