5 Things To Consider Before Buying A Tablet PC

intro1   5 Things To Consider Before Buying A Tablet PCBack in January I wrote an article about 5 things you might want to consider before buying a netbook. The option of buying a shiny new tablet PC made it onto my list, although these devices come with their own list of advantages, compromises and considerations.

So in order to restore a bit of balance, here’s a brief shortlist of tablet PC considerations to consider before you take the plunge and break the bank. I’ve found myself pondering these five points for a good few months now…

Which One?

You may or may not already have a model in mind. Maybe you’ve been to the Apple store and fallen in love with iOS. Maybe you’re firmly set up in camp Google and have your heart set on an Android whim?

Then again there’s Windows, probably the least favourable operating system for use with touch controls. But don’t forget Bill’s OS will give you unparalleled software compatibility and Flash support out of the box. But if you’re leaning towards Windows wouldn’t a netbook be better?

galaxytab1   5 Things To Consider Before Buying A Tablet PC

Android and Windows devices can vary greatly, so do your research and read as many reviews as possible before reaching for your wallet. I can’t speak for every Android or Windows tablet, but I know that Apple’s iPad doesn’t support a user-replaceable battery and Apple charges $99 to replace the lithium polymer cell once it dies.

The only way to really tell if you and a new piece of kit are made for each other is by trying it out. Go to a shop and play with everything they have for a good half hour. If it suits, go home, go on the Internet and buy it cheaper (if you’re that way inclined).

Are They Too Touchy?

Generally speaking, tablet devices require a touch input to function. Granted, you might get one or two buttons on the front, maybe a volume rocker on the side but that’s about it.

“Gorilla arm” is the rather humorous name for the act of obscuring the screen you’re using with your arm, primarily due to the layout and touch nature of the device. This is always going to be an issue with touch input, so you’re going to have to live with it.

brokenipad   5 Things To Consider Before Buying A Tablet PC

On another note; if you’re particularly heavy handed or have a habit of breaking things then you’ll either want to reconsider or take out accidental damage cover when you buy. Once that lovely capacitive touch screen dies it’s pretty much game over.

Are You A Consumer?

By consumer in this instance I mean do you waste enough time on the Internet or is your online time usually put to better use?

As this latest generation of tablet devices has slowly matured, it has become fairly evident that tablet PCs are devices aimed more at consumption than production. The lack of a physical keyboard is fairly indicative of this.

ipadgame   5 Things To Consider Before Buying A Tablet PC

Instead you’re more likely to find this generation’s average tablet user streaming video, playing games, reading RSS feeds or eBooks ““ that sort of thing. Sure, Twitter and email won’t cause a sweat but I’d rather not have to produce a lengthy document using an onscreen keyboard ““ would you?

Do You Really Need One?

So you’ve got your iPhone to keep your thumbs in shape, your netbook for computing-on-the-go and your home PC answers to the call of duty when you finally get home at night. Where would a tablet fit into your digital lifestyle?

If you don’t already own one then maybe a netbook would be a wiser purchase. You’ll get more bang for your buck, a proper operating system and the reassuring touch of a physical keyboard. You can also easily upgrade RAM and replace a dud battery in a netbook, and you won’t need an external keyboard or iPad keyboard dock to get some work done.

Then again maybe you’ve recently been pining for the perfect couch-potato device and find yourself demanding a big touch screen to do some serious browsing….

Should I Wait?

Often a burning question when it comes to any serious hardware purchase ““ what will the next generation hold? Dual-core Android devices are just landing resulting in faster, more capable (and pricier) tablets being produced.

ASUS EeePadSlider 2   5 Things To Consider Before Buying A Tablet PC

One of those dual-core devices is the Asus Eee Pad Slider (above) which runs Android, has a hidden keyboard, promises 1080px video and proper Flash support.

