Once you've made the choice to switch to a tablet
computer, you've got a lot more choices ahead of you.
Seven-inch or 10-inch display? Android or Apple? UMTS or not? Are you going to be using it on the couch or while underway? The good news is that, whatever answers you choose, there should be something that fits your needs, sometimes for as little as 100 euros (128 dollars).
First, users have to pick an operating system. Michael Wolf, of the German consumer product testing group Stiftung Warentest, recommends Apple products for the less technologically oriented.
"On the other hand, Android can be fun for people who want more flexibility and want to make the device suit their needs more," he says. "A lot of Android devices just cost less for a comparable configuration."
"Both are pretty easy to use after a short introductory phase," he says. But a Windows 8 tablet is probably the most obvious replacement for a notebook. "You don't run into the problem that a Windows programme you need can't be installed."
Windows RT is a special version of the recently released Windows 8 operating system which is designed to run on tablets. But note that Windows RT devices often only use special RT apps and there aren't many of those yet.
A lot of new Windows tablets are coming with keyboard docks - for keyboards that can be plugged in, often with their own integrated battery. They're often attached with a hinge, practically turning the tablet into a laptop.
"That's a nice difference from iOS and Android devices," says Woelbert. Those can only be connected to a keyboard with Bluetooth or USB. However, classically, tablets aren't really for typing.
A lot of the choice will depend on size and weight. The more the tablet is intended as a travel device, the smaller it should probably be. Weight is less of a problem, across the board.
"There aren't many that weigh so much that they're heavy in the hand," says Woelbert. A 7-inch model is usually only about 350 grams; the 10-inch model usually about 600.
But battery lives differ widely, in a range from three to 10 hours. Always check before making a purchase.
Tablets at the cheaper, 100-euro end of the range, are not known for long lifespans. Corners are often usually cut with displays and components, which means lower resolution and more difficulties in getting an overview of the contents.
"You have to do a lot of scrolling and zooming, and it shakes more often," says Woelbert. "After a week or two, that can get annoying."
Don't focus too much on RAM and CPU figures. "It depends more about how the manufacturer sorted out the hardware and software," says Woelbert. "The key thing is how fluid it feels."
It's possible to get a feel for handling and the screen in store tests. "With a display model, you can quickly see if the colour, brightness, focus and viewing angle are right," says Wolf. "In the 200-euro range, you can find some decent 7-inch tablets."
Also check what kind of Android device you're getting, if you opt for that. Nexus tablets are very true to the original. Amazon tablets are based on Android, but they try to focus users on Amazon services, says Wolf.
Also see if there is an SD card slot for expanding memory. Connections are also key. Some tablets have standard USB and HDMI connections, others insist on special connections that require special hardware, says Wolf. UMTS is not yet standard, but "not everyone needs it."
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