With all due respect to Steve Jobs, I’ve never been convinced by his stance that 7″ tablets are a bad idea. But I haven’t been able to mount a convincing case that he’s wrong, either. The original 7″ Samsung Galaxy Tab suffered from using a version of Android meant for phones. RIM’s BlackBerry PlayBook had even bigger problems. Neither one was a 7-incher you could use to refute Jobs’ argument. On the other hand, though, it was factors other than their screen size that hurt them–so I continue to hold out hope that someone will make a 7″ tablet that’s just plain nice.
(Note: I’ve only used HTC’s 7″ Flyer briefly.Engadget’s Vlad Savov is reasonably impressed with it, and so is This is My Next’s Joanna Stern. But it still uses the Gingerbread version of Android and therefore can’t run real Android tablet apps; a Honeycomb upgrade has been promised since April, but it isn’t here yet.)
Acer’s new Iconia A100, which is now available for $330, starts out with one great big advantage over the Galaxy Tab and Flyer: it already has Android 3.2 Honeycomb, the version of the OS meant for tablets. It even has a feature that’s designed to scale phone apps so they look good and work well on a larger screen.
PCMag.com’s Sascha Segan likes the scaling feature, but says that the Iconia’s battery couldn’t even run for four hours before it conked it, a dismal showing. And Joanna finds the tablet to be sluggish and crashy.Both Sascha and Joanna say it looks kind of cheesy, too.
Looks like the Iconia isn’t the 7″ tablet that will justify the existence of 7″ tablets. But there’s no law that says that 7″ tablets have to have poor battery life–the PlayBook’s seems to be reasonably decent, for example. I also refuse to believe that tablets that aren’t iPads are necessarily sluggish and crashy, even though most of the ones I’ve tried have been. Once again, it looks like we have a 7″ tablet with problems that have nothing to do with it being a 7″ tablet.
I’m even willing to settle for a 7″ tablet that’s merely decent–say, as good as Samsung’s Galaxy Tab 10.1–while I wait for a great one. In fact, Samsung might be the strongest contender to get it right, assuming that “7-inch iPad” remains an oxymoron.