If you haven’t heard yet, buying a tablet is the “IT” present for this year. But with so many options out there, it can easily become a diluted mix of possibilities that can send any holiday shopper into turmoil. With the success of the Apple iPad, it seems that every competitor out there has tried their hands at creating a device for this market.
And rightly should they as according to eMarketer, there is an estimate of 34 million tablets in use in the US alone. By 2014, they predict there will be 90 million in use and a total of 2 billion users of personal computers (which includes tablets). The expansion of tablet use has far exceeded the pace of any other personal computing device. It took the desktop computer nearly 13 years just to reach 2 million users in the US.
Once you’ve experienced a tablet, it’s easy to understand the appeal of tablets:
- Lower cost for top end devices ($200-$800 US) as compared to desktop or laptop computers ($500 – $5000).
- Easy storage.
- High resolution screens perfect for viewing images and multimedia (movies, etc).
- Easy to understand interface with minimal computer knowledge needed.
- Wide array of already existing phone apps which can be used.
The idea of a tablet computer is not new, the first concept tablets emerging before 2000 while laptops were starting to gain momentum. The first attempt at a tablet was with Microsoft in 2002… and it failed miserably. There have been other similar attempts over the years but it is the latest incarnation with the release of the iPad in 2010 that has heralded a new age of personal computing.
Sadly, in this household, we ‘ve had far too many tablets than what we should have. I blame my husband who has a deep love affair with technology (don’t tell him how much I enjoy it though). That being the case, I’ve had the opportunity to play with several of the leading industry tablets on the market today.
So if you’re looking for a tablet, here are my thoughts on the top 3:
The tried and true original is still one of the best options out there. The iPad2 offers more power, faster speeds, and a lighter weight than its original counterpart. But either option is a great choice for a tablet. iPad comes backed with the extensive iPhone/iPod/iTunes application suite. That means there’s a lot of programs to choose from that you can run.
Because of how big the screen is, it makes it easy to navigate through the system and even do the dreaded touch typing with their on-screen keyboard. The iPad easily pulls in mail from multiple pop accounts and allows you to interact with each with ease. This is great for someone who has a lot of free accounts at gMail or Yahoo.
The iPad is WiFi ready in most versions. However, if you want to be able to use the iPad outside of a networked area, you will need to purchase one of the 3G packages, which means you’re paying for a data phone plan.
iPad is also limited in Apple’s decision not to support Flash (which will eventually become a mute point as Flash died). The issue with this right now is that there are still a lot of websites built on Flash. One very popular in particular is YouTube. YouTube has resolved this issue by creating a special iPhone/iPad viewer for their videos; but you still don’t get all content on the popular video site and zero content from other smaller sites which haven’t made alternative programs for viewing.
Apple recently released their new iOS, which allows for users of the iPad to synchronize their data onto the Apple “Cloud”. This is particularly useful in sharing information across devices and helping to ensure files, like pictures, are less likely to be lost if the device breaks.
One of the next major players on the scene was the Blackberry Playbook. Backed by the all-powerful Research in Motion (RIMM), the Blackberry Playbook worked hard to distinguish itself from its major competitor, the iPad. The Playbook is smaller in size but thicker than the iPad. It could fit into most oversized pockets, which makes it a little more convenient to carry around than the iPad.
Beyond the look, there are some key differences to consider with the Playbook. First of all, it’s well integrated with the Blackberry phones. So if you don’t have a Blackberry phone to start with, I would shy away from this option.
But if you do have a Blackberry, the Playbook gives you the option to optimize your investment. Unlike any other device on the market, the Playbook actually ties into your phone, what they call a Blackberry bridge. This allows your tablet to use your phone’s data plan to access the web. It also allows for all your data (contacts/calendars/emails) to be synchronized between the devices with no extra work. For people who already have a Blackberry phone, this is a definite plus.
The Playbook also allows for viewing of Flash and thus makes it easier to navigate websites and not run into so many blank content. The clarity of the pictures makes it viable to watch movies even on such a small screen.
Because Blackberry technology has been relatively closed as compared to the number 1 phone operating system, Android, there are a lot less applications developed. However, do not let this stop you. It has already been announced that come February 2012, Blackberry will be releasing an operating system which will allow it to use all the Android apps.
Because it is so different from the other tablets and has the current limited application pool (which by the way is still about 25,000 applications), they lowered the price of the Playbook for over the holiday season. You can now get the Playbook for as little as $199.00 (CDN) at select retailers. Check the Blackberry website to find out where.
Still even at full price, it is comparable in cost to all the other major tablets out there.
One of the “newer” kids on the block, the Asus Eee has several differences from the top two that made it interesting enough for my husband to go out and buy. First off, it runs off of an Android operating system, thus opening up the full suite of Android apps out there.
The size is somewhere between the Playbook and the iPad, closer to the Playbook, so it is still small enough to fit into a large oversized pocket. On its own, the Eee has about 4-hours of battery life. However, you can purchase a dock for it which doubles the battery life, adds in a real keyboard (for those that dislike on-screen keyboards such as myself), and provides you with critical data ports such as a card reader. When docked, the keyboard portion can be flipped up, closing like a laptop and protecting the screen of the device.
One of the nice programs that comes with Eee is their cloud control. By default, you will receive on the tablet a series of cloud options. One is related to a product by Splashtop that allows you to take control of your desktop computer and work from anywhere. This was great for when I wanted to walk away from my main computer but still continue to work.
Like the iPad, it does require either an accessible WiFi nearby or you have to purchase one with a 3G option and a data plan with it. It actually has a few color choices: blue, red and white, which gives it even more character than the other options available. Overall, if you’re not a iPhone/iPod lovers, this might be a great option for you.
Other options on the market
The above three I have personally had experience with and can speak directly to how we used each. There are other options, however, on the market that are worth considering.
The Samsung Galaxy has slightly different sizes depending upon which model you end up picking up. The newer models have a size closer to the iPad, the older closer to the Playbook. It is backed by Android technology and operates much like a bigger version of the Samsung phones. It seems to have relatively smooth play and operations but nothing that would call it out as different from the options above.
Amazon Kindle Fire
This option isn’t even available yet to us in Canada but it is available to those of you in the US. The Amazon Kindle Fire may at first look a lot like the Blackberry Playbook. That is because it is built on the same hardware. But that’s where the similarity ends. Amazon went through great efforts to build their own Android-like operating system. That means it can use all the Android apps that are currently available. Plus, it is linked tightly with their Kindle line of products, which is great for avid readers to gain access to their ebooks. And with the new video streaming that’s allowed at Amazon, you can easily rent and watch movies through the Fire. The price is also one of the cheapest on the market, reportedly lower than the actual cost of the device.
With all the tablet options out there, you can’t go wrong going down the tablet option for your next personal computing device. It is definitely a technology that will be growing in the near future and fits in with the type of lifestyle we all seem to have these days.
I hope this review helped. If you have any questions or picked up a tablet and would like to add your own review, please feel free to comment below. Thanks!