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Tablet Guide From A to Z

On one hand the tablet market has been languishing for a decade with scores of models, but the real growth started only with the emergence of Apple iPad in April of 2010. If to start the countdown from that moment then we can say tablets are barely two years old, but they already overtook the sales of laptops. The market has a long way to go until maturity, so consumers choose such gadgets more and more. We hope this article will help you to make the right choice.

Why you might need a tablet?

The original Apple iPad was difficult to understand and many bought a product they knew nothing about. Only then we understood how to use tablets, which happened to be more flexible than desktops and laptops. The main advantage here is the weight and impressive battery time, which beats any laptop hands down. A tablet can be activated immediately with one press of a button without any wait time. Your tablet fits your needs and preferences, which defines the requirements to particular models. Any tablet can handle e-mails (Playbook from Blackberry was a weird exception, but the new firmware fixed that too), note taking, calendar and similar activities. Large texts can be entered only via the screen keyboard. Otherwise you have to buy an external keyboard, which can be connected through Bluetooth. It will speed up the text input, but the idea behind tablets is that of mobility, so the keyboard is extra. If you type up a lot you may opt for a small laptop instead.

As far as e-mail, browser, calendar and associated tools are available in all models there is no need to base your choice on them. To my mind the key points here are the following:

  • Screen size, which defines if you can put the tablet in a small bag or not;
  • RAM;
  • Gaming options- availability of games and the chance to connect to a TV;
  • Operation time;
  • 3G or WiFi;
  • Body materials;

Screen size

The original iPad boasted a 9.7" screen, which became a benchmark for others to follow. The most dangerous rival of Apple is Samsung, which offers different screen sizes Ц 7", 7.7", 8.9" and 10.1". Steve Jobs claimed any other screen size apart from 9.7" to be inconvenient, but according to rumours now the company may come up with a 7.8 " model. In Samsung, lineup the best sales are enjoyed by a 10.1" model followed by a 7". Many companies start exclusively with 7" tablets to be different from iPad. I think we can speak about two form factors: 7" and 10" with the smaller model capable of fitting any bag or almost any jacket pocket. You cannot do the same with a 10" device, but it stays extremely mobile and takes no more space than a thin paper folder.

Apple iPad 2

Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1

It looks as if women prefer smaller 7" tablets, which allows any bag. Without such limitations it is better to choose a 10" model to enjoy better picture, view more text in the browser and feel more comfortable overall. Some think of 11" and 12", but it is too much for a mobile device.

3G or WiFi Only

Before you buy your first tablet it is difficult to imagine how you will actually use it. Will it lie on the table at home/office or you will carry it around at all times. Online connection then comes to the fore. Is WiFi (included for all models) enough or you need 3G too? 3G versions cost more, but only such a purchase makes sense to my mind. WiFi is not present everywhere, but you still want to browse the web and check the mail. Some say they receive mail and surf the web via the phone and a tablet is needed for other purposes. Once you buy a tablet the phone will not be enough, so go for a 3G model.

The only disadvantage is the price, but you pay for the gadget only once. The monthly cost of the unlimited Internet connection does influence your choice. As far as you need another SIM card check out the tariffs. If you are ready to pay get 3G.

RAM

Traditionally tablets come equipped with the fixed amount of RAM and you cannot get a boost with the memory card. Modern tablets have 16 GB, 32 GB and 64 GB. In the iPad portfolio every next model costs 100$ more. This way a bigger RAM costs less, but how much do you need? The answer depends on functions of use. Video will require more RAM and you have to start with 32 GB to watch movies throughout one week. 16 GB models were fine in 2010, but now software is heavier, so we need at least 32 GB no matter which OS you have.

Apple iPad 3

Some Android tablets allow for memory cards of up to 32 GB, but in real life not many capitalize on this option. If you do not know why do you need it ignore this feature with ease.

Operation Time

Apple iPad is the best in this respect as it initially offered 10 hours of video playback. It will work for more than a week if it is used no more than one hour a day. Active gaming gives you 5 hours, which depends on the graphics, volume and Internet connection type. Without going into too much detail I have to mention that Apple iPad is still unparalleled and enjoys the top efficiency and operation time. Android tablets give you 10%-15% less time with the same battery. Many users do not care about it, but as far as manufacturers erroneously give operation time similar to that of Apple iPad you may learn about it only after the purchase.

Materials

The tablet is a mobile device so it has to be as light as possible and durable in the same time. Apple is using aluminum and their devices have very durable bodies Ц I have dropped my iPad a dozen of times and it carries the marks of every fall but keeps working just fine.

iPad rivals can only offer plastic bodies or plastic bodies with thin aluminum plates (a much cheaper solution than the one Apple is using). For the same money users will always prefer an aluminum chassis so it is another bar set by iPad for the market .

Gaming

Tablets are turning into gaming consoles and already have more new game releases and better ones too (this one is arbitrary but many new titles are released only for tablets not ported from consoles). More and more games are born nowadays with touchscreen controls and even if you are not a gamer you will surely find dozens of games amusing.

