As promised back in May, the small Windows 8 tablets are coming. You’ll be able to take your pick of 8-inch Windows tablets from Acer, Dell and Lenovo later this month.
But good luck telling them apart.
You have to look pretty closely at Dell’s Venue 8 Pro ($300), Lenovo’s Miix 2 ($300) and Acer’s Iconia W4 ($330) to figure out their distinguishing features. On paper, they look like three very similar tablets, with almost identical tech specs and similar price tags
Here’s a rundown of what all three of these tablets have in common, with any minor differences noted:
- 8-inch, 1280-by-800 resolution display
- Intel Bay Trail quad-core processor
- 2 GB of RAM
- 32 GB of minimum storage
- 5-megapixel front-facing camera
- 2-megapixel rear facing camera (except for Dell’s Venue 8 Pro, with 1.2 megapixels)
- 8 to 10 hours of battery life (except Lenovo’s Miix 8, which advertises 7 hours)
- Micro-USB and micro-SD (Acer’s W4 has a micro-HDMI port as well.)
All three tablets have optional keyboards, which have some small differences between them: Lenovo’s Miix 2 has a keyboard that doubles as a cover and stand, similar to the ZAGGfolio for iPad. Acer also has a keyboard-stand accessory, plus another cover that folds up like origami and pairs with an ever larger keyboard. Dell keeps the keyboard and cover stand as separate accessories.
How would you decide between three similar Windows 8 tablets? You’d have to pick out the little things that matter to you. The Acer tablet is $30 pricer than the others, at $330, but it’s the only one with micro-HDMI output and a larger keyboard option. Lenovo’s tablet is the thinnest and lightest of the bunch, at 0.77 pounds and 0.32 inches thick, but the advertised battery life is a little less than the competition. Dell’s tablet is the only one with an optional active digitizer stylus, but the side placement of the Windows button is kind of weird.
Overall, these are minor points of distinction, and maybe that’s a good thing if you’re just looking for a generic Windows 8 tablet. But what I’d really like to see is the same kind of creativity that PC makers have shown with their larger Windows 8 hybrids. Where’s the small Windows tablet with a slide-out keyboard, akin to Sony’s Vaio Duo 13? Or how about one with an attachable keyboard shell that extends the tablet’s battery life? Perhaps there’s even an opportunity for a gaming-focused small Windows tablet with a snap-on controller. (Bay Trail’s gaming chops are supposedly not terrible, at least for some older or indie games.)
Of course, this is just the first wave of these smaller Windows tablets, and last year’s larger hybrids had similar problems with generic, uninspired designs. I hope that as hardware improves and PC makers have more time to experiment, we’ll see more more small tablets that stand out.