The Best iPad 2 Alternatives: 7 Competing Tablets To Check Out
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Though the iPad 2 helped maintain Apple's iron grip on the tablet market, more and more iPad competitors have been making their debuts, each promising their own perks, from speed to "openness" to better prices to Flash compatibility.
Not all iPad rivals stand an equal chance: some once promising up-and-comers have fallen from grace, others never even left the gate. And while Apple claims it has already sold a total of 25 million iPads, there are a healthy handful of non-Apple tablets that may hold their own in an increasingly crowded landscape.
Don't want an iPad but don't know where to turn? We've collected some of the top picks from among the leading iPad rivals, including Android and webOS devices, as well as the cream of the eReader crop. Take a look through our slideshow (below) to see what critics have said about these gadgets, then vote for the ones you think stand the best chance against the iPad--or at least offer today's most viable alternative.
Did we leave any killer tablets off our list? Let us know in the comments below.
Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1
Praised for its beefy specs and roomy display, this refresh of the original Galaxy Tab has earned its place at the top of the alt-iPad heap, according to some reviewers. <a href="http://technologizer.com/2011/06/20/ipad-alternatives-2/" target="_hplink">Technologizer</a>, for one, has this to say about the device: <blockquote>We're still be waiting for the definitive iPad alternative, but at the moment, Samsung's Galaxy Tab 10.1 is the strongest contender. [...] It's certainly the currently-for-sale tablet I'd mention first to if someone asked me to recommend a tablet that wasn't the iPad.</blockquote> <a href="http://www.engadget.com/2011/06/08/samsung-galaxy-tab-10-1-review/" target="_hplink">Engadget</a> gave it an 8 out of 10 ranking, adding, <blockquote>[T]his is the best Honeycomb tablet to date, and lucky for you, the one's available to purchase! Only time will tell if the Android Market will prove to be as well-stocked as the App Store, and if you're willing to wait, this here slate provides a world-class Gmail experience, better handling than the iPad 2 (in our humble opinion, anyway) and a higher resolution display.</blockquote> The price of the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 is on par with the WiFi-only iPad 2: it starts at $499 for a 16GB version and is also available for $599 as a 32GB version.
The <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/06/09/hp-touchpad-release-date-price_n_873791.html" target="_hplink">HP TouchPad, </a>which goes on sale July 1, is the first tablet of its kind: it's the first HP tablet to date running webOS, the operating system developed by Palm, which was acquired by HP. It costs as much as the ipad ($499 for a 16GB version, $599 for a 32GB version) and reviewers' initial impression is that it packs a punch. "The HP TouchPad hitting retailers in a few days may very well be the last stand for competitors for the iPad," wrote <a href="http://www.zdnet.com/blog/mobile-news/hp-touchpad-last-stand-for-ipad-competitors/2961?tag=mantle_skin;content" target="_hplink">ZDNET</a> on June 20. "The good news for HP is the [webOS-powered] TouchPad is different enough from the pack to have a shot..." <a href="http://crave.cnet.co.uk/laptops/hp-touchpad-review-hands-on-with-the-ipad-killer-50002599/" target="_hplink">CNET UK </a>says "it is, for desperate want of a better word, <em>amazeballs</em>. It promises a host of advantages over the all-conquering iPad, including a dual-core CPU, no-nonsense media handling and, joy of all joys, Adobe Flash playback."
The relatively high-end Xoom ($799) was awarded the People's Choice Award for "Favorite New Tablet" at the recent <a href="http://www.stevieawards.com/pubs/awards/403_2646_21015.cfm" target="_hplink">American Business Awards 2011</a>. <a href="http://reviews.cnet.com/motorola-xoom/#ixzz1Q2xNNcH6" target="_hplink">CNET</a> gave the device three-and-a-half stars and highlighted its best attributes: "With Google's next generation of Android, Motorola's knack for great hardware, and Verizon's promise of 4G network compatibility, the Xoom tablet technically offers a more powerful, more capable alternative to Apple's iPad." <a href="http://www.zdnet.com/blog/btl/motorola-xoom-review-groundbreaking-but-disappointing/45905" target="_hplink">ZDNET</a> also lauds the tablet: <blockquote>For those who want a more PC-like experience on a multitouch tablet than what you get with the iPad (which has more of a mobile device experience), then the Xoom may be the device you're looking for -- especially if you want a tablet but have previously been unhappy with the ones running a version of Windows. Of course, those lusting after an iPad but avoiding the walled garden of the Apple ecosystem may be attracted to the Xoom as well.</blockquote>
<a href="http://www.engadget.com/2011/05/16/htc-flyer-review/" target="_hplink">Engadget</a> gave this first-generation device a largely positive review, pointing out that it has key features that set it apart from many other Android tablets: <blockquote>The HTC Flyer is the result of a well thought-out and executed plan by HTC. It is truly differentiated from the Android tablet pack with its robust aluminum construction, Magic Pen inclusion, and more responsive interface, and aside from a few imperfections and a general immaturity of tablet-specific software, it's as competently designed a tablet as we've yet seen.</blockquote> <a href="http://www.techradar.com/reviews/pc-mac/tablets/htc-flyer-955996/review?artc_pg=7#ixzz1Q6r2rgQ5" target="_hplink">TechRadar</a> awarded the attractively built Flyer three out of five stars and wrote, "The Flyer is an undeniably well-made device, with a unibody aluminium construction that rivals the iPad 2 for build quality." <a href="http://www.pocket-lint.com/review/5407/htc-flyer-android-tablet-review" target="_hplink">Pocket-lint</a>'s four-for-five star review says that the device's Android 2.3.3 OS places it in the same class as the "Samsung Galaxy Tab, the Dell Streak 7, the ViewSonic and Archos tablets and a whole range of mediocre products in-between." However, Pocket-lint goes on to say, "to bundle it in that category would do the HTC Flyer a disservice: it is better than that and it deserves more attention, thanks to the full inclusion of Android Market and the niceties of [HTC's] Sense [interface]." The HTC Flyer starts at $499.
