The iPad, while more pricey, is still a great, user-friendly option. PHOTO COURTESY CREATIVE COMMONS

So ya wanna buy yourself a tablet?

In Business & Technology /

By Jeff Lagerquist

The iPad first hit retail shelves just three years ago. Today, 28 per cent of Anglo-Canadians say they own a tablet, according to a new survey by The Media Technology Monitor.

Some analysts predict tablet sales will surpass notebooks as early as 2016.

Choosing the right one has never been more confusing. Dozens of manufacturers are churning out hardware running versions of Google’s Android OS. There are four iPads on the market, and Microsoft is testing the waters with its Windows RT and Windows 8 devices.

With the tablet market becoming increasingly saturated by the day, now may be a good time to impart some friendly consumer advice.

The first thing to consider is what, aside from looking like a boss, do you intend to do with your new tablet? Are you looking to replace your laptop or keep yourself entertained? Are you going to need constant Internet access? Don’t be too quick to dismiss some of the more affordable options. The iPad may justify its price with killer processor speed, a gorgeous display, and robust app support, but it doesn’t have a native HDMI output or storage expansion ports.

Screen size matters, and it’s measured diagonally across the screen.

Smaller tablets in the seven to eight inch range are generally cheaper, but have less power. They are easily held in one hand, and very light weight, perfect for reading in bed.

Most tablets check in between nine and 10 inches. The larger screen means a more immersive viewing experience for movies, TV shows and games. Play with as many tablets as you can to find the balance between screen size and portability.

It goes without saying, but screen quality is very important. Higher resolution means sharper images.

The Samsung Nexus 10 has the highest resolution screen at 2,560 x 1,600 pixels, followed by the iPad with 2,048 x 1,536 pixels. The panel type will determine how well the image is maintained when viewed at odd angles or in bright outdoor conditions. Keep in mind how long you plan on staring at this thing.

Like any computer purchase, you can crunch the numbers until your eyes bleed, but at the end of the day it’s the user experience that matters most. Picking the right operating system may be the most important choice you make.

Here are the broad strokes:

Ever since the first iPhone, iOS has been the software behind Apple’s mobile devices. It’s reliable, polished, intuitive, and very user friendly. It’s so simple that toddlers and chimps have been known to pick it up. Apple’s well-curated App Store offers an astounding 800,000 plus apps. That said iOS is often criticized for its weak productivity and “work” functionality.

Many more advanced users take great offence to Apple’s highly restrictive “one right way” approach.

However, Apple’s slick and simple approach allows iOS users to effortlessly breeze through virtually any task.

In many ways, Google’s Android OS has been the Windows of the mobile world, with multiple manufacturers competing to produce the best hardware. With that in mind, it’s nearly impossible to not find an Android-based device that doesn’t meet your needs and budget.

This helps to explain why Google eclipsed Apple in the smartphone market, and some analysts are expecting Google to gain a stronghold on tablet software as early as mid-2013.

At the same time, it’s Android’s versatility and “open-sourceness” that keep it from touching the seamless iOS user experience. While hardcore Droid users love ability to customize down the finest detail, the end result is a more difficult and less stable operating system.

The Surface for Windows RT (short for “Runtime”) and the Surface for Windows 8 Pro tablets provide the closest thing to a desktop experience by a long shot. Familiar Windows design and seamless access to Office applications creates an excellent corporate productivity platform. The cheaper RT version will only run the touchfriendly Metro apps, while the Pro tablet can do literally everything a Windows 8 PC can. The touch response is the clumsiest on the market, and Microsoft is woefully behind in app development. Still, for business applications, the Surface is a serious contender.

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