I’ve turned more and more into a tablet user during these last months. Although I’ve got my first tablet around the same time last year, tablets began to “catch me” a bit later, perhaps after I got my iPad 2 and my Asus Transformer. I still have them both, use them almost daily and am overall satisfied with the experience, although both have their issues.
Still, since a lot of friends and readers have asked me for advice on tablets they should get by the end of this year, during Black Friday yesterday, I took a couple of
minutes hours to look at the tablet offers listed online by the big retailers. And I can’t say I was too happy with what I found. Of course, many Black Friday ads mentioned tablets with big discounts, but those were mainly available in stores and in extremely low numbers. Online though, the good deals, the ones that I could say “Wow, this is something I shouldn’t miss!” about, were nowhere to be seen.
With that in mind, I decided to scout ahead for what the big shops have in store for Cyber Monday. Unlike Black Friday, on Cyber Monday retailers offer mostly, if not exclusively, deals on their websites. I can’t say that my hopes were too high, but here’s what I found.
The iPad 2
For starters, you’ll hardly find any sales on the iPad 2. Yes, if I were a casual user, planing to use a tablet for browsing, multimedia and some games, I’d buy the iPad 2 if I could find it for $420 or less (20% price cut). But I for one haven’t spotted a place that will have it so cheap.
Perhaps Apple.com will go ahead and discount their products again on Monday, as they did yesterday, but cutting 10% of the iPad is not enough in my eyes right now, with the iPad 3 closing quickly in just a couple of months, according to rumors.
The Android tablets
Then , there are the good Android slates, the Asus Transformer, the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1, the Acer Iconia Tab A500 and a couple of others. Now, these have seen decent price cuts online yesterday, some dropping to around $300, except for the Tab, which I couldn’t seem to find properly discounted. And it’s not like I would recommend a Tab anyway after my issues with the screen on the unit I bought for my sister, but that’s another story.
Back on-topic, all these good Android slates are running Android HoneyComb on a Tegra 2 platform. For basic tasks, they are fine, but using them daily is not as sleek as using an iPad. Actions are not as intuitive, apps are not as well built or designed, Android has a steep learning curve for new users and they still get sluggish pretty fast. Many of you would probably disagree with me, but for the average user, Apple’s slate is still the better pick. However, this might change soon, very soon, as the next generation of Android tablets is just around the corner.
You probably saw the Transformer Prime. It’s not going to be alone, by January we should see at least a handful of similar Android slates, all built on Tegra 3 platforms and running Android 4 ICS . And by February we should actually have these devices in stores. I’ve played a bit with the Prime running an early version of ICS (an engineering sample) and the only reasons I’m still keeping my Transformer 1 is for a video comparison with the new generation, that it’s of to ebay, cause the new tablet works a lot smoother, apps don’t crash and the system doesn’t clog as much.
With that in mind, my conclusion is simple: unless you really really find an excellent deal on an Android slate (under $300) and unless you really want such a tablet this year, you’d better wait. In a couple of months you’ll have a lot of better options. And yes, they won’t cost $300 or $350, but I can bet you’ll find good ones for $400 or so.
The cheaper options
Talking about sub $300 tablets, you get two obvious options: the Kindle Fire and the Nook Tablet. I’m not going to argue on their pros and cons, they are both fine multimedia slates, but that’s about it. They cannot be compared with the iPad 2 or the proper Android slates listed above and they are not the suitable tablets for me, as I like a 10 inchish screen and a fast/proper OS with plenty of apps. Yes, both these tablets can be rooted, but that’s another story.
During Black Friday, I also noticed a bunch of other known tablets for less than 300 bucks, like the BlackBerry Playbook for instance of some remaining HP TouchPads, but I wouldn’t get those. They are fine for basic stuff and overall fast and reliable, but they completely lack good suitable apps. And that kind of kills the whole deal.
Last but not least, there are the ultra-cheap slates you can get for $100 or even less. The Coby Kiros or the Pandigital Novel are two of the better options in this price range, and they’re both 7 inch devices, running Android 2.2/2.3 on older hardware platforms. They are going to be fine for basic stuff, like browsing, reading, watching some movies or listening to some music, but expect them to be quite sluggish. Still, they are in no way the devices I would buy.
Before wrapping things up, do not forget I only express my personal opinions in this post.
I decided that if I were looking for a fast and nice looking tablet right now, I’d pass on the deals that retailers will offer for Cyber Monday. In fact, I’ll even pass on buying a new tablet this year, because a lot is going to happen in the first months of 2012, with new generations of Android slates and a new iPad series going to hit the stores. So I think it would be smarter to wait for now.
Of course, that doesn’t mean that if you really crave for a tablet TODAY, you definitely shouldn’t buy one. The premium tablets won’t see massive discounts, but you will have plenty of cheaper slates to choose from, usually 7 inchers though. All the big retailers should once again offer discounts on Monday, but you’ll need to be well informed and fast if you want to grab any of the good offers, as they tend to sell out in seconds (literally). These offers are usually time sensitive, starting at a given hour, and sites like cybermonday.com or cybermondayonlinedeals.com can help you spot the good deals in advance. I’ve used these two to see in advance exactly who and when is gong to offer a good bargain and I think it should work for you as well.
That’s about it, I’m done looking for tablets for the rest of the year. But how about you, are you going to grab a slate during Cyber Monday or the weeks left before Christmas, or wait for the goodies early next year?