The tablet space once dominated by Apple’s iPad has exploded in the past year to 18 months, and now many tablets are selling well. Here are some of the more notable tablets in the large display (~10 inches) tablet market.
Apple iPad, 4th Generation:
Highlights: 9.7″ 2048 x 1536 display (264 ppi); 1.2 MP front-facing camera; 5 MP rear-facing camera; dual-core A6x CPU with quad-core GPU; weighs 652-662 grams; 16, 32, and 64 GB storage options; WiFi and WiFi with LTE options; priced from $500-830.
Pros: Beautiful display; excellent build quality; access to the industry-leading iTunes and App Stores, with many apps designed for the larger tablet display; AirPlay mirroring to Apple TV; good integration with other iOs devices and iTunes; good update support from Apple.
Cons: Expensive; choices and options, such as what browser to make the default browser, are limited by Apple, sub-standard Maps software, Apple’s cloud music storage, iTunes Match, costs $25 a year, new Lightning Dock connector will not work with earlier iPhone, iPad, and iPod docks.
Bottom Line: Despite the talk of Apple perhaps losing some of its mojo with the iPhone 5 and iPad Mini, the new iPad is still the standard-setter in the large tablet space, and for good reason. If you are invested in the Apple ecosystem and have music in iTunes and/or another iOS device, and you plan to stick with Apple moving forward, then this iPad is a no-brainer. Similar for older, non-tech savvy users and young users, as the iPad interface is very intuitive and easy to use. Finally, not all tablets have LTE connectivity, so if that is important then the new iPad is a good choice. If you’re not invested in Apple products, are looking to have more options with your device, or like to root and customize your device, then I think there are other good large tablets on the market for a lower price.
* * *
Google/Samsung Nexus 10:
Highlights: 10.055″ display with 2560 x 1600 resolution (300 ppi); 1.9 MP front-facing camera; 5 MP rear-facing camera; dual-core A15 CPU and quad-core Mali T604 GPU; 2 GB RAM, weighs 603 grams; 16 and 32 GB storage options; WiFi only; priced at $399 and $499.
Pros: Beautiful display with best-in-class pixel density; excellent integration with Google services; stereo front-facing speakers; NFC; micro-USB and micro-HDMI connectivity; as a Nexus device it will receive timely updates from Google; good developer options.
Cons: The Google Play Store’s selection of movies, TV shows, and tablet-optimized apps is improving but still limited; integration with non-Google services is not as natural as with other devices.
Bottom Line: If you want a “pure Google” experience and a large display then this is a great choice. Unlike other Android-based tablets, the Nexus 10 will receive updates directly from Google, often six months earlier than other Android tablets receive updates, and I think that counts for a lot. Also, if you’re into rooting your tablet so that you can modify features or install entirely new operating systems on it, then this tablet is a good choice. For its support from Google and excellent display, I would rank this tablet just below the iPad, with its greatest shortcoming being more limited content and fewer tablet-optimized apps.
* * *
Kindle Fire HD 8.9″:
Highlights: 8.9″ 1920 x 1200 display (254 ppi); front-facing “HD camera”; 1.5 GHz OMAP4470 dual-core processor; weighs 567 grams; WiFi only version comes with 16 and 32 GB options; WiFi with LTE version comes with 32 and 64 GB options; priced from $300 to $614.
Pros: Beautiful display; stereo speakers; Dolby audio; access to an expansive library of movies, music, TV shows, magazines, and books; free unlimited cloud storage for Amazon content; option to subscribe to Amazon Prime and have unlimited content streaming; Amazon claims fastest WiFi of any tablet.
Cons: The Fire HD 8.9″ is powered by a “forked” version of Android, which is a heavily modified Android-based operating system that is incompatible with the the Google Play Store and many apps found there. As such, it only has access to the Amazon App Store, which has a much more limited selection of apps than the Google Play Store. One could turn to the Android developer community for a fix, but that can be very involved.
Bottom Line: The Kindle Fire HD 8.9″ is a great tablet for media consumption, so for the traveler who wants to be able to watch movies and shows on a plane and occasionally use basic apps, the Fire HD 8.9″ is a good combination of display, content, and price. But for a more well-rounded tablet, there are better options out there.
* * *
Microsoft Surface with Windows RT:
Highlights: 10.6″ 1366 x 768 display (148 ppi); 720p front and rear-facing cameras; quad-core NVIDIA Tegra 3 CPU; weighs 680 grams; 32 and 64 GB options; WiFi only; priced from $500.
Pros: Integration with Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8; innovative tiled user interface that allows for a lot of personalization; Microsoft Office and the attachable Smart Touch cover/keyboard allow the Surface to be used for school and business moreso than the competition; USB, microSDXC and HD video out ports allow for greater connectivity; integrated kickstand; Internet Explorer (which is now receiving very positive reviews).
Cons: Unimpressive display resolution; expensive; Microsoft is new to the tablet space and is not very established in the smartphone space, so being an early adopter runs the risk of the platform not receiving developer support needed to meet its potential.
The Bottom Line: The new tiled interface on Windows RT and Windows Phone 8 is really exciting and is receiving rave reviews for its customization and for thinking outside the box. While these products are relatively new, Microsoft has been working for some time on having a complete, integrated product line on launch, so I think the growing pains will be manageable. For someone who likes to be in front of the masses and who is willing to pay $500 for a tablet and another $100 for the Smart Touch cover, this is a great tablet. It’s also a great choice for someone who uses Microsoft Office a lot, or someone who wants a tablet that can also perform many of the tasks normally reserved for laptops. However, the Surface may not be the best fit for someone who mostly wants a tablet to read news, play games, watch movies, and use social media.
* * *
Happy Thanksgiving to my American readers!!