By Carl Weiss
If you are thinking about buying a tablet PC, you should be aware that there are now many variations of the device that was first brought to the world by Apple Computer on April 3, 2010. It’s hard to believe that in less than three years the tablet PC market has exploded to the point that there are tablets galore being manufactured by everyone from Acer to Vizio. As a result it is getting more and more difficult to decide which tablet is right for you.
Apple, Google and now Microsoft?
While Apple did invent the tablet PC, Google quickly followed suit. In fact, in a CNet interview in October, Google’s executive chairman Eric Schmidt admitted that , "The Android-Apple platform fight is the defining fight in the industry today." He also went onto intimate that within a year, more than one billion devices were expected to be running on Android. So when it comes to choosing one platform over the other, it is simply a matter of preference, since both offer millions of apps from which to choose.
The problem is that another mover and shaker, Microsoft, has just entered the fray with their Windows 8 compatible Surface. This has also spawned a whole slew of other hardware vendors from Dell to Samsung creating their version of a Windows 8 compatible Tablet. Microsoft Surface is their first real foray into the hardware tablet/PC platform arena.
Even though Microsoft is a late comer to the Tablet wars, they could prove to be a player! With Microsoft’s worldwide distribution channels and large installed customer base, they will make inroads quickly. If the sell out of their first manufacturing run is any indication of this product sell ability it will be one to watch. Microsoft's design is innovative, high tech and offers many features not available on competing models. Plus it runs Microsoft Office, the number one office suite in the business world. Microsoft’s entry is not a cheap knockoff, it’s a real hybrid with high end competing features and it is priced accordingly. Currently the MS Surface is only available in a 10.1 inch model but if you love Microsoft it’s worth a look.
While there are variations on a theme, for the most part tablets are most commonly available in either 7-inch or a 10-inch models. While size matters, it’s not in the way you would at first think. While many people deride the 7-inch tablet, Steve Jobs having been chief among them, there is most definitely a time and a place where less is more. To make matters worse, there are hybrid devices that blur the line between smart phone and tablet. Both Samsung and LG have release smart phone in the 5+ inch size that have all the capabilities of full size tables (and of course they are cell phones too). Not to be out done Apple recently released its new IPad Mini with a 4 inch format.
A report from CNet: Nearly 60 percent of units shipped this year will be 9-inch screen tablets with the iPad at the top of the list, according to the firm. But the 7-inch tablets are cutting into the iPad's hold on the market -- those shipments account for 32 percent, up from 26 percent last year.
Other than size, 7-inch units are decidedly cheaper. Google’s Nexus 7 which is one of the best in the business can be had for right around $200, while typical 10 inch tablets retail for four to five hundred dollars. Besides 7-inchers are much more portable, which is a huge advantage when carrying around other gear. 7-inch models can also be slipped into a pocket. 10-inch tablets are closer to a laptop in size versus a smartphone. This means that if you want to do a lot of typing, a 7-inch tablet isn’t for you.
How Low Should You Go?
While size, operating system and speed are three of the variables that many people use to make a final decision on the best tablet to buy, there are always bargain hunters. With the sheer amount of competition in the marketplace, you would think that prices would start dropping. To a certain degree you would be right. But price shouldn’t necessarily be the final arbiter in choosing a tablet. You still need it to perform the tasks that are near and dear to you. For example, while I have seen tablets such as the Archos Arnova 9 G3 for as little as $149.95 on Amazon, the question you have to ask yourself is, “How much performance do I need to get out of my tablet?”
A review of the Arnova 9 from PC Advisor states that,” The Arnova 9 G3 display has a 1024x768 resolution but as with the, it lack crispness. Text is readable in larger fonts but falls foul of pixelation when browsing text-heavy websites. Video playback can also look patchy at times with colors not blending seamlessly. Colors weren't as vibrant as on the best budget screens, such as Samsung's Galaxy Tab 2. We managed to squeeze only 5 hours of viewing out of the Arnova 9 G3 before the battery gave in. That's not to say you couldn't use it for casual YouTube perusing, but you'll have to do this via the browser as Arnova hasn't installed the Google Play app store and no YouTube app is pre-loaded.”
So if you are looking for a powerhouse, don’t necessarily expect a bargain. You may find that the bargain tablet you purchased doesn’t have the speed, battery life, resolution or app availability that you desire. Besides the differential in price between the low and high end of the spectrum is only a few hundred dollars for the most part. So why split hairs?
Need a Tablet You Can Get Wet?
Of course, if you are looking to take your tablet on the high seas or into the rainforest then you definitely need to find a tablet that’s up to the task. AT& T’s Pantech Element is designed to be submerged in up to three feet of water for up to 30 minutes. While you can’t exactly take it scuba diving, it’s tough enough to take boating or camping. While most Android tablets come in either a 7 or 10 inch variant, the designers of the element decided to go with an 8-inch screen. Other than that, it’s a fairly straightforward 16 GB Android Honeycomb tablet that is available for $299.99 with a two-year contract, or $449.99 without.
Winning the Battle and Losing the War
Remember, choosing the best tablet for your needs is not something you should take lightly. The last thing you want to do is buy a tablet online based on your research only to find out once it arrives that you absolutely hate it. So before making a purchase, take the time to go to a retailer that carries the unit in order to hold it in your own two hands and put it through its paces. If you fail to do this then you might wind up in the unenviable position of winning the battle only to lose the war, in which case you could wind up putting your latest purchase up for resale on EBay or Craigslist. Actually if you wait till after Christmas you may find the tablet of your dreams in the same place for half the money.
Carl Weiss is president of W Squared Media Group a digital media agency located in Jacksonville, Florida. He also owns and operates Jacksonville VideoProduction and cohosts the weekly “Working the Web to Win Radio Show,” that airs at 4pm every Tuesday on Blog Talk RadioPC