There's nothing like the knives being out for a new product to stir some controversy in the market, as the reviewers get their hands on the first Microsoft tablet and Apple's less-than-mini iPad.
Staying on the Surface
The first reviews are out for Microsoft's sleek new Surface tablet running Windows RT, and while most are full of praise for the technology, it seems to be suffering somewhat when considered in the usability stakes.
Reviewers love the widescreen display, the cunning industrial design of the kickstand and the integration of the keyboard. No one seems too fussed about the rather low screen resolution, and are prepared to accept the nascent limitations of the Windows RT ecosystem.
The main complaints are in the $100 keyboard/cover that can only be used on a flat surface and some reviewers don't find all that great for typing with. It has something of a learning curve and the touchpad, appears to be a poor imitation of a notebook trackpad. That's the Touch model anyway, the more expensive $130 Type Cover might be a better option.
Reviewers also mentioned that it takes a bit of learning to remember the many swipes to access Surface's clever features, like using multiple apps in split screen mode. The camera and battery life pick up criticism as not being good enough compared to rivals. However, if you can live with those limitations, then the Surface seems like a good place to be if you need Office on the go in a lightweight footprint and are prepared to wait for the RT app market to grow.
Mini iPad, Big Hopes
The hands-on experiences with Apple's new iPad after the launch event, and the messages coming from those who were there suggest this is something of a step backward for the company. Ignore the video of Jony Ive saying, "a concentration of, not a reduction of, the original," this could be a case of Apple going low-budget without the low cost.
Of course, the reality is Apple will sell many millions of these not-so-mini devices, and it is hard to criticise anything that is likely to be such a success. But, the grumbling was already starting over the low resolution, a rather old processor in the A5 and the persistence with a 4*3 display.
Apple seemed to admit to such issues as it dragged an Android tablet out on-stage and did some rather odd comparisons between the two. Sure you're paying more for the design and technology, but consumers buy a $200 7" tablet because its $200, not for the size or shiny metal. But, as with all things Apple, a lot of smart work has gone into the iPad mini with new detection routines to avoid false touches around the think bezel and Apple's usual design magic to cram everything in and maintain battery life.
Will that extra $129 be too much of a barrier for those looking for the Apple experience? Or will it become the tablet for the kids in those happy Apple families? Also, with iPad 4 coming out at the same time, what are the odds on one-for-me-and-a-little-one-as-a-present purchases?
The overall sentiment coming from people who've seen these devices though, they wish they had a bigger credit card! Does one of these new gadgets tempt you enough to upgrade from your old one? Or will you be sticking with what you know?