Ultimate Guide to Tablets

The fastest-growing gadget species is also mutating, and a bewildering variety is now on offer. Time to make up your mind : who are you? What are your most pressing tablet demands? Answer these simple questions and we’ll show you your perfect TAB…

4:3 or widescreen?
Some tablets have squarer, page-shaped screens, some widescreen 16:9 or 16:10 displays. The former is often more comfortable for reading and browsing, the latter means no cropping of video.

3G of Wi-Fi?
If you want everywhere, a 3G connection will provide it. But you could just tether your tablet to your Smartphone via Wi-Fi, thereby avoiding the need to shell out for a separate SIM.

Phone or Tablet Os?
Cheap tabs running the Smartphone versions of Android (2.2 and 2.3) are fine for browsing ,basic gaming or media streaming, but they won’t yet work with modern tablet apps as 3.x tabs will.

CHOOSE YOUR OS

All of today’s tablets use one of the following operating systems. These determine how they work, what they’re capable of and which apps you can use with them. They also have their own personalities-some are clean and simple, some bombard you with social information and some are built for getting work done. Bone up, then, before making your choice…….

1. iOS

If it were a person, it would be… Slouching nonchalantly on a Gap billboard with an ochre sweater draped over its shoulder and a PhD in its back pocket.

What it’s got

Full control over hardware and software lets Apple wring ever last drop of performance out of the iPad using iOS, and it shows. Fluid animations and fast task-switching help iOS to feel more speedy than its rivals. It’s the sheer quantity of top-notch iPad accessories and apps that make iOS stand out, though, and the forthcoming iCloud auto-backup and sync service could prove its killer feature.

What it needs

Truth be told, the ‘wall of apps’ interface favoured by Apple is starting to look old. Giving us greater control over the appearance and position of icons in each home page would be a start, but ultimately Apple may have to adopt Android’s widget approach for live desktop updates.

2. Android

If it were a person, it would be.. A friendly, World of Warcraft-playing geek with a Tron T-shirt and several soldering irons.

What it’s got

Google may not have made the tablet version of Android (3.x, Honeycomb) entirely open source, but it very accessible. Anyone can write and Android app and stick it on the Market, which theoretically makes it a more attractive platform for innovation. But the biggest reason to love Android is fully customization home screens and app widgets, plus great integration with Google’s cloud services.

What it needs

Streamlining; it’s easy to miss its best features, or get confused by them. Many tablets run Froyo (2.2) or Gingerbread (2.3) which were built for phones and don’t support tablet-optimized apps.

3. BlackBerry Tablet OS

If it were a person, it would be… A banker in his weekend combat trousers, listening to The Script on Beats By Dre headphones.

What it’s got

For the same reasons as Apple, the tight relationship between BlackBerry’s OS and the hardware makes for a very responsive and capable feel with none of the occasional camera bugs (for example) that sometimes hold Android back . Indeed, in many ways this feels like a more fluid and natural OS than Apple’s (aside from the weird sweep up with two fingers to minimize apps’ Things).

What it needs

Clearly, Tablet OS could do with apps, but BlackBerry says it’ll soon run Android ones. It really need a bigger device and to be able to do email and BBM without a smartphone to help.

Windows 7

If it were a person, it would be… A wheezing, septuagenarian professor with bleached teeth, wearing a suit and trainers.

What it’s got

Windows 7 is a great PC operating system, and we were told it was also designed for touchscreen devices. To be fair, it does indeed support multiple points of touch and gesture inputs – but it’s fiddly and unresponsive compared to the compact, touch – optimised OSs. However , if you think you might need proper multi –window multi-tasking and programs such as Photoshop, it’s your only choice.

What it needs

It needs putting down humanely and starting again; fundamental design issues mean that Win7 tablets always feel slow. Happily, that’s exactly what Microsoft is doing with Win8. Watch this space.

Web OS

If it were a person, it would be……… A dapper, efficient chap, hammering his fists on the coffin lid above him and trying not to panic.

What it’s got

Palm’s Linux based webOS is cleverly thought out, with running programs arranged as cards that you can drag sideways to navigate between and flick upwards to close. It’s quick and pretty, it supports Flash, and while the menu system in the tablet version has a few quirks, it’s very easy to get used to. While apps aren’t very numerous, it’s got Angry Birds; what more do you want?

What it needs

To be resurrected. HP has all but pulled the plug, so ironing out those quirks will be a job for the Palm faithful. As for apps, some devs have said they’ll stay, but they’re in a minority.

WANT – IT – ALLS

You want the best without compromise. An Aston Martin minus the petrol bill. A Michelin – Starred restaurant you can wear your pyjamas to. A tablet that costs little, Fits in your pocket and is powerful enough for all of your media, browsing, work and app requirements. Is that asking for the moon on a stick? Quite possibly – but these contenders are the closest you’ll currently get..

1. Acer Iconia Tab A500

The Acer Iconia Tab A500 is the tablet that almost has it all: Tegra 2 processor,720p screen, plenty of ports, card readers and decent build quality. The problem is there’s nothing it really excels at. Keep an eye on it, though – the price has already started dropping and with its brilliant battery (10 hours of video , the best on test bar the Asus Eee Pad Transformer, which cheats by having two batteries )it could well become the budget choice.

A genuine jack of all trades at an increasingly nice price.

