Let the Tablet Wars Begin: Best (and Worst) of 2011

From Androids to Apples, from Samsung, RIM and more, 2011 will be the year of the tablet. 

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    Apple iPad v Samsung Tab, for tablet wars slideshow

    At left, the Apple iPad 2. At right, the Samsung Tab. But there are other fish in the sea, and a range of tablet computers and ebook readers are emerging to threaten the iPad's dominance too. Here's the best of the bunch -- so far, at least.
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    Amazon Kindle Fire

    Amazon Kindle Fire
    Release: Nov. 15, 2011
    Price: $199
    Amazon's new tablet will be called the Kindle Fire, named after the company's popular line of e-readers. Unlike those devices, the Kindle Fire will feature an LCD-backlit touchscreen and allow users to not only read books but also watch movies and TV shows, surf the web and play games that can be downloaded from the company's own app store. The most notable surprise, however, was the price. The Kindle Fire will start at $199 -- below the $250 to $300 range expected by most analysts leading into the event.
    AP Photo/Mark Lennihan
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    Samsung Galaxy Tab 8.9

    Samsung Galaxy Tab 8.9
    Release: Oct. 2, 2011
    Price: $469 (16GB)
    Measuring at 8.6 millimeters, the Galaxy Tab 8.9 has joined the thinnest mobile tablets currently released in U.S. as thin as its sibling, the Galaxy Tab 10.1. It will run on a dual-core T250S processor with a 1280-by-800 resolution multi-touch WXGA TFT display protected by Gorilla Glass. The tablet features Samsung’s Touch Wiz UX user interface, a custom built on Honeycomb. It includes a magazine-like widget view called Live Panel, which helps the user access email, news, photos, and more from the home screen very quickly.
    AP Photo
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    Sony Tablet S
    Release: August 31, 2011
    Price: $499 (16GB), $599 (32GB)
    The Sony Tablet S, which is about the size of an iPad, can double as a universal remote control. The tablet is wedge-shaped, with one thicker than the other. The shape mimics that of a magazine that's been folded over -- but critics quickly labeled it a well-designed "me too" product, one of a slew of Android tablets that face an uphill battle against the iPad.
    AP Photo/Sony Corp.
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    Sony Tablet P
    Release: November, 2011 (Europe, U.S. release TBD)
    Price: €479 (4GB)
    The Sony Tablet P is small enough to fit in a purse and opens like a book to reveal two screens. It will be compatible with AT&T's cellular broadband network. The device will be out in Europe first; Sony said it would be in stores in the United States later this year, but did not provide a date or price.
    AP Photo/Sony Corp.
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    HP TouchPad
    Release: July 1, 2011
    Price: $100 est. (16GB)
    The TouchPad should have been a triumph for HP, showcasing its ability to compete in the increasingly crowded tablet market. Yet while the TouchPad's software is beautiful and intuitive, overall the tablet is more of a "meh-sterpiece" than a masterpiece. The company made headlines by eliminating its mobile division -- prompting a land rush on heavily discounted versions of the tablet.
    AP Photo/Eric Risberg
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    Sony Tablets

    Sony S1, S2
    Release: April 26, 2011
    Est. Price: S1: $599, S2: $699
    Is this Sony's most important new product launch since the Playstation? Sony, also the inventor of the Walkman and once a symbol of Japan's high-tech might, is now struggling to come up with hit devices and improve profit margins as it competes with Apple, Samsung Electronics and Nintendo. Sony's black, glossy devices, code-named S1 and S2, run the Google Android OS and will be the first tablets to enable the use of PlayStation games, but will they compete with the iPad? Read more
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    Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1

    Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1
    Release: June 8, 2011
    Price: $499 (16GB)
    Will we see a serious competitor to the iPad in 2011? The new Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 has hit the streets and it's yet another in a long line of mediocre Android tablet experiences. The hardware is nice, the display is good, and it all works well. But it does nothing to distinguish itself from the iPad when it comes to the software or the overall experience. Read more
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    Blackberry Playbook

    Blackberry PlayBook
    Release: April 19, 2011
    Price: $499 (16GB)
    The much hyped BlackBerry PlayBook was finally released to mixed reviews. Fans praised its fluid UI, Adobe Flash support, HDMI output, and multitasking capabilities, but critics argued that Research in Motion rushed the product to market. Hopefully, lagging issues like native email and calendar apps will be ironed out.
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    HTC Flyer

    HTC EVO View 4G
    Release: June 15, 2011
    Price: $399.99 (32GB with a 2-year contract)
    HTC has created quite the reputation for itself with a slew of droolworthy Android smartphones. The HTC EVO View thus comes with high expectations, being Sprint's first WiMAX tablet -- offering very peppy connectivity. And combine that with nice hardware for a solid product.
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    ASUS Eee Pad Transformer

