GN Focus | Tablets

Techno files

On a quest to find the best, latest and most multitasking mobile devices, our inhouse gadget inspectors tested what’s in the market now and had this to report

  • By Gareth Kurt Warren And Thomas Billinghurst Features Writers
  • Published: 00:40 February 12, 2013
  • GN Focus

  • Image Credit: Supplied
  • HP Envy x2
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Asus Vivo Tab

Price: To be announced

Windows 8-powered tablets are the way forward. While Android phones are creeping up on the smartphone charts even though the top spot is currently held by the iPhone, Windows 8 seems to be doing the same on the tablet chart, which is at present dominated by the iOS.

Whether the tablet slides, twists, flips, swivels or detaches from its base, convertible tablets are on their way to eventually replace laptops. If you do have to give up your trusty laptop, this tablet will help you through your withdrawal phase. The Asus Vivo Tab is a beauty, just like the Eee pad Slider and the Transformer Prime before it.

The tablet is powered by an Intel Atom Z2760 dual-core CPU, with 64GB of memory and 2GB of RAM. Its 11.6-inch LED-backlit screen is made using fingerprint- and scratch-resistant Corning Glass and its cameras are equally impressive. The eight-megapixel autofocus rear camera comes with an LED flash and offers high-definition 1080p video recording. Its two-megapixel front camera is better than most of its competitors and ideal for crystal clear video chats and self-shot Facebook profile photos.

The build quality, similar to the HP Envy, is top-notch. Its aluminium finish feels good and looks better. When docked, you would not recognise the difference between the Vivo Tab and your average notebook. The Windows 8 operating system blends familiarity and innovation, allowing users to switch between the recognisable Windows desktop and the user-friendly interface of the operating system.

The keyboard is spot on, easy to use and responsive. Its trackpad, similar to other convertibles, supports the operating system’s swipe, scrolling and pinching gestures. However, you could reach a few inches higher and swipe the screen itself.

Overall, this convertible ticks all the boxes. I had it up and running in a few seconds and familiarised myself with the system in a few minutes. The battery never seems to die out since the keyboard charges the tablet when power levels get low.

—G.K.W.

Toshiba AT300 Special Edition

Price: Dh1,199

Until recently, customers either had to shell out more than two grand for a good tablet or settle for budget tabs that cost no more than a couple of hundreds. With Google’s Nexus 7 and Apple’s iPad mini opening a new category of affordable yet remarkable tablets, the competition is heating up and Toshiba seems to have sent a representative.

The AT300SE is everything you want in a tablet without the extra

features that will not only go unused but also will hike up its price. If you are looking for a ten-incher without bells and whistles, look no further.

Unfortunately, the AT300SE disappoints on looks and finish. The specifications, however, will impress those who believe that beauty lies within. The Toshiba runs on the latest NVIDIA Tegra 3 quad-core processor with Android 4.1 Jelly Bean. The 10.5mm tablet features micro USB 2.0, Bluetooth 3.0 connectivity, a micro SD card slot and a 10.1-inch high-definition LED screen while weighing a mere 625g. These are pretty good figures and stats for a tablet that costs the same as a competitor half its size.

If your expenditure is limited by your wallet, the AT300SE packs quite a punch for its price.

—G.K.W.

Eurostar ePad Gamer

Price: Dh599

Have you ever had those days when you wake up humming the Super Mario Brothers tune, look towards your Android tablet and your Sony PSP and think, “The only thing I need is an Android-powered PSP-shaped device that I could play video games on”? Look no further. Eurostar’s ePad Gamer was made for you.

The Gamer runs on Android 4.0, is shaped like a PSP, and has a five-megapixel camera. The rest of the specs such as the 1.2GHz processor, the 512MB of RAM, the Wi-Fi connectivity, the micro SD card slot and the decent battery life can be overlooked along with its inbuilt applications such as Google Talk, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Gmail.

Why do you need this? Because of the 1,500 preloaded games within the unit. The Gamer is an old-school gaming device that also happens to be a tablet. It would not have gained such fame if not for the games it contains. However, since this is a first of its kind, I can only imagine how much quicker, smoother and more user-friendly the ePad Gamer 2 will be. If video game cartridges played an important part in your life while you were growing up, then the Gamer will be a perfect addition to your collection of gadgets.

