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Gamers don’t need an iPad 2 with these five Android tablets

by Phil Hornshaw

We all know what kind of powerhouse device the iPad 2 is for gaming. But what about other possibilities? Can any of the dozens of tablets powered by Google’s Android operating system go up against the iPad 2 in a free-for-all deathmatch? Here are five worthy options you should consider tapping into.

Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1

The Galaxy Tab 10.1 is about as effectively close to an iPad 2 as you can get right now without purchasing anything from Apple. The tablet is comparable to the iPad 2 in just about every way – in fact Samsung is claiming that Apple is infringing on patented technology. The Galaxy’s price points are the same as the iPad 2’s (most retail outlets sell the 16GB version for $499), and it sports a 1Ghz Tegra 2 dual-core processor. This means it packs the necessary power to really give games their due. The chink in the Galaxy’s armor (which is the case for all Android tabs) is that there aren’t as many games compatible with it yet. This is changing as more consumers are embracing tablet alternatives to the iPad 2, giving developers more incentive to build titles for Android’s Honeycomb platform. Already, popular titles like Angry Birds, Gun Bros, and Fruit Ninja have tablet-specific versions available to download.

HTC Flyer

The HTC Flyer ($499.99 for 16GB model) is smaller than the other tablet offerings on this list, at 7 inches, and it has a slightly better processor than most with the 1.5GHz Snapdragon. However, it runs on Android’s Gingerbread software with a stylus rather than Honeycomb, like most contenders. But while the Flyer is a strong alternative in its own right because of its hardware and battery life, it has one thing going for it above all the other tablets (right now): OnLive support. The streaming PC gaming service will support the Flyer when it releases its Android mobile app later this year, which will allow users to actually play full PC games on their Flyers using a universal gamepad. So far, the list of compatible tablets is pretty short, and any tablet that’s capable of playing full-release PC games using only an Internet connection is head and shoulders above its competition.

Motorola Xoom

A solid choice in Android tablets, the Xoom (Wi-Fi only version priced at $499) is pretty similar to most offerings on the market and has the hardware to be a solid gaming choice. It sports a 1GHz NVIDIA Tegra-2 processor, which means it’s in good shape to handle games, and the tab features microSD card and micro-USB slots to allow users to expand memory and use peripheral devices. That means it can be easily loaded up with Android apps and other gaming-oriented media. Although the Xoom is slightly heavier than the iPad 2, it is also a touch smaller. Most notably, the Xoom has great battery life so it’ll keep you entertained between charges.

T-Mobile G Slate

This slick tab has a lot of features you would expect from an Android device, like its Tegra-2 processor and high battery life. But the T-Mobile G Slate ($399 with a two year contract) stands out from the crowd for two reasons. First, it’s a 4G device, so if you’re the kind of person who likes online gaming wherever you are, you’ll have blistering speeds to help you win matches. The G Slate also has a 3-D camera on board and is capable of 3-D viewing and playback. It is an underdeveloped feature right now, but there’s potential in the fact that developers could run with 3-D technology and expand the tablet’s capabilities to the gaming sphere. That’s something of a big “if,” but 4G connection speed is probably more than enough to cover for 3-D for players serious about being the best gunslinger on the Internet.

Asus Eee Pad Transformer

PC gamers will find something to love about the Asus Eee Pad Transformer ($399 FOR 16 GB, $499 for 32 GB), because the “Transformer” part of the title refers to the tablet’s ability to switch freely between tab and laptop. A snap-on keyboard dock allows the Transformer to become more akin to a laptop, and that makes the keyboard available for use to control some games instead of using the touch screen, gestures or virtual controls. Keyboard control isn’t ideal for everybody, but avid PC gamers will feel right at home with this brand of control and it gives the Eee pad somewhere to rest as well as additional battery life. The Transformer also has USB and SD slots to expand memory and allow the use of peripheral devices. It is a lot more like a netbook than a simple tablet, which is a good thing.