    ASUS Eee Pad Transformer
    Release: April 26, 2011
    Price: $400 (16GB, tablet only)
    The Eee Pad Transformer is one of the most affordable Android Honeycomb tablets on the market. But affordable doesn't mean cheap -- the Transformer has a high-quality screen and a convenient keyboard/dock option that makes it the perfect entry level tablet.
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    Viewsonic Viewpad 10

    Viewsonic ViewPad 10
    Release: March, 2011
    Price: $599 (16GB)
    The cool thing about the ViewPad 10 is its ability to boot into either Windows 7 Home Premium or Android 1.6 (recently upgraded to Android 2.2). Despite this feature, many will gawk at its price.
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    Samsung Galaxy Tab

    Samsung Galaxy Tab
    Release: November 10, 2010
    Price: $600 (16GB)
    Samsung's 7-inch Android tablet provided Apple's iPad with the first real bit of competition when it launched last fall sporting two cameras, Flash compatibility, and a more convenient size. Those who prefer something bigger might want to wait for the 10" model, which was delayed after the launch of the iPad 2.
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    Motorola Xoom

    Motorola Xoom
    Release: February 22, 2011
    Price: $799 (GSM & CDMA), $599 (Wi-Fi only)
    Motorola's Xoom tablet has the honor of being the first Android 3.0 Honeycomb tablet sporting a dual-core processor, 720p video playback, and two cameras. For many, it represents the most polished Android offering to date, but its price might keep it from gaining too much traction outside of early adopters and Android loyalists.
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    LG G-Slate

    LG G-Slate
    Release: April 20
    Price: $399 (with 2-year contract)
    At least one tablet will be jumping on the 3D bandwagon. The G-Slate will feature an 8.9-inch display, Tegra 2 graphics, and the Android 3.0 Honeycomb operating system.The kicker? 3D video capturing. A gimmick perhaps? We'll see.
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    Dell Streak

    Dell Streak 7
    Release: Feb. 7, 2011
    Price: $199 (with $50 rebate and 2-year contract)
    Though decently priced, the low-resolution screen, poor battery life, and soon-to-be outdated Android 2.2 operating system make the Dell Streak 7 difficult to recommend -- especially given such healthy competition from the likes of Samsung, Motorola and LG.
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    Apple iPad 2

    Apple iPad2
    Release: March 25, 2011
    Price: $499 (16GB Wi-Fi)
    Apple, has done it again. The iPad clearly remains top dog and the tablet to beat, with this year's updated version 33% thinner than its predecessor while also sporting a dual-core processor and front and back cameras for easy FaceTime conferencing. Traditional Apple gripes remain such as its closed-system app store as well as its continuing lack of support for Adobe Flash.
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    Nook Simple Touch Reader

    Nook Simple Touch Reader
    Release: June 1, 2011
    Price: $139 (16GB)
    Barnes & Noble may have a hit on its hands with the Nook Simple Touch, an incredibly cheap, incredibly easy to use ebook reader. CNET gave the black and white device an Editors' Choice, and Consumer Reports ranks it better than the Kindle. Is it any wonder more Americans are buying eReaders than tablets?
    Barnes & Noble
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    Barnes & Noble Nook Color

    Barnes & Noble Nook Color
    Release: Nov. 16, 2010
    Price: $249
    You can't talk tablets and ignore their cousins, ebook readers. The Nook Color represents a healthy compromise between hardcore book readers and those who also want some tablet features. With its Android processor and color screen, call this e-reader a tablet light.
    Barnes & Noble
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    Amazon Kindle 3

    Amazon Kindle 3
    Release: August 27, 2010
    Price: $139 (Wi-Fi only), $189 (Wi-Fi + 3G)
    For hardcore readers, the Kindle 3 is the industry standard when it comes to no frills e-ink reading. Little has changed from the Kindle 2 but the new generation is lighter and thinner and still does what it does best: no frills reading in any kind of light. Amazon is still offering free international 3G so jump on board while you can.
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    Sony Daily Reader

    Sony Daily Reader
    Release: Nov 17, 2010
    Price: $299
    At 7.1 inches, the PRS-950 or Daily Edition is Sony's flagship reader. E-Ink's Pearl technology powers a grey scale touchscreen, and it has 2GB memory with 3G, Wi-Fi, and web browser support. While the alternative e-reader has a responsive touch-screen and a great high contrast display, the $300 price tag makes it a hard sell given the competition.
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