Tablet computers are kind of like cars, in that there's no one choice that suits everybody. If you're the digital equivalent of a luxury car owner who craves fine engineering, flashy design and plenty of high-end specs, you probably won't settle for anything less than an iPad 3, with its high resolution retina display, elegantly styled case and capability of storing up to 64 gigabytes of data. And you won't mind paying a premium price for it. If you're a sports car buff, you might opt for the Kindle Fire, which runs apps at lightning speed with its high-powered microprocessor chip. If you're the small-car-is-beautiful sort, you may gravitate to the Toshiba Excite 10 LE, which at 0.3 of an inch (0.8 centimeters) in thickness, is the slimmest tablet on the market [source: Perenson].
On the other hand, maybe you're a no-nonsense, non-techie who simply wants a tablet for the basics -- checking your e-mail or reading e-books -- and doesn't care that much about high-end features and specs you'll probably never use, no matter how great they sound in an online review. You're on a budget, so you want to spend as little as possible but still get reasonable functionality and quality for your money. Fancy-schmancy design doesn't impress you, but you're reassured by an old, familiar brand name. If you're shopping for a car, you'd probably pick a reliable, small sedan. If it's a tablet you want, you might find yourself considering a Polaroid 7-inch (17.8-centimeter) 4 GB Internet Tablet.
Released in 2012, the Polaroid Tablet doesn't usually make it into the comparison lists for hot new tablets on techie Web sites, and you won't see artsy TV commercials touting its virtues. And it's not even actually made by the venerable camera and film manufacturer, but rather by a company called Southern Telecom, which licenses the name [source: Southern Telecom].
But you'll likely love its retail price of less than $130 from retailers such as Target and as little as $110 on Amazon.com [source: Amazon.com]. And despite being what CNet calls a "minimalist device," the Polaroid Tablet still has some pretty nifty hardware features you'd expect from a more costly tablet by Samsung or Asus, and it comes with Google's new, feature-rich Android Ice Cream Sandwich operating system. As a penny-pinching tablet, of course there are some tradeoffs, too, which we'll get to shortly.
Polaroid Tablet Specs
Southern Telecom has produced eight versions of the Polaroid 7-inch (17.8-centimeter) Internet Tablet, most of which seem to have a similar design and features. The latest versions have these basic specifications [sources: Southern Telecom, Android.com, CNET]:
- An ARM CORTEX-A8 microprocessor, running at a speed of 1gigahertz
- 512 megabytes of DDR2 random-access memory
- An openGL ES 2.0 graphic accelerator, which provides 3-D game support
- A 7-inch (17.8-centimeter) multi-touch screen, with 800 by 480 pixels of resolution
- Four-way auto rotation, which enables a user to turn the device sideways and have the screen image reorient itself
- A 802.11 b/g/n WiFi chip, which enables the Polaroid Tablet to access a wireless network at your home, office or some public location such as a coffee shop and use the broadband Internet connection. This is important, because unlike the iPad and some other tablets, the Polaroid Tablet can't be outfitted with a wireless 3G or 4G modem to directly connect to the Internet.
- Internal memory storage of 4 gigabytes for data and programs
- A Micro SDHC card slot, which enables the user to add a card -- the same sort used in digital cameras -- to add up to 32 megabytes of additional storage
- The Android 4.0 operating system, also known as "Ice Cream Sandwich," which features improved e-mail capabilities (pop-up notifications to show you have mail, for example) and a Web browser that Google claims will run significantly faster than previous releases
- A mini-USB port (where you could plug in a small keyboard, for example)
- A front-facing camera with both still and video capabilities
The Polaroid Tablet's battery has a standby time of 60 to 70 hours when the device is turned on but not being used, and enough capacity to provide these running times for various functions [source: Southern Telecom]:
- Music: up to 10 hours, with the WiFi and backlit screen in sleep mode
- Video files: between 4.5 and 5 hours, with the WiFi turned off
- E-Books: 6 to 7 hours with the WiFi turned off
- Web browsing: 5 to 6 hours
Polaroid Tablet features
It's important to remember that the Polaroid Tablet isn't designed to compete with the iPad 3 and other high-end tablets, except on price. So if you're looking for a tablet to use for editing video clips, making digital art, running emulation programs that enable you to control your desktop computer remotely, or other kinds of heavy-duty stuff, this machine doesn't have either the processing muscle or the screen resolution to get the job done [source: CNet].
