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Choosing a Tablet


There are basically three types of tablet computers: Apple iPads, Android OS, and Windows. They pretty much all do the same things, but they do some of them in different ways. I personally own two tablets, and I’ll do a quick review of them. I’ll also comment on my daughter’s tablet and my current smartphone (really just a 5″ tablet that also makes phone calls).

Google Nexus 7:

My Android tablet is the Google Nexus 7″ tablet. I chose the smaller size so it would fit in my purse. I use it with the Kindle app to read books, various game apps, and e-mail and web surfing. It is the older version of the tablet, but it is running Android 4.4.4 and completely up to date.

It works well with the Kindle app though I prefer my older (touch) Kindle for books because it is lighter. When I’m traveling, though, it works fine. If I were going to do serious work on it, though, it would need a keyboard.

The touch screen is accurate and responsive. My one gripe with it is that if you stroke up from the bottom, sometimes it opens a built in program that I don’t want to run (a Google overview of the day). It is only a problem with a couple of games, but it is an issue I don’t see with my Android phone or my iPad.

It is a 16 gb device, and I have a 32 gb SD card in it. With android, you have to manually move apps to the SD card, but at least there is additional memory to use.

iPad Mini:

I bought the Mini on Black Friday last year because it was too good a deal to pass up: $299 – $100 gift card. After receiving a notice that it wouldn’t ship due to low quantities, it did ship and the bill was for $267 (not sure why). I used the gift card in part to buy a real apple case for it — it turned out to be a great purchase. I really like it for games. Not so much for e-mail. The e-mail app in it doesn’t behave like the android or Windows web mail, and it is awkward (IMHO).

It is a fine piece of hardware. It feels solid and well built. It loads quickly and runs well. If I have a couple of apps open, though, it sometimes halts and slows down during games. Same problem with the keyboard. I really don’t much care for the soft keyboards built into tablets.

The iPad is also a 16 gb device, but there is no place to put an SD card. What that means is that what you have on the internal memory is all you have. If you want to put movies or music on it, the space gets eaten up in a hurry. When you are running out of memory, the device slows down. This is a really bad thing. I think Apple has missed the boat on this one. An SD memory slot would make the devices much more versatile.

Samsung Galaxy 2 10″:

Comments on this device are second hand. I bought one for my daughter as a desktop replacement. I got lucky and picked up a customer return at Sam’s Club for a lot less than retail. She has stated that her e-mail is extremely slow on it and creating documents is a challenge, but that it is great for traveling. She uses it with a bluetooth keyboard and says it works fine. Just FYI, that keyboard does not work with the iPad, but Logitech makes a similar one that does. We have since added a laptop to her devices so that she can do the things she needs to do on a computer. Regardless of what manufacturers say, a tablet is not a laptop replacement if you do serious computing (word processing, spreadsheets, data crunching).

Samsung Galaxy S5 (SmartPhone):

I upgraded my Siii to an S5 during the mothers’ day sale at Verizon this year. I love some of the changes. The keyboard now has a row of numbers at the top. What an improvement. You don’t have to press a key to get to the number list (and with more and more places requiring numbers in password, that is a deal). It is also water resistant. Not waterproof, though. The screen is large and clear, and it doesn’t weigh any more than the slightly smaller siii. I was afraid when I got the siii 2 years ago that it would be too large, but I don’t find it to be. The battery life is decent. I charge it overnight and it lasts all day. I have on occasion forgotten to charge it, and sometimes it is dead in the morning and sometimes it still has some charge. The camera is great (but probably overkill for what I use it for), but like all smartphones, it isn’t very easy to use one handed.

I think with a bluetooth keyboard, I could almost use it as a tablet. It plays the same games as my android tablet (and runs them smoothly and easily).

I really like my phone (but I also really liked the siii), and I have no regrets about the 2 year contract ;-).

General comments

I did a spreadsheet on 4 devices for my daughter last spring — Android and IOS 7″ and 10″ models, and I’ll insert it just below these comments. The larger devices are more expensive. More memory is more expensive. IOS is more expensive. The most expensive of the iPads can be quite costly. I can’t justify spending $800 for a 64 gb tablet no matter how nice it is. Even the 16 gb iPad (10″ iPad Air) is $499. That is a lot of money for a tablet.

I need a keyboard and a mouse and a screen large enough to see. I’m used to a 23″ monitor on my desktop computer, and the 7 or 10 inch screens are just too small for serious computing. They are wonderful for games, reading, web surfing (mostly, but some of the mobile sites are really awful), and e-mail. I like my toys, but if I had to choose one, it would be my little 11″ Samsung laptop, not a tablet.

I don’t work on Macs of any sort. I refer to another person who is more knowledgeable. I can help set up the basics on a tablet, but it isn’t my area of expertise.

I refuse to put screen savers on my tablets. They are touch screens, and the plastic makes the surface unpleasant to touch. It is like covering furniture with plastic seat covers to keep them nice FOR THE NEXT OWNER. I’m so done with surface protection for my devices. That is not to say that you shouldn’t use one if you are a little hard on the screens. I do have a bottle of iKlear (purchased from Amazon) and use it to clean the screens on a regular basis. We will see if that is a mistake in a couple of years when they are terribly out of date.

Comparison as of January, 2014

This data is OLD by technology standards. Most of these tablets have been replaced by newer versions, but the comparison still stands. The numbers are probably not the same, but feel free to copy and paste the table and fill in your own numbers. You can research these at the manufacturers’ websites to get the current information and then check out pricing at a variety of stores to get the best price.

Google Nexus 7 2 Samsung Galaxy Tab 3 (7″) iPad Mini Google Nexus 10 Samsung Galaxy Tab 3 (10.1) iPad w retina display (not air)
price $249 (Walmart or Samsclub) $149 (Walmart) $299 (Apple Store) Walmart $399 $319 (Walmart) $299 (Sams) $399 (apple Store)
size 7.02″ 7.0″ 7.9″ 10″ 10.1″ 9.7″
weight .64 lbs 0.66 pounds .68 lb 1.32 lbs 1.12 pounds 1.44 lb
resolution 1920x1200 hd 1024 x 600 1024x763 2560x1600 hd 1280 x 800 2048x1536
dimensions (mm) 114 mm x 200 mm x 8.65 mm na 200 x 134.7 x 7.2 mm 263.9 x 177.6  x 8.9 mm NA 241.2 x 185.7 x 9.4mm
(inches) 7.9 x4.5 x .3 inches 7.4 x 4.4 x 0.4 7.87 x 5.3 x .28 inches 10.38 x 6.99 x .35 inches  6.9 x 9.6 x 0.3 inches 9.5  x 7.31 x .37 inches
processor Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 Pro, 1.5HZ Tablet Processor 1.2 GHz Dual core A5 dual core A15 Intel Atom 1.6 GHz dual core a6x/quad core graphics
memory 32 gb 8 GB Flash Memory + sd slot 16 gb (no sd slot) 32 gb 16 gb + SD slot 16 g (no sd slot)
display NA  HD IPS WQXGA PLS Display /gorilla glass retina
system ram 2 gb 1gb 2 gb 1 gb
OS 4.3 Jellybean will upgrade Android 4.1.2 Jelly Bean 4.2 Jellybean (will upgrade) Android 4.2 Jelly Bean OS
camera front 1.2 mp 1.3 mp 1.2 mp 1.9 mp 1.3 mp 1.2 mp
camera rear 5 mp 3 mp 5 mp 5 mp 3 mp 5 mp
video playback 1080p 1080p 1080p 1080p
battery 9 hours up to 10 hours NA up to 10 hours