As expected, there were a number of notable new additions to the tablet market unveiled at this year's Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. While PC sales have been on the decline, tablet sales continue to increase, with plenty of demand among business users as well as consumers -- hence the focus at CES on tablets more than traditional PCs.
A smaller, more rugged Windows-based device from Panasonic and more variety in Samsung's Galaxy series were among the highlights. Let's take a look at some of the stand-outs.
Panasonic Toughpad: The Rugged One
The Panasonic Toughpad FZ-M1 Rugged is a 7-inch tablet geared toward professionals who work in the field and need a device that can't be easily damaged. It features a rugged design, similar in ways to its big brother, the Panasonic Toughbook laptop, which has long been a favorite for field service reps (including Sears appliance repairmen), as well as paramedics, construction foremen, and others who work in harsh conditions.
The Toughpad is lightweight at 1.2 pounds and features a user-replaceable battery. It runs Windows 8.1 Pro and packs a 64-bit 4th generation Intel Core i5 vPro processor. The 7-inch display is daylight-readable with 1280 x 800 10-point multi-touch, and an optional stylus for signature capture and other hand-written apps. It comes with a whopping 128 gigabytes of storage, expandable to 256 GB.
The Toughpad tablet will become commercially available in early spring, with a street price of $2,099, although many will likely be sold in bulk through enterprise sales, with lower fleet pricing.
Samsung's Galaxy Tab: The Big One
Samsung used CES 2014 to debut its new Galaxy Tab Pro tablets, including a 12.2-inch model representing Samsung's biggest tablet yet. It also comes with more standard-sized 10.1- and 8.4-inch siblings.
Running the Android 4.4 operating system (nicknamed Kit Kat), the new Tab Pro packs a Qualcomm 2.3 gigahertz quad-core processor. In its CES blog, Samsung boasts that its new tablets were created to satisfy every possible type of user case scenario, combining a crystal-clear, WQXGA display for a "world-class" viewing experience, plus powerful productivity tools, and unique features with plenty of preloaded and free downloadable content.
Samsung also launched a new Galaxy Note Pro with S Pen, featuring a 12.2-inch WQXGA Widescreen (16.10) display, with a resolution of 2560 x 1600, and more than 4 million pixels. Prices haven't been announced yet.
Asus Transformer: The Flexible One
Last month, we reported speculation that CES would usher in a range of hybrid devices that can serve as both PCs and tablets. One fine example that materialized at the show was the latest version of the Asus Transformer -- the 13.3-inch Book Duet -- which can switch between Microsoft's Windows 8.1 standard and Android 4.3.3 to run mobile apps. It has a detachable keyboard (effectively turning it from a laptop into a tablet) and is powered by an Intel Core i7 processor. (continued...)