(Reprinted from the Metro Spirit, 11/24/2011)
As we move into this year’s holiday season, no doubt one of the biggest technology gifts will be the tablet. Tablets have steadily grown in popularity over the past couple of years, evolving from a curiosity into a preferred medium for consuming cloud-based media. The number of tablets currently on the market is almost overwhelming. It would be impossible to provide a comprehensive review of all available tablets. However, some common themes are beginning to emerge. I hope a review of some of the more noteworthy products can help you sort things out as you start your holiday shopping.
Any review of tablets has to begin with the Apple iPad 2. It is quite simply the best overall tablet on the market and sets the standard in virtually every performance category. It is simple to use. The library of applications and media content is huge. The battery seems to last forever. The recent iOS upgrade allows users to keep content in the Cloud versus local to the device or sync’d via tether to a desktop. Does the iPad 2 have any flaws? Only a couple. First, the cameras on the iPad are not very good. Not a big deal since taking pictures with a tablet is impossibly awkward. You’ll only use the cameras for video conferencing, and well, how often does that really happen? Secondly, and more importantly, many manufacturers have started reducing price, leaving Apple as one of the more expensive tablets. Not a big concern, however, since the price performance is still the best of all tablets. And let’s face it. Consumers have demonstrated over and over again that they are willing to pay a premium to own Apple.
The next tablet is really a group of tablets – those devices that utilize the Android operating system developed by Google. With only a couple of exceptions, Android powers every other tablet offering outside of Apple. Several very good Android tablets exist in the market: ASUS Eee Pad, HTC Flyer, Motorola Xoom, and Toshiba Thrive, to name a few. All of these devices share the Plus +1 of Android, greater customization, Google native apps such as navigation with Google Maps, and the large selection from Google’s App Market. The Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 seems to consistently rank at the top of everyone’s Best Of list. It is the lightest and thinnest of the Android tablets. It also has the best performance, rivaling the performance of the iPad. Unfortunately, the Galaxy Tab 10.1 price point is the same as the iPad. Most of the folks that I have talked with say that if they are going to $500+ for a tablet, they might as well get an iPad.
Finally, the last couple of tablets represent the newest entries to the table market, the Barnes & Noble Nook Tablet and the Amazon Kindle Fire. These tablets possess scaled down functionality to exploit the gap between what tablets are capable of doing, and how they are really used. Most people use tablets to view downloaded or cloud-based media, whether the media is music, TV shows, movies or books. Both Barnes & Nobles and Amazon have created their tablets as a front door into their media distribution. This is especially true for Amazon as they challenge Apple and Netflix for dominance in the music and video markets. The Kindle Fire also provides an enhanced web browser called Silk that utilizes the cloud-resources at Amazon to improve browser performance by caching web pages. The beauty of these devices is their relatively inexpensive price points. The Amazon Kindle Fire starts at $200. The tablet doesn’t contain many of the features of the big boy tablets, but it has all the right stuff to completely satisfy most tablet users.
Of course, this is just a brief overview of the tablet market. Much more information can be found online by Goolgling for product reviews.
Until next time, I’ll see you on the internet…tweet me @gregory_a_baker. L8R.