iPad 2 Tops Consumer Reports Tablet Ratings

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Consumer Reports has released its rundown of the top 10 tablets, and while it says there’s some competition brewing, Apple still wins in terms of both quality and price. The iPad also has a leg up on competitors that are yet to be released, and Consumer Reports does a good job of pointing to little details that illustrate why that is.

The iPad took four of the top five spots on Consumer Reports’ ratings chart. The 32 GB  iPad 2 with Wi-Fi + 3G topped the list with an overall score of 84, and the 32 GB iPad 2 Wi-Fi took second. Original model 32 GB iPads with 3G and Wi-Fi-only took third and fifth, respectively. The Motorola Xoom was the only non-Apple tablet in the top five, with a fourth-place ranking.

The top five, plus the Samsung Galaxy Tab, which came in sixth, earned Consumer Reports‘ “Buy” recommendation. The remaining devices on the list, which included, in order of ranking, the ViewSonic ViewPad 7, the Archos 101 Internet Tablet, the Dell Streak and the Archos 70 Internet Tablet, all ranked quite a bit lower than the top six.

What makes Apple stand out? According to Consumer Reports, it comes from a number of small advantages all adding up to one big lead. The tablet report is right in pointing out most tablets nowadays are virtually identical these days. Most provide capacitive touchscreens, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, front-facing webcams and GPS. But Apple is still winning on price when you look at features and storage capacity, and it edges out the competition in terms of quality, too.

Consumer Reports found that even the original iPad had the best screen of all tablets tested, including a better viewing angle than its competitors and excellent color. The screen design also works to Apple’s advantage, as the more square screen ratio allows for either a taller on-screen keyboard, or more content visible above said keyboard, and a less cramped portrait viewing mode.

Finally, Consumer Reports warns against some of the disadvantages of other competitors not covered in the rankings. The HP Slate 500, loses points for using Windows 7, while the upcoming BlackBerry Playbook is knocked because it will ship without native email support, and will require a tethered BlackBerry smartphone for 3G connectivity. RIM has announced a WiMax version, but it won’t support 3G fallback when leaving 4G coverage areas.

The results aren’t surprising, but Consumer Reports does do a good job of unearthing some of the more subtle advantages the iPad has over its current competition, especially when it comes to average everyday use scenarios.

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