Asus Eee Pad Transformer
"The Asus Eee Pad Transformer TF101 distinguishes itself from the sea of emerging Honeycomb tablets with its aggressive pricing [$538 with keyboard dock; $399 without], and an optional accessory that turns it into a virtual notebook," <a href="http://www.pcmag.com/slideshow/story/264947/apple-ipad-alternatives-the-good-the-bad-and-the-ugly/2" target="_hplink">PCMag</a> writes of this unique tablet-to-PC conversion device. <a href="http://www.laptopmag.com/review/tablets/asus-eee-pad-transformer-tf101.aspx" target="_hplink">Laptop Mag</a> goes as far to say, "the Eee Pad Transformer's aggressive pricing and versatility put the Honeycomb competition on notice." Some critics see the Transformer as the best Android tablet to pick in lieu of the iPad. "The Transformer is the tablet Android fans deserve," says <a href="http://www.technobuffalo.com/mobile-devices/tablets/ipad-2-vs-asus-eee-pad-transformer-video/" target="_hplink">TechnoBuffalo</a>. "Before, whenever anyone asked me which tablet they should buy, my answer was always 'The iPad 2.' Now, I can confidently recommend another extremely capable alternative."
Barnes & Noble's Nook Simple Touch Reader
OK, so it's not exactly a tablet, but this $139 black-and-white eReader device is quite the curve ball. "The new Nook, which we've called the anti-iPad, strips away bells and whistles from the first model, including a second navigation screen, an MP3 player and web browser," writes <a href="http://edition.cnn.com/2011/TECH/gaming.gadgets/06/17/consumer.reports.nook.kindle/" target="_hplink">CNN</a>. Unlike the iPad, the Nook Simple Touch has a Pearl e-ink touchscreen that makes it easier on the eyes in sunlight and more akin to physical paper. <a href="http://www.cultofmac.com/the-nook-simple-touch-is-an-e-reader-that-wants-to-be-a-black-and-white-ipad/96927" target="_hplink">Cult of Mac</a> argues that the new Nook's touchscreen makes it more tablet-esque than most other eReaders available: "It's no iPad, that's for sure, but Barnes & Noble has just taken a big new step towards making e-readers even more accessible to the populace at large." <a href="http://news.consumerreports.org/electronics/2011/06/in-a-first-nook-beats-kindle-in-our-e-book-ratings.html" target="_hplink">Consumer Reports</a> recently ranked it higher than the Amazon Kindle. "The Barnes & Noble Nook Simple Touch Reader is more than merely a worthy competitor to the Kindle," writes Consumer Reports. "That marks the first time since the Kindle launched that Amazon's e-book reader hasn't been the top-scoring model in our Ratings."
This 7-inch device will run a never-before-seen version of Google's Honeycomb OS (Android 3.2) that is optimized for smaller-sized tablets. <a href="http://www.engadget.com/2011/06/20/huawei-mediapad-revealed-worlds-first-7-inch-android-3-2-table/" target="_hplink">Engadget</a> calls it "downright luscious," and <a href="http://www.electronista.com/articles/11/06/20/huawei.mediapad.android.32.217ppi/" target="_hplink">Electronista</a> notes the devices top-notch display: "The Huawei MediaPad's 7-inch WSVGA display boasts a pixel density of 217ppi, which bests the iPad 2's pixel density of 132ppi by some margin." The MediaPad will also best the display of the Motorola Xoom. "Currently, the Motorola Xoom has the highest pixel density of any mainstream tablet on the market at 160ppi," writes Electronista. Will this promising tablet live up to the hype? Time will tell.