Andreas’ top 3 tablets to buy, February 2012

Picking a tablet can be hard, because what is perfect for one person might be a complete mismatch for another. That’s why you should always be skeptical if someone blatantly states that one product is better than another. Still, making an informed decision isn’t easy either, and sometimes it’s nice to have some product names in mind when looking, instead of having to start from scratch. With the article series I’m starting today, we here at NBT will give you our personal opinions on which tablets we would buy at any given time, separated into articles for different writers. Our choices might not fit your own preference, but then again, our reasons for choosing each tablet might help you in some way. To start it off, here’s my own personal top 3 tablet to buy right now.

#1 Samsung Galaxy Tab 7.7

My most wanted tablet right now is the Samsung Galaxy Tab 7.7. It’s a 7.7-inch device with a 800 x 1280 pixel Super AMOLED Plus display, Exynos chipset with a 1.4GHz dual core CPU, 1GB of RAM, WiFi, GPS, 3G, Bluetooth 3.0, dual cameras, microSD, and Android 3.2 with 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich coming to it. I’ve quite fallen in love with the ~7-inch form factor since I got the Galaxy Tab 7.0 Plus, and the 7.7 is the premium device in that range. It’s blazing fast, has a thickness and weight (7.9mm, 340 grams) that makes the smaller-screened Kindle Fire (and any other 7-inch tablet I know of) look bloated, and Super AMOLED Plus is a screen technology that I have fallen in love with on my Galaxy S II.

The downside is the price, which is as premium as the device. Here in Europe, where it has actually launched, the 3G 16GB model is somewhere around the same price as the Transformer Prime with dock, which means it’ll likely be somewhere in the $500-600 range in the US.

#2 Asus Transformer Prime (HD)

Despite having faced some issues with WiFi, GPS, and general heat regarding a locked bootloader, the Transformer Prime is a natural choice on such a list. It’s slim, very fast with the Tegra 3 chip, and has all the features you’d expect in a tablet – except 3G, which I personally don’t really need. There’s a 10.1-inch 1280 x 800 display, 8 megapixel back camera (plus a front camera), GPS, WiFi, Bluetooth, microSD, microHDMI, and so on. The keyboard dock turns it into an Android powered laptop with a ridiculous 18 hour battery life (the dock adds 6 hours to the Prime’s own 12), adds a touchpad, SD slot, and USB port. The HD version which releases later this year will up the screen resolution to 1920 x 1200, which is both a nice upgrade from the standard Prime and a more sensible screen resolution than the 2560 x 1600 we’ve heard of from other Android tablet manufacturer. The Prime even has Ice Cream Sandwich, which not many tablets can say at the moment.

The downside of this device (for me, in case you forgot the subjective nature of this post) is the issues mentioned above, as well as Android’s lack of software for 10-inch devices. On the iPad, those 10 inches of screen comes in handy with all sorts of apps that make good use of the possible accuracy of a stylus on 10 inches. On Android, the difference between a 10-inch and a 7.7-inch tablet with the same resolution is much smaller, which is why the Prime doesn’t beat the 7.7’s screen for me, despite having a faster chipset and the keyboard dock.

#3 Samsung Galaxy Note

While technically being a smartphone, the 5.3-inch 800 x 1280 screen on the Galaxy Note classifies as a tablet as well in my book. It’s essentially the child of the 7.7 and Galaxy S II, with a Super AMOLED (not Plus) screen, Exynos chipset, and…well basically everything the 7.7 has. On top of that though it has a  camera that fits a high end smartphone (rather than the useless 3 megapixel doohickey on the 7.7), phone functionality, and an active digitizer pen that is as accurate (or more) on the 5.3-inch screen as a stylus on 10 inches. It has some custom software to utilize that, but essentially suffers from the same lack of software that makes the Prime’s screen size useless in my book – however the note doesn’t sacrifice portability for it.

The reason why it didn’t replace the 7.7 in the first spot and didn’t even make it past the Prime is that the size is a bit awkward. For video content, the 7.7’s physically bigger screen is definitely a plus, and the screen technology is better on the 7.7 too. The Note is also not a tablet in the eyes of Android, meaning you’re stuck with the phone version of apps regardless of the resolution and screen size. That can be a good thing, or a bad thing, and I guess you could root it and use the PPI switcher to force it to display a tablet interface, though I don’t know how well that would work. Bottom line though, I would still rather have the 7.7 tablet and the Galaxy S II phone I already have than have just the Galaxy Note tabletphone. If I as looking for a tablet and my phone needed an upgrade too, however, things would be different.

No iPad 3?

This list lacks an iPad 3, which might seem weird considering I used only iOS for so long. Well, there’s a reason for it, in fact there’s several, and I’m not counting the fact that it isn’t actually out yet as waiting a couple of months is always an option when buying a device. First off, no-one knows what the iPad 3 is right now. Logic dictates a 9.7-inch 1536 x 2048 pixel device with a quad-core 1GHz or dual-core 1.5GHz CPU, a GPU-upgrade to match, and 1GB RAM. Even assuming that’s correct though, the iPad 3 wouldn’t make it to the list. Apple has simply proven too much of an annoyance and disappointment in the last 6 months for me to bother much with it anymore. After years of allowing more types of apps on the App Store, removing iTunes DRM, creating an app eco-system that – while not open – is very extensive, and various other things I consider progress, the company has managed to turn that around with one annoyance after the other since iOS 5. Expensive cloud storage, country-limited iTunes in the Cloud services, failure to update its own apps to be iOS 5 compatible, its behavior towards Taposé (there have been developments with that story which I’ll share when it’s finally settled), and other annoyances has made me give up on the company on a whole other level than before.

Apple has always been an egoistic, perhaps even evil company in the eyes of consumers, but the last 6 months is the first time where it has interfered with my personal use of the company’s products as much as it has, which is why the iPad 3 is not on my list.  Google isn’t exactly on my list of favorite companies right now either, but while the annoyances coming from that company is limited to horrible, unavoidable redesigns of everything from YouTube to Gmail as well as a mindblowingly stupid notification system and status bar in Android 3.0, Apple’s decisions are affecting my use of its products on a much more serious level. I will probably always have an iPad as long as I’m writing on this site, and I might even upgrade to an iPad 3 if I can get a decent enough price for my 32GB 3G iPad 2 to finance most of the cost of a 16GB WiFi iPad 3, but the iPad 3 in itself is a long way away from being on any list over tablets I would buy and pay full price for right now.

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Andreas Ødegård

Andreas Ødegård is more interested in aftermarket (and user created) software and hardware than chasing the latest gadgets. His day job as a teacher keeps him interested in education tech and takes up most of his time.