Another important thing to remember is that the Polaroid Tablet is a 7-inch (17.8-centimeter) class tablet, which means that its screen is about the size of an old-fashioned paperback novel. That relatively small space limits both how much your eyes can see, and how easily your fingers can manipulate the screen. If you've used a Kindle Fire comfortably, the Polaroid Tablet probably will feel fine to you, but if you need more screen real estate, you're better off with an iPad or one of the 10-inch (25.4-centimeter) tablets made by manufacturers such as Sony or Asus [source: CNET].
But enough with the downsides, because there's plenty you can do with a Polaroid Tablet, such as listen to music, read books, take pictures, Web surf and send e-mail. As previously mentioned, the device runs Android Ice Cream Sandwich OS, which its maker says is optimized for small-screen devices. It offers both an apps launcher -- basically a page of icons -- and resizable "widgets" that you can use to access content such as music, e-mail, and streams of messages from Twitter and Facebook, without having to actually launch a full-fledged app [source: Android.com]. That makes it easy to do three or four things at once on your tablet, which is great for multitasking junkies.
Ice Cream Sandwich also allows you to download and run scores of apps from the Android online app store, including both the Kindle and Google book readers, social networking apps such as Facebook and LinkedIn, and tons of games. One caveat: The Polaroid Tablet's manual warns that unlike an iPad, some apps designed for phone use won't run, so be sure that an app is tablet-compatible before you buy it [source: Southern Telecom].
And there's one main thing a Polaroid Tablet can do that an iPad can't. It has a slot that enables you to add additional memory in the form of an inexpensive SD card. That allows you to boost the storage capacity of the device to 36 megabytes, more than twice that of the basic iPad.
I've been using an iPhone for several years now, but I only recently purchased an iPad 2, which I mostly use as a book and magazine reader, and to watch streaming video from YouTube and NetFlix. I have mixed feelings about it. Tablets to me are sort of a strange hybrid animal, not quite as portable as a phone, and not quite as powerful or capable as a laptop computer. Additionally, while I remember being excited as I discovered all the computerlike things I could do on my phone, the tablet's larger form seems mostly irksome, because it reminds me of all the stuff I want to do with it, but can't. Multitasking, for example, isn't really possible with full-screen apps, and typing on a touchscreen is an exercise in frustration. I think I won't be totally satisfied until I have a mobile device that uses holograms to create a three-dimensional workspace around me that I can manipulate with gestures and natural-language voice commands, akin to what Tony Stark has at his disposal in "The Avengers." I have a sinking feeling, though, that when such a wondrous gadget finally hits the market, I won't be able to afford it any more than I could a wearable flying robot.
- "Best 10-inch Tablets." CNET.com. July 19, 2012. (July 24, 2012) http://reviews.cnet.com/2733-3126_7-936-4.html
- CNet. "Polaroid 7" Internet Tablet." CNet.com. July 18, 2012. (July 24, 2012) http://reviews.cnet.com/tablets/polaroid-7-internet-tablet/4505-3126_7-35331594.html?tag=contentMain;contentBody;1r
- Heater, Brian. "Polaroid plans Spectrum 7-, 8- and 9-inch ICS tablets for 2012 launch." Endgadget. Jan. 11, 2012. (July 24, 2012) http://www.engadget.com/2012/01/11/polaroid-plans-spectrum-7-8-and-9-inch-ics-tablets-for-2012-l/
- Southern Telecom. Home page. Southerntelecom.com. (July 24, 2012) http://www.southerntelecom.com/
- Southern Telecom. "Polaroid 7" Internet Tablet User Manual." July 24, 2012. http://www.southerntelecom.com/polaroidsupport/downloads/PMID702C_PMID703C_PTAB7XC.pdf