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Smaller is Better

PhabletsAs tablets get smaller and phones get larger, they meet in the middle in a hybrid format that offers the best of both worlds. Called a Phablet, this mobile genre has a screen that’s between 4- and 7-inches, Google’s Android software and can squeeze a lot of power into something that can cost less than the typical slate.

Size really does matter and these mini tablets can be slid into and out of a jacket pocket, but don’t fit into a pants pocket. They weigh quite a bit less than the typical tablet and are perfect for smaller hands. The key to the popularity of Phablets is that they make a mid-sized tablet like an iPad Mini seem large and bulky, yet provide enough room to work on an essay, go through a math game or research the fall of the Ottoman empire.

For those schools with spotty WiFi coverage or no internal phone network, there’s a big bonus. Many members of the Phablet generation have built-in mobile data connections so that they can grab a Web page, send an email and make or take calls just about anywhere. The bad news is that these models cost extra and have a monthly data service bill.

All told, these Phablets fit right into school. In the not-too distant future you might hear kids bragging, “mine’s smaller.”

Asus Fonepad 7

FonepadAs its name implies, the Fonepad is a hybrid of smartphone and tablet. Its 7.0-inch screen can show 1,280 by 800 resolution, can interpret up to 10 individual finger movements and work with complex gestures.

Based on Android 4.2 software, the system is powered by Intel’s Atom Z560 processor that has two cores and runs at 1.6GHz. It comes with 1GB of RAM and your choice of 16-, 32- or 64GB of solid state storage. Unlike an iPad, it has a microSD card slot so that its storage potential can be upped to a total of nearly 100GB.

Like the others, the Fonepad is a mobile device at heart and there are versions for the different mobile data networks in the U.S.; it also works as a phone. At school it’ll likely be used on a WiFi network and it can connect to any 802.11a, b, g or n network. The Fonepad comes with Bluetooth as well as a microUSB connector for moving data as well as recharging its 15 watt-hour battery. It also has an audio jack. 

The Fonepad is very photogenic with a 1.2 megapixel front camera that can record 720p video and a 5 megapixel rear camera that can record full 1080p HD video. Despite all these technological goodies, the Fonepad weighs just 12-ounces, is less than 8-inches long and can be had for about $300. 

HP Slate 7

Slate 7The newest of the new, HP’s Slate 7 does without a mobile data connection but makes up for it with a sleek design and the best price tag of the bunch. Its specs may be a step down from the others, but the Slate 7 makes a virtue of doing a lot with a little.

It combines a 7-inch touch-screen that can work with 10 fingers and shows 1,024 by 600 resolution. The display uses HFFS technology for as wide a viewing angle as is possible today so several kids can crowd around a single unit. There’s a pair of cameras, but they can capture only 3-megapixel images or videos out of the back or VGA-level output upfront.

Inside, the Slate 7 has a dual core 1.6GHz ARM 9 processor and 1GB of RAM. Unlike many of its competitors, the Slate 7 comes with only 8GB of storage space rather than as much as 64GB. It does have a microSD slot that can take a memory card to add 32GB of flash memory for stashing all sorts of files. On top of 802.11b, g, and n WiFi networking and Bluetooth, the system has a microUSB connector for charging the battery or moving data into or out of the system.

It all fits into a case that’s only 7.75-inches long and weighs in at 13-ounces. The HP Phablet has a rubbery coating on the back, stainless steel edging and can be ordered with a red or silver case. Price is the best part because the Slate 7 can be had for something like $140, about half what some of the others go for.

Samsung Galaxy Mega

Galaxy megaWhile it looks like a large phone, Samsung’s Galaxy Mega has the power to change the way you feel about tablets. At just 6.5-inches long and weighing a little over 7-ounces it is only marginally larger and heavier than a smartphone, yet it has a super-bright 6.3-inch touch-screen that can show 1,280 by 700 resolution and work with 10 independent finger inputs.

In addition to being able to connect to a 802.11a, b, g, n wireless LAN, it conforms to the latest 802.11ac standard for secure high-speed data links. It can also be set up to work with one of the mobile data networks and work as a phone.

Like the others Mega has a pair of cameras that excel at creating high-resolution images and video. There’s a 1.9-megapixel camera up front and an 8 megapixel one in the back. Each has an LED flash.

The Mega Phablet is powered by a Samsung-made dual-core processor that runs at 1.7GHz and comes with 1GB of RAM but tops out at 16GB of storage space. The system comes with Bluetooth as well as a microSD slot that not only can increase its storage potential to nearly 50GB, but works with the MHL standard for sending what’s on its screen to a projector or monitor. There’s also an audio jack.

As is the case with Sony’s Xperia Z Ultra, the Mega has a near field communications (NFC) chip built in. This short-range wireless technology allows users to swap contact info by bumping the backs of their tablets or printing by tapping an NFC printer (link to C460W).

Despite its small size, the Galaxy Mega is a mega-purchase as about $650.

Sony Xperia Z Ultra

Sony-xperia-z-ultra2At about 7 ounces and about 7-inches long, Sony’s Xperia Z Ultra squeezes the most tablet into the smallest package. Its 6.4-inch display is not only sensitive to touch and can interpret the movement of up to 10 individual fingers but has a resolution of 1,920 by 1,080 for vivid and rich HD images and video.

It’s dustproof, water resistant and the screen is resistant to scratching, things that really pay off when you’re dealing with kids. Inside, the Ultra has a quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 processor that runs at 2.2GHz, making it the fastest and most capable of the emerging Phablet category. This is augmented with an Adreno 330 graphics accelerator that makes its screen light up with smooth video.

Like the Mega, the Ultra tablet has NFC technology integrated into it. This allows the Phablet to directly print with Samsung’s NFC-equipped printer by just tapping it or exchange data between slates by bumping them together. 

The Ultra has a pair of cameras, front and back. The 8-megapixel front cam is paired with a 2-megapixel one in the back. It has been generously outfitted with 2GB of RAM and up to 16GB of storage space. This can be augmented by using a 32GB microSD card.

In addition to the device’s expected WiFi and Bluetooth abilities, the Ultra can be ordered with a 4G data modem for access-anywhere data.  On the downside, it costs roughly $600, about the price of two iPad Minis.

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