So you’re in the market for a tablet computer; at least, you think you are. Personally I always struggle with determining whether a purchase is a want or a need. Fortunately for you I’ve compiled a personal list of the 10 most basic human needs. I always use this in determining whether or not to make a purchase:
- Shiny metal objects
- To love and be loved
- A tablet PC
- Glass beads
- A Wham-O Slip’n Slide
So, if you’re good from one through four, YOU, my friend, are in the market for a tablet PC. It’s big investment, and hokey horse hockey, there’s a lot to choose from. Well fear not, because this article is all about helping you find the tablet PC that’s right for you.
Let’s begin with the obvious, price point. Please keep in mind that I’m painting with a wide brush and I acknowledge that there are always “sales”, and exceptions to the prices I am about to quote. Money can always be saved with factory-refurbished models and guys selling electronics out of the back of a panel van.
By and large, it’s hard to find a new tablet for under $400.00 U.S., although they do exist in brands like Coby, Huawei, and E Fun. Right now, any “bigger” name tablet begins at around the $400 mark. This price range will get you a name like Dell, Acer and a lower-end Asus.
Between the $400 and $500 mark there’s a fairly wide selection of tablets and you’ll be more likely to recognize the names of the manufacturers. By and large, the $500 dollar mark will get you a tablet with at least a 16GB hard drive. In this range you can find 16Gb Apple iPads and an assortment of 16GB tablets including Samsung Galaxy Tabs, the Toshiba Thrive, HP TouchPads, the HTC Flyer and BlackBerry PlayBook. Of course, for $500 Asus offers a 32GB Eee Pad Transformer Tablet and Motorola matches this power with the XOOM. This list is not exhaustive but should give you a good idea of what to expect for your money.
General Rules of Thumb When Purchasing a Tablet PC
- If you want more horsepower, it will likely cost you more
- More screen real estate equals higher prices
- More hardware/gadgets equal higher prices
- Multiple cores translate into faster tablets (and typically higher prices)
- 4G internet access is faster than 3G
- Higher RAM increases the response time of your tablet and allows programs/applications to run faster
Higher RAM also allows more of the aforementioned items to be open at the same time.
Most of the above should be fairly self evident, however it does bring up an interesting point. What is it you need your tablet to do? This question is likely more important than considering your price point. Do you simply need mobile access to the Internet? In that case, a smartphone may be all you need; that, or a low-end Internet tablet from names like Coby, Huawei, or E Fun. Do you need one or more cameras? Again many smartphones come equipped with one or more cameras. Are utility apps important to you or do you simply enjoy gaming on a tablet? It’s a good idea to answer these questions before beginning to shop for a tablet computer.
Reasons for Needing a Tablet Over a Smartphone
- A larger screen: I’ll be the first to admit that a larger screen makes viewing websites much easier
- Video telephony/Video conferencing (some smartphones already do this)
- Appearances: Keeping up with the Jones (That’s honest)
So, let’s look at some of the major specifications you’ll be contending with, when considering a tablet PC. Here’s a list of major considerations:
- Hard drive capacity (GBs)
- Single or multiple cores
- Operating systems/ Availability and access to apps
- Screen Display: Power Consumption/Battery life/Size
- Are you tied to any one Internet supplier?
- Internet providers for 3G and/or 4G
- Other Goodies/Considerations
In the days to come, we’ll delve into each and every one of these subjects throughout the course of this buyer’s guide. For the sake of brevity, today I plan on covering hard drives and cores.
The Hard Drive
As defined by Wikipedia, a hard drive is a random access digital data storage device. It ability to store data is measured in gigabytes (GB). The more gigabytes, the more information the device can hold, i.e. more photos, songs, apps, games, etc. Its primary function is to provide secondary storage of data. Things like the operating system are stored here.
If you’ve ever seen a hard drive, it’s reminiscent of an old school record player. Only this “record player” never sees the light of day as it is housed in a protective enclosure, which in turn, is housed inside the computer/tablet. There’s a rotating disk or platter which looks very much like a CD. Think of this platter as being the “vinyl record” portion of the turntable. Information is recorded and retrieved on the patter via read/write heads. The read/write heads are located at the end of an arm, which is reminiscent of the tone arm of a record player. However, unlike a turntable, which can only “read” a recording, the read/write heads can also record new information on the platter. It can do so anywhere space is available on the platter until disc is full. The turntable analogy further breaks down in the sense that read/write heads are not obliged to sequentially search the platter from beginning to end. The arm is free to move to any position on the platter to gain immediate access to the required information.
So, in short, more gigabytes equals the more “stuff” you can upload to your tablet.
Single or Multiple Cores
Personally I found the definition on Wikipedia to be spot on for describing the purpose of multiple cores. Wikipedia describes multiple cores as follows:
A multi-core processor is a single computing component with two or more independent actual processors (called “cores”), which are the units that read and execute program instructions.
Therefore, collectively the processors can share the work and accomplish task in far less time. It’s like assigning multiple people to a large project as opposed to just one. The work gets done quicker, ergo your tablet becomes that much more responsive. It’s that simple. In conclusion, multiple cores are preferable to single cores, though you will likely have to pay more. You get what you pay for.
Stay tuned for more to be sure you find the tablet that’s right for you.