Finding the Right Tablet

As more of us become tempted into the tablet market, so the proliferation of device choice grows with the popularity. So if you’re new to the territory, where should you start?

In terms of overall appeal, it’s hard to see past the Apple iPad2. Apple has been fine tuning its online store for years and with iTunes and the App Store it has really nailed the idea of digital downloads and purchases. The second generation of the device also boasts a good (if not spectacular) tech spec, with a beautiful 9.7-inch display, up to 64GB of storage, dual-core 1GHz processor and all the style you’d expect from an Apple product.

However, all this comes at the usual Apple premium price. And while some love the ‘Apple-only’ way iPads, iPhones and Macs work, it drives others insane. Luckily, if you don’t like the way Apple does software – or aren’t willing to pay the inflated price for the style – there are other options available.

Also nearer the high end of the market is the 10.1-inch Asus Transformer Pad. With a 1280×800 resolution screen, 1.2Ghz quad-core processor and 1GB of RAM (double that of the iPad2) it’s a genuine contender (despite having a smaller 16GB of memory space, there is also a microSD card slot). Better still it has a purpose-built attackable mobile dock with full QWERTY keyboard, practically turning it into a laptop on request.

The Transformer Pad uses Google’s Android operating system, which has proved highly successful on smartphones but is yet to love up to those standards as tablet OS. However, despite some shortfalls in terms of purpose built apps and general tablet specific operability, it does offer simple PC integration and a user interface every bit as user friendly as Apple’s.

If the close to $500 price tag puts you off, but the idea of an Android tablet appeals, there are some notable cheap alternatives. Samsung is yet to fully come to the party in terms of tablets, but its Galaxy Tab 2. is a strong bet at its price point of around $250. The screen is smaller (seven-inch) and memory capacity lower (8GB, expandable with microSD cards), but the 1GHz dual-core processor and screen quality make it a genuine contender.

Then there’s the Amazon Kindle Fire, a tablet that uses the Android OS in its own unique way. Also a seven-inch device with a dual-core processor, it has been purpose built to be part of the Kindle family. Book content is at a premium, but it has also worked hard to make this a great introductory device that backs the bookstore with a reasonable number of apps, movies and TV shows, as well as the usual music and web browsing. At less than $200, you just need to ask yourself if the lack of apps is an issue.

Kindle Fire

Finally, I’d like to give a bit of love to the BlackBerry PlayBook. A capable seven-inch tablet built on RIM’s successful BlackBerry architecture, since its upgrade to OS 2.0 it offers a fantastic second-to-none email, document and messaging experience. The browser works well and it’s solidly built, the hardware stacks up against its competitors, while it can now be picked up for under $200. Just don’t hold out for a great gaming experience, as the number of apps available is pretty woeful.