Help me find an iPad alternative.
August 23, 2010 12:53 PM   Subscribe

I'm in the market for an iPad-like tablet PC, but not an iPad.

I've seen the buzz about HP's upcoming Slate, and have heard about Joojoo, and the Orphan tablets from China, the Archos tablets, and on and on... but haven't actually been able to track anyone down that actually has one. I like the idea of an iPad, but would prefer something without the Apple handcuffs (and with Flash support), running either Android or some flavor of Linux.

Does anyone have any real recommendations, either from personal experience or even friend-of-a-friend info, not just Google hits?
posted by xedrik to Computers & Internet (20 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
Almost everything that's come out, so far, has been garbage. You'll have to wait a bit.

Note: This is not to say that there won't be good alternatives. There will be. But just as the first touchscreen phones post-iPhone were awful and it took a bit for Palm and Google to provide serious competition, there simply aren't good iPad competitors yet. Half of what's been announced has been pure vaporware to boot.

I'd definitely put my money on either Slate (If it really is based on a beefed-up webOS, but given the massive exodus away from Palm since the acquisition I'm not optimistic) or on an Android solution. But right now there's nothing at all to really recommend, and as someone also looking for a tablet option, I'm planning on being intensely skeptical of everything until it's actually out in the wild and making people happy.
posted by Tomorrowful at 1:04 PM on August 23, 2010

Just wait. There are a bunch of new entrants coming soon. Currently, the iPad is the only one worth owning, so seeing as you don't want one, just hang on a little longer.
posted by teedee2000 at 1:12 PM on August 23, 2010

Best answer: My husband's been on the lookout for exactly this, and he's been contemplating the Cruz tablet, from Velocity Micro. (Link here.)

However, it doesn't ship until late September, so no first-hand experience.
posted by Lucinda at 1:14 PM on August 23, 2010

Apparently there will be a huge push on these for the US holiday season so you're probably best to wait and see what shows up from BLACK FRIDAY on.

Quote: "Score declined to specify which tablets Best Buy will carry, but said there will be multiple models. “We will have a great assortment of them,” he said. “It won’t be 32, but it also won’t be one, like we have today.”"
posted by GuyZero at 1:18 PM on August 23, 2010

I'd reframe the question if I'm understanding you correctly. Are you looking for a computer, running an OS like you might have on a laptop or a desktop, but in a tablet form? Because the iPad is not a tablet computer at all by that definition, it's a fancy E-reader. I do Mac stuff for a living, and I really hoped the iPad would be a real Mac tablet we could use here, but it's basically just an iPhone that's too big for your pocket. Hopefully we'll see more tablets like this coming out soon, I wouldn't go for this one yet, but something like it should meet your need, and hopefully you could install more than one OS.
posted by jardinier at 1:30 PM on August 23, 2010

Response by poster: Lucinda, thanks for the link to the Cruz Tablet, which I'd not heard about before. That looks like a very strong contender. 7" might be workable, but I'd prefer a screen closer to 10 inches. Can't beat the price, though, wow.

Thanks, jardinier. What I'm after is not a smartphone, not a glorified e-reader, and not a notebook PC with a swiveling touch-sensitive screen. Basically, I want a full Linux- or Android- (or even Win7, ugh) based Tablet PC in an iPad form factor.

Thanks, GuyZero for the heads-up. I suppose I'll see what shows up for the holidays.

Google led me to Priced In China, which had a ton of products that look exactly what I'm looking for, but I'm very wary of Chinese knock-offs, and some of the devices pictured look as if they're not fully functional. (Devices held portrait orientation aren't auto-rotating the display, etc.)
posted by xedrik at 2:03 PM on August 23, 2010

I'm interested in the Cruz too. One thing to look out for though is that Google's own Android Market doesn't yet support tablets (I believe). It probably will soon. I called Velocity Micro this morning and asked about that - the guy I talked to said they'll have their own market (pages say Cruz Market), but he couldn't say whether they'd have everything. The Kindle app is a big question because the Cruz is clearly pretty tightly partnered with Borders.
posted by still_wears_a_hat at 2:18 PM on August 23, 2010

I own a HP touch tablet (w/vista) and even if it was lighter and brighter than the iPad, I would still find it underwhelming. The microsoft tablet interface is awkward -handwriting recognition is hit and miss, the popup keyboard is tiny and curser calibrations don't remain accurate across applications. I would wait until competitors have had a chance to catch up with the iPad.
posted by bonobothegreat at 3:44 PM on August 23, 2010

Yep, I'd wait a couple more months. There are definitely Android and WebOS tablets on the way. (I'm in the same boat --- want a tablet form factor for a few things, but don't want Apple restrictions like no Flash)
posted by wildcrdj at 5:42 PM on August 23, 2010

My husband has a Novel and he likes it, but I think he mostly just goofs around with it to see what it can do, and uses it as a reader instead of his Kindle when he wants backlight. Runs Android, there's some hack or something to get into the Market. There's been at least a couple of firmware updates to address some things that were apparently less than polished, but it's certainly cheap enough.
posted by sageleaf at 7:27 PM on August 23, 2010

You might also keep an eye out for Chrome OS Tablets.

You seem to be making Flash an important part of your decision, I'm not sure what your intent is there, but Flash with a touchscreen seems not to be fully baked. I would be interested to hear contrary experiences with Flash on touchscreen devices.

