Netbook versus Tablet: Acer Aspire One 522 v. Samsung Galaxy Tab P1010

With the price of the entry level Apple iPad having dropped to below Php20,000 earlier this month, we decided to do a netbook versus tablet comparison, between the AMD Fusion powered Acer One 522 and the WiFi only 16GB variant of the Apple iPad. People have been comparing netbooks and tablets for a long time, christening the tablet as the netbook killer. 

With the recent price drop of Samsung's 7-inch  3G Android tablet to just over Php20,000 and the release of a WiFi only version for just Php15,999 put more options in the price range dominated by netbooks, a reader posited the question:

"What about the Samsung Galaxy Tab? The wifi only version now sells for only P16,000. Won't this be a good deal against the netbook?"

The answer is yes and no. When we did our last comparison, we concluded that it was like comparing Apples and Oranges. The two devices are so dissimilar, as straight up comparison is really not possible. However, it does not mean that tablets do not threaten netbooks. While the two devices are rather different, they target the same market segment: those looking for low cost ultraportable computers. 

In a one-on-on comparison, the netbook will win on specifications, for now at least. It was more power, more storage and more ports. The second generation tablets do, close the specifications gap between netbooks and tablets. The tablet provides better portability and generally better battery life.

On the other hand, the use different operating systems and software so differences in power are notall  that important. 

We could repeat the system we used in our earlier Acer One 522 versus iPad article, but after writing that article, I realized how pointless it was. We will take a different approach this time. This time we will be putting up the 7-inch WiFi only Samsung Galaxy Tab in the ring against the 10/1-inch Acer Aspire One 522 netbook.

As a standalone device. If you are planning to buy one of these two devices to be your primary computer, which would be best. Someone on a budget, looking for a standalone device is best of with a netbook. A tablet, for now, is still an accessory to another computer. 

Why? Mainly the absence of a physical keyboard and storage. The biggest drawback of the tablet, and advantage of the netbook in this regard is storage. The absence of a USB port so it can hooked up to am external drive really makes it an accessory to another machine. You are limited you to 16GB of storage which can be expanded through MicroSD cards.  The Aspire one 522 has 250GB of storage. Matching this would mean seven 32GB MicroSD (well almost anyway). Seven 32GB Micro SD card will cost you more than a Aspire One. So if you need more storage than 16-48GB, you might as well buy both a tablet and a netbook.   

As a multimedia device. The Acer Aspire One 522 can play and output 1080p HD video through an HDMI port. The Samsung Galaxy Tab is limited to 720p playback and has no HDMI out. Because of this, we think the netbook makes a better multimedia device. But unless you plan to hook it up to an LCD TV, the Aspire One's advantages, 1080p play back ability and HDMI out, is of little important.

As a daily companion. As light as the Acer Aspire One 522 is, it still will weight almost 3 pounds. You can carry it everyday, but you will know you are carrying a netbook. At a bit more than 10 x 7 inches in size, and an inch thick, it is also still fairly large. The Samsung Galaxy Tab at 0.84 pounds and about 7.5 x 4.7 x 0.47 inches, and is  less than one-fourth the size of a netbook. 

Aside of being smaller and lighter, the Galaxy Tab will give you more endurance. It should give you six hours of real world use, while the Aspire One 522, a little more than four hours. The camera on the Samsung Galaxy Tab is nothing to crow about, it takes decent 720p video, so it doubles as a video camera. 

Decisions. We could go on, but it depends more on what you want, than what it can do.  So, which is best for you? I can only draw on personal experiences.

Having bought a netbooks myself, in 2008, and a second one in 2009, I finally ditched netbook for good replacing it with a very light full powered laptop. If you want a highly portable laptop on a limited budget, than get the netbook. If is still a laptop, just a smaller less powerful version. A tablet, never cross my mind. It is simply really, I wanted a keyboard. As a laptop alternative, netbook is a better choice than a tablet, and the main reason is the physical keyboard. 

My wife and a friend of mine, both early tablet adopters, never owned netbooks. One uses a 14-inch HP laptop, and the other a 13.3-inch MacBook Pro. In selecting their laptops, they did not go with the most portable options available. Portability of the laptop was not the number one priority, and they both do not in-fact carry their laptop around much on a daily basis. So why did they get tablets? Tablets are small and light enough, that carrying them around is not longer a chore. 

If you want a small but powerful machine like a Sony Vaio Z, MacBook Air or Lenovo X200, but are on a budget, the Acer Aspire One is your best bet or one of the low cost AMD Fusion laptops is you. If you have never felt the need for a light but powerful laptop, but want something more than your smartphone, the Samsung Galaxy Tab may be more appealing. A tablet is a nice handy device for someone that does not need a laptop on the go. 

The two devices cater to different needs. But in the low cost and light weight arena, previously the only option was the netbook. Tablets are not netbook killers, because they are more capable or better. The tablet gives an alternative solution.  Many would be netbook buyers, will become tablet owners instead.