Review: These Tablets Make Mobile Fleet Management a Snap

Here at CTIA in New Orleans, we’re announcing a whole slate of new tablets that are now compatible with Xata Turnpike. We’ve pioneered the notion of “device-friendly” with our fleet management solutions, and the availability of Xata Turnpike on these devices makes it easier than ever for truckers and motor carriers to stay connected on the road.

Let’s take a look at some of the tablets on which you can now use Xata Turnpike.

ZTE Optik

First up is the inexpensive ZTE Optik from Sprint ($99.99 with a two-year contract). This is a great entry-model if you’re looking to get into the mobile tablet market.

At 7.6 by 4.7 by 0.5 inches, it’s just a bit larger than the Kindle Fire, but actually a touch lighter. The 1280-by-800-pixel screen is sharp and gives great detail image, it comes with a 5-megapixel rear-facing camera and a 2-megapixel front-facing camera, and it connects to Sprint’s 3G CDMA market. So don’t expect faster browsing speeds than you’d see on a standard smartphone.

On the plus side, it ships with Honeycomb (Android 3), but Sprint hasn’t announced an upgrade track to Ice Cream Sandwich (Android 4), which is unfortunate. There are occasional glitches with apps, the battery life is mediocre, and the user interface (UI) leaves a little to be desired. But for under $100, you’d be hard-pressed to find a tablet that delivers these same features.

Pantech Element

The Pantech Element (running $299 on a 2-year contract with AT&T) brings the tablet safely into the outdoors, with a durable construction that’s both water and splash proof (though let us be the first to suggest you don’t take it in the pool with you). The Element ships with Honeycomb (Android 3, and, again, there’s no announced timetable for an upgrade to Ice Cream Sandwich), an 8-inch 1024-by-768-pixel display, a 6,400mAh battery, and connects to AT&T’s blazing-fast 4G LTE network. Need to catch up on the last season of Ice Road Truckers? Not a problem (and we won’t tell your boss). It also comes with a rear-facing 5-megapixel camera.

Perhaps somewhat ironically for a tablet that touts its “outdoors-friendly” design, the Element’s display lacks visibility in the brightness of day. That’s a common problem with tablets, of course, but we would have expected a little higher brightness here. The built-in speakers also lack a bit of volume, but that’s no trouble if you plan to use the headphones.

The Pantech Element is a powerful, middle-of-the-road tablet, and should you find yourself in need of something to withstand some water and a little grime, this may be the device for you.

Acer Iconia a500

Unlike ZTE and Pantech, Acer is an established name in the tablet market, and their Iconia a500 (currently $499.99 at Amazon) offers a brilliant 10.1 inch display, but lacks some of the mobile connectivity users may expect with a tablet. The a500 features built-in Wi-Fi, but only connects to 3G over a USB dongle (unless you want to open the thing up and install a 3G antenna of your own). It ships with Honeycomb (Android 3), the NVIDIA® Tegra™ 2 dual-core processor, NVIDIA’s GeForce® GPU (so you don’t need to leave your games behind), and a micro-HDMI output for full HD-quality video. It also comes with a 5-megapixel rear-facing camera and a 2-megapixel front-facing camera.

Some users might be surprised by the weight of the a500, which is close to 2 pounds and a little heavier than its peers. Also, users don’t have the option to charge the tablet over USB. But for those seeking a rich multimedia experience, the a500 packs a lot of power and looks great. Dust off your Need for Speed skills.


Samsung Galaxy 8.9

We gave the Samsung Galaxy Note a review already, but for users seeking a more traditional tablet experience, they may want to look to the Galaxy 8.9 (currently $569.99 at Amazon). Like Acer’s a500, this one is Wi-Fi only but comes with a slightly smaller screen at 8.9 inches, running 1280-by-800 pixels. The Galaxy 8.9 fits between the larger 10-inch models and the sleeker 7-inch models, and for some users this may be the Goldilocks of tablets (it’s just right).

The Galaxy 8.9 sports NVIDIA’s dual-core Tegra 2 processor, a 32GB solid-state drive, and full HD-quality video. It comes with a somewhat lackluster 3-megapixel rear-facing camera and a 2-megapixel front-facing camera, and integrates with key Google services (like Maps, Gmail, and Talk, among others).

Some users are a little disappointed by the lack of a microSD expansion slot and no HDMI output. But at under a pound, it’s extremely portable, and a great business tool (with a software suite that allows users to access Word, Excel, Powerpoint, and PDF files).

Huawei MediaPad 7

Last but certainly not least we have Huawei’s MediaPad 7 (available to enterprise users through AT&T; prices vary). Huawei is a newer entry to the tablet market, but the MediaPad 7 is an intriguing option for anyone who can get their hands on it. It comes with a 7-inch, 1,280-by-800-pixel touchpanel, Honeycomb (Android 3), a 1.2GHz dual-core Snapdragon processor, 5-megapixel rear-facing and 1.3-megapixel front-facing camera, and 1080p HD video recording and playback. It connects to AT&T’s 4G LTE network and has Wi-Fi as well.

Some users have complained that the camera quality is a little poor, and that the screen doesn’t offer much scratch resistance. As always, users can add a scratch-resistant cover if they need one. And though the phone ships with Honeycomb, it’s an unskinned version (meaning Huawei hasn’t modified the OS to its own design). Some users will be delighted to get a clean OS, while others might miss the features and shortcuts some device manufacturers provide.

Each of these tablets offers a powerful tool for staying connected on the move. The right one for you is just a matter of how you plan to connect (whether Wi-Fi only or with a 3G/4G connection) and the size of device that’s optimal. Whichever tablet you choose, though, you’ll know that you can bring Xata Turnpike along with you.