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11/29/2013
08:46 AM
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Tablet Shopping Guide: 8 Tips

The tablet market is more crowded than ever. Use our eight tips to avoid buyers' remorse this holiday season.

3. Nothing beats hands-on experience.

Almost all tablets can handle surfing the Web, reading email, watching videos, and using social media. The two factors that most distinguish such similar devices UI and form factor, both of which are best judged through practical experience. It might be easier to shop online, but if you're considering buying a tablet sight-unseen, you might want to reconsider and head to a physical store.

When considering unconventional devices such as the Surface 2, hands-on experience is essential.
When considering unconventional devices such as the Surface 2, hands-on experience is essential.

All of the major tablet OSes are usable once you're used to them -- but whether you'll enjoy using them is a much more subjective call. Some people are just going to like the look and feel of iOS or Android or the Windows 8.1 Start screen more than the look and feel of the others.

Form factor is also important. On paper, the Surface 2 and Lumia 2520 are in many ways identical, for example; they both run Windows RT 8.1; have similar display resolutions, weights and dimensions; and support third-party keyboards. But small changes can amount to a big difference. Do you prefer to hold your tablet? The smooth curves of the Lumia might feel better in your hand than the more industrial, relatively hard-edged Surface 2. Do you prefer to prop your tablet on a table? The Surface 2's kickstand might give it an edge.

4. How will your tablet fit into a larger ecosystem?

Tablets present self-contained appeal, but much of their value lies in the services and apps they let you access. In terms of apps, Android and iOS boast the deepest and widest catalogues, and Apple offers not only the largest number of tablet-optimized titles but also the simplest and most successful model for OS upgrades. Some Android OEMs, such as Samsung and Amazon, add additional apps of their own to further differentiate their devices.

But an ecosystem is more than just touch apps. Only Windows tablets can fully tap into the Office 365 cloud, for example, and though Microsoft's SkyDrive service is cross-platform, it's easier to use on Windows devices because it's baked directly into the file structure. Apple's iCloud, in contrast, can't be accessed on non-Apple devices, but if your household includes any Macs or an Apple TV, iCloud keeps you content up-to-date across the range.

5. Do you want polish or technology's bleeding edge?

More than a few reviewers have praised the iPad Air and iPad Mini with retina display as the best all-around tablets on the market. But depending on your view, the thing that makes Apple products so broadly appealing could also make iPads a non-starter.

That is, Apple exerts tight control over its OS and ecosystem, limiting what app developers can do and deliberately bypassing technologies that the company finds overhyped, such as NFC support. Apple's tight grasp has generally made iOS an enjoyable, refined experience in which things work like they're supposed to, and which users have found to be very intuitive. But the tactic has also made iOS aggravating to anyone who wants to step outside Apple's walled garden. In terms of user customizability and support for bleeding-edge technologies, both Android and Windows devices are more open, if also marked by rougher edges.

This consideration includes not only which new technologies are implemented but also how well the implementation is executed. Apple burst onto the virtual assistant landscape with Siri, for example, but many feel the technology hasn't advanced as much as hoped. If you want a personal assistant that will predict your needs, Android's Google Now might be a better option -- if you're comfortable giving it free reign to monitor your e-mail, calendars and other personal data. Windows tablets don't yet feature this sort of personal assistant, but they feature Bing Smart Search, which is a differentiating technology in its own right, and one can only assume that the natural language capabilities in Microsoft's Xbox One will eventually find their way into Windows tablets that obey voice commands.

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ChrisMurphy
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ChrisMurphy,
User Rank: Author
12/3/2013 | 9:30:06 AM
Re: Apple and Android are not the same
Michael's advice to try these tablets hands-on is good, but I found that difficult to do for the Nexus 7 -- I tried one or two stores and they either weren't set up to web surf or didn't have apps on them that would provide a reasonable approximation of what it's like. iPad and Surface were both much easier to test. (I ended up with an iPad Mini)
Laurianne
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Laurianne,
User Rank: Author
12/2/2013 | 2:40:33 PM
Re: NFC Comment from Tablet Shopping Guide: 8 Tips
Roy, your point is well-taken. Apple can live with hype. It can't live without a lot of control.
RoyMAnderson
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RoyMAnderson,
User Rank: Apprentice
12/2/2013 | 1:44:45 PM
NFC Comment from Tablet Shopping Guide: 8 Tips
Hate to pick on one small point in what was otherwise a great article, but claiming that Apple rejected NFC because it was operhyped" - give us a break.

They rejected it soley becasue of NIH. Claiming Bluetooth LE is better than NFC is like claiming ships are a valid replacement for trains - sure there's some overlap but they each have strengths in different areas. This is purely a marketing/legal decision on Apple's part to differentiate themselves from the rest of the market - better to rain on NFC's parade and prevent it from being universally adopted than admit Apple missed the boat initially and are willing to come late to the party.

