HotHardware's 2011 Back To School Shopping Guide


Apple iPad 2

Wow, what a year it's been for tablets. To think, tablets weren't even a category in last year's Back To School guide, mostly because the majority of tech companies not-named-Apple were still piecing together plans to combat the iPad. In short, there simply weren't a lot of options outside of the product that most people first associate with the word "tablet." But things have changed. Now that it's 2011, we've got a new iPad, loads of Android tablets and even a handful of Windows tablets. The first recommendation is an obvious one: the iPad 2. We said early on that the iPad was a product just waiting for software in order to truly bloom, and bloom it has. With over 100,000 iPad apps in the App Store, you can probably find an app for just about anything these days.

The iPad 2 is equipped with a 1GHz dual-core A5 processor, PowerVR SGX543MP2 Dual-Core graphics, 512MB of RAM, 16GB/32GB/64GB storage, an optional 3G radio, 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi, front/rear cameras, Bluetooth 2.1, a 9.7" 1024x768 LED Display (IPS), capacitive multi-touch, up to ten hours of battery life, a 3.5mm audio jack, digital compass and a weight of 1.33 pounds. It also has access to the largest tablet-specific app store in the universe right now, and that has to count for something.

Asus Transformer

If you already know that you aren't buying into Apple's ecosystem, perhaps an Android tablet is more "your style." Asus' Eee Pad Transformer is a unique take on the Android tablet, and while the general form factor of the primary unit is similar to most other rectangular slates, it's the accessories that really define it. The Asus Eee Pad Transformer tablet is a more complete Android-based tablet PC with a companion docking station that affords it the ability to act as an Android 3.0 Honeycomb-based netbook as well.  It's based on NVIDIA's powerful dual core 1GHz Tegra 2 processor with 1GB of RAM and 16 - 32GB of internal storage.  If you were waiting for Android tablets to get "real," today might be a good day to finally take the plunge.


Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1

The Galaxy Tab 10.1 is the first consumer tablet to ship and be thinner (even though it's only thinner by the smallest of margins) than the iPad 2. Samsung actually went out of their way to make a tablet that was slimmer than their primary competitor's tablet, nixing the original Tab 10.1 (actually, renaming it the Tab 10.1v) and forging ahead with a new plan. The new plan has resulted in this: one of the first tablets to ship (as in, not be upgraded after unboxing) with Android 3.1.

Other key features include a 1GHz NVIDIA Tegra 2 dual core processor, and a 10.1-inch touchscreen with a resolution of 1280 x 800. The tablet weighs about 1.25 pounds. Samsung has also said that the Galaxy Tab 10.1 will receive a series of over-the-air upgrades sometime after launch that will make the user experience more fluid, entertaining and secure.

Lenovo IdeaPad Tablet K1

The IdeaPad Tablet K1 is Lenovo's first Honeycomb tablet to hit the market, though the more industrial strength ThinkPad Tablet is expected to arrive in the next couple of months.  The K1 is billed as a media consumption and entertainment device built for portability and performance on the go.  Honestly, that sounds like a lot of the Honeycomb tablets we've seen to date. It ships with a 1.0GHz dual-core Tegra 2 chip, a 10.1" (1280x800) display, up to 1GB of DDR2 memory, up to 64GB of SSD storage, integrated Bluetooth, 3G and 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi.

The tablet will also have integrated front and rear cameras (2MP/5MP), a microSD card reader, a mini-HDMI port and a docking port. The tablet's screen will support 10-point multi-touch, and there will be full support for Flash content as well. The entire chassis measures 13.3mm and weighs 750g, and Lenovo also has four different color choices for the back panel, for those looking to spruce up their purchases.

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