Critics agree: It's a solid piece of hardware sporting an underdeveloped UI (Honeycomb)

As far as tablets go, most of the media and consumers will be interested in today's launch of RIM's BlackBerry PlayBook tablet; we've heard about it for months, and we know what kind of pressure the device is under to perform for the company. Meanwhile, though, a tablet from a less-troubled company, LG, has been faring better with the critics.

Reviews of LG's G-Slate, which we found out about at CTIA, are coming in with a slightly better overall tone than those of the PlayBook.

Let's get some specs out of the way first. The G-Slate, which is coming to T-Mobile for $529.99 with a qualifying two-year contract (more on that later), features a 8.9-inch touchscreen with 1280 x 768 display. It runs Android 3.0 Honeycomb on a dual-core 1GHz Tegra 2 processor and is compatible with T-Mobile's 4G HSPA+. Differentiating it from other similar tablets is the G-Slate's ability to capture and play back 3D-video at 720p (or 1080p in 2D), though it does require 3D glasses to view, unlike the forthcoming HTC EVO 3D.

Rather than compare it to the obvious Apple iPad, most of the reviewers put the G-Slate head-to-head against the Motorola Xoom. Here's what Tim Stevens of Engadget had to say about the form factor: 

The plastic back definitely gives the G-Slate a somewhat less posh feel than much of the competition, but that decrease in luxeness comes with a strong benefit: it weighs 1.3lb compared to the Motorola Xoom's 1.6. It's just a hair thinner and about an inch shallower and, while it's a little unfair to compare a nine-incher to a ten in these kinds of metrics, in day-to-day use we didn't find ourselves missing that extra inch, especially since this is almost exactly as tall as the Xoom. We did, however, notice the reduced weight, and that decrease in width means it feels a bit better balanced in the hand.

Zach Epstein at BGR concurred:

The build is likely my favorite thing about this tablet. It’s remarkably solid and it has a very high-end feel. It can get a bit hefty during prolonged usage, but this also helps the G-Slate feel substantial and high-end. What’s more, there’s a reason the device is so heavy: the battery life on T-Mobile’s tablet is terrific. It doesn’t quite measure up to the iPad, I found, but I’m confident that the G-Slate will run for several days on a single charge. 

As for performance, the G-Slate fared decently. Vincent Nguyen of Slashgear had this to say: 

With the same underlying processor, the G-Slate’s performance is pretty much on a par with what we saw from the Motorola XOOM. That basically means a reasonably swift tablet experience with a few frustrating lag-points. The G-Slate lacks the silky page transitions and animations of the iPad 2, but is still capable of admirable speed nonetheless.

The biggest complaint that seemingly all could agree on was the software. The G-Slate runs a stock version of Honeycomb, which just isn't quite ready for its close-up in the mass consumer market yet. 


I won’t beat around the bush here… the G-Slate’s user experience is hurt tremendously by the sluggishness of the UI. LG may deserve part of the blame as the XOOM was not quite this bad when I used it last, but the bulk of the problem likely lies with Google. Android’s UI is not fluid, and the lag issues carried by most Android smartphones are amplified on the G-Slate tablet.


Beyond that we're talking straight Android Honeycomb, which means a massive slew of applications in the Market -- most of which haven't been optimized for tablets and just don't look right on this screen. The stock keyboard still needs work and overall there's some polish needed.


Honeycomb’s remaining rough edges and lackluster app availability could more easily be overlooked if the G-Slate undercut Apple’s tablet; without that, the price becomes another stick, which will be used against the tablet.

If you have a 3D TV and you want to record your own video for it, the G-Slate is cool. Otherwise, it's just another spec that drives the price point up, which Nguyen points out.

Speaking of price. That is also another downside to the G-Slate.

Epstein, again:

Without a massive marketing push, I don’t see the G-Slate going very far with average consumers. It’s also a bit pricey at $529.99 with a two-year data contract. I can see why T-Mobile priced it there — this price point lines up with Apple’s 16GB iPad 2 Wi-Fi + 3G, and the G-Slate touts twice as much internal storage. Apple’s iPad doesn’t require a two-year data plan, however, and it also has ridiculous amounts of hype and hundreds of millions of dollars in advertising and marketing to support it. The G-Slate, of course, does not.


It's $70 less than a Xoom and $200 less than a 3G iPad 2 with 32GB of storage. But, you only get that price if you already have or sign up for a T-Mobile voice plan. No voice plan? No rebate, so you're looking at a price of $630. Want to opt out of the data plan, too? Now you're looking at an unsubsidized price of $750.

The bottom line appears to be that the G-Slate is a solid piece of hardware, running an underdeveloped OS (which could be addressed with firmware updates), at too high a price. If T-Mobile lowers the price, though, it would be one to consider for Android enthusiasts.

"What would I do? I'd shut it down and give the money back to the shareholders." -- Michael Dell, after being asked what to do with Apple Computer in 1997

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