Not that other companies don't do the same thing, but this was purely a self-interest decision on Apples part that they have more to gain from being uncooperative than from joining the pack.
ZacharyF949
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ZacharyF949,
User Rank: Apprentice
12/1/2013 | 9:46:46 AM
Re: Apple and Android are not the same
Thank You for the great info.There is so much out there to chose from,again a big thank you,zach
Txheartdoc
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Txheartdoc,
User Rank: Apprentice
12/1/2013 | 9:22:23 AM
Help
I am hoping one of the smart people posting can help me. I am a physician and see patients in a rural outreach clinic. I have to carry a small laptop from room to room. I use windows on it and the electronic record uses Citrix. I use the Mac because it was very light and it was challenging hauling a dell room to room. I still have to keep Mac charged and leave the power cord in one room and charge when I rotate back to that room. When I enter the patients history I have to type it in real time, so a keyboard is needed. I might currently have the best solution I can get but I am intrigued by the tablets. What is your advice? Should I give up searching? We rent the office from the hospital two days a week, and federal law regulating leases between providers (hospital and doctors) prevents us from putting in three desktops (the real solution). It's crazy I know. Thanks
TeresaW521
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TeresaW521,
User Rank: Apprentice
12/1/2013 | 6:52:14 AM
Re: Apple and Android are not the same
One of the best-buys for a tablet with the latest features is the 8.9" Pipo M7 Pro on sale for $239 at the site TabletSprint — this new model was released last month, with high end specs that compare to the new Nexus 7, plus an advantage of a larger 8.9-inch screen, making it one of the best values on a tablet this holiday season. 

A 3G HSPA+ edition is available for $279 and is one of the first tablets with both Internet & Voice Calling capability and works with AT&T, T-Mobile and Straight Talk Wireless...  a 10-inch edition is also available, the Pipo M9 Pro for $279 ($309 with 3G).

All tablets through TabletSprint feature $25 in premium Apps, including the popular 3D game ShadowGun and an MS Office suite App... along with free monthly 4G Internet access nationwide with 500MB of free data each month, with a 4G adapter included.

Many other deals available through TabletSprint are worth checking out, including the new SmartQ Z-Watch to launch this week, priced at $149 – this new model compares to the popular Pebble Watch, but in contrast to the Pebble's non-touch  monochrome screen, the SmartQ Z-Watch features a full color touch screen display, a more powerful processor, twice the battery power, and features both Bluetooth & WiFi connection.  It also offers an MP3 Player & Voice Recorder, a walking/jogging pedometer,  and works with Android and Apple iOS devices to handle phone calls and sync and display messages, contacts, and schedule.
Susan Fourtané
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Susan Fourtané,
User Rank: Ninja
12/1/2013 | 12:50:27 AM
Re: Apple and Android are not the same
jgherbert, 

Thanks for the link. Yes, the opposite in every imaginable way. :) I love classy Rolls Roys.

Well, the Apple ecosystem is wonderful. I still don't see such closeness between Android and iOS, though.

Do you think the best Android tablet is close enough to offer everything an iPad Air offers, for example? 

-Susan 

 
jgherbert
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jgherbert,
User Rank: Ninja
11/30/2013 | 8:39:01 PM
Re: Apple and Android are not the same
@Susan: I think you can safely assume that a Pinto (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ford_Pinto) is effectively the opposite of a Rolls Royce in every imaginable way ;-)

 

I think the comparison of Android and iOS is much closer than Mac vs PC, because functionally they are largely the same these days (no, this is not a troll statement, so let's not get into a peeing match), and as mentioned, it's the attached ecosystem that makes the biggest difference to many people. I own Macbooks, iPhones, iPods and an iPad, so for me having all these synced up together is just amazing and incredibly convenient. If I weren't so tied to Apple, I would probably be much more open to the idea of an Android-based tablet (I don't count my Kindle HD, as that's so out of date and hacked around by Amazon it's not really a fair example of Android).
PaulS681
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PaulS681,
User Rank: Ninja
11/30/2013 | 1:18:00 PM
Re: Never Surface RT
I don't think the Surface RT and the samsung note can be compared apple to apple. They are both different. If you need to do everyday PC tasks you will need the surface or a tablet that runs windows. If you don't then you can look at droids or iPads.
Susan Fourtané
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Susan Fourtané,
User Rank: Ninja
11/30/2013 | 11:59:23 AM
Apple and Android are not the same
Cpt.America, 

I find it hard to believe that you say Apple and Android are the same. Next you are going to say that a Mac and a PC are the same? I don't agree with your judgement. 

Also, what type of car is a Pinto?  

-Susan
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