Specs : 10.1in/265.6cm, 1280×800 screen, 16/32GB storage, 260x177x13mm, 730g, 10hrs battery , Android 3.2

2. Archos 10.1

Virtually identical to the Archos 70, save for an extra 3in/7.6cm of diagonal screen, the 101 also has the same exceptional software and the same separate graphics processor for handling video files. Sadly, the older Android OS on board (2.2, Froyo) was intended for phones, so the 101 just isn’t as flexible as newer slates and can’t run any tablet- specific apps. A shame, as it handles media with Archos’ customary aplomb.

The Archos is a great media player, but not such a great tablet.

Specs : 10.1in/25.6cm, 1024×600 screen, 8/16 storage, 270x150x12mm, 480g, 7hs battery , Android 2.2

3. Motorola Xoom

The first tablet to run Android Honeycomb wasn’t a runaway success, butit got Google’s attention- the search giant has since gobbled up Motorola’s Android phone and tablet divisions. The Xoom weighed in with a crisp 10.1in/25.6cm 720p screen and powerful Nvidia Tegra 2 processor, plus an Apple -beating 5 Mp camera and micro USB and mini HDMI ports. t’s fat compared to newer tablets though, and needs a facelift.

Plenty of power, RAM and storage, but not the promised iPad beater

Specs : 10.1in/25.6cm,1280*800 screen,32GB storage,249-168*13mm,70g,8hrs battery, optional 3G,Android 3.1

4. Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1

Assuming the Galaxy Tab 10.1 doesn’t get out awed by Apple’s legal attack, this is the Android Honeycomb tablet that wins for light weight and build quality. The aluminum chassis is solid and beautiful designed, and the Touchwiz interface skin has some of the best custom apps too. There are no USB ports, though, and prices need to undercut the iPad’s to really star competing.

Killer looks prove Android need not be and ugly duckling.

Specs : 10.1in/25.6cm,1280*800 screen, 16/32 GB storage, 257*175*9 mm, 565g, 5.5hrs battery, optional 3G, Android 3.1

5. Apple iPad 2

Apple’s sleek iPad turned tablets from chunky electronic clipboards into something not just desirable but genuinely useful for home and work too. iPad 2 is thinner, faster and better in every respect than its predecessor. While Android rivals are catching up in terms of speed and design, and the iPad’s wed access is still hamstrung by a lack of Flash support, the simplicity of buying a movie though iTunes and the forthcoming iCloud syncing service will kept it ahead .But the real clincher is the app selection. If you want the best apps- and why else would you buy a tablet?-you want the App Store. Apple’s quality control means standards are high, and all the big developers want their wares on show.

The largest app selection and the slickest OS. Simply the best.

Specs : 9.7in/24.6cm 1024*768 screen, 16/32/64GB storage, 241*186*9mm,601g, 9hrs battery, optional 3G,Apple iOS 4.3

ERGO-MANIACS

You will buy and you will sell. You will hire and you will fire. All you need from a tablet is a few office apps, access to Exchange email, a way to pipe PowerPoint to a bag screen and, ideally, a keyboard with which to scribe despotic missives to your useless PA from wherever you are in the world.

1. BlackBerry PlayBook

It’s beautifully built, with a brilliant screen, slick operation and future Android app compatibility. So, an excellent 7in/17.7 cm tablet, but it costs as much as a 10-incher/25.6cm, and email and messaging are available only via a BlackBerry phone. Ludicrous.

Nice hardware with an excellent OS-but it needs apps and email.

Specs : 7in/17.7cm,10248600 screen,16/32/64GB storage,194*130*10mm,425g,8hrs battery, Blackberry tablet OS

2. Samsung Galaxy Tab 7in

The original Galaxy Tab is a thin, light weight tablet- it’s a little larger and heavier than the 5in/12.7cm Streak, but it feels just as portable. It has a classy chassis, but no amount of design can hide the fact that Android has moved on, and the Galaxy Tab’s 2.2OS feels really dated. Apart from its capacity for on-the-go browsing using its optional built-in 3G, the Ace and Viewsonic 7x both do everything better, for less money.

It’s a lovely object , but the Tab needs a taste of that sweet Honeycomb.

Specs : 7in/17.7cm,1024×600 screen,16/32 storage,190x120x12mm,380g,6hrs battery, 3G(optional), Android 2.2

3. HTC Flayer

The Flyer sits comfortably in the hand and HTC’s Sense interface supercharges the underlying Android OS with some Brilliant native apps. The big problem is that the underlying OS is the phone-specific Android 2.3 Gingerbread, not 3.2(Honeycomb), which means also using Android phone apps that don’t scale well to the larger screen. Its stand-out feature is the supplied stylus and integrated note- taking app, which should appeal to doodlers and budding Hemingways.

Excellent note- taker, but the older OS brings the Flyer down to earth.

Specs : 7in/17.7cm,1024×600 screen,32GB storage,95x122x13mm,420g,8hrs battery, Android 2.3

4. Asus Eee Pad Transformer

The Eee Pad Transformer genuinely does something the iPad can’t, and for less money. The Tablet part has top-notch specs, nice enough build quality and has already been updated to Android 3.2.The micrsSD, iniHDMi and microUSB ports make it practical, but the killer feature is the keyboard dock.It turns the Transformer into the best netbook ever made, and ads SD and USB ports and second battery for 16 hours of on -the -go time .There’s just one cloud on the horizon for the Transformer : the Transformer 2.That’ll be out, complete with Nvidia’s new quad-core processor, sometime in the next few months.

The keyboard dock makes this a bona fide netbook killer.

Specs : 10.1in/25.6cm,16/32GB storage, 271x177x24mm(with keyboard), 680g, 16hrs battery (when docked,8hrs without) ,Android 3.2


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