I bought the original iPad when it came out and I still love it. I use it as an ereader, for taking notes on the road (evernote), to go online on the couch etc.
When I bought my iPad the only competition were Android Tablet PCs and they just weren’t as user friendly. I know several people who have android tablets and none of them use them to take notes during classes: they still use pen and paper. I think that’s an essential point: apparently android tablets aren’t responsive enough to actually type on fast enough for daily use.
The Windows Surface Tablet, promised to change the game. It has a physical keyboard in the shape of a screen protector. This is a smart move, because it will give people something missing from tablets today: blind typing. Sure – auto-suggest makes typing on an iPad very fast, but nothing can beaut typing without having to look at your fingers. That’s something typing on a screen can never give.
Other advantages of the Windows Tablet are pretty obvious:
- Compatibility with Windows office: Word, Excel etc.
This is why the tablet is marketed primarily for business. However, I’m sure that if the tablet is as user friendly as promised, many consumers will buy the Surface as well.
- Use of USB, micro SD cards and other connectors.
The one disadvantage to the iPad is that it assumes people won’t mind connecting their machine to other hardware through connectors. However, they’re generally wrong: I don’t like it that when I use my iPad for a lecture, the cable connecting it to the screen tends to come off. It’s not a deal breaker, but if windows can deliver on usability, the ability to connect and share information through physical means is a definite plus for the Windows (and Android) systems over apple.
However, check out my review of Windows 10 as a tablet Operating System.
Ereaders – like the original Kindle (not the Kindle Fire or the Kindle Fire HD range) – are a different kettle of fish:
- Only very basic browsing and apps available
- Very long battery life
- The screen is optimized for reading – whatever the lighting conditions
The Kindle Fire and Kindle Fire HD ranges are really tablets and should be judged along those lines.
How to pick the right Tablet: iPad / Android / Galaxy Note / Microsoft Windows 10 Surface
When buying a tablet for Christmas there are a few issues to consider: size (5, 7, 10 or 12 inch), type (iPad, Android, Kindle or Windows) and price. Whatever platform you pick, you’ll have to pay extra to get mobile access (as opposed to only wifi).
Obviously I can’t determine your budget for you, but if you’re mainly going to use your tablet as an ereader and for casual browsing it doesn’t really matter which you pick: they can all do it.
I recommend the Kindle Fire as having great hardware, a usable interface and of course it’s built AS an eReader.
However, for my use the Kindle Fire just isn’t good enough. I use my tablet for studying (ereader) taking notes (evernote), sketching, going online and keeping track of todo’s. And that’s just the stuff I do often. If you’re like that, or you think you might be, you will need a higher end tablet. Shown here is my Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1.
Kindle Fire HD – the TOP Tablet for most users
Kids, teens, adult and elderly – Definitely a best buy
If you’re like most people, you’ll be using your tablet most as an ereader, to play a few casual games, check your social media (twitter, facebook), listen to some music, go online and perhaps watch a movie.
The Kindle Fire does all that and keeps it simple while you’re at it.
The Kindle is basically an Android Tablet, but without the label and also without access to the Android Market (aka Google Play). Most likely you won’t miss it.
The only popular app that’s NOT available on Kindle is Google Maps. If that is a problem, you’ll have to find yourself a good Android Tablet or an iPad. I recommend the Samsung Galaxy line. I love my Galaxy S4 phone as well as my Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1.
However, I suspect it’s NOT a problem to not have Google Maps – and therefore recommend the Kindle Fire as one of the most user friendly tablets on the market and the best for the best price.
What OS do you want on your Tablet?
The top tablet OS
iOS – iPad by Apple
The most famous tablet is the iPad. It’s still the most sold. However, the competition is heating up.
The iPad is made by Apple and has a closed ecosystem. The upside of this is that you get a bit more protection: apps get checked by Apple before being allowed in the store. It also means the interface in the apps is a bit more uniform.
iPad are some of the most expensive tablets on the market. As I write this they do NOT have a good maps app. As the first player on the apps market they do have the largest amount of apps in their iTunes store.
For eReading there’s the Apple Books app as well as PDF readers and the Kindle App.
Your iPad will come with a fixed amount of memory, no expansion with a Micro SD card.
There are a LOT of games and apps available for the iPad. In fact, some people say the iTunes library is a main selling point for the iPad.
Android – by Google
Android is an open ecosystem. This means you get a large variety of tablets and phones using it. This has the advantage that if you’re picky or you have a small budget, you’re more likely to find an android tablet to fit your needs than an iPad.
If you want to use your tablet for more than just surfing and eReading, but aren’t using any very unusual wishes, you will be happy with the Android app store. It has all the popular apps and includes the Google Maps app that is currently absent from the iTunes store.
The main choice to make between Android and iPad is about price and functionality. For instance, I love my Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 because it has better options for drawing.
Again for eReading there’s a choice of PDF reader apps as well as a Kindle app.
Right now the Android platform is the only one to offer a good maps app: Google Maps.
The Android Market (aka Google Play) has loads of apps and games available. If you’re a casual gamer, Android will be good enough.
Most android tablets allow for memory expansion with a MicroSD card.
Kindle Fire (3 / HD)
The Kindle Fire is basically an Android tablet with some extra features and some features left out. The extras have to do with the interface: set up to read ebooks and see movies from Amazon easily. In fact, you’ll have to pay extra to get rid of adds – that’s how integrated the tablet is with the Amazon store.
What you do NOT get with the Kindle Fire line is access to the full Android Market with it’s games and apps. Most of the most used apps ARE available however, so you won’t miss out much. However, conspicuously absent from the Kindle platform is Google Maps. That’s one app that is simply made for tablet use, so not having it is really a shame.
Kindle comes with a fixed memory limit: no expansion with a Micro SD card.
Windows 10 tablets
The new kid on the block is Surface. Reviews are positive, and since the OS has been available for 2 years, the most popular apps are available for Windows now. The Surface promises to be the tablet you can use as a laptop: editing your windows office files on the fly. The first user reviews are raving. People are actually editing Excel documents on their Surface. Do make sure you get the matching ‘touch cover’ which is also a keyboard.
When it comes to games and eReading – they will probably catch up, but they’re not there yet. The apps haven’t been developed yet. So no maps, for instance. However, developers are waiting in line to have their apps approved for the Windows App Store, so the wait won’t be long.
As one reviewer says:
The Google Apps experience on a Windows 10 tablet is much like the Microsoft Office experience on a Windows 10 tablet. I think both suites work better with a keyboard and mouse; neither is yet a pleasure to work with on a Windows 10 touch tablet. The apps aren’t well adapted to tablets, and the touch targets are often tricky to tap. Things have gotten better since they wrote this, but Windows 10 is still has a few kinks to iron out before it becomes an easy to use tablet OS.
Note that this is NOT true for the native Google Google Maps app for android. It works like a charm and is definitely fit for touch use.
Generally speaking a text processing app ought to work OK on a tablet, as long as you don’t expect to do complicated formatting. Very useful for note taking though.
Spreadsheets on tablets – not the best idea ever. You just need that keyboard and usually a larger screen is also welcome.