Tis the season to give tech, and all of Santa’s boys and girls perk up at the thought of a new, shiny tablet computer.
Choosing which tablet to give can be a confusing foray into a deep pit of advertising hype, though, as the market seems flooded with a jillion different makes and models, all screaming, “Buy me!” Apple IOS, Google Android and Microsoft Windows all claim to be the best choices, but you can’t base your buying decisions on the gymnastics moves of happy hipsters cart-wheeling across a TV screen. Hence, many folks ask guys like me for their opinion.
Having owned one tablet computer, worked on many, played around with even more and read about hundreds, I have narrowed down the tablet market to two choices. Forget the Apple iPad Mini; forget the Microsoft Surface, the Samsung Galaxy Note/Tab, the Toshiba Thrive, the Kindle Fire and the Nook HD. For my money, if I were spending it today, there would be only two choices: the full-size Apple iPad and the Google Nexus 7.
Price, features and usability are the three concerns influencing my decision, and finding the right balance between the three is a challenge. Keep in mind that tablet computers are, at their core, Internet media content consumption devices; they are not designed to be productive, content creation devices.
This means they are great at “consuming” things from the Internet, like movies, books, music and other forms of info/entertainment. They are not designed for “producing” content like company reports and spreadsheets, and they are terrible at typing. To do serious typing with a tablet computer, you’ll want an external keyboard, costing an additional $100, or so. If you want a productivity device for work or school, your money would be better spent on a good laptop computer. A tablet computer is not a good laptop substitute.
Apple’s full-sized iPad is the best choice for middle to high-end tablet buyers. Be it the iPad 2, 3 or 4, they are all wonderful devices that will do what most people want to do, and make them happy while doing it.
I had thought the Microsoft Surface tablet might be a viable contender here, but the product is a little too clunky and half-baked to pull off a real challenge. For about the same amount of money, or maybe a little more, you can get an iPad that will make you smile, versus the Microsoft Surface, which will make you sometimes smile and sometimes struggle. The same goes for mid-to-high priced Android tablets from other manufacturers; in the mid-to-high end tablet market, the full-size iPad still wins.
It’s the small-screen, low-end of the tablet market that’s the most exciting, and where the real action is. For around $2-300, you can get some really nice devices that are loads of fun. The iPad Mini is the real disappointment, here. You’re not really getting “an iPad, only smaller.” Like the Microsoft Surface, the iPad Mini cuts too many corners and makes too many compromises to overcome the challengers in this price bracket. Is the iPad Mini a neat product? Sure. Is it the best tablet for the money? No way.
Like the iPad Mini, the Kindle Fire and Nook HD are cool devices in their own right, but there is one low-priced device that beats them all: the Google Nexus 7. For $200, the combination of features and capability makes the Google Nexus 7 the competition-clobbering champion. Argue with me all you want, but that’s where my $200 of tablet computer money will go. Happy shopping!