December 12, 2011

Even though Tegra 3 tablets are arriving much later than when Nvidia promised us at MWC this year (for late August), they should still be able to hold the ground as the most powerful tablets for at least a few months. Plus, I believe the only quad core tablets in the first half of 2012 will be the ones with Tegra 3, and maybe a few of them will have quad core S4 chips by the end of 2012. It won’t be until 2013 that we’ll see quad core Cortex A15 tablets.

Asus Transformer Prime

I really believe Asus is onto something big here with their hybrid tablet/netbook device with the integrated keyboard dock, and the slim ultrabook-like build. I hope Samsung and the others will start shipping similar devices next year. It would help their tablet sales and would also give more credit to this new market of hybrid devices. The Asus Transformer Prime is also the first with a quad core chip, which has been a big part of its marketing and its appeal.

But the Asus Transformer Prime is also sort of transition device because it still has many of the features this year’s tablets had – like only 1 GB of RAM, which is still DDR2, although as fast as DDR2 can be ever be. It has the same resolution 1280×800 like all tablets had this year, and next year’s tablet should have resolutions like 2560×1600.

The CPU, although quad core, is still based on Cortex A9, and most chips that will show up in the first half of 2012 will be based on new chip architectures like Krait in Qualcomm’s case, or Cortex A15, like in Samsung’s case. TI won’t be ready with OMAP 5 until the end of 2012. Last but not least, it will be the last major tablet to come out with Honeycomb, rather than Ice Cream Sandwich.

HTC Quattro

HTC Quattro is much like the Transformer Prime, more of a transition tablet, than a true 2012 tablet. It will have a similar 1280×768 resolution, a Tegra 3 chip (a first for HTC, not using Qualcomm chips), 1 GB of RAM, Bluetooth 4.0, 5 Ghz band Wi-Fi, 2 MP rear camera (about time they cut costs on unnecessary cameras) and a 1.3 MP with 720p video recording front-camera. It will be 9 mm thick, and run Android 4.0 from the start, which is a plus.

But again, I don’t see this tablet too much of a game-changer for 2012. It’s better than the Prime in the sense that it comes with Android 4.0, but chances are that by the time the Quattro is out, Prime will have been updated to Android 4.0 by then anyway, so it will be hardly a better choice than the Prime, considering the Prime has the option for the keyboard dock, and the HTC Quattro most likely won’t.

Lenovo LePad K2

This might not be the exact name of the next-gen Lenovo tablet, but I figure it will be the successor of their LePad K1. It’s also a Tegra 3 (T33) tablet, but it will be overclocked to 1.6 Ghz (rather than 1.3 Ghz per core like the Prime, except the first core which is 1.4 Ghz). It will also have a higher Full HD resolution of 1920×1200, which should be especially interesting to people who care about pixel density, but be warned that this will also draw from its GPU performance, and possibly even the battery life.

It looks like we’re really starting to get into laptop territory here with high resolutions and also with another first, which is the addition of 2 GB of DDR3 – 1600 Mhz RAM. Although I think the Transformer Prime is still the tablet to get in the next few months, especially if you’re interested in the keyboard dock, I’ve felt from the beginning that the lack of more and faster RAM was its biggest shortcoming.

Today, 1 GB of RAM is definitely not enough for a Windows 7 machine, and it will be barely enough for an Android device that you intend to use heavily for browsing. Websites today eat a lot of RAM, which means that if you like to keep a lot of tabs open, it won’t be long before the whole RAM gets filled. Lenovo works towards addressing that with double the RAM, which should make it more future proof, too (think 2+ years). The tablet will most likely ship with Android 4.0

Acer Iconia A700

Iconia A700 is a possible name, but regardless of its name, it should be a much thinner tablet than the first one, have Tegra 3 (although clocked at 1.3 Ghz like the Prime), also a higher Full HD 1920×1200 resolution. It’s not known yet if it will have 1 or 2 GB of RAM, but knowing Acer, which is more focused on specs than anything else, they will probably go with 2 GB. It should come with Android 4.0

All these tablets are expected to show up in the next few months. The Asus Transformer Prime was supposed to arrive early December, but now it may have been delayed to early January. The other tablets I’d expected in the January – February time frame. If you want a tablet now and you care about the keyboard dock, I’d still recommend the Asus Transformer Prime. If you want to wait for higher resolution tablets and faster chips, you might as well wait until summer to see Android 5.0 tablets with Cortex A15 or Krait chips.


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