12
Dec
res_comparison

In one of the the more recent weekend polls, we asked what is your ideal tablet screen size? - most users went for 9.51" - 10.5", which ended up taking about 50% of the overall votes. This is not much of a surprise since 10.1-inch is the most common size of Android tablet.

For those who don't already own a tablet, though, trying to decide what size to get can be somewhat of a task. Today we're going to take a closer look at a couple of different tablet resolutions to give you a better idea of how they compare to one another. I may mention how it feels to use the different form factors throughout, but will primarily focus on the actual display resolution.

This post is very screenshot-intensive, so it may take a bit to load on slower connections.

This will be broken down into five different categories of common task: web browsing (both desktop and mobile views), tablet-specific apps, phone-specific apps, homescreen/apptray viewing, and office suite usage. For comparison purposes, phone screenshots will also be including in each category.

To start things off, though, an overview of the three different resolutions we'll be looking at:

res_comparison

Click to view full size image (1,600 x 900)

You can clearly see the difference in size between the three sizes here - 800 x 480 for is a common resolution for phones, 1,024 x 600 for 7-inch tablets, and 1,280 x 800 for 10.1-inch tablets. Common devices for each resolution (aside from 800 x 480):

1,024 x 600:

  • Amazon Kindle Fire
  • Barnes & Noble Nook Tablet / Nook Color
  • HTC EVO View 4G / Flyer
  • Samsung Galaxy Tab 7 / 7.0 Plus
  • Acer Iconia Tab A100

1,280 x 800

  • Motorola Xoom
  • Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 / 8.9
  • Toshiba Thrive 10.1
  • ASUS Eee Pad Transformer
  • Acer Iconia Tab A500

I will use the same format throughout the post: from top to bottom, all images will go from smallest to largest - 800 x 480, 1,024 x 600, and then 1,280 x 800.

Web Browsing

This is probably the most common use for a tablet: just hanging out on the couch, surfin' the web. The difference in resolution makes a huge impact here, as it affects how much you actually see on the screen.

Mobile Sites

Most users don't want to see mobile sites on their phone, much less on a larger display. Alas, most tablets default to this view (and some users may actually like that), so it's only fair to show the difference.

800 x 480

screenshot-1322590178977 screenshot-1322590216765

1,024 x 600

browser_mobile_a100_portrait browser_mobile_a100

1,208 x 800

SC20111129-120922 SC20111129-120915

Mobile sites are very easy to read on all screen resolutions, but as most users won't spend a lot of time viewing the web this way, we're not going to spend a lot of time here.

Full Sites

The best way to view the web, especially on a tablet.

800 x 480

screenshot-1322588017496 screenshot-1322591219027

1,024 x 600

browser_a100_portrait browser_a100

1,280 x 800

SC20111129-120958 SC20111129-121008

If you look at the full-size images (and I hope you are), then you can see there is a pretty big difference between the devices. I wouldn't say that web browsing is necessarily uncomfortable on a 7-inch display, but it is definitely much easier to read on the larger resolution.

You may have noticed that the 1,280 x 800 screenshots are ad-free. I don't normally support ad-blocking on Android, but the ROM that I'm currently running on my Tab 10.1 (Overcome) blocks ads by default, with no way of re-enabling them. This may give the largest set of shots a slight advantage over the smaller ones, so I felt that it's worth mentioning.

Tablet Apps

One of the biggest benefits of having a Honeycomb tablet is the native apps. They take advantage of larger displays, allowing you to see more content than with a traditional app. Let's see how Google Music compares on various resolutions since it's built to cater to both phones and tablets.

800 x 480

screenshot-1322588664386 screenshot-1322588688604

screenshot-1322588818656 screenshot-1322588802801

1,024 x 600

GMusic_a100_portrait GMusic_a100

GMusic_playing_a100_portrait GMusic_playing_a100

1,280 x 800

SC20111129-115215 SC20111129-115120

SC20111129-115149 SC20111129-115139

Anyone notice the song names?

As you can see, the two tablets look very similar in terms of visibility, everything is just looks bigger on the 1,280 x 800 display. Either way, apps like this look great on all display types and sizes since they're designed to work well with the smaller display of a phone, as well as the larger resolutions on various tablets.