—G.K.W.

HP Envy x2

Price: Dh3,199

The Asus VivoTab, the Dell XPS12 and the Lenovo Helix have proven that hybrid or convertible tablets do have a place in the market. It is this segment where the HP Envy x2 makes its presence felt as one of the coolest tabs on the block.

HP Envy x2 is supported with some impressive firepower. The tab runs on an Intel Clover trail processor with 2GB of RAM and 64GB of storage. The tablet’s dock supports HDMI connectivity along with two USB 2.0 ports, one SD card slot and a 3.5mm headphone jack. The tablet itself includes a micro SD card slot and another headphone jack that is hidden when connected to the dock.

The x2 looks like a sleek MacBook Air from afar until you get closer and see the HP logo staring blankly at you. This is partly due to its posh, high-quality, brushed aluminium finish and the HP’s decision to move the power and volume buttons from the edges of the screen and flush-mount them at the back of the tablet. Nice.

The tablet’s eight-megapixel rear camera is praiseworthy, however, the same cannot be said for its loudspeakers. That might explain HP’s need to go overboard on 3.5mm jacks. The Beats Audio is not very loud, but then again one cannot blame HP as numerous Beats Audio-powered gadgets usually take a beating on audio quality.

The keyboard has its pros and an equal amount of cons that can be overlooked. For starters, the keys are backlit and well spaced but not very responsive. Its trackpad is way too sensitive. You will be opening icons and clicking on links by gently brushing your fingers across it.

With regards to weight, at 690g the tablet is heavier than both the Asus Vivo Tab and the new iPad, and weighs about 1.41kg after docking the screen to the keyboard. When in laptop mode, the tablet, like many detachable convertibles, is top-heavy, so handle with care.

One of its drawbacks is its price. At Dh3,199 it isn’t the most budget-friendly convertible in the market. But then again, a posh good-looking powerful tab is bound to set you back a few dirhams.

—G.K.W.

iPad mini

Price: from Dh1,299

It’s a smaller iPad.

—G.K.W.

Sony Xperia Tablet S

Price: Dh1,695

The first notable feature about the Xperia tablet is its strikingly sleek, sexy black trim. It’s like a mini plasma, shrunk to fit into your hands for your viewing pleasure. Of course, this makes it ideal for watching videos and perusing YouTube for the latest follies of humankind, and I wouldn’t complain if it was merely a portable television. But there’s more to it.

The built-in speakers, which lie flattened to the back of the device, are a trifle confusing aesthetically; it’s as though they had been squashed there against their symphonic will. The design makes them seem as though they should fold out to create a rest for the tablet to prop itself on.

But the design quirk is inconsequential compared to the efficacy of the acoustics. Whether lying flat on the desk or propped in your hand, what Sony calls the ClearAudio+ mode speakers emit sound of crystal clarity, further bolstering the Xperia’s aptitude for movies and the like.

It’s a slightly heavier and bigger tablet than most on the market (at 9.4 inches, it feels twice as heavy as the iPad mini), so it won’t be fitting into pockets. It’s a comfortable size to hold and navigate through with two hands, and the ergonomics are pretty sound. The Android software is easy to pilot – it’s no different to the phone OS – and the touch screen is perfectly responsive.

But the real beauty of the Xperia tab is the home entertainment concept. You can command your entire home set-up from the device. The Xperia Tablet S can be programmed to switch on the TV, cable box and home entertainment system, select inputs, adjust volume and much more: terribly exciting, but prone to promote lethargy.

In terms of apps and gadgets the voice control – Android’s answer to Siri – could do with some work. As a ratio, correct commands: incorrect, it was roughly 1:4 when I tried it out — slightly frustrating.

And despite an extensive array of gizmos available on the camera, it doesn’t offer the greatest pixellation. Some shots, regardless of the light in which they were taken, come out grainy, and this is not an effect I added.

One very practical aspect for on-the-move-users is the fact that the Xperia comes with splash-proof aluminium casing, which shows it is designed for real-life use around the home and outdoors, doing away with the worry of any unfortunate spillages.

All in all, it’s an attractive bit of tech kit, on the front at least, and easy to command, especially if you are already Android-inclined.

—T.B.

GN Focus