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As Apple apparently prepares to go small with the iPad Mini, every other tablet maker is going large, bringing out tablets that dwarf the 9.7-inch iPad. All can render web sites, maps and business dashboards gorgeously, without taxing the arm strength of the user (well, in most cases).

Not only are tablet makers going big, but they are also bringing back the convertible tablet-laptop, but under a new name, ‘laptablet’. They hope that technical and weightsaving advances in touchscreens, chips and batteries, along with Windows 8’s mobile-oriented overhaul will finally attract customers – especially enterprises overwhelmed by the iOS-led BYOD invasion. Here are 17 of the most interesting tablets available today.

The HP Envy x2 is a 11.6-inch convertible Windows 8 tablet. The aluminum-encased keyboard doubles the Envy’s “all day” battery life and is removable – hence, convertible – and gives it a near MacBook Pro-like appearance (hence, the envy). The Intel Atom Clover Trail processor (dual-core 1.8 GHz), 2 GB RAM, 8 megapixel rear camera, 64 GB SSD are firmly middle of the range, as is the 1366×768 multi-touch capacitive display. No price yet.

Photo: Liliputing.com

Another Windows 8/Intel Clover Trail convertible with a 11.6-inch, 1366×768 screen, there are a few things that distinguish Vivo Tab from the rest of the pack: a Wacom active digitizer for drawing with a stylus, NFC technology and Asus’ recent success with making bigger hybrid tablets (the Transformer line). The price (sans $199 keyboard/battery) may be $799 (a 10-inch Nvidia Tegra 3 counterpart may be $599).

Having used my share of Dell laptops, I’m instinctively wary, but this XPS Duo 12 laptablet looks awesome. Gizmodo agrees. The flip hinge lets your 12.5-inch, 1920-x1080 display rotate 180 degrees to switch between modes. There’s Corning Gorilla Glass on the screen, and aluminum and carbon fiber on the case. Windows 8 and Intel Core i3/5/7 guts, along with weight that, like the Lenovo X23T, that will be closer to an actual Ultrabook or laptop.  No price yet.

For everyone pining for a larger tablet from Apple, the ModBook Pro is here – a 13.3-inch (1280×800) pen-based (not touch) tablet running Mac OS X. The mysterious makers of the ModBook seem to convert MacBook Pros by hand – every order takes 6-8 weeks, and you can even buy their conversion kits if you feel like doing it yourself. The specs are powerful – 2.5-2.9 GHz Core i5/i7 processor, up to 16 GB of RAM, Wacom digitizer and up to 480 GB of SSD storage. You can also get Windows 7 preinstalled. The prices are commensurate, starting at $3,499 and going up to $4,819. U.S. customers-only starting in mid-November.

How do you offer a tablet with 32% more pixels than the iPad 3’s Retina Display? By offering two 1920×1080 screens (total > 4 million+ pixels) like the Asus Taichi does. Talk about flexible-the Taichi is an ultrabook AND a dual-display tablet in one, with a 13.3-inch screen and a second 11.6-inch one). Why two displays? Asus says this could be for two workers, or to better share slideshows or presentations. The $1,299 price is more than double an iPad 3, but this is a Windows 8 tablet running the a high-end Intel Core i7 chip. Expect your company’s alpha dog salespeople to clamor for the Taichi.

While we dream of a possible Samsung P10 (2650×1600 resolution) tablet, there are two pretty worthy options available today: the Series 5 and Series 7 tablets. Both are 11.6-inch tablets. The mid-range Series 5 has the Intel Atom Clover Trail processor and 9 hour battery life, while the Series 7 has a Core i5 and 5-6 hour battery life. Both support pen input, ala the Galaxy Note. Unlike other Windows 8 lap-tablets, the $100 keyboards are strictly optional. The Series 5 starts at $649, while the Series 7 starts at $1,119.

You might have already been considering the Toshiba Excite 13 tablet – it was released earlier this summer. It’s a 13.3-inch (1600×900) Android 4.0 ICS tablet with an Nvidia Tegra 3 chipset that tips the scales at 2.2 pounds. The $650 price for the 32 GB version looked high compared to the similar-but-smaller $199 Google Nexus. Reviews were thus mixed. But I think the Excite 13 looks very reasonable today to anyone who doesn’t need Windows 8 or a keyboard.

