Tablet hype aside, most technology fans’ interest in slate-like touchscreen laptops begins and ends at the iPad (or iPad 2, reportedly due by February 2011). But these new contenders aim to take a bite out of Apple’s monopoly, putting better web browsing, slicker multimedia features and real-time video chat right at your fingertips.
Galaxy Tab (Samsung, $599 and up)
Smaller than the iPad and powered by the Android operating system, the 7-inch unit also enables Flash (multimedia-rich) Internet surfing and adds front- and rear-facing cameras for mobile videoconferencing. Suitable for one-handed use, it can be held like a phone when utilizing the on-screen virtual keyboard, and offers speedy load times with a moderate, if not mind-blowing, selection of entertainment and productivity apps.
PlayBook (RIM, “Under $500”)
A 7-inch model due early 2011 that adds multitasking via the new BlackBerry Tablet OS and enhances everyday tasks with a 1GHz dual-core processor, native Flash browsing and dual high-definition cameras for high-quality video calling. Capable of 1080p HD video recording and WiFi-enabled, it's business-in-the-front, party-in-the-back outlook extends to 16-64GB of storage, 1GB of RAM and enterprise email support for worker bees who can’t unplug.
Slate 500 (HP, $799)
Targeted at professionals, this stylus- and touch-powered 9-inch Windows 7 tablet handles like a proper laptop sans physical keyboard. With a 1.86Ghz Intel Atom processor, 2GB of RAM and a breezy 64GB solid state drive, its netbook-grade components can nonetheless be subverted to more entertaining uses. Credit support for WiFi connectivity, HD film playback and USB/HDMI connectors, even if enjoying digital media may prove less entertaining than simply doodling sketches of your favorite American Idol.