I am not a front-row blogger invited to wine and dine at all the latest product releases. I don't write reviews for the hardware side of El Reg. When it comes to technology of any kind, I am in the same boat as you, dear readers. I have to buy the shiny with my own bent coppers. When I am in the market for a brand new something-or-other, I am faced with the double-edged choice faced by any victim of gadget lag.
If I want to actually try out the device before I use it then I have to wait until it is available in local brick-and-mortar stores. This means that by the time I can buy it the device is at least six months old and a generation behind. Alternately, I can import the device on the grey market and take my chances that the folks who review shiny on the internet for a living place value in the same things I do. Enter my search for a tablet.
With the availability of the Galaxy Tab, Canada finally has its first competitive Android tablet. It is overpriced and tied to my least favourite carrier, but it is technically available. Unfortunately I believe that Samsung abandoned the early adopters who bought the original Galaxy by refusing to release a firmware updates. I am leery of buying any Android device bearing this brand. For similar reasons, Archos's admittedly very competitive Android offerings are permanently off the Christmas list.
The Dell Streak was available to US denizens months before we saw it appear on the Canadian website. Even now, Dell has only deigned to grace us with the 5in model. Initial excitement at its appearance died quickly when a bit of Googling showed that Dell was dragging its feet keeping the devices up-to-date with the latest versions of Android.
I would love to get a Nook Colour and root it. The internets tell me that Froyo on this device is nothing short of unreal. At $250 this would easily have been a sight-unseen, no-questions-asked impulse buy. Alas, Barnes & Noble has decided that it won't be shipping a Nook Colour to Edmonton, Canada.
Next up on my radar is the enTourage eDGe. Hands down the sexiest looking Android tablet I’ve seen so far. At $500 for the 10in with a half-decent resolution however, I would like to torment it some with video playback in an actual store before splashing the cash. It is predictably not available in Canada.
Fade from grey
Without turning to the grey market (and thus paying quite a bit in shipping, customs etc.) I can't put my hands on any of the decent competition. Notion Ink is out of stock on its shiny Pixel Qi tablets. A Viewsonic gTablet or Advent Vega would be prime, but the cost of bringing them over the border puts them firmly into "I'd like to actually fondle this slab before I buy it" territory.
There are always horrific Chinese knockoffs. Many of these devices are - from a performance and usability standpoint - quite usable. The downside is that they barely have enough battery power to boot the device into the UI, let alone provide me a useful amount of video playback. If I wanted to be tethered to a wall socket all day, I'd use Windows.
I am shopping with the knowledge that a new generation of honeycomb tablets are on their way. The first generation of mobile internet devices that truly promise to do what I have wanted for over a decade. They have 720p or better screens with HDMI ports and 1080p video playback. They promise 6 hours or more hours of battery life under video load. They ship with Wi-Fi, 3G, GPS, Bluetooth, and an array of sensors. Most critically, they have support for removable storage and the ability to charge off of any USB port I get my hands on. I don't care if they cost $2000. I will be buying one of these; I've waited long enough.
The first of these wonder devices will be likely be released to select bloggers and journalists sometime this month if the launch of next version of Android (Honeycomb) is as expected. That's great for the internet PR machine, but I'm Canadian. Honeycomb tablet will be 2-4 months getting into the hands of real punters in the US. Add another 6-8 months for these to get brought in to Canada and we're into Christmas 2011.
I simply can't wait that long. I flatten the battery on my Desire before the drive home. The iPad's lack of removable storage and irritatingly non-standard charging port is too limiting to spend $500 on. What I need is a reasonably cheap buy capable "good enough" Android tablet to tide me until the good stuff arrives. Tablets fitting the bill exist. Best of all, they can even be had without being tied to a carrier and paying Canada's crippling broadband rates. There is only one problem:
Not available in Canada. ®