Pop quiz: Which one is the true tablet? Apple iPad, JooJoo, Dell Streak, or HP Slate?
If you guessed any of them you're right. Or you're wrong. Because the answer seems to depend on whom you ask.
The tablet category is heating up lately. IDC expects more than 7 million tablets to ship by the end of the year and more than 46 million units to ship by 2014. That is in large part due to the success of Apple's iPad, which has flown off store shelves since its introduction in April. Dell, Hewlett-Packard, Asus, Fuijtsu, Acer, Archos, and many others have also flocked to the the decidedly gray area that tablets occupy between a smartphone and notebook.
Perhaps because the category is new, the definition of "tablet" seems sort of up for grabs, depending on who is defining it. Size, features, and specifications are the traditional way of breaking down consumer electronics and PC categories, but the few products currently for sale or coming soon are blurring those lines.
We take a crack at dampening some of the confusion around the latest crop of consumer tablets. (For a complete list of tablets, see the guide put together by CNET's Donald Bell.)
What makes a tablet a tablet? Traditionally the categories of mobile computing devices break down in terms of size: smartphones have 3- to 5-inch screens, MIDs (mobile Internet devices) range between 5 and 7 inches, and tablets are between 7 and 10 inches.
But the feature set, or what the device can do, is the other half of the equation. According to Gartner, a true tablet is any slate over 5 inches running a full operating system like Windows, Mac OS X, or Linux.
IDC breaks the devices down into media tablets and tablet PCs. A tablet PC has an x86 processor, runs a desktop OS, and has a screen size anywhere from 5 inches to 21 inches. Despite what it may look like, "A tablet PC is a PC," said Richard Shim, IDC analyst. "There's no real limit to them."
These are generally the traditional idea of a tablet, the kind that look like a laptop with a screen that twists that you can close and write on with a stylus, like the Dell Latitude XT or the Asus Eee PC T91.
"A media tablet we're defining as ARM-based, running a smaller OS (non-Windows)," he said. "The screen sizes are between 7 and 12 inches." ARM is a type of low-power processor typically used in mobile devices, whereas x86 processors are used in more robust applications where power consumption isn't as much of an issue.
How do the current crop of tablets compare? There's a pretty big range in IDC's and Gartner's definitions if you compare the features of a few of the recently announced or released tablets intended for consumer use.… Read more