Phone Apps

Since we've already looked at how tablet-specific apps fare across all sizes, let's take a look at phone apps. At some point you'll have to face the harsh truth - not every app is tablet optimized. In that case, you'll either have to use a phone-specific app on your tablet, or just not use the app at all.

For this, we'll be looking at another Google app - G+.

800 x 480

screenshot-1322588285970 screenshot-1322588295957

screenshot-1322588334209 screenshot-1322588343477

1,024 x 600

G _a100_portrait G _a100

G _stream_a100_portrait G _stream_a100

1,280 x 800

SC20111129-123827 SC20111129-113327

SC20111130-165410 SC20111130-165402

It's clear that phones apps are designed with the small display in mind, as they waste a lot of screen real estate on tablets. That doesn't really discredit their use on the larger screen, and Android 3.2 includes a special "zoom mode" that essentially doubles the size of a phone app on the tablet (thought I'm not sure how this is every a practical option, unless you just can't read the small text).

Homescreens and Apptray

We all know what the homescreens and apptray are all about, so I'm just going to jump straight into screenshots.

800 x 480

screenshot-1322589633573 screenshot-1322589654068

screenshot-1322589679757 screenshot-1322589689276

1,024 x 600

Homescreen_a100_portrait Homescreen_a100

apptray_a100_portrait apptray_a100

1,280 x 800

SC20111129-115833 SC20111129-115827

SC20111129-115917 SC20111129-115937

The apptray is actually one of my biggest areas of complaint on 1,024 x 600 devices, as it just shows three rows of icons. This makes for a ton of page scrolling if you have a large collection on installed apps. Otherwise, all three devices are equally as usable, but if you're the type who loves to throw everything under the sun on your homescreen, then 1,280 x 800 will give you quite a bit more room to do so.

Office Suites

I wanted to include this in the comparison because I feel it's one of the more common uses for mobile devices - especially tablets. If you plan on doing any sort of document or spreadsheet editing from your mobile, then this section should really put into perspective what you'll be seeing on the screen.

800 x 480

screenshot-1322590455448 screenshot-1322586634286

1,024 x 600

quickoffice_a100_portrait quickoffice_a100

1,280 x 800

SC20111129-121031 SC20111129-110526

While 1,280 x 800 does offer more usable area, don't discredit the smaller screen; 1,024 x 600 is still very usable for creating/editing documents and spreadsheets. With that said, I still usually grab the Tab 10.1 when it comes time to edit a doc of any kind.

Keyboard

I had a request for keyboard screenshots in landscape orientation on both tablets, so here they are. I grabbed shots of both the stock keyboard and thumb keyboard.

1,024 x 600

a100_landscape_keyboard a100_landscape_keyboard_default

1,280 x 800

SC20111213-102450 SC20111213-102528

Conclusion

While screen resolution plays a big role in determining what device is right for you, there are a few other things to consider. I've found that 1,024 x 600 is sort of an in-between that apps don't always cater to. For example, some Honeycomb-only apps (like File Manager HD) aren't available on devices with a display resolution below 1,280 x 800. Similarly, certain apps that allow for both resolutions (like Google Reader or ADW Launcher EX) automatically default to phone view, with no way to "force" tablet mode.

At the end of the day, the decision is really all about what you want out of a device. If you want ultimate portability with Honeycomb goodness, then a 7-inch device may be the way to go. If a larger screen resolution is a must for you, then a 10.1-incher is probably your best bet.

It's worth nothing that there are currently two 7-inch Honeycomb tablets with a 1,280 x 800 resolution: the Toshiba Thrive 7 and T-Mobile Springboard.

If you're curious about how other applications render on the various display sizes, drop a line in the comments and I'll do my best to grab some screenshots for you.

Cameron Summerson
Cameron is a self-made geek, Android enthusiast, horror movie fanatic, and musician. When he's not pounding keys here at AP, you can find him spending time with his wife and kids, plucking away on the 6- or 7-string, or watching The Texas Chainsaw Massacre on repeat.

  • Wayne

    How about as an e-reader? I read three kinds of material: blogs, paperback books (paperback mysteries, etc), and tech books (trade size, lots of diagrams, color, ideally support for note-taking and bookmarking). How do the size stack up for that?

    • Cameron Summerson

      Do you use a specific e-reader app? Kindle? Nook?

  • Bas

    You listen to droid music :D

  • KevinN

    The Tmobile SpringBoard all has a 1280 x 800 screen.

