Friday, September 30, 2011

The Kindle Fire, Galaxy Tab PLUS, Acer Iconia A100 - The Small Formfactor Market has Gotten Interesting!


That will be a question that many potential tablet buyers will be asking themselves in the coming months (especially leading into the Christmas season). For those who have their hearts and wallets set on the 7" form-factor, they have some new options to consider.

In the big retail electronics stores (Best Buy...), there was really only one.. perhaps two options a year ago if one wanted to purchase a 7" tablet. You could spend $600 and get the Samsung Galaxy Tab 7".... or, if you didn't mind doing some "hacking" you could pick up a Nook Color at $250 and root it to give you a full Android device.

But now the big companies are finally catching on. Consumers like the idea of a small, portable device to be well... small and portable and at a portable price. Enter the new contestants...

The Amazon Kindle Fire (pictured above) - Its most notable features... a gorgeous 7" IPS 1024x600 screen, a Brand Spanking New Texas Instruments OMAP4 Dual-Core Cortex-A9 and the SGX-540 GPU (part of the same SoC as the OMAP4 so expect this in all TI OMAP4 products). For reference, the SGX540 is a very strong 3D graphics accelerator that was much lauded on the mobile phone front and also featured in the first Galaxy Tab 7" device. This SoC (System on Chip = CPU + GPU) should offer spectacular performance all around.

Oh... and a price of only $200... Yeah, Amazon got that right for sure!

Samsung Galaxy Tab 7 PLUS - Samsung recently announced its Galaxy Tab 7.7 (which features 7.7" screen)   and we aren't discussing it much. For the sake of brevity we are trying to focus on 7" devices. Suffice to say, the Galaxy Tab 7 PLUS and 7.7 share similar hardware aside from the screen. The 7.7 will have a gorgeous Super Amoled while the Galaxy Tab 7 PLUS will have a (still very nice) IPS screen and reportedly a lower price point.  The 7 PLUS is powered by, what at this point, is still an unknown Samsung Built 1.4 Ghz processor. It is sure to be fast though. Neither device has had a price announced for it yet, so it is just blind guessing at this point. Most likely, we will see Dual Cameras and fast performance on both. It really will come down to the price though and perhaps build quality. There is still some speculation on the build quality of the Kindle Fire. My 2-Cents, if the price goes north of $400 they are going to have hard time selling them, just like they did when the Galaxy Tab 7" came out and sported a ridiculous price tag of $599.

Acer Iconia Tab A100 - I applaud Acer on getting a 7" device to market featuring the Nvidia Tegra II processor. The Tegra II is the current "champ" in the processor arena as it is built by graphics enthusiast company, Nvidia. Time will tell how the Tegra II, one of the first Dual Core Cortex-A9 processors to be launched and has therefore been out for quite a while now, will hold up VS. the new Samsung and Texas Instruments parts. My guess, the Samsung might give it a run for its money but Nvidia is a juggernaut in the processing arena and is probably a good 6 months to a year ahead in development from both of these other companies. Hence, their new Quad-Core Cortex A9 is right around the corner (perhaps in devices by early next year? or sooner??) and they will maintain their performance crown and perhaps their place as the most widely used processor for 9" and up tablets. But, more to the point, the Iconia A100 features a 1024x600 screen (same resolution as the other two devices in this article) however I am unsure of the technology employed (IPS, Amoled?) and it comes in at a "respectable" price point of right over $300. It also is the only "respectable name brand" tablet that I am aware of that packs a Tegra II in a 7" package.


I was having this discussion recently with a friend.  I have owned 4 different tablets now and here are the things I find myself doing most...

1. Reading - Yep, that's right.... Not technically glamorous but the 7" form factor is, IMHO, the BEST of all of them for this. All of the devices that I own feature basic LCD technology and low resolution 800x480 screen. I like the higher resolution screens better, but the 800x480 actually doesn't look bad. Suffice to say, if you are trying to choose between these devices above, you won't have to worry about that.

2. Email - Which ties into READING again but also includes TYPING... In which case a responsive UI and Touchscreen are vital. Once again, the 7" form factor in Portrait orientation is PERFECT for this.

3. Web Browsing - A combination of the things above. Typing, Reading, Pinching-to-Zoom... Also, a quick processor and strong WiFi signal makes all the difference when it comes to page-load speeds.

4. Netflix - Once again the hi-res screen with IPS or better tech would probably really improve this experience. A strong internet connection is also vital.

5. Light Gaming - I have devices that can handle 3D gaming pretty well... and I have bought some of the 3D titles from the market... but honestly, I just don't play them that much. More often, I gravitate towards the "cheap" and light games like Angry Birds, and Robo Defense, as they are quick and fun to play which is often the kind of situation you find yourself in with a mobile device. So, GPU performance is nice but it isn't vital, for me at least.

Take Note... Battery life is ABSOLUTELY VITAL for both of these functions in order for your mobile device to remain... mobile. Seeing how the above devices stack up in this area will be very important.


Time will tell... My advice right now... Don't spend more than $300 on a tablet. Honestly, the Kindle Fire will handle 95% of what most buyers want and do on a regular basis. If you want some extra functionality and don't mind sacrificing screen technology... you could jump into the Chinese Market which has been selling android devices in this size and at a much lower cost for the last 2 years. It can be a bit of a bumpy road though when picking out a device... Stability can be an issue and finding an honest re-seller can be difficult.

Which means you could always buy from me :). The whole point of this article anyhow right? Drive more traffic to my retail Just kidding : )... That's not the WHOLE point! I really do hope this has been a valuable read and you at least have some info on these three new/upcoming devices that look to be really cool.

If you ARE shopping... especially if you are an "ebayer" or looking around at the lower cost off-brand options (there are many)... I highly highly recommend this article: Which Android Tablet Should You Buy?. You might also be interested in this article as well: Making Sense of the Android Tablet Market: You CAN have our iPad and Pay Your Bills Too!



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