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A slew of Windows tablets - what's here and what's coming

Machines running Microsoft’s new system are expected to nab 10 per cent of market by 2016

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Tablets are hot. Sales are soaring, and technology analyst IDC recently bumped up its sales forecast for next year by an additional 4 per cent. That’s mostly thanks to the growth of the Android platform, but IDC also expects Windows tablets to begin cannibalizing both Android and Apple’s iOS and grab more than 10 per cent of the market by 2016. Many of these machines won’t be in wide release until early next year. In the meantime, here’s a peek at a selection of what’s here and what’s coming. Above, Microsoft Corp. introduces its line of Surface tablet computers on June 18, 2012.

David McNew/REUTERS

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Microsoft Surface: The Surface tablet runs Windows RT, a special version of Windows designed to run on mobile devices. So it can handle only native Windows 8 apps, not Windows 7 software. For that, you’ll have to wait until early next year when the Surface Pro launches. With its light weight (1.5 pounds), integrated kickstand, USB port, front- and rear-facing cameras and bundled Office 2013 programs (Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote), it’s a convenient machine for the undemanding, on-the-go user. But the e-mail app is disappointing; I wish they’d port Outlook. You have a choice of two keyboards, at extra cost, each of which doubles as a cover. It’s a nicely integrated package. Base price for the tablet is $519 for 32 gigabytes (GB) of storage ($619 with Touch cover).

Microsoft Corp.

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Dell XPS 10: The XPS 10 is Dell’s Windows RT entry. At 1.4 pounds, it’s a bit lighter than the Surface, though most of the hardware specifications are, unsurprisingly, the same, and like all Windows RT systems, it includes the bundled Office apps. The killer feature for many will be the microSIM slot, allowing you to use the tablet on a cellular (LTE) network. Like the Surface, the XPS 10 docks to a keyboard; the way it’s attached makes the unit more like a clamshell laptop when docked. Starts at $499.99 for 32 GB memory ($679.99 with keyboard/dock).

Dell Inc.

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Lenovo ThinkPad Tablet 2: Lenovo’s first Windows 8 tablet with 10.1-inch display isn’t available in Canada yet, but a preview look at a pre-production model was encouraging. At 1.25 pounds, it’s comfortable to hold, and Lenovo says it has 10 hours of battery life. An optional stylus helps with navigation, which is especially handy in the desktop app on Windows 7 programs that haven’t been designed for touch. Price not yet determined.

Lenovo Group

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Samsung ATIV Smart PC: The ATIV has a larger screen than most, at 11.6 inches, yet it still weighs a scant 1.7 pounds. It runs full Windows 8, with all of the benefits thereof. Its claim to fame: Rogers sells it with an integrated Rocket card that provides LTE connectivity across the Rogers network. The hardware goes for $699.99, then you add your data plan. An optional keyboard connects magnetically to give you what looks and acts like an Ultrabook. Price not yet determined.

Samsung

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HP Envy x2 PC: This is, admittedly, a bit of a cheat. It’s a Windows 8 laptop whose display disconnects to become a tablet. Its 11.6-inch touchscreen matches Samsung’s, and it also has an optional stylus. The entire package weighs 3.11 pounds. It should be available in Canada later this month. Price not yet determined.

Hewlett-Packard Co.

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Asus VivoTab RT: At 1.16 pounds (double that with the optional keyboard/dock), this little guy is the lightest of our Windows RT tablets. Battery life is rated at “up to 16 hours.” Microsoft offers customers with Microsoft IDs 7 GB of free storage on its SkyDrive cloud service; Asus supplements this with an additional 32 GB on its cloud service, free for 3 years. Starts at about $600.

Asus

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Dell Latitude 10: Dell also offers a tablet running full Windows 8. The Latitude 10, as its name suggests, has a 10.1-inch screen, and like its siblings in the Latitude PC line, it is manageable by enterprise IT. Dell offers a dock, though it’s not as elegant as the one on the XPS 10. One big plus: Its battery is swappable, and you can buy an active stylus to supplement touch. This is particularly useful with desktop apps. The machine is quite a bit more expensive than the XPS, starting at more than $1,000.

Dell Inc.

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