We know you have to use Bridge to connect to BlackBerry services, and of course there are not many apps available, and it's also true that email integration could have been better, but boy did we enjoy the PlayBook's interface. Based on RIM's QNX platform, the BlackBerry Tablet operating system showed the shortcomings of Android's clunky Honeycomb OS, making us wish for a quick sweep-up or sweep-down on other tablets. Unfortunately the amount of cons weighed too heavily to rank this tablet any higher.
"Despite all its shortcomings we really enjoyed our time with the PlayBook. Much more so than on a number of Android tablets."
It quickly became apparent that tablets will simply not provide a vast variety of ports (the iPad does not even include a microSD slot). The Toshiba AT100-100 proved otherwise, offering a full USB port, a full SD card reader and a full-sized HDMI port.
This allows one to add a lot of extra memory, or to quickly copy data off a flash-drive. It did come at a cost to size though, with the AT100 being one of "bigger boned" tablets out there. Of the five tablets featured here, it was also the least appealing on the design front.
"The Toshiba AT100 impressed with its ability to read directly from a flash disk, while it also has a full SD card slot and HDMI port."
Asus Eee Pad Slider SL101
The general consensus is that tablets are good for content consumption, not content creation. The Asus Slider SL101 begs to differ, and tried to shake things up with a built-in slide-out QWERTY keyboard. And we liked it, a lot. Not only did it help with typing, but the keyboard also doubled as a convenient stand for when you're watching a movie or surfing the net.
The Slider isn't quite the one to get if you're looking for a lightweight tablet - it drew the scales at a hefty 960 g, the most of all the tablets we've tested.
"If you're going to be taking lots of notes, write emails or create the odd document, you should seriously consider the Asus Slider."
Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 P7500
Weighing a mere 595 g, the least of all the tablets we've tested, the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1's 8.6 mm thickness matches that of the iPad 2. Add to this a bright, scrumptious screen, plus Samsung's TouchWiz user-interface that livens up Honeycomb a bit, and you have yourself certainly the best Android tablets currently available. It could have done with more ports, and we weren't too pleased with the 'watermark' issue found on some of the first units, but for its slick look and weight-watching measurements, Android tablets did not get better than the Galaxy Tab 10.1 this year.
"The race for the definitive Android tablet is far from over, but with the Galaxy Tab 10.1, there is a clear contender of what an Android tablet can be."
Apple iPad 2
As the year progressed and we started to get to know what to expect from the Android gang (10" screen, Honeycomb, Tegra 2 SoC - see repetition above), it became glaringly obvious that nothing is going to come close to Apple's second incarnation of the iPad. Released in March, the iPad 2 is the torch bearer to what tablets should be. Thin and light, fast and responsive, with loads of tablet-specific apps and an intuitive interface, plus the general feeling that everything just works, the iPad 2 is more than worthy of its number one spot. At this rate, it does not look like any other tablet manufacturer will surpass Apple soon.
"It will be incredibly difficult to catch up to the head-start Apple has had with the iPad, and now of course the subsequent improvements on the iPad 2."
Read the rest: Top 5 of 2011
Top 5 Smartphones of 2011
Top 5 Entry Level Smartphones of 2011
Top 5 Notebooks of 2011
Top 5 Tech News of 2011
This article first appeared in TechSmart 99, December 2011. Join us on Twitter and Facebook.