Over the past month I have been testing a number of tablets, specifically the iPad 2 running iOS 4.3, Motorola Xoom running Android 3.0 and Samsung Galaxy Tab running Android 2.2. At the time of writing these are the main three tablets available in the UK.
I don't plan to write a detailed review of each device, however being a Tech Guy, I couldn't help but write a quick summary of my experience.
I'll start with the iPad 2. I don't think there is too much more to say on this device. Simply put, it's the best all-round tablet on the market today. iOS 4.3 offers a great user experience that is fast and reliable, it also has the most comprehensive App Store with thousands of applications designed specifically to take advantage of the iPad's features. Regarding the hardware, it is the slimmest and most elegant tablet of the three, but retains incredible performance and battery life. The IPS screen literally shines through as the best of the bunch. The only disappointment is the two cameras that fall below what I have come to expect from mobile devices.
I really like the Motorola Xoom as I see huge potential in Android 3.0 (Honeycomb). Unfortunately, in my opinion, this feels like an unfinished product. The hardware clearly has plenty of power, but at times Honeycomb feels very sluggish, especially when compared to iOS on the iPad 2. The Android Marketplace is also currently unusable for tablet users. Finding an application that has been optimised for Honeycomb is nearly impossible and after many hours of searching the web I found a handful of applications, but none offered the overall quality found in the Apple App Store.
Finally, regarding the hardware, I have high hopes for NVIDIA's Tegra 2 chipset, however it's the Xoom's display that lets it down. The lack of IPS and anti-glare technology results in a display that looks great indoors, under low light conditions and if you are looking directly at it, however as soon as any one of these conditions are changed, it immediately becomes very frustrating to use. Hopefully we will see better results from future Honeycomb devices, such as the Asus Eee Pad which does include IPS technology.
The final tablet I have tested is the Samsung Galaxy Tab. This is an older product and has been on the market since the original iPad. Let me offer one piece of advise "Do not buy this device". Although the hardware is ok, the software (Android 2.2) has simply been ported from a smartphone. Therefore the user experience is awful, with the UI trying to fill the gap between a phone and a tablet and applications looking stretched and in some cases not working at all. This product is the exact reason why Google went back to the drawing board with Honeycomb to create an Android experience designed specifically for tablets.
So in conclusion, if I was going to recommend one tablet right now it would definitely be the iPad 2. In my opinion Apple are still at least one year ahead of the competition, in terms of hardware quality and software maturity. Going forward I expect to see Google Android devices to close the gap, as it is clear that Android 3.0 is a significant leap forward from where they were with Android 2.2 for tablets. I'm also looking forward to getting my hands on devices from HP with the TouchPad and RIM with the PlayBook.