You might also try and look at Maemo devices (Maemo is a Debian distro for smartphones and tablets). Err, crap, looks like Maemo imploded and MeeGo is replacing it.

The disarray in the tablet market is dismaying. At this point it's very difficult to see how any of these devices and software will be able to match iPad and iOS in terms of fit and finish anytime in the forseeable (~18 months) future. Would love to get a followup MeMail if you find something that works for you.
posted by artlung at 7:27 PM on August 23, 2010

oops, using Kindle generically when I meant to say Nook, just in case that matters.
posted by sageleaf at 7:32 PM on August 23, 2010

You may want to check out Motion Computing. They have a full Windows 7 Tablet PC in slate form, 12 inch display, with pen and touch input. I'm not sure how hard it would be to get Linux running on it, but I bet it's doable.

Disclaimer: the company I work for supplies components to Motion.
posted by Sibrax at 10:01 PM on August 23, 2010 [1 favorite]

Probably not what you're looking for, but I'll throw this out there anyways.

You could get a Dell Mini 9 and throw on one of these and turn the netbook into a tablet-esque device. The installation, from what I've seen, seems pretty easy for someone with even a little bit of computer knowledge. Plus, you get an actual keyboard too if you wanna use it.
posted by Geppp at 12:08 AM on August 24, 2010

Personally, I am waiting for the Notion Ink Adam (which is Android based and has a Pixel Qi display as its killer feature), but that will be November at the earliest and possibly as late as January. It looks fantastic based on what I've seen so far.
posted by JMOZ at 8:00 AM on August 24, 2010

There are very cheap, less than $100 android tablets on dealextreme. They have an old android (1.5, 1.6), a 7" 800x480 screen and a crappy battery. These could be useful if all you want is something to try out android apps.

There are quite a few better tablets too; some better for playing media, some with a bigger screen, a better battery, a fast processor OR a recent android version. They all cost more. at least $200.

Tablets which are good enough for one or more specific tasks gather a lot of followers who develop firmware upgrades enabling new features and fixing bugs etc..Slatedroid has a good overview of some of these more popular Android tablets.

A newcomer is the Witstech A81E (aka Nationite Midnite). This one has a fast processor (800MHz), a good enough 7" 800x480 resistive touchscreen and a decent (and replacable) 5-6hr battery. The GPS version is only $15 extra.
No camera (so forget about QR codes and Google googles), no multitouch, no orientation sensor (required for some games), no microphone. It has a TF/MicroSD slot, USB adapter and bluetooth (BT in the future).

The best part is that it runs Android 2.2 (Froyo), the most recent Android OS. Also WinCE but who cares?
A lot of the functionality is very new (GPS), some of it still buggy (music & video playback, flash) some not yet working at all (bluetooth, to use skype without internal mic). But as this is one of the first relatively cheap Android 2.2 tablets without major weaknesses there is a lot of interests from the geeks and from Witstech to enable all these functions in the coming weeks.

They are available from:
among others.

I ordered one just to play with android, use as a large GPS, for surfing and reading on my couch, remote controlling VLC. I think it will also replace a netbook for travelling.
posted by Akeem at 8:33 AM on August 24, 2010 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Sibrax, the Motion J3500 looks really sweet, but the price tag is a bit steep.

Geppp, that's a neat idea, but as I've said I am not interested in a notebook/netbook. Thanks though!

JMOZ, the Notion Ink Adam looks sweet.

posted by xedrik at 8:35 AM on August 24, 2010

you said you would prefer android or Linux, but you didn't say necessarily want to exclude others.

I have been using tablet PCs 8 years. I have also purchased refurbished Motion slates from several years ago. It was sleek and could do everything that an iPad can't--but it was missing touch.

I have made several recommendations based on personal experience with my new tablet and shopping for a new tablet in February here and here. (updated because of this post actually) I spent more than 100 hours doing this, so I'm pretty confident in my recommendations at this point. Most reviews have the Fujitsus and the Lenovo x 200 coming out on top.
my latest updated recommendation has a fully functional tablet for $1300, that has a good processor can do flash, has USB support and Bluetooth, as well as multi-touch.

finally, in this post I expounded upon what one leading technology blogger called the best technology of the decade, the ability to search your handwritten notes with Microsoft products.

that might sway you towards Microsoft.

Finally, if you're looking for something a little bit smaller than a full-fledged notebook, you might want to look at this Fujitsu UH900. they could do just about everything, but it wouldn't be as if he because it has the same processor as a net book. it has a multi-touch screen. I would not however recommended the Lenovo equivalent, the Lenovo S10-3t. as cute and capable as it looks, I found several reports that it was plagued by early problems. I cannot speak to whether or not they ever got them resolved..

My original post referenced they were able to explain any final options/minute details between sub models, relieve any doubts that I had and provided absolutely stellar service. I have no connection. They tend to carry a lot of tablets, and sometimes have some great deals ( especially for models that have a slightly older processor).
posted by chinabound at 8:51 AM on August 24, 2010

"wouldn't be as if he because it has the same processor as a net book" should read "be as snappy." Damn voice recognition.
posted by chinabound at 8:54 AM on August 24, 2010

Axon Haptic - just read about these the other day, know little about the machines themselves, but their staff are very nice and answered my inquiries promptly.
posted by kuppajava at 9:01 AM on August 24, 2010

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