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Back 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…
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 favorable 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?
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.
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.
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 areresulting in faster, more capable (and pricier) tablets being produced.
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.
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.