Guide to iPad and other Tablet Devices
With prices ranging from $100 to $1000,
there are a lot of things to consider when choosing a Tablet
The amazing dual 14.1"
screens on the soon to be released Kno tablet represents one
extreme end of the massive rush of devices being offered as alternatives to the
Read our complete
Buyer's Guide to understand what/which tablet will be best
suited for your needs and pocketbook.
Apple's iPad release has been
transformational, creating a new product category that has won
immediate and massive acceptance in the marketplace.
Unsurprisingly, many other
companies (23 for sure, so far) are rushing to create competing products, and
unsurprisingly also, there is still an evolving lack of clarity
about what constitutes a tablet, a lack of clarity that some
lesser known companies are using to exploit the market.
So here's a buying guide to
help you understand your choices and make an appropriately
informed decision about what type of tablet with what options
would be best suited for you.
The Boom in 'Tablet' style
It is a bit like the wild
west out there with the exploding growth of an ill-defined new
consumer product, the 'tablet' computer.
The there have been
computing devices referred to as tablets before, and for many
years, but they have never been more than marginal products and
never mainstream. The appearance of the iPad earlier in
2010 both redefined and rejuvenated the tablet concept, and for
the balance of this article, when we talk about 'tablet'
computers, we are not referring to the old, bulky,
user-unfriendly devices that failed to win marketplace
acceptance; we are talking about the new generation of devices
springing up from the iPad launch.
Due to the newness and the
vagueness of what a tablet now is (and is not) and the
additional confusion of previous devices also called tablets but
which have nothing in common with this new concept, many companies are
taking any sort of product that has some sort of a touch screen
and basic audio and video playback capabilities, probably
combined with Wi-fi, and calling it a tablet, then perhaps
hopefully pricing it at vastly more money than it is really
Overpricing is probably
a short term phenomenon - watch what will happen once the market becomes
filled with competing devices. It seems reasonable to expect prices to then start
plunging, and many of the 23 plus companies who are currently
planning to release tablet devices will disappear out of the
market as quickly as they arrived.
But, until that happens, and
equally importantly, until people clearly understand what a
tablet should be, we
return to our opening statement. It is a bit like the wild
west out there, and it is definitely a case of caveat emptor.
With prices ranging almost
exactly from $100 or slightly less at the low end, and all the way up to $1000 or
slightly more at the high end, and with additional costs
with buying software (ie applications or 'apps') and for data
access (maybe a one or two year contract locking you
in to ongoing costs), table style computers can be very
expensive, and there's plenty of opportunity to choose the wrong
Most importantly of all,
there's not yet any clear correlation between price and value.
What is a Tablet Computer
Let's start off by
understanding what a tablet computer probably is (and is not). The vagueness of
the definition is perhaps best exemplified by considering an
iPod Touch, an iPhone, and an iPad.
All three run almost
exactly the same iOS operating system, all three offer Wi-fi
connectivity, two of the three have cameras (not the iPad), two
of the three can access 3G data networks (not the iPod Touch)
and two of the three come without any type of contractual lock
(not the iPhone). Lots of other features are shared
between two or all three devices.
But only one of these three
devices is deemed to be a tablet style computer - the iPad.
And in understanding why this is, we get the first defining element of
what makes a tablet type computer - it needs to have a color touch
screen that is larger than that found on a typical phone or
This touch screen
requirement also closes off another 'almost tablet' type of
computing device - eBook readers, which are also enjoying a
massive surge in popularity, but which generally do not have
color touch screens. The mention of eBooks opens up an entire
sub-topic we'll carefully avoid here - do you need both an
eBook reader and a tablet computer?
What else is required in
order for a device to be fairly labeled a tablet?
suggest it needs to be lightweight and portable. It must
have Wi-Fi connectivity, and be able to play audio and video.
It must have a reasonably fully featured browser (many
applications choose to interact with devices through a web
interface rather than through a program, due to the web
interface being hopefully more universal and less platform
dependent) and email capability. In addition to a web
browser and email client, it also needs to have a reasonable
range of application software allowing it to handle many
ordinary type computing tasks (including the ability to display
PDF files, and to read Word and Excel documents).
