Contrary to popular belief, the iPad 2 isn’t the only tablet computer in the world.
Yes, it is rather wonderful, and the game support is staggering, but there are still some niggling issues that take the shine off the supremely shiny device.
Consider the bizarre lack of Flash support, which creates a distinctly web 1.0 browsing experience, or the upscaled iPhone interface that leaves you with a work area like a cluttered PC desktop - filled with endless shortcuts and a general sense of disordered chaos.
Meanwhile, Google’s Honeycomb OS is so streamlined, stylish, and user friendly it makes Tom Cruise’s office in Minority Report look out of date.
Unlike iOS 4 used by the iPad, Honeycomb was built exclusively for tablets and its retro-futurist chic can turn the eye of even the most ardent Apple addict.
Plus, Google has already unveiled its next ‘universal’ OS, offering an Ice Cream Sandwich that will help Android users chill out this summer with new features like face-tracking and voice activated camera controls for both phones and tablets.
Basically, there’s no better time to join the Android brotherhood by snapping-up a state-of-the-art tab. So, for this round-up, Pocket Gamer’s picked ten of the very sweetest Honeycomb-flavoured designs heading your way this year.
Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1-inch (due June/July)
Although it was a little clunkier in the hands than Apple’s first gen offering, the Samsung Galaxy Tab was the closest thing to a rival for the iPad in 2010.
With newly launched Galaxy S II phone stealing some of the impending iPhone 5’s thunder, thanks to its impressive hardware and wafer-thin design, it’s time for Samsung to unveil its bigger brother - the Tab 10.1.
More than just an update of the original tablet, the redesign boasts a dual-core processor (currently expected to run at 1GHz, but - like the Galaxy S II - an overclock to match competitors is feasible before launch) and an ultra-sharp 1280x800-pixel screen that will be ideal for 720p HD gaming.
It’s reportedly even slimmer than the iPad 2, which is seriously impressive, and Samsung’s ultra vivid and warm Super AMOLED screen technology gives a real boost to gaming.
On aesthetics and hardware alone, the Tab 10.1 is going to knock most people’s socks off once they see it in action, so keep your wallet handy for a safe spot in the pre-order queue.
Asus Eee Pad Transformer (due June)
Just looking at the screen, you’d be hard pushed to spot any obvious differences between Asus’s 2011 products than the rest of the Android tablet brigade.
Where the Taiwanese hardware giant differs from the likes of Samsung, though, is its desire to bridge the gap between Netbooks and tablets.
A device of two halves, the Transformer blends the typing convenience of a physical keyboard with a generous 10.1-inch tablet. The trick is that they can be easily detached, with the screen functioning perfectly even if you prefer to leave the keyboard at home or in the office.
Reportedly, both halves come with their own power packs, offering eight hours of juice apiece. And if you’re using your tablet more and need a fill-up, the keyboard’s power can be used to recharge the screen. Very handy.
There’s dual-core NVIDIA Tegra 2 processor on-board combined with GeForce graphics for super sharp gaming, and a choice of either 16GB or 32GB of storage built-in.
Sony S1/2 Tablet (due Autumn 2011)
Sony’s gaming business has, understandably, taken a PR whack for the hack attack on PSN but that won’t keep the old warhorse down - as this pair of pretty unique, PlayStation-branded tablets testify.
The S1’s 9.4-inch screen comes up short of most rivals but it’s presumably been shaped to suit the device’s somewhat daring design.
Not dissimilar to a magazine folded back on itself, Sony claims the, “off-centre of gravity design offers ease of grip as well as a sense of stability and lightness”.
Sounds interesting, if reminiscent of the marketing spiel for a new tennis racket, but it could overcome the ‘achy-thumb’ issue tablet gaming causes some players.
It has two 5.5-inch displays that can be folded into each other to create a clam shell shape for storage, or used as one giant 11-inch display.
While they make lack the appealing physical controls of the Xperia Play for gamers, it’s interesting to see Sony pulling out the stops to innovate with its new products rather than go for straight iPad imitation.
Rest assured, though - the Tegra 2 dual-core processors and Honeycomb on board each device will ensure they stay competitive.
Motorola XOOM 2 (due August - rumoured)
Like a lot of the internet, we’re going out on a limb the size of an orangutan’s arm with this one, but a Xoom follow-up could be with us as early as this summer.
That’s not the most exciting part, though. That’s reserved for the possible inclusion of a bleeding-edge quad-core processor.
Current chipset stars Nvidia has gone on record saying they expect to be putting the Tegra 3 processor into tablets late summer 2011, with current dual-core brand leader Motorola heavily tipped to be the launch partner.
Although the firm has vehemently denied gossip that it will stop shipping the Xoom in June, the possibility of a successor driven by four cores of processing megapower is a mouth watering proposition for Android fans holding out for a new hero to champion.
With Tegra 3 (aka Kal-EL) apparently tripling graphics performance over the current generation of Nvidia chips, and capable of running full HD video at 1920x1200-pixels (1080p), it would be a portable powerhouse for running movies and the very latest games at ultra sharp resolutions.
There’s actual drool on this writer’s keyboard at such a prospect, but don’t let a little geeky salivation put you off getting hyped up for a genuine iPad beater. Just don’t be surprised if, based on previous Motorola form, the price tag is as dizzying as those specs.
HTC Puccini (due: Summer 2011 - rumoured)
Forget the single-core 7-inch Flyer and its dated Froyo OS (yes, Honeycomb is promised but HTC is hardly renowned for speedy software roll outs), the ten-inch Puccini is shaping up to be the firm’s real iPad beater.
Although not officially unveiled, rendered shots of the sizeable tablet and some tasty tech specs have started leaking out that suggest Honeycomb will sensibly be baked into this tempting tablet.