    • Cameron Summerson

      I always forget about the Springboard! Updated the post. Thanks!

  • Todd

    As long as we're talking about mobile web pages... Why can't I view this website on my Bionic??? I use Dolphin HD and this site freezes every time I try to load it.

  • Mattatooski

    I love that city scape pic that is a wallpaper on the tablet. Any idea where can get it?

  • Subra

    I would like to see some app with the on screen keyboard. For instance, in mobile displays, when you start typing in landscape mode on a browser, you can only see what you are typing, there is no room for other contents on the page to be shown in the landscape mode. Obviously, it will be better in bigger displays, but I want see the difference between 7in and 10in display.

    • Cameron Summerson

      Updated the post with some images of the keyboard in landscape. Hope that helps!

  • BK Phil

    I was going to lament the lack of consideration for 4x3 aspects, but after a quick google I see that almost no 4x3 android tablets exist on the market.

    Oh well. Has the Market truly spoken, or are we being shoehorned by manufacturers?

    For me, 16x9 is kind of useless. Much prefer 4x3. So much so that I might go iOS for my tablets, although I'm a convinced Android user on the phone side.

    • SiliconAddict

      Most tablets are designed for media consumption. What format are movies played in now a days?

      4x3 is less then useless. It caters to a format that is no longer used on anything. Even browsing is better on 16x9 when in portrait.

      • Adjel

        I must agree with Phil. I never do media on my tablet, except for the odd youtube video. I only use it at home (wifi only) and don't see the point in using a tablet when I have a big TV set nearby. Anyway: most movies are not 16x9, but closer to 24:10. Portrait browsing on 16x9 either forces me to scroll a lot or it makes the content too small to read, even on a 10" tablet.

        I too, may be tempted to the iOS dark side, just for the 4x3 ratio...

        • Andrew

          I also find it funny that 16:9 is the EXACT ratio in which it is cheapest to manufacture an LCD display - yes, we're being shoehorned. The entire 'HD Media World' has been built up around this thinking that this display type is highly preferred, but in reality, they chose it so they could mass produce LCDs. I love Android, but I actually did just trade it up for iOS. The software is inferior in many important ways; however, the simplicity of the OS lends itself to many, many, MANY less problems and the display and hardware quality is light years ahead of the Androids I was considering. But I don't want to make it sound like I don't regret this purchase. Siri is either telling me to "get back to work", "ask nicely" or sending me to some place that doesn't exist. The last time I ever used her/it she got all pissed because I ended the question with the obligatory "b*tch", as many people do (it just closes out the sentence!), and she told me to 'ask her nicely' and then proceeded to get me lost in Detroit's twighlight-zone. The fact that I can customize NOTHING and basically am herded around by Apple with all the other cult members really, really sucks. That's what I hate the most. The phone works flawlessly, but it can't really do the things I was used to. That, plus nearly every app costs money. Even the "24 XXX Facts" that some little kid made is $2. It's not unlikely to stumple across an app that's upwards of $60. I found that out the hard way when I desperately was trying to find a replacement for Google Maps Nav. In all, it's just a phone, so I don't care that much and will just ride out these next two years. The way I see it is, by that time, Google will have some of the kinks worked out & have some better hardware out there. It didn't help that the only Droids available with a comparable screen resolution achieved that by fitting them with screens three times larger than my ass. One of the beautiful things about meticulous Apple hardware engineering - someone actually thought to pay more for this display so I could operate the phone with one hand. Not sure why Samsung opted for making their Galaxy Nexus the size of my plasma, but ultimately, I didn't have many other options than to join the Apple cult.

          Regret it. Don't do it. It doesn't even seem like a smartphone without Google's server services. I can see how there just isn't any middle-ground right now. We're on the brink of technology, but if you ask me, both of these company's ecosystems suck. I suggest staying with Android unless such changes won't bother you. As for me... still adjusting.

          Anybody want to buy an iPhone? It's only a month-and-a-half old :D

  • alang

    this is a great & must read articles !

  • Hare Krishns

    the only problem I faced is the conclusion... it abruptly switches to the size of the screen when I expected to read about the resolution. the result is, i still need to find out which resolution is best for a 7 inch tablet. Hare Krishna

  • vg

    Please compare reading a PDF file...Please