It’s also not in Apple’s style to let the competition run away with the show, and timely releases are vital in order to keep up with competitors. At the moment of writing, rumours are circulating the Internet of the iPad 2 having already gone into production – time to decide whether you want a shiny new Apple product or the shiniest new Apple product when it finally surfaces.

Conclusion

Tablet PCs didn’t really work first time round. Very few consumers found a need for laptop-cum-tablet hybrids with big swivelling resistive touch screens. This time round tablets are back with vastly improved innards, capacitive touch technology and a distinct lack of keyboard.

This time round there’s still an unclear target market, partly due to the fact that you’re probably not going to get a whole lot of work done on a tablet. Instead they’re aimed at reading, watching, playing and browsing; making the tablet PC a very passive device indeed.

Would you buy a tablet? Do you own one? Is a netbook a better purchase? Have your say in the comments below.

Image Credits: Samsung Galaxy Tab, Broken iPad, iPad Game, Asus Eee Pad Slider, Android Phone

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25 Comments -

0 votes

David McCormack

I was very skeptical about tablets until the iPad. As a friend of mine likes to say “I drank from the coolade and have never been the same since.” You have to use one to GET it.

0 votes

Tim Brookes

This happened to me with iOS 4.2 in general. Since using an iPhone 4 I’ve been “converted” and as much as I dislike Apple’s iron grip I can’t help but recognise what a great little device the iPhone has become.

The iPad is essentially a bigger iPhone, so now I want one of those too. Ah….

0 votes

JimdW

Great article Tim and Good to see you’re well on your way to becoming a mac convert. The iPad really is the sleekest, and best option to consume media… As for content creation, the mock ups of the Photoshop CS5 controller app.

0 votes

Tim Brookes

Hold your horses Jim, I’d consider an iPad or iPhone but that’s about it ;)

Maybe one of those tasty Apple Cinema Displays…

OS X didn’t have the same effect on me, put it that way.

0 votes

Mtrader

I bought a netbook (Asus) and it’s great. I thought I would use it more than I do, but in the end, with my ipod classic for music, my kindle for ebooks, and my desktop Mac (with a Windows virtual machine) at home, I’ve found I only really use the netbook for trips (am using it now in my hotel room, in fact) so I can browse the internet/check email at night before going to bed. I would definitely miss the keyboard on a tablet, so until they come out with the new Asus with hidden keyboard, I guess I will stick with my old handy netbook for now.

0 votes

Logimax

I have a galaxy tab, and im verry fond of it.

0 votes

Euchrid

I have a HP TouchSmart tm2 and it’s the bees knees! The long battery life (9+ hours), full touch screen, light and portable, and running Win7 64bit with a 500Gb HD and 8Gb of RAM. What could be sweeter? Fills the gap between my Sony F series laptop and my iPhone 4 brilliantly. Makes reading using Zinio and Kindle a great alternative to the iPhone while still having the full functionality needed for work (especially for PDF annotation and other touch screen purposes). I see it as the perfect blend of size, function, and usability.

0 votes

Tim Brookes

How do you find using Windows from a touch interface? I’ve read some fairly mixed feedback about tablets running 7.

Also have you tried putting any other operating systems on there?

Still, a 64bit processor and 8GB of RAM probably eats iPads for breakfast!

0 votes

Euchrid

Absolutely no problems with Win7 – I’ve read plenty of negative views as well and don’t really understand it. When I’ve got it in tablet mode I mostly use touch oriented software (Chrome is very good for this), but when I need to do something that requires “more” but I’m too lazy to turn it back to a laptop, the onscreen keyboard and touch/pen sensitivity is excellent.

Working at a place that has nearly every combination of OS and hardware (don’t get me started…), the TM2 is the best netbook/tablet/laptop everything combo. Honestly can’t speak highly enough…

0 votes

Susan

I have a habit of breaking things, including my Droid. I may need to think twice before buying a Tablet, at least for now!

