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Tablet Buying Guide with Keith Newman
Tablets seem to have a life of their own.
Tablets have an ever-changing constantly, first the ten inch screen size was the standard for the market, then the 7-inch and 8-inch started to establish themselves as powerful rivals and now the large format, bigger than 10-inches is also making noise. However screen size is simply the most obvious feature, there are a host of others with two major areas of differentiation being the operating system and the level of connectivity.
What is also of great interest is that developers seem to deliver them whenever they wish, as opposed to the old PC model of next generation systems always being delivered in the back to school time frame. New models came out for the school buying season, prior to the Christmas holiday season, and after the holidays when the big Consumer Electronics Show is held in Las Vegas in January and the Mobile World Congress held annually in Barcelona at the end of February.
The iPad is one of the iconic products in the consumer electronics space and the company, facing increased competition from a number of other quality offerings has not let grass grow under its feet, continually upgrading the platform and the latest is the iPad Air. The one pound 10-inch tablet is only 0.29-inch thick. It features the latest version of Apple’s iOS operating system, iOS7 and is powered by the 64-bit A7 processor, a chip that also features an M7 motion coprocessor that serves a wide range of functions including allowing fitness apps to operate without causing undue battery drainage.
Other features include a 9.7-inch Retina display with 2048 x 1536 resolution, built-in 802.11 a/b/g/n Wi-Fi that has dual antennas for better performance with cellular available as an option. There are front and rear facing cameras, and can record video at 1080p HD. The iPad Air includes a range of apps including GarageBand, Find My iPhone and Pod Casts. Models start at $499 for the 16GB storage model with only Wi-Fi.
The iPad 2 Mini is the second half of Apple’s iPad offerings. It has upgraded from the A5 processor in its past generation to the A7, a significantly more powerful chip that also powers the larger sized iPad Air. But the chip is not what first catches a users’ attention, rather it is the stunning 7.9-inch Retina display. It has 2048 x 1536 resolution that has crystal clear resolution. Then the display can be used as a viewfinder for its 5 MP iSight camera, and there is an additional rear facing FaceTime HD camera for video calls and other uses. Models are available with 802.11 a/b/g/n Wi-Fi and cellular is an option. Models come with 16 GB, 32GB, 64GB or 128GB storage.
Tablets that run one of the many variations of Google’s Android operating system comprise the bulk of the offerings in the tablet space. They cover just about every conceivable market niche from hard core business tools, hardened offerings for outdoor use to ones targeted at the children’s market.
Samsung has been at the forefront of this space and its Samsung Galaxy Note 2 is a solid example of why. The 10.1-inch tablet features a new sleeker look from the company while providing a powerful tablet. It has an Exynos 5420 1.9GHz quad core processor with 3GB of RAM and runs the Android 4.3 Jelly Bean operating system. It comes with 32GB of storage that can be expanded by as much as an additional 64GB using an optional MicroSD card.
The 10.1 inch display has 2560 x 1600 resolution and the tablet includes a 2MP front facing camera and a rear facing 8MP camera. It is one of the first tablets on the market to support the new, higher speed 802.11 ac Wi-Fi standard as well as the older a/b/g/n versions. There are a number of Samsung only features including an enhanced version of its S-Pen stylus.
The Asus Google Nexus 7 Version 2 seems to have it all, and in a 7-inch format. The 7-inch display supports full HD 1080p HD with 1920 x 1200 resolution. Powered by a 1.5GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon quad core processor it features 2GB of RAM and 16GB of storage. Operating on the Android 4.3 Jelly Bean operating system it comes with Google Play that enables quick and easy access to apps, programs, video and more. Its light weight, at .064lbs will dot drag you down if you need to use the device all day and it is capable of nine hours of video playback or ten hours of general use battery life. There is a 1.2MP front facing camera as well as a 5MP auto-focus rear facing camera that can be used for videoconferencing or HD video.
Microsoft got off to a late and slow start in this space but has been gaining ground rapidly as a new generation of tablets has reached the market that matches up head to head with Apple and Android offerings, and particularly shine in the business space due to their larger storage capacity and features that are targeted at business users. The developers that created models using the different versions of the Windows 8 operating system are now creating systems that are stealing marketshare from rival operating systems.
Representing the new wave is Dell with its Dell Venue 8 Pro 8” HD Windows Tablet, an 8-inch tablet that runs the Windows 8.1 operating system. It comes with a 1280 x 800 resolution display and a 1.2MP front facing camera with a 5MP rear facing camera. It is powered by an Intel Atom Z3740 quad core processor that run at speeds of up to 1.33GHz and has almost 10 hours of battery life. It is available with either 32GB or 64GB of storage that can be easily expanded using the card reader with an optional MicroSD, SDHC or SDXC expansion card.
Some users want more in a tablet that is doubling as a work system and Lenovo has a tablet hybrid teed up for them with the Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga 11, a 11.66 inch touch screen tablet that features an attached keyboard that can fold away leaving a user with a simple tablet. The tablet runs Windows 8 RT rather than Windows 8 Pro. It has a fast Nvidia Tegra T30 1.7GHz processor that includes 2GB RAM. The tablet’s 11.6-inch display has 1366 x 768 resolution and the system comes with 64GB of storage as well as an expansion MicroSD card slot.