Most games are first released for iOS and, then get to Android and lastly to other platforms. It might take up to one year between iOS and Android game releases and often games never make it to Android. You should keep that in mind when you are looking for a new tablet. iOS has got more apps than any other platform but let the manufacturers compete in app quantities Ц it is a lot more important for users what apps they can run on their tablets.

Android tablets have one big advantage that few people know of: Tegra 2 and Tegra 3 tablets can be paired with our TV so you can play any game one your tablet on a big screen. They can be real gaming consoles and you can even connect PlayStation and XBOX game pads. Young people may find Tegra 2/3 tablets a good and inexpensive substitute for gaming consoles. However, I must add that today there are only about two dozens of games that can fully take advantage of the tablet hardware in this mode but new ones are released all the time.

Other Features: Camera, Stylus etc.

You should not choose your new tablet based on the camera quality: it is a nice extra option but it will hardly impress anyone with quality. Tablet cameras are worse than mobile phone cameras or on a par with them at best.

Creative people might find styluses useful as they can really help you with drawing. Samsung are making Note 10.1, a tablet designed for drawing and HTC Flyer comes with a stylus out of box. If you are a painter or need a stylus for your work then you it might be worth considering a special drawing tablet. In other case you can simply buy a universal stylus that will not be as accurate but do the job just fine.

HTC Flyer

When it comes to accessories you should know that Apple devices have got more of them than any other and they get new accessories earlier than other products. This is a fact worth keeping in mind when you are looking for a new tablet.

Ideology: Apple iOS vs. Google Android

Apple controls most of the tablet market while Android is playing a second fiddle. To choose a tablet also means to choose the OS that will assist you. To a degree it is a choice of ideology because often people extrapolate their views and preferences on devices they use.

I often hear from some people that they will never buy anything Apple because they donТt like the company. It is not a rational but an emotional choice and those people usually donТt know what Apple products are like or what they can do. I am not going to assess the values of such emotional choices in this article as they donТt have any valid grounds just as the opposite view when people buy only Apple.

In my opinion, Android is still trying to catch up with Apple on the tablet market and needs to work on great many things. I recommend reading the dedicated reviews to get acquainted with iOS and Android features on tablets. Many users say that they find the iOS user interface simpler than the Android UI which I donТt think is true but it has become a myth.

Review of Android 3.0 (Honeycomb)

Review of Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich: Interface and Control. Part I

Review of iPad 2

The Perfect Tablet

If you have read the whole article you might feel disappointed because I did not recommend any specific products but merely voiced my opinion on some of the features. So now it is time to have a look at the contenders.

I have not considered the dual vs. quad core CPUs dilemma because I think this is solely a marketing issue. The dual core processor in iPad2 gets fewer points in benchmarks than the quad core Tegra 3 in Asus Transformer Prime but in actual use iPad2 feels a lot faster. So you should not trust benchmark figures and the choice of the CPU should not be a criterion if you are looking for a tablet.

Asus Transformer Prime

So if I want a tablet packed in a good quality chassis with 32 or 16GB of storage, a 10Ф screen and 3G, with the longest on battery time, with a myriad of apps and games available for it than my choice is Apple iPad2 or3 (the New iPad). Many people agree with them and the sales figures prove it. Apple iPad is no longer an image product (although it still has an image charge) it is a sound reasonable choice. iPad 2 or the New iPad? I think that if the extra $100 is not going to be a strain on your budget it is well worth to go for the latest model. (twice the screen resolution and better graphics).

I tried to use an Android tablet as my only tablet but failed. The biggest disadvantages of Android tablets in my opinion are fewer apps and their long release time (although this situation is changing for the better).However, if you are looking for a 7Ф tablet than you have no alternative but get an Android tablet. I must note that the out of box functionality of Android is on a par with iOS Ц the difference is in the third party apps and the performance. But above all is the price: Android tablets cost just as much as iPads.

Samsung Galaxy Tab 7.7

I want to mention a few tablets worthy of considering them (sorted by priority):

iPad: first glance

Review of iPad 2

Review of Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1

IFA 2011. Samsung Galaxy Tab 7.7 Ц The First Look

Review of Asus eeePad Transformer Prime TF201

As an afterword I want to say that modern laptops are a real alternative to tablets. For example, the 11Ф MacBook Air is just a bit bigger than the first iPad and takes up about the same room. It has a shorter battery time but has a real key board. Naturally, there are many pros and cons to this alternative but this solution worthy of consideration.

I hope this guide can help you make the right choice and you will be not be disappointed with your new tablet. Have fun!

Do you want to talk about this? Please, go to our Forum and let your opinion be known to the author and everybody else.

Eldar Murtazin (eldar@mobile-review.com)
Twitter    Livejournal
Translated by Maxim Antonenko (maxantonenko@ukr.net), Robert Mugattarov (mugattarov@gmail.com)

Published — 22 March 2012

Have something to add?! Write us... eldar@mobile-review.com

 

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