If there is a Guinness Book of World Records entry for Largest Tablet, the Sony VAIO Tap20 would be it. This is basically an all-in-one Windows 8 PC with a 20-inch, 1600×900 capacitive 10-point multitouch screen. But…it actually has a built-in battery with an alleged life of 3.5 hours. At its size (140 sq. inches, 11.4 pounds), you’ll probably only lug it around your home or office, setting it up in flat or reclining mode (with the rear kickstand). Specs are full PC-like, with your choice of Intel Core i3 to i7 processors, 8 GB RAM and up to 1 TB hard drive space. Alas, you pay for what you get, with a Japan price of between $1,800 to $2,300.

The practical little brother of the Tap 20, the VAIO Duo 11 is a 11.6-inch, 1920×1080 Windows 8 tablet with a slide-out keyboard (and stylus) that weighs a very Ultrabook-like 2.6 pounds. The Duo packs a punch – Intel Core i3 5 or 7 chips, up to 256 GB SSD, and HDMI and USB 3.0 ports. And like most VAIOs, it’s a handsome piece of kit. However, expect to pay just as handsomely. One report has the DUO’s European price starting at 1199 Euros ($1,550) for the entry-level i3 version.

Photo: Slashgear.com


The Toshiba U920T is another larger-than-iPad laptablet running Windows 8. So why does one magazine call it the “best laptablet yet”? Well, there’s the 12.5 inch screen, bigger than many of its immediate, business-oriented competitors (though the resolution remains just 1366 x 768, or one-third the iPad 3). More impressive are the Core i3/i5 chips, 4 GB RAM and 128 GB SSD round out the U920T.  Expect a $1,000-something price.

Photo: Liliputing.com


For years, Lenovo was the lonely standardbearer for the convertible tablet/notebook category, its ThinkPad X-series selling well enough for the company to keep making them. How is Lenovo reacting to the sudden rush of competitors? Without panic, if the X230T is any judge. The X230T looks like its predecessors. It is a comparatively chunky (4 pounds, 1.2-inches thick)  but, encased in magnesium alloy, screams durability – a plus for enterprise IT. The 12.5-inch, 1366×768 screen is reportedly outdoor-readable. There are ports aplenty and, for about $1,300, a Intel Core i5 processor. If you trust experience over flash, the X230T may be the way to go.

Photo: Liliputing.com

Not a tablet itself, the MMT Monitor2Go is a multi-touch, 15.6 LED display that you can carry around as a second screen to your tablet. The company calls the 3-lb Monitor2Go perfect for business presentations, and I can see that. Both are connected via HDMI or USB, and have a slot to insert an iPad 2 or 3. The $299 model has 1366×768 resolution. I’d pay $30 more for the 1600×900 version.

Maybe Japanese engineers have gotten tired with miniaturizing gadgets, because here is the 2nd tablet-like device greater than 20-inches coming from the island. The maker is Frontier, and the product is the 21.5-inch, 11 lb. Frontier FT103. The FT103 runs Android 4.0 ICS, and the resolution is 1920×1080. But the rest of the specs are lackluster – 1 GHz dual-core ARM chip, 8 GB flash storage. And unlike the Sony VAIO Tap 20, there doesn’t seem to be a battery. Hmm, maybe it is, as the makers call it, just a “SmartDisplay.” The Frontier costs just US$440, which is good, since you’ll need that money to pay for your flight to Japan to buy it, and all of the chiropractic work afterwards.

Another high-end Windows 8 tab-laptop, the Iconia Tab W700 has a 11.6-inch screen with a 1920×1080 display, Intel Core i5 1.7 GHz chip, 128 GB SSD, 8 hours of battery life, Dolby Home Theater sound and three USB 3.0 ports. Acer may be marketing the posh W700 as a desktop replacement device. At a reported $1,269 price tag, it probably will have to be.

Archos is the French answer to low-cost consumer electronics makers like Coby, focusing on media players and tablets. The coming FamilyPad is a 13.3-inch (1280 x 800) Android Ice Cream Sandwich tablet with a single-core 1 GHz Cortex-A8 chip, 1 GB RAM, 16 GB of storage and front and rear 2 megapixel cameras. Weak specs in this day and age, but expect a sub-$200 price to entice customers at the Walmart.

Koegler Electronics is a small, Taiwan-based company with the big dream of creating the first wearable tablet. Imagine a 1920×1080 20-inch LCD tablet that rests on a…oh heck, just look at the picture. Not the slickest-looking device, but it does make the user of Koegler potentially hands-free. This could definitely have some enterprise applications. So if you’ve got $5 million or so to spare, why not Kickstart this venture?

Fujitsu is the Lenovo of Europe – a firm enterprise vendor who never stopped making convertible tablet/laptops. Their Stylistic Q702 is their entry in the high-end Windows 8 category – 11.6-inch (1920×1080) screen and a Core i3/i5 chip in a 1.88 lb. package. Like the Lenovo X230T, the Stylistic comes with a bunch of enterprise management and security features, and its touchscreen supports 10-point multitouch as well as a stylus. Expect enterprise-type prices.

