The Perfect Honeycomb Tablet Is…

April 23, 2011

I’ve been thinking long and hard about the perfect (honeycomb) tablet. I mean, surely the might, ingenuity, resources, and desire for profits would propel the world’s leading technology companies to offer such a product, wouldn’t they?

Well, the answer to that question is yes, and no.

Let’s take a look at a few of the missteps manufacturers have made in recent months:

  • Offering tablets that were priced far too high (Xoom introduced at $799)
  • Did not deliver on promised functionality out of the box (SD Card functionality, and 4G/LTE on the Motorola Xoom, and Flash for the earliest release)
  • Overlaying UI’s or Software on top of Vanilla Android 3.0 (Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1, HTC Flyer)
  • Slow out of the gate (but likely due to the Japanese earthquake and unanticipated demand)

Now, let’s take note of what they have done well:

  • Offered different form factors
  • Have started to compete heavily on price
  • Accelerated their production cycles and have started to make their tablets publicly available
  • And a few other encouraging things like releasing source code to the development community, offered tablets with a removable battery, etc
  • And most importantly, brought [a] worthwhile competitor(s) to the iPad to market

The Crunchpad - an ambitious but ultimately failed project

Truth be told, it looks like some manufacturers have been waiting on the sidelines, wanting to observe if their really is, in fact, an actual tablet market. Samsung quickly revised the specs and pricing on its line of 8.9″ and 10.1″ Galaxy Tabs to better compete with the iPad 2, and were able to produce the world’s thinnest tablet thus far, but it won’t be on sale until June. Pity. Still, other manufacturers like Asus and Acer have been successful in getting their tablet offerings to the eager hands of consumers in certain parts of Asia, the UK, and finally in the USA and Canada. Asus, in particular, was quite shocked and overwhelmed at the excitement behind their Eee Pad Transformer, a netbook style tablet that offers a keyboard dock which charges the tablet itself or increases the potential use time to nearly 16 hours.

The Samsung Galaxy Tab 8.9 and 10.1 - the thinnest Honeycomb tablets in the world

Just a few hours ago, PC Mag just came out with an article titled “The Only Honeycomb Tablet you Should Buy“, and in it the writer essentially argues that consumers would be wise to wait for Google to make its move and release a Nexus branded tablet. The reasoning for this is simple: Google has a stellar A+ track record when it comes to updating its Nexus line of devices, whereas Motorola, Samsung, HTC, et al. have been less than stellar, for reasons which are still debatable. Anyway, LG is rumored to be producing this tablet for Google, and there are some additional rumors that it could be arriving as early as this summer. With Google I/O 2011 just around the corner, perhaps the development community will gain further insight into this potential reality.

So – what would make the perfect tablet? Would it be an extremely thin tablet? Would it be have advanced display technology that would enable the user to be able to operate it in sunlight? How much would it weigh? How much battery life is enough? What about processing power or graphic capability? Keyboard dock too? These are all legitimate questions that are probably cycling through the minds of millions of would-be tablet buyers right now.

Asus' Eee Pad Transformer sold out in the UK in a few days

Here’s my take of what would make the Perfect Honeycomb Tablet:

Weight: Under 440 grams, or 1 pound
Display Size: 8.9 – 10.1 inches
Battery Life: 10+ hours video, 18 hours+ reading
Performance: Current generation of 1Ghz Dual Core Tegra 2 / Exynos 1.2 Ghz Samsung Chips are sufficient for all but the most demanding tasks
Display Technology: Ideally LED Backlit (like the Toshiba AT300 is reputed to have) and with E-Ink for use in the sunshine or in other brightly lit environments, but the key here is to have both for different environments, and to extend battery life significantly
Connectivity: MHL (shaped like a micro-USB port, but works with HDMI and/or USB, and can charge the tablet when connected to future HDTV’s), as well as 4G/LTE, HSPA+, 3G, Wifi 802.11b/g/n, NFC, Bluetooth 3.0, DLNA, even a TV Antenna or a DTV receiver like Korean and Japanese cellphones have. Additionally, having a full USB port (or two even) to connect any number of devices, as well as two SD Card readers, one being micro while the other full
Inductive Charging: You could come home, slide it on a pad, no wires no mess – perfect, and possible, and plausible
Keyboard Dock: This can be an additional accessory. As great as tablets are for browsing, try typing out over 300 words on one. If the Asus Transformers’ sales demonstrate anything, it’s that the market has a penchant for the tactile experience. The dock must work both ways too, so that it can be hidden away for extended battery life, thus enabling the user to use just the screen
Camera: 2 megapixel front, 5 megapixel rear is more than sufficient – just ensure that the software is working well
Built in GPS: While I love A-GPS for its speed and relative accuracy, particularly in dense urban environments – it would be great to have a standalone GPS chip that doesn’t require any data connection whatsoever. Tablets have more than enough memory to hold say, the entire USA, or Europe or even Asia in its entirety on board
Price: No more than $449.99

You can download the Best Android Tablet Spreadsheet here.

