In typically outrageous fashion, this January’s CES saw everything you’d expect from a technology conference in Las Vegas.
The event which has previously seen the unveiling of the first flexible OLED display, the Parrot AR.Drone and the Intel Infoscape was this year home to The OneWheel – a motorised, self-balancing skateboard cleverly named after the number of wheels, Oculus Rift – a next generation virtual-reality headset for truly immersive 3D gaming and dozens of cutting edge wearable tech – manufacturers have made it pretty clear what to expect over the next 12 months.
Yep, the CES (Consumer Electronics Show) – hosted from 7 to 10th January – kicked off the year with a dazzling array of cutting edge gadgets and the tablet world sure wasn’t neglected.
You may well be used to Gaming PCs costing the thousands of dollars (or equivalent) because of the high-spec parts meticulously placed throughout the system so as to avoid any bottlenecks. But things are different in the tablet world. Fewer parts, dedicated hardware and no sluggish Windows for the hardware to contend with means manufacturers are churning out affordable, gaming tablets rapidly. If you’re after a gaming tablet, 2014 is going to be your tablet year.
First off is the Vega Tegra Note 7 released by Advent. With NVidia’s new, beastly Tegra 4 processor at the helm this tablet simply flies through apps and with front-facing speakers and a 72-core top notch GPU, this makes it ideal for gaming. All for a fraction of the price of an iPad or other designer tablet hardware.
The MemoPad HD 7 also made it’s debut – a solid, quad-core budget tablet that comes with a not-so-budget HD display and housed in the usual MemoPad colours. It perhaps doesn’t have the nice finish of more premium tablets but we’d take a tablet with a solid CPU over a nicely finished one any day. Again, solid specs and a solid tablet – altogether very affordable.
Samsung’s new Galaxy Note 12.2 Pro has 2 main enhancements over it’s previous models – a large 12″ screen and enhanced multi-tasking. We’re glad to see they’re creating their own unique streaks of innovation rather than continuing down the path Apple have forged.
The Note 12.2 Pro is going to be great for multiplayer Android games like Castle Raid and Warrior Chess where both players are using the same device, and we can expect more of these types of games to start surfacing in the future.
Chip manufacturers also made some interesting moves in the tablet space. AMD, the primary Intel rival, has announced it’s Kaveri range of processors which are apparently over twice as performant than it’s previous generation of Temashis (not to be mistaken with the Bandai Tamagotchi).
Built for gaming, the Kaveri could be up for one bloody performance battle pitting itself against Nvidia’s K1 – we’ll be keeping an eye on this one.
We couldn’t leave kids out while talking about gaming so if you’ve been considering a tablet for your kid but feared the tablet’s fate in their hands (and drool), there’s good news as Samsung have spotted the digital childcare trend and made a tablet specifically for children.
Although not as rich in apps as the Nabi 2 or the LeapPad, the Samsung Galaxy Tab 3 Kids serves the purpose of entertaining and/or educating kids on the same solid platform as their Galaxy Tab range. Donning a colourful exterior and – critically – provided parents a dedicated mode to restrict that unwanted content from all apps. Another nice touch is the (relatively) gigantic stylus that allows kids to perfect their art on a surface. Or if you want to hold for a few months, Fuhu (creator of the popular aforementioned Nabi kids’ tablet) has partnered with Dreamworks studio to create a kids tablet starring such ugly-but-lovable characters as Shrek and Dragons.
Also for kids, the Bett Show 2014 – the Learning Technology event in London – uncovered some notable tablet tech to assist educators and students. Intel made a natural progression of it’s Classmate PC range into the tablet arena and introduced a Windows 8.1 tablet with a similar casing to the Nabi 2 to withstand shocks and drops (for, you know, when they can’t solve a problem and start abusing it).
Another similarly well-clad tablet is the Education Tablet, also by Intel and featuring 3G, NFC and GPS so we imagine it’ll work just fine for everyday entertainment as well as (light) productivity work. Though we’re not sure just how far these will go given the proliferation of cheap tablets and hundreds of apps designed for learning of various sorts with the Lumosity and Khan Academy coming to mind first. We’ll wait and see on these.
CES has shown us we can certainly expect to see a continued explosion in this particular category of cheap-but-powerful tablets during the year as every aspect of tablet technology becomes mainstream for parts manufacturers in southern China (where most of these components come from). Processor manufacturers now take tablet technology into consideration in every significant decision and even traditional gamers make like Nintendo are getting in on the act. After all, the correlation between PC decline and tablet uptake has now been solidly proven in data sets by numerous independent trend watchers so tablets are here to stay. Fortunately the sheer variety need not be overwhelming as with the increase in tablets, sites are also popping up that help choose the best tablet based on your exact needs.
An interesting side note to all this is we can expect some high-graphics, sophisticated games to appear on app stores but targeting high spec machines such as the Advent Vega Tegra tablet and no doubt some will have Temple-Run like success. Especially with NVidia’s even more beastly Tegra K1 expected to appear in tablets later this year. We can’t wait – we’re pretty excited. To say the least.
Gaming aside, there was another tablet that was announced this month, specifically aimed at serious productivity workers. There was a time when we’d pity such a fool but 2014’s brought an end to those sentiments. Around mid January legendary motherboard manufacturer Gigabyte diversified into the tablet market with it’s Windows 8.1 S10M tablet.
Although over a year ago Gigabyte entered the market with their first tablet-like PC the S1082, it was more of a slate or hybrid than what we’d consider a tablet. The S10M, although not slim, sits firmly in the tablet club. It’s an impressive tablet to consider if you’re thinking of a powerful tablet for some heavy duty work and has up to 1TB of storage (it even comes with a 1 Gbps ethernet port – woot!). Then there’s the Yoga range aimed at a similar market and it does a reasonably decent job of replacing your laptop for many typical tasks.
And if that hasn’t got your excited (are you alive?), watch out for MWC (Mobile World Congress) next month on the 24th February in Barcelona. We’re hoping Samsung makes progress on their dual OS tablet, the Ativ Q. Aswell as the much anticipated 3G model of the Nexus 10, which we’re hoping will hit the shelves in this the first quarter.
What about you? What do you look for in a tablet? And do you think anything can beat the iPad? Let us know in the comments !