In the tablet wars, it’s the iPad versus the rest.
The Apple tablet is the benchmark by which all others are judged, and with the new iPad—on the market for two weeks now—the bar has been raised once again.
Consumer Reports has just named the new iPad the best tablet. This comes two weeks after CR’s electronics editor Paul Reynolds broke the news on CNBC about heat testsconducted by the watchdog group.
In responseto reports that the new iPad runs hotter than previous models, Reynolds said at the time that it’s “hot enough to be a little uncomfortable…[but] well within our thermal specifications”—sentiments echoed in the Consumer Reports review that gave its top ranking to the tablet.
But some industry watchers argue that when price and form-function are factored in, some of the iPad competitors start looking pretty good.
CNET blogger Rick Broida told CNBC’s Street Signs, “For a lot of users, it may not make sense to get that bigger tablet.”
He included himself among them in his blog post titled: Why I’m returning my new iPad.
“I got a little caught up in all of the hype…but when I brought my $600 purchase home, I was a little underwhelmed,” Broida reflected.
As it happens, he was testing the Kindle Fire around the same time, and found he liked it better for the things he likes to do. He felt the smaller size was easier to handle while reading e-books, and that the Fire still did a good job with music, video, games, and apps.
“The price difference is hard to ignore,” he said, $199 for the Kindle Fire versus $499 for the least expensive new iPad with Wi-Fi only.
But so far, consumers are voting for the iPad with their pocketbooks.
Three million new iPads were sold during its debut weekend in mid-March. Analyst Gene Munster of Piper Jaffray recently set sales estimates for the device at 66 million for 2012.
Meanwhile, internet analyst Anthony DiClemente at Barclays Capital says that five million Kindle Fire devices were sold in the holiday quarter. As for Amazon’s tablet units, DiClemente forecast that 17 million will be sold this year.
Still No Kindle Fire 2.0 yet.
But there’s a new firmware update for the device, version 6.3, that includes deeper social networking features for books and a new reading view for Amazon's Silk browser, which allows users to see web articles in an easy-to-read, stripped down, text format—a feature similar to the one on Apple’s Safari on the iPad.
Of course, the iPad and the Fire aren’t the only tablets. There are lots of devices that run Google’s Android software. Google is readying its own tablet. Looking to stake its claim, Microsoft’s Windows 8 will be running on tablets. Research In Motion , its well-documented troubles aside, also has its version, the Playbook.
As for Apple stock, itjust keeps hitting all-time highs.
“Obviously what I’ve said hasn’t made any kind of impact on how Apple is doing,” CNET blogger Broida joked. “So I’m not going to lose any sleep. I think they’ll be okay.”