Just a few years ago, tablet computers were something only early adopters and professionals in the medical industry owned. But innovation in the design and marketing of tablets has led to an explosion in the consumer marketplace. There are plenty of options to choose from, with different sizes, styles and features to meet the needs and budgets of just about anyone.
To get the most out of a tablet, it’s important that you ask yourself a few questions. Each question will help you make choices that will improve your experience.
I think the first question you should ask is “why do I want (or need) a tablet?” For professionals, the answer probably includes making your work more portable and accessible. You’ll want to be able to pull up work documents, presentations, spreadsheets and other files wherever you are. You’ll need those files to be secure to keep your business safe. And you’ll want an interface that supports your work activities.
The average user might find all of that to be overkill. Their ideal tablet might allow them to watch movies, listen to music, surf the web and play a few simple games. A person shopping for this sort of tablet could look at models that have less powerful processors, cutting down on the price.
The serious gamers out there will want a really powerful tablet with a killer processor, an advanced graphics processing unit and gaming accessories. Several companies are working on tablets with components that rival desktop and laptop computers to give gamers the horsepower they need to play graphics-intensive games at blistering frame rates. Gamers would also want a tablet that has boatloads of memory so that they can store their games on the device.
Another question you need to ask is “how often will I use my tablet?” A casual user may not need the same battery life or memory capacity as someone who plans to use a tablet every day throughout the day. And if you can’t imagine using a tablet frequently, it might make sense from a budget perspective to shop for less expensive devices.
The third question that I think is important is “how large should my screen be?” Tablets come in a variety of sizes. Some have the same dimensions as a large smartphone. Others, like the Mondopad, defy belief with screens measuring 55 inches (nearly 140 centimeters). Most people probably prefer a screen size between these two extremes. Picking the right size for you is important — if you find out later that you don’t like your tablet’s screen size, you aren’t likely to use it very much.
The final question involves operating systems. There are several choices on the market. I recommend trying out the various systems to see what appeals to you. It’s also a good idea to think about the systems you use in your other computing devices. Many devices support portable experiences that translate from one platform to another — but only if you’re using the same operating system across platforms. And if you rely heavily on products from a particular software company, that company’s operating system might provide the best tablet experience.
Once you’ve answered these questions, you can start to narrow down your choices. Filter out the devices that don’t meet your criteria. It’s likely that you’ll still be left with a selection of tablets in a variety of styles, features and price points. At this stage, it’s important to look at reviews. I always rely on a mixture of reviews from professionals working for technology blogs or news sites and customer reviews. If you have friends or colleagues who own a tablet, speak with them. Find out about their experiences of using the technology. It might even prompt you to change some of the answers to the questions you’ve already asked yourself.
I really believe that the time and attention you dedicate to choosing a tablet determines how useful you’ll find the tablet once it’s in your hands. Resist the urge to purchase a device just because it’s on sale. It may turn out that device doesn’t suit your needs at all, which means you haven’t really saved any money.
In the next part of our series, we’ll take a look at using your tablet to connect to other devices and networks.