Tablet buzz at The Gadget Show

2011 is very much the year of the tablet, so it’s no surprise the handheld devices dominated the computing buzz at The Gadget Show Live.

I felt right at home with the Acer Iconia W500’s Windows 7 operating system

As gadget fans, we know all about the specs of the Motorola Xoom and the small-but-powerful Samsung Galaxy Tab. But just how many of us have been able to lay our fingers on more than one touchscreen tablet in a day? Not me, until now.

After catching wind that Acer was showing off its straight-from-the-production-line Windows 7 and Android tablets, I decided to head to their stand first.

Hooked up to their keyboard docks, the Acer Iconia A500 and W500 Tabs resemble netbooks at first glance. Acer has clearly listened to people who want a tablet but aren’t yet ready to bid farewell to their keyboard, especially if they need to type a long email.

Connecting and disconnecting the dock is a smooth process and the tablet feels secure in the unit. Both models of the Acer Iconia Tab have a 10.1” screen and are pretty lightweight. The tablets are comfortable to carry around on their own, but can also clasp together with the keyboard to form a neat clam.

I expect the Windows version of the Iconia Tab, the W500, will be especially popular with those unwilling to leave familiar programs like Word and Outlook behind. The Windows 7 interface seems virtually unchanged from what you would find on a laptop.

The A500 will run Google’s Android 3.0 (Honeycomb) operating system, but was only equipped with v2.2 at The Gadget Show Live. Nevertheless, its nVidia Tegra 250 Dual Core processor ensured transitions between the browser and other apps were smooth.

You too would look this smug if you were seen with the Motorola Xoom

With my sweet tooth still crying out for a taste of Honeycomb, I took a look at the Motorola Xoom...

The first word that springs to mind is speedy. The Motorola Xoom’s processor seems comfortable at running several apps at a time, while the responsive 10.1” touchscreen makes browsing the internet easy. If you like your tablet’s layout to be just so, then you can work your icon feng shui on Honeycomb’s customisable multiple home screens.

While I didn’t get a chance to try out the 5MP and 2MP cameras on the Motorola Xoom for myself, everything suggests the pictures would appear sharp on its 1280 × 800 resolution display.

The Motorola Xoom has been touted as the Apple iPad’s most serious competitor and after spending 10 minutes with it, it’s easy to see why. The build quality feels top drawer and it goes down as one of the leading Android tablets.

While the Acer and Motorola tablets may be new to the tablet world, there were still a couple of established devices to become reacquainted with.

Don’t mind me, I’m just reading the news on the Samsung Galaxy Tab

The original Samsung Galaxy Tab continues to turn heads, especially if you’re looking for a compact tablet. As I’d missed most of the morning’s news trying to find a car parking space, I took the chance to catch up on the Galaxy Tab.

It’s lightweight enough to be classed as a handbag-friendly tablet, but you can still enjoy reading an online newspaper or reply to an email.

Gadget fans operating on a slightly tighter budget may have spent some time checking out the Advent Vega. Coming in at roughly half the price as some of its competitors, it still offers a bright 10.1” HD screen and the reliable Android 2.2 operating system.

Of course, all the tablets on show at The Gadget Show Live will struggle to get anywhere near the column inches, or pixels, devoted to the Apple iPad.

But aside from the press coverage, the likes of the Motorola Xoom and Acer Iconia Tabs now have a spec to more than compete with Apple’s offering. It’s difficult to see how they won’t be a success once more people get to grips with the new Android operating system.

Did you go to The Gadget Show Live? What tablet impressed you the most? Comment below…