By JR Raphael
Thus far, much of our Android Honeycomb focus has been on the Motorola Xoom -- and, more recently, the newly unveiled Samsung Galaxy Tab devices. Those high-profile contenders aside, though, there may be a dark horse lurking in the Android tablet race: the LG G-Slate, set to launch on T-Mobile in the next couple of months. It'll run $529.99 with a mail-in rebate and new two-year contract (no word yet on Wi-Fi-only availability).
The G-Slate, like the just-announced Galaxy Tab 8.9, has an 8.9-inch screen. Unlike Samsung's tablet, however, the G-Slate provides a stock Honeycomb experience, meaning you get the operating system Google created -- no manufacturer-made skin baked on top of the base software.
Does that really matter? I'd say so. Check out a Samsung phone like a Galaxy S and then check out a stock Android phone like the Nexus S; you'll notice the difference immediately. Manufacturer-added skins tend to add a lot of clutter on top of the Android operating system -- social features, built-in customization options, and so on.
Some people like those additions. Others, myself included, generally find the "pure" Android experience to be far more desirable. Manufacturer-added skins can cause delays in the Android upgrade process, since the manufacturers have to integrate heavy modifications into each release before sending it out. That aside, the skins have the tendency to slow down devices' performance; they also change the look and feel of the OS in a way that, for me, doesn't add much value. As far as I'm concerned, if you want any of the features a skin provides, you can download them à la carte and install or remove them as you wish. There's no reason to have them baked into the operating system and permanently stuck on your device.
For folks who agree, the G-Slate could hold a lot of appeal. Its 8.9-inch size gives the tablet a noticeably smaller profile than its 10.1-inch cousins. The G-Slate also boasts the ability to capture 3D video via its dual 5MP rear-facing cameras -- a unique feature in the current tablet realm. Granted, to watch said video on the tablet, you'll need Back to the Future II-style 3D glasses -- so it may be more of a novelty than anything at this point -- but it's interesting nonetheless.
Thanks to the LG G-Slate's Tegra 2 dual-core processor, the tablet's able to run a slew of Tegra 2-exclusive games, some already available and others set to launch in the next few weeks. As you'll see in the hands-on demo below, at least one game is available on iOS -- but only in a scaled-down, less graphically advanced edition.
Article copyright 2011 JR Raphael. All rights reserved.