0 votes

KiltedDutchman

I travel a lot for work, and seem to have gathered a lot of media on my (work) laptop to watch whilst on location at a hotel, i’m anticipating that a tablet would be the tool for me to use to keep work & personal use perfectly seperate. I have set a private user profile on the laptop, but figured a tablet would be the way forward for me, then again, i could be wrong.

0 votes

wezz

I am tempted by the Dell Inspiron Duo (http://dell.to/gX91xF) – a cross between a netbook and a tablet. The best of both worlds?

0 votes

Tim Brookes

Also been pondering this – but is it possible that it’s neither a netbook or a tablet and just one of those in-between devices that’ll never take off?

Hmm…

0 votes

wezz

I am tempted by the Dell Inspiron Duo (http://dell.to/gX91xF) – a cross between a netbook and a tablet. The best of both worlds?

0 votes

jhonz talk

tablets are great for a somehow small presentation or multimedia use..

on my own opinion, as a college student,
NETBOOK (w/ parallel port for projector) will be much useful to create or edit presentations and for typing purposes

gadgets like iPod Touch or iPhone will give ease on surfing

if the new Asus Eee Pad Slider can’t be easily broken (specially with the keyboard thing), i guess i’d rather choose it than the netbook ^^

0 votes

jhonz talk

tablets are great for a somehow small presentation or multimedia use..

on my own opinion, as a college student,
NETBOOK (w/ parallel port for projector) will be much useful to create or edit presentations and for typing purposes

gadgets like iPod Touch or iPhone will give ease on surfing

if the new Asus Eee Pad Slider can’t be easily broken (specially with the keyboard thing), i guess i’d rather choose it than the netbook ^^

0 votes

Tim Brookes

The construction looks pretty good from what I’ve seen. There’s a couple of videos from CES 2011 which show a fairly solid hinge underneath that sliding keyboard.

Android 3.0 looks pretty swish too!

0 votes

Tim Brookes

The construction looks pretty good from what I’ve seen. There’s a couple of videos from CES 2011 which show a fairly solid hinge underneath that sliding keyboard.

Android 3.0 looks pretty swish too!

0 votes

Tim Brookes

This happened to me with iOS 4.2 in general. Since using an iPhone 4 I’ve been “converted” and as much as I dislike Apple’s iron grip I can’t help but recognise what a great little device the iPhone has become.

The iPad is essentially a bigger iPhone, so now I want one of those too. Ah….

0 votes

Tim Brookes

How do you find using Windows from a touch interface? I’ve read some fairly mixed feedback about tablets running 7.

Also have you tried putting any other operating systems on there?

Still, a 64bit processor and 8GB of RAM probably eats iPads for breakfast!

0 votes

Tim Brookes

Also been pondering this – but is it possible that it’s neither a netbook or a tablet and just one of those in-between devices that’ll never take off?

Hmm…

0 votes

Euchrid

Absolutely no problems with Win7 – I’ve read plenty of negative views as well and don’t really understand it. When I’ve got it in tablet mode I mostly use touch oriented software (Chrome is very good for this), but when I need to do something that requires “more” but I’m too lazy to turn it back to a laptop, the onscreen keyboard and touch/pen sensitivity is excellent.

Working at a place that has nearly every combination of OS and hardware (don’t get me started…), the TM2 is the best netbook/tablet/laptop everything combo. Honestly can’t speak highly enough…

0 votes

Ballard

I have an android tablet that has DDR2 memory that you can replace, but I think you would have to do software tweaking. :D

0 votes

Tim Brookes

Hold your horses Jim, I’d consider an iPad or iPhone but that’s about it ;)

Maybe one of those tasty Apple Cinema Displays…

OS X didn’t have the same effect on me, put it that way.

0 votes

Tinthing

Using a ASUS T91MT and love it. Esp being able to use all the apps I want for my graphics work. The touch control is great but having a pen also is the icing on the cake for an artist, esp with pressure sensitivity.. a must. Win7 is surprisingly well adjusted to touch input.. Hope that one day Apple will make OSX touch aware but till then they have little to offer for a graphics user in tablet land.