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More Fuel for the 'Tablet wars'

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Category: Hardware Published on Friday, 06 July 2012

New Tablets from Samsung and ZTE a Feast for the Eyes, but . . .  

I could say "the tablet wars are heating up," but they've been hot for a couple of years now.

I could say "mobile computing is heating up," but that's been the case for awhile now.

So, what can I say about the new flock of tablet computers that are hitting my desk? They're . . . . well . . . . NEW! And that is one word that makes us gadget junkies sit up and take notice.

I've been playing with the new Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 10.1 ($400) and the smaller, seven-inch ZTE Optik ($349 or $99 with a two-year service contract from Sprint).

I'm NOT going to compare them with the iPad, because - - - truthfully - - - that would be unfair due to Apple's new Retina display and speed. But, there are other ways to evaluate Android tablets.

At first glance he Galaxy Tab is beauuuuuuuuutiful! It's
slim, with rounded corners and screams "hold me" to the true gadget freak. In fact, I had a problem prying it out of my daughter's hands. But it's always what lurks beneath that beautiful exterior that makes it an "I've gotta have it" gadget.

It comes with Android 4.0 (aka Ice Cream Sandwich) a three megapixel front-facing camera and a VGA back-facing camera, 1 GB of RAM and 16 GB of storage space, Adobe Flash, built-in Wi-Fi plus 3G and 4G compatibility and everything else you'd expect from a high-end tablet.

This is one of the fastest Android tablets I've played with, which could be due to the new operating system and its 1 gigahertz NVIDIA dual-core Tegra 2 processor. Also, the speed and effectiveness of its web browsing and Internet connection are dependent on your wireless provider.

It comes with the usual selection of apps - - - mail, messaging, an Android browser and other apps you may, or may not want, from Google - - - and access to Samsung's social, music and reader's hubs.

I was able to average about eight hours before having to recharge the built-in battery (although Samsung says you get nine hours). This is above average for 10-inch tabs.

The Galaxy Tab also has two built-in stereo speakers, but, if you really want to enjoy music or movies, I suggest attaching it to a set of portable speakers or to a good headset.

Other features include:

-- Samsung Touchwiz UX, which gives you access to a bunch of so-called "mini-apps" including music, a calendar/datebook, a calculator and several others.

-- Full HD 1080p video playback.

-- Built in GPS.

-- Bluetooth 3.0

-- A USB port.

-- An SD card slot to expand storage space.

If you have the bucks, and prefer Android over Apple, This is definitely the 10-inch tablet to buy!

The ZTE Optik comes with a two-year contract from Sprint, which means you have to purchase one of their data plans to use it. This keeps the initial price down, but, depending on how much you use it, you could lay out big bucks.

Out of the box this is a good-looking machine - - - rounded corners, although a bit bulky.

But, under the façade you discover that it operates on Sprint's 3G network, which surprises me, especially with 4G speeds becoming the standard for wireless communications. This also means its slooooooooooooooooow when you're trying to access the Internet or retrieve email.

Another thing that surprised me was that it comes with Android 3.2 (aka Honeycomb), which is a bit buggier and less responsive than Ice Cream sandwich.

Aside from these drawbacks, the Optik is a nice little machine and definitely outperforms Blackberry's Playbook and the Kindle Fire when it comes to the responsiveness of its touchscreen and access to apps.

It comes with one gigabyte of memory and 16 gigabytes of storage space and the usual preloaded Android apps. But it also comes with one feature no other tablet offers: It can be used as a Wi-Fi hotspot for your other digital devices including a smartphone.

Other features include:

-- A microSD card slot to expand storage up to 32 GB.

-- Bluetooth connectivity.

-- Built-in GPS.

-- Front- and rear-facing cameras.

-- Built-in stereo speakers, but I again recommend using external speakers or a headset for music and movies.

More information on both of these tablets can be found at www.sprint.com and www.Samsung.com.

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