It’s also expected to support HTC's Scribe pen input technology, which - unless you’re blessed with my sub-trainee doctor scrawl - should make a doddle of dashing off documents, or laying out intricate plane-paths in Flight Control.
Rumour has it the Puccini (hopefully a code name, otherwise it could easily be confused with a Porcini mushroom) will be compatible with 4G networks too - a major boon for US users but less so for us snail-paced 3G hampered Brits.
Expect more on this device, such as the crucial question of core numbers, once HTC is officially ready to unveil it.
Lenovo Android ThinkPad Tablet (due Autumn)
Lenovo easily walks away with the clunkiest, blandest, least inspirational tablet name award, but substance has always been for important than style to the Chinese firm.
Chances are, if you work for a large company you’ve encountered a Lenovo laptop. They’re generally black, shapeless, and have all the elegance of Lindsey Lohan getting out of a limo, yet they’re also sturdy and more reliable than the speaking clock.
Thin metaphors aside, Lenovo products are comparatively cheap, mostly cheerless but always functional, and this trend looks set to continue with the 10.1-inch ThinkPad Tablet.
Although it’s ditching reliable but dreary best pal Windows for its chic new Android buddy Honeycomb, Lenovo is reluctant to abandon some of its PC values.
For example, the ThinkPad Tablet will come with a stylus and an Asus EEE Transformer-style keyboard dock to make it another solid choice for travelling office bods looking for Netbook alternatives.
The Tegra 2 chipset means it’s gamer-friendly too, but it’s clear that Lenovo is making a tactical play for the business market with an attractive but typically unexciting design.
Still, if Android can make greater inroads with the commercial sector, it will only build the brand’s user base.
BlackBerry PlayBook (due: June)
‘BlackBerry, doesn’t it just use its own, OS - one that’s hardly renowned for its gaming prowess?’ you might tactfully enquire upon seeing the Playbook on this Android-centric list.
The thing is, while RIM is reluctant to ditch its functional operating system it would severely limit the appeal of the company’s first tablet.
Gamers in particular would be hard pressed to find many nuggets of joy available on the BlackBerry app store.
Wisely, then, the 7-inch Playbook allows you to run RIM’s own software - including its handy ‘Word to Go’ word processor and Flash-friendly browser - but, from later this summer, a wide selection of Android apps through a smooth emulation system, called Android Wrapper.
A question mark hangs over gaming performance, which has yet to be tested, but the 7-inch screen, dual-core processor, and well-reviewed touchscreen suggest only the most demanding titles could be a problem.
The PlayBook is definitely a ‘wait and see’ product for gamers but it’s an ideal choice for business types trying to convince bosses a tablet will increase productivity, while secretly downloading Gameloft’s back catalogue.
Toshiba Tablet (due: early summer)
For those who like their tablets to stand out from the crowd, the Toshiba Tablet offers changeable back plates in a “spectrum” of colours that makes us want to use words like ‘funky’ and ‘snazzy’ (albeit through gritted teeth).
It might have the least imaginative alliterative name since the Motorola Mobile (yes, we made that up), but it’s a solidly designed piece of kit that should help Toshiba establish a foothold in the crowded Android market.
Packing a 10.1-inch screen, Tegra 2 dual core power and Honeycomb on board, it’s virtually indistinguishable from rival tablets coming in this year.
Yet Toshiba has managed to add a few bonus features to ensure its debut device stands out from the crowd.
Aside from those ‘snazzy’ back plates, the tablet is dressed in a soft-to-the-touch Easy Grip surface (a rubberised, slip resistant coating) that mean it’s harder to drop your new prized possession.
Another feature that caught our eye was Toshiba’s Resolution+ video enhancement technology. Improving colour, contrast, and sharpness automatically, the software is designed to ‘upconvert’ standard definition video to near HD quality.
If it also works for games, it could really help reduces the smeary, vaseline effect caused by upscaling non-HD games running at higher resolutions like the Toshiba Tablet’s 1280x800-pixel screen.
We’ll have to wait and see if the tech makes a noticeable difference to games though, so keep your eyes peeled.
Acer Iconia Tab (due: Summer)
Not everyone has more than half a grand lying around to splash out on technology so shiny you can see your overpaid face in it (yes you, you lucky devil).
That doesn’t mean those with slimmer wallets have to miss out on Honeycomb goodness.
Consider the Acer Iconia Tab, a smart-looking device from a reputable brand that’s still packing some reasonable specs at a sub £300 price point.
Available in 7-inch (A100) or 10.1-inch (A500) flavours, the models are reportedly rather chunky compared to their pricier brethren and still pack dual-core Tegra 2 processors.
Sadly, you’ll have to fork over an extra £150 for the larger screen model - making it less of a bargain - but if you’re not in the market for a massive new tablet, or want to save some cash while still enjoying the gaming sweetness of Honeycomb, the Iconia Tab A100 is a very sensible bet.
Dell Gallo (due: Autumn - rumoured)
Despite being about as pocket-friendly as carrying a dinner plate around with your wallet, the 5-inch screened Dell Streak [pictured] was a modestly successful Android phone.
The PC giant has yet to officially announce its first Honeycomb tablets but a leaked roadmap of forthcoming products suggested the first, the Gallo, would arrive in April.
It hasn’t, although it should land in the near future, with three further models to arrive later in the year - the Sterling, Opus One, and Silver Oak (possibly with a ‘tree bark’ back plate).
Tech specs are, currently, non-existent but Dell has built a brand on providing well-specced machines at relatively low costs, so we are cautiously optimistic that they will at least compare favourably with the other products above.
While Dell is not a manufacturer whose products get techy-fiends hot-under-the-collar, their ubiquity in households means mainstream consumers might warm more readily to these tablet’s charms - bringing more folk to the friendly Android fold.