So you think you want to buy a tablet device, but which one is right for you?  We’ll explore the options to try to help you to make a decision.

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Requirements

I don’t know about you, but recently I have been getting plenty of requests for help in picking out a good tablet for friends and co-workers.  I thought that it might be useful to summarize those conversations and see if this helps anyone else to decide on the right tablet for them.  Before we begin, what do you want to do with your shiny new tablet?  Before buying any tech device, I try to make sure that I understand exactly what I want to do with it first.  This should help to narrow options down to the ones that matter to you.  Here are some typical uses that people have discussed with me recently for tablet devices:

  • Light-duty internet surfing
  • Netflix access
  • Access to corporate email and calendar function
  • Data access when traveling
  • Playback of video content, including Media Center TV recordings and DVD rips
  • Playback of music
  • Remote access to your home server
  • Gaming (of course!)
  • Ability to edit Excel, Word and PowerPoint files while on the go
  • Handwriting recognition
  • Integration with One Note

OK. Now that we know what we want to do with these devices, let’s look at the major options and evaluate.

iPad 

Apple iPad
Apple iPad

Of course, we have to start with the iPad from Apple.  According to this coverage, Apple has close to 90% market share for this category.  My wife received a 64GB 3G version for Christmas this year and she loves it.  So do I!  The device is very well made, is convenient to use and is a useful size when travelling.  This is how Apple describes this product:

A revolutionary device for browsing the web, reading and sending email, enjoying photos, watching videos, listening to music, playing games, reading e-books and much more.

How does it stack up against our requirements?  Let’s take a look.

Requirement

Met?

Comments

Light-duty internet surfing

Yes, with limitations

No Flash or Silverlight support

E-reader capability

Yes

 

Well-developed app store

Yes

Widely regarded as the best available

Netflix access

Yes

 

Access to corporate email and calendar function

Yes

 

Data access when traveling

Yes

3G access with AT&T in US is $25/month for 2GB and £15/month on Vodaphone in the UK

Playback of video content, including Media Center TV recordings and DVD rips

Yes, if loaded to iTunes first

 

Playback of music

Yes, if loaded to iTunes first

 

Remote access to your home server console

No

 

Gaming

Yes

Broad selection of games, from racing games to first person shooters to educational for kids

Ability to edit Excel, Word and PowerPoint files while on the go

Yes, with optional software

Require Pages—word processor, Numbers—spreadsheet, and Keynote–presentation software at $9.99 USD per application. Limited ability to edit/update Office documents.

Handwriting recognition

No

 

Integration with One Note

Yes

Microsoft just released a One Note app for iPad/iPhone/iPod Touch.

DLNA compatibility

No

Air Video installed on your PC/home server/Mac is a good alternative that works well; Airplay is also available if you have a 2nd generation AppleTV

User expandable storage

No

 
Front and back facing cameras

No

 

Integration with handset

No

 

Battery life

10 hours

Yikes!

 

This device has been described as a content consumption device.  It excels at surfing the web, as long as the site does not use Flash, and if you have video content in iTunes, it will look fantastic.  With support for Netflix as well as the ability to buy and rent content in iTunes, this is an entertainment powerhouse.  A drawback for a home server owner is that all video content that you want to load has to be loaded into iTunes first, and if you want DLNA capability, you need to load Air Video ($2.99 USD in the App Store).  It supports corporate email and calendaring, and my company has also implemented Sametime IM for the iPad, which is really handy.  Where it falls down a bit is editing Excel, Word and Powerpoint files.  If you are just reviewing and commenting, the capability that comes along with Pages, Numbers and Keynote is probably enough to allow you to leave your laptop at home.  However, any intensive sessions with generating content in these applications will likely leave you wishing that you had your laptop.  With the 3G versions, you have the ability to be connected even when outside of Wi-Fi range.  Pricing for the 64GB 3-G version is currently $829 USD/£714 GBP.

iPad Portal US App Store UK App Store