Tablet Gaming Today and a Look at The Future

Article Index


The best thing about tablet gaming is the amount of experimentation being done between various developers as they explore the best ways to deliver great games with a new medium. The worst thing about tablet gaming is that some experiments don't work out that well, while others are limited by current hardware, though that is changing rather quickly thanks to companies like NVIDIA.

Best of all, there's an embarrassment of riches when it comes to tablet gaming, even if you stick to the free titles. Venture outside that area and you'll find a huge assortment of dirt-cheap games priced at about $1 to $5. This reduces the financial impact of betting on a stinker.  At least if you try a game and turn out not to like it, you aren't out $50.

If you're set on buying a tablet specifically for gaming, there are particular considerations we recommend you take into account. The Toshiba Thrive tablet that we used as a test vehicle, while great in many respects, is slightly heavy and awkward to recommend as a gaming device.  You could, however, make a go of it with the help of an external game controller, should the titles you're interested in offer such support.

Regardless, if you're interested in a 10-inch Android tablet, we strongly recommend you visit a store that carries the model and will let you walk around with it a bit. Experiment with carrying it in one hand, and holding it up and away from your body. Check to see how much of the screen you can comfortably span with your thumbs, and how easy it is to hold the tablet in one hand while performing gestures with the other.

Those of you with large hands and particularly strong wrists may find that the dimensions and weight of your typical 10" Android tablet are not an issue.  Sub-10" tablets based on Tegra 2 are a bit more difficult to find, especially now that Dell has killed the Streak 7, but Sony's Tablet S (9.4") or Samsung's Galaxy Tab 8.9" might be good options. All of this assumes you're interested in tablet gaming and planning to buy something other than an iPad 2--which, statistically speaking, may not be very many of you, at least for now.  The holiday shopping season is upon us though, so we'll take a look at the stats again in the first quarter.

So, after all of this, would we buy a tablet specifically for gaming? Not quite yet, though we also doubt that many of you are considering a tablet for gaming as a primary function. Are there great handheld games for tablets? Yes. More than we expected. It's clear that entertainment and game development will be a major force behind tablet sales in years to come; anyone who buys a tablet now can expect more than enough titles to occupy idle hours.

The biggest reason we wouldn't buy-in quite yet is because so much of the underlying technology and research is still so new. We're not concerned about graphics performance per se, so much as waiting to see if screen responsiveness, accelerometer control, and the possible inclusion of physical buttons becomes a part of the landscape.  We'd like to think that's the case and there are some bright, talented people doing the research and development now, but much still remains to be seen.

Related content