4 Tablet PC - Picking Tips

If you are looking to buy a tablet PC, here are some things to consider before you plunk down the Benjamins. Apple iPads are probably easier to compare; there are only a few models and the interface is the same across the models. If you already have an iPhone or iPod, you might naturally be inclined towards the iPad. Android tablets cover a whole range of sizes and performance levels, and so it's worth looking a bit more closely to the specific features and also to size and weight. Again, if you already have an Android Smartphone you might be more comfortable in that environment.

The overall consideration should be do you just need a general purpose device, or do you intend to use it mostly for something specific? If so, what would that be - reading eBooks, watching movies, playing games, etc? Note that devices like the Amazon Kindle Fire and the Barnes and Nobel Nook tablet have user interfaces that are more geared to content consumption (reading eBooks, viewing movies) and to managing your collections of "stuff". Something like the Google Nexus might be considered more "open" and conducive to creating, as well as consuming.

1) Look and Feel - you really should make every effort to spend some "hands-on" time with the device, even if only for a few minutes. This can tell you a lot:

  • how heavy is the device?

  • is it comfortable for you to hold and handle?

  • is the screen easy to see (both the image/text quality and the glare)?

  • is the home screen layout easy to understand and use?
Note that the "bargain" Android devices may use a "resistive" type screen, instead of a "capacitive" type. The restive type can be a bit less sensitive to touch and finger motions, and you have to press on the screen to some degree. The capacitive screens require less "effort" and may generally feel more accurate or responsive - but try them out to see.

2)  Screen size - this can affect several things:

  • the ability to carry the device around (both weight and size)

  • the viewing experience - reading text, etc.

  • battery life (a bigger screen can mean less battery life)
3) Battery life - if you figure on using the device for short periods, you may not be too concerned if the battery life is only a couple of hours (again, cheaper models tend to use cheaper batteries to keep the costs down, and those batteries will have less oomph). If you intend to keep the kids amused on car trips, or use the device while camping or the like, then that would be a big consideration.

4) Other hardware - this would include features other than screen size and battery life, such as:

  • A "single core" processor may be okay, 2 or even 4 cores are better

  • How much RAM? 512MB is low, 1GB is good, 2GB is great

  • How much storage? 4GB is low, 16GB is good, more is great

  • Does the device have WiFi connectivity only, or also 3G?
Note that with WiFi, the device will be much like a laptop - you can use the wireless network at home, at the library, etc. With 3G (or 4G or LTE - meaning a cellular-type data plan) as well, you can use the device anywhere you can get a decent signal if you sign up for a plan (at an extra cost). You don't have to be connected to use the tablet, but you obviously will not be able to use the Internet or other online apps.

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