Whether you're thinking about an iPad for the kids, a PlayBook for work or a Honeycomb tablet for a little bit of both,then chances are you are one of the millions of tech lovers in the market for a tablet computer this year.
Apple's iPad is the dominant player in 2011, but should you think a little harder about your tablet choice before you leap in to Apple's ecosystem? We break down the decisions we'd make in purchasing a new tablet this year.
This decision is probably the most important and it will likely dominate how you use your tablet once you've bought it. At the time of writing, the choice is really between three systems: Apple's iOS, Google's Android and the BlackBerry Tablet OS. You can also buy tablets running Windows 7, but we're yet to see an example of this that has really impressed us.
Your choice of OS will then inform the other important decisions you need to make when differentiating between the growing number of tablets on offer. Click through to the second page of this feature for a comparison of the major tablet platforms.
Size and weight
Screen size and weight are two very important factors for portable devices, and finding the right balance between a big screen and a weight you are willing to hold for long periods of time is essential. As you will see later in our OS comparison, only Android tablets really offer a choice of screen size, as the Apple and BlackBerry tablets only offer a one-size-fits-all solution.
Screen size is the main factor that determines the weight of a device, as a large portion of this heft comes from the glass used to cover the LCD panel. In the table below you can see how doubling the diagonal screen size of a tablet can triple the weight of the device overall.
|Samsung Galaxy Tab||7-inch||380g|
|Apple iPad 2||10-inch||607g|
You'll also want to consider which connectivity options you'll need to make the most of your tablet computer. Will you need 3G for internet on the move? Will you use an HDMI port to deliver presentations to clients or share movies on a big screen TV? Are you a photographer who needs access to an SD card slot on the device to share your work with clients? Today's tablets often offer one or more of these solutions and it'll be up to you to buy the model with the slots and sockets to meet your needs and budget.
Connectivity checklist: does the tablet you're looking at have the following?
- 3G or Wi-Fi only
- HDMI, and does it come with a cable?
- Micro or mini USB
- Full-size USB host port
- MicroSD memory expansion
- SD card reader slot
Beyond these major considerations there is still plenty that separates the best tablets from the worst. The Lenovo ThinkPad, for example, comes with a capacitive stylus, while the HTC Flyer offers one as an optional extra. Samsung's tablets have an 8-megapixel camera, while the iPad 2 only has a 1-megapixel camera.
Maybe you're actually looking for a netbook? Checkout our tablet or netbook comparison here.