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  1. Steve Rumsby

    There will always be specialised applications where a large tablet is required, or works much better than a small one. For a general-purpose device, though, I subscribe to the “less is more” rule. I never bought an iPad. While I absolutely love the idea of the device, whenever I’ve tried somebody else’s I’ve always come away with the overwhelming impression that it is just too big and heavy.

    Then Google announced the Nexus 7 and I was sufficiently convinced to pre-order one. In the few months that I’ve had it now, I have to say it was the right decision. For me, at least. This has nothing to do with Android v iOS – this is all about size. The 7″ Nexus is just right for holding unsupported, and so reading, surfing, tweeting, etc. is possible for long periods in an environment where there’s no table/desk and so where an iPad would get tiring to hold. A 7″ iPad would win in the same way.

    Many of the above devices are huge. They are keyboardless or convertible laptops, not tablets. You couldn’t comfortably sit on a sofa and read a kindle book on one. Not without prior weight training anyway! If I find a 10″ iPad too big & heavy, a 13″ device is going to be much worse.

    What are the expected uses of a 13″ tablet?

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    1. Eric Lai Post author

      Great thoughts, Steve, and certainly, to each his own. I personally see plenty of utility in a larger screen. After all, I remember being so hesitant when I bought my first sub-notebook with the 11.6-inch 1024×768 screen and being hesitant that I’d have enough room to get my work done, since I tend to write with half the screen open to Word, the other half on some Web page. So bigger is better for me re: content creation. And when watching anything longer than a Youtube video, a bigger screen is better. Fatigue can be an issue, which is why some of these tablets include frames (i.e. Acer Iconia W700) or kickstands. So better for content consumption, too…

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      1. Steve Rumsby

        This is why I try to draw a distinction between tablet and laptop. I wouldn’t want to do extensive content creation on my 7″ tablet, but nor would I on a 10″ iPad. I’d want both a keyboard and a bigger screen. That sort of device I call a laptop! And if you need a stand or frame to hold the device up because it is too heavy in the hand, you also need a table, and again, you might as well use a laptop! Tablets that large don’t seem to provide as many tablet benefits as smaller ones. But that’s just me:-)

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        1. Eric Lai Post author

          Well, have I got a lap-tablet for you! 🙂 About half of these new devices come with slim, hide-away keyboards. Think of them as the Murphy Beds of tablets. And that’s why you want to make sure this laptablet has a >10 inch screen for the content creation. Same price and weight as an ultrabook, but with a touchscreen.

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          1. Steve Rumsby

            There are some form factors that just don’t make sense to me. The current craze for 5+” phablets is just, well, crazy. Too big to be a good phone and too small to be a good tablet.

            And your “laptablet” is another. If I want something that big, it might as well be a proper clamshell laptop. I’m going to have a smaller (7″, obviously:-) tablet anyway so would never (well, rarely – not often enough to justify the extra cost) use a 13″ device without its keyboard attached.

            3.5″ (4″ max) phone, 7″ tablet, 13″ laptop. That’s my ideal combination.

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  2. Bjorn Vilhjalmsson

    Nice overview.  Classifying these big touch screen devices as Mobile devices is going to be a real stretch though.  It is going to be really interesting to see how things progress in this space.  Personally I would love to see the option to connect the mobile device (android/iOS tablet/smartphone) to a larger touch screen, keyboard etc when you need/want to have a larger screen estate.  It is though rather limiting unless you can have real multitasking, several apps running and showing at the same time on a bigger screen.  Samsung Pop-up Play is one example of moving in this direction where you can watch a video on screen while you use other apps, a small step perhaps but in the direction of real multitasking. 

    For those whose primary work is only in a very limited way dependent on access to a pc, large, shared touch screens (kiosks) running some of these OS´s out there could be a nice choice over dedicated, proprietary and costly kiosks that are available today. 

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    1. Steve Rumsby

                             

      Nice overview.  Classifying these big touch screen devices as Mobile devices is going to be a real stretch though.  

                         

      That’s a very good point. We all think we know what the word “mobile” means, but actually it is quite hard to pin down a meaningful definition. What exactly do we mean by a mobile device and a mobile app? I don’t think it is clear, and I don’t think that helps people when thinking about mobilising applications. We are spending a lot of time thinking about the technology – I want to “go mobile” so I “need” SUP – and not enough thinking about what we’re trying to achieve.

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