Buying a Touch Tablet

by Mark Applegate Google

    In the latest trend in the ever-shifting personal computing market, tablet PCs are expected to soon outsell desktops. There are many companies vying for this lucrative market leaving some consumers wondering how to choose. The choices range from simple e-readers with limited touch-sensitive features meant primarily for reading books to full-featured powerhouses that rival a laptop in speed and computing options. By examining a few features you can narrow your choices to find the tablet that's just right for your needs.

    Operating System

    The primary players in tablet operating systems are Apple's iOS, Android and Windows. While preference plays a role in choosing a tablet OS, functionality is somewhat at stake in making this decision. Apple utilizes iTunes, the largest store of applications available in the tablet market. This popularity stems from its owning two-thirds of the tablet market share and its interaction with the wildly popular iPhone line. Android and Microsoft are much less proprietary than iOS when it comes to software and apps. Android's OS, designed by Google, owns the second largest market share due to its more open availability to application creation and its lower price. Microsoft has been involved in tablet PC operating systems for some time but its Surface models are its first major foray into building hardware for its software. For robust office productivity software options, consider tablets with either Microsoft or Android operating systems.

    Screen

    Screen size varies widely between as small as that of a cellphone to as large as 10 inches or more. Consider your needs when choosing a screen size; bigger isn't always better, especially when you consider the short battery life of large screens. While all tablets have acceptable screen resolutions, some stand out. Two of the best examples are the Google Nexus 10 tablet boasting a 2,560-by-1600-pixel display and an iPad with a 2,048-by-1,536 pixel display. Screens come in capacitive and resistive styles, with capacitive models being more flexible in allowing multitouch options such as swiping and pinching.

    Flexibility

    All tablets are portable, but some allow you to utilize paid 3G or 4G cellular functionality if you are away from a Wi-Fi network. These cellular plans are typically limited in monthly usage, but they can be helpful while driving or using the tablet outdoors. Input and output jacks are also a flexibility factor; you can hook some tablets to your television with an HDMI cable, while iPads can connect wirelessly using a wireless router and an Apple TV appliance. Tablets used primarily as e-readers, most notable the Barnes and Noble Nook, Amazon Kindle and similar models, once useful only to read books, can now perform many of the same Web-surfing functions as advanced tablets while retaining advanced features for reading such as highlighting and note-taking. Take in account battery life as tablets powerful enough to multitask often use more battery than simpler models with less functionality.

    Camera

    Many tablets now include a camera that can be used for filming or streaming. These vary in resolution and may face the front or the back of the tablet. You may benefit from a camera if you download popular apps such as Skype or use the iPad FaceTime video messaging service. Consider storage options such as SD card slots and cloud storage if you plan to save pictures or video as some tablets have limited options.

    Other Considerations

    Consider your budget; tablets range from well under $100 for a basic 7-inch Android model to well over $500 for an advanced iPad. Spend some time holding and manipulating your potential tablet. Some are much easier to use than others. Consider brand-specific perks. A Kindle can use a premium Amazon Prime account to access a large book lending library and can share books with other Kindle models. If you want to print from your tablet, consider tablets that allow for easy wireless printing such as those that support Google Cloud printing.

    About the Author

    Based in Bolivar, Mo., Mark Applegate has been a professional writer since 2003. He earned a Master of Business Administration from Colorado Technical University and currently serves as the information technology director at a local public school.

    Photo Credits

    • Comstock Images/Comstock/Getty Images