Beyond these basics,
everything else is more or less optional and may or may not be
present to a greater or lesser extent.
Spreadsheet of Features to
We've prepared an Excel
spreadsheet for you to download and use when comparing different
tablet computers (this is available in the full report currently
offered to Travel Insider
This provides a convenient way for you to
summarize the distinguishing differences between competing
products, and even calculates scores to help you identify the
most suitable tablet solution for your needs.
The spreadsheet should be
used in conjunction with the explanatory discussion on features
that follows on this and the other eight pages of the full
Part 1 : Basic Facts and
Be sure to comparison shop
for the lowest price for the unit(s) you become most interested
Apple iPads are not
discounted, but most other brands of tablet computer may be
available at lower prices through some sources than others.
Support can be an issue, as
was exemplified unfortunately by Google's short lived (some
might say 'disastrous') foray into cell phones, when users of
its Nexus 1 phone got stuck in a nightmare whereby Google,
T-Mobile and HTC (the underlying manufacturer of the phone) all
blamed each other for problems and said it was someone else's
fault to fix the problems that arose. This was made even
worse by Google not providing phone support.
So be sure you'll have ready
access to good support for the hardware and operating system.
Of course, application support - other than for those
applications provided standard with the unit - will be the
responsibility of each individual app vendor/developer, but for
underlying hardware and OS issues, make sure there is someone
you can conveniently turn to who will helpfully assist,
preferably with phone support.
The issues of size and
weight are much more
important than you might think.
For sure, the size is
largely predetermined by the size of the screen (fully discussed
in the next section), but the necessary bezel around the screen (so that you
can hold the unit without touching the touch sensitive screen
and confusing the unit) varies in size, as does the thickness of
the unit too.
Sadly, and by definition, no
tablets will fit in your shirt pocket, so they'll all need to be
carried in some sort of carry bag if you are taking them with
you, but even so, smaller is definitely better than bigger.
Even more important than
size is weight. You might think an iPad weighing
'only' 1.5 or 1.6 lbs is amazingly light, and that weight is
almost an irrelevance, but this is absolutely not the case at
Trust me. When you
actually hold your iPad unsupported for any period of time, it will quickly
become heavy and uncomfortable, and you'll be looking for
convenient ways to rest it on something rather than to hold it
The lighter these units can
be, the better and more usable they are.
Our Full 10,000+ Word Report
This introduction is merely
a taste of our complete buying guide report, spanning nine
lengthy topics, more than 10,000 words, and with a bonus Excel
spreadsheet template thrown in for good measure.
If you're looking for a
tablet at present, or even if you're thinking you might start
looking for a tablet, you need to download this complete report
To get access to the
complete report, please
choose to become a supporter of The Travel Insider.
Any contribution of $5 of more will get you the complete report
An iPad costs anywhere from
$499 to $829. We've bought two, ourselves, and in both
cases, regretted the choice we made. If nothing else, this
report will help you learn from rather than repeat our mistakes
($1328 in total). If nothing else, an investment of 1% or
less of the purchase price of an iPad - less than most iPad apps
cost - will help you to choose wisely and confidently.
Plus, this report isn't just
about the iPad. It is about all the other tablet devices
that are starting to burst out into stores and online, too.
The report covers more than
50 different factors you need to evaluate when making a fully
informed best decision about the ideal tablet device.
Maybe you shouldn't get an
iPad at all. Maybe one of the other devices is a better
solution. Just as the iPhone first created a new market
all for itself, and then dominated it for a while, before now
dropping down and being overtaken each month by Android phone
sales, we predict the iPad's initial super-nova burst of
marketing glory will surely be eclipsed by the steady inexorable
development of Android tablet competitors (and possibly other OS
based tablets too).
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30 Sep 2010, last update
28 May 2011
You may freely reproduce or distribute this article for noncommercial purposes as long as you give credit to me as original writer.