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Like this article? We recommend What Makes the Perfect Tablet?

What Makes the Perfect Tablet?

If you're looking for the perfect tablet device to use as a business-related productivity and communications tool, where should you invest your money? Which tablet is the best option for you? For many consumers and businesspeople, this question has an obvious answer: the Apple iPad 2. However, before making your purchase, consider the following important issues.

Hardware Dimensions and Weight

What do you plan to do with your new tablet? For example, if you'll be doing word processing or spreadsheet management, reading and writing email, or surfing the Web, a large screen will be useful, especially if you'll be utilizing an onscreen keyboard rather than an external keyboard.

If you'll be carrying and holding the tablet for extended periods of time, determine how its size and weight will affect your comfort level. A smaller tablet might be great for watching movies or listening to music, but it probably would be frustrating to do word processing, for example, on a unit with a 7-inch touchscreen. Ultimately, the tablet should fit comfortably in your hands.

Battery Life

When comparing tablet devices, a long battery life is essential, especially if you are constantly on the go and unable to plug in the device until the end of your hectic day. With heavy Internet usage (especially using a 3G or 4G network, as opposed to Wi-Fi), battery life gets used up much faster.

Operating System

The operating system the tablet uses will determine its stability and upgradeability, as well as the level of third-party support it receives. Well-established and popular operating systems are supported more readily, and more apps are developed for them. With more than 350,000 iOS apps available for the iPhone and iPad (currently including more than 65,000 iPad-specific apps), Apple offers the largest collection of apps for its iPad 2 tablet device.

Other operating systems used by competing tablet devices include webOS (HP TouchPad), Android (Samsung Galaxy Tab, Motorola Xoom, and Dell Streak 7), and BlackBerry Tablet OS (BlackBerry PlayBook).

Price

Start by comparing the base price of each tablet on the market, and then add in all of the optional accessories you'll need to purchase in order to get the tablet to do what you need it to do. For example, you may want to roll in the cost of some of the following options, depending on what you expect from your tablet:

  • Docking station
  • Carrying case
  • Screen cover
  • Cables for connecting the tablet to another device (such as an external monitor)
  • External wireless keyboard
  • External speakers
  • Insurance for the device

You also should determine how much the tablet will cost to operate per month, if you must sign up for a wireless data plan.

Wireless Data Options

Whether you plan to surf the Web, manage email, stream audio or video content, or use other Internet-intensive applications, you'll have to sign up for a wireless data plan that meets your needs, offers coverage where you'll be using the device, and is affordable. By contrast, if you'll be using the tablet exclusively through a Wi-Fi connection, you'll have to ensure that you'll have access to a Wi-Fi hotspot whenever and wherever you'll want to use all of your device's functions.

Library of Available Apps

Regardless of how fast and powerful the tablet's processor is, how detailed the HD display is, and what other built-in features the unit offers, how functional your tablet will be in your professional and personal life depends on the selection and quality of the apps (software) available for it.

Available Downloadable Content

Beyond apps, one of the wonderful things about the various tablet devices is that they offer access to a wide range of other downloadable or streaming content, such as eBooks, audiobooks, digital editions of newspapers and magazines, television shows, movies, music, games, and videos. Beyond offering extremely impressive hardware, what sets the iPad 2 apart from its competition is the vast selection of downloadable content available through iTunes, the App Store, and Apple's iBookstore.

Support for the Tablet and Future Upgrade/Expansion Options

After selling more than 15 million units of a computer, the manufacturer is likely to continue supporting that hardware's operating system with upgrades and improvements. This has been the case with the Apple iOS operating system (and to a lesser extent with the Android operating system, for example). It's too soon to tell how dedicated some of the newer tablet manufacturers will be to updating and expanding their tablet operating systems.

Hardware can easily become outdated. For instance, the original iPad was replaced by the more advanced iPad 2. However, the upgrade process to the iPad 2 from the original iPad is extremely fast, easy, and seamless. Users can transfer all of their data, apps, and customizations from iPad to iPad 2 with just a single sync, keeping everything intact during the transition.

As new hardware is released, the ability to upgrade and transfer data easily is crucial—without having to reconfigure anything, manually reenter data, or download and reinstall apps from scratch.

Having access to technical support is also important when you have a question about your tablet's operation, or when some type of problem occurs. Apple has more than 200 Apple Stores nationwide, staffed by "Apple Geniuses," who are on hand to offer tech support. Plus, Apple's toll-free tech-support phone number promises minimal hold times to reach well-trained and knowledgeable personnel, whose native language is English.

By contrast, if you try calling RIM's tech support for PlayBook, for example, you'll be transferred to a call center in India, where representatives (many of whom barely speak English) will attempt to assist you with only access to a knowledge base, and no actual PlayBook on hand.

Compatibility with Your Current Computer Applications

If you already have a PC or a Mac, you probably use a handful of applications regularly, such as a word processor (probably Microsoft Word), a spreadsheet program (such as Excel), digital slide-presentation software (perhaps PowerPoint), an email program, a scheduling program, a contact-management application, and so on. Regardless of which tablet you choose, you need the ability to transfer and sync data easily between your tablet and your frequently used software packages on your PC or Mac. This transfer may be via wireless or USB cable connection.

Your tablet should be able to synchronize with your computer's calendar or scheduling program, contact-management software, and email application, keeping this data up to date, regardless of where you access it. Plus, you should be able to transfer word-processing documents, PDF files, spreadsheets, photos, videos, and other data files back and forth between your computer and tablet easily and quickly, without worrying about compatibility issues.

Ease of Use

If you're not technologically savvy, you really need a tablet device that's intuitive to use, with a minimal learning curve to set up and operate. What happens if you need to contact the company's technical support department or your company's IT experts in order to perform everyday tasks on your tablet? It goes from being a valuable tool to being a frustrating, time-wasting, anti-productivity gadget.

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