Where does this bring us to today? 

The great thing is that all of these technologies, all of these form factors, and all of these designs have been built and created already. However, not one manufacturer has put them all together in one product. I am quite confident that the market would respond positively to such a device. Asus did the keyboard dock with the Eee Pad Transformer, Notion did the Pixel-Q with their Adam, Toshiba is doing an LED Display with their Regza AT300, Samsung Galaxy S II, while not a tablet, is debuting with MHL for HDMI charging, and Samsung has produced the world’s thinnest tablet at .84mm, and only 1.04 pounds, so we are really quite close to such a product coming to fruition. Actually, come to think of it – it is probably wise to wait to see what’s in store for the Nexus Tablet from Google – it could be very interesting. Of course, we fully expect some of the more significant stability issues surrounding Android 3.0 Honeycomb to be addressed very soon, as this is probably the most critical thing of all. However, we have no doubt that Android 3.0 Honeycomb will mature into a robust, stable OS, and lead the way in a very short amount of time.

Thanks for reading my thoughts. What would be the perfect tablet to you? Is there one in particular that has caught your eye?

Comments

  • Christo

    Hey guys, it’d be prudent to update that chart prior to attaching it to a new article like this… Much of the data on there is just wrong… I noticed a lot of items on the Eee Pad Transformer that need updating, and the G-Slate definitely does *not* have a 3D display… Just a heads up :)

    • Darcy Alexander

      @Acupunc – Thanks. I’ll make the change to the article, you are right it does not have e-ink, but effectively achieves the same result, which is the ability to read in sunlight, and save the battery substantially. I appreciate your comments, they offer good insight. Perhaps we will see the dawn of a new age of portable efficient computing over the next several years.

      @Christo, thanks for pointing it out. Changed spreadsheet, uploading now. Thanks!

  • http://trueacu.com acupunc

    The Notion Ink Adam doesn’t have E-ink. It has a Pixel-Qi screen. The problem with that screen is you can’t get the pixel density that Samsung and others are coming out with.

    Samsung purchase Liquavista recently–probably the best color e-ink/lcd hybrid technology. I hope they can get something out for the gen 2 tablets.

    I think the perfect tablet will be similar to the Asus Transformer however, they will sell more like current laptops–give you a wide variety of choices right form the manufacturers web site. While one person might like 7″ another would want a 12″ or larger.

    They really do need a well integrated keyboard & multitouch mouse, otherwise they just become a secondary device or a toy. Along with this idea the battery really needs to be more like our laptops–easily replaceable by the end user–and we need standard ports like we have with our laptops.

    Generally you hit all the main points. I do think that OEMs want to make tablets to be more of a secondary device like Apple is doing so they can sell more hardware; however, I don’t think non-apple consumers will go for it. I think they want a device that does more, not more devices that have limited function and that’s why the Asus Transformer has been well received.

    Google really needs to step up on the browser in Honeycomb. . . it just isn’t good enough at this point–needs to be as close to desktop as possible–and they really need to get “presentation mode” like the PlayBook has in Android asap.

    fyi. . . good article.

  • rekil

    Although this might be subject to much criticism, I’d like to toss in a vote for the leader gs30. Yes, its not quite up to the specs outlined by the author, however, factor in the $380 price tag along A8 samsung processor, the same LG display used in the original ipad and a ton of ports and you have arguably a highly respectable tablet that is already on the market. Granted better specs would be desired, but it seems those all come with a much higher price tag. Just my opinion.

  • Foxx M

    So all look good hard to choose
    you’ve brought up some good points
    But nothing about being green, like how there recyclable what green products they are made out of, seems more and more people are watching this (myself more into what it can do, but the cost to the environment is on my mind now that its been more publicly aware!
    with all the tech out there how come we still are having to plug these units in, haven’t seen one with a solar panel of some sort (like the solar powered calculator) that’s been around more than 10 years, I’m not expecting miracles that I will never have to plug the unit in, but it could certainly extend the time frame of the usage of these devices
    one other that Sony PSP touched on was the using the under side of the devise as a secondary touch area leaving the front face of the device open to see whats happening
    Thanks Foxx M

  • Brendon

    I assume you mean .84cm, rather than mm… ;)