December 15th, 2011

How to choose a tablet this holiday season

With so many choices out there for tablets this holiday season, how do you pick one that’s right for you or for a loved one as a gift?

Here’s a quick breakdown of three key factors to help you make that decision. Screen size, connectivity and operating software all contribute to the choice to make.

Tablets can typically get online via one of two ways: wireless internet (wifi) or 3G cellular networks. Many tablets are available in either format although 3G service will require a separate monthly charge that will vary depending on the carrier. The Blackberry Playbook can be paired with your Blackberry smartphone to get online. The Apple iPad 2 and the Samsung Tab both have 3G models so you can be online anywhere. The iPad 2 is also unlocked so it will work with 3G carriers in other countries when traveling so you can pick up a SIM card when you land and be online very quickly. 3G models also work on wifi so you don’t have to be on 3G all the time.

Screen Size
Whether you’re watching movies, reading books or surfing the web, you want a decent sized screen. Ranging between 7 and 10.1 inches, there are screens to fit everyone’s hands. 7 inch tablets like the Viewsonic ViewPad, the Blackberry Playbook or the Samsung Galaxy fit great in your hand like a book and are perfect for traveling. 9 and 10 inch tablets are obviously larger and more like a magazine in your hand. The bigger screens are great for gaming, watching movies and surfing the web.

Like a desktop computer or laptop, there are a variety of operating system software options depending on your tablet of choice.

Android powered tablets feature software made by Google with a very large library of applications and
games available for free or purchase in the Android Marketplace.

The iPad 2 features the iOS software platform that, like Android, has a massive library of downloadable games and applications.

The Bottom Line
With so many options available, you’ve got lots to consider when making your decision on which tablet to buy. If you already have a smartphone (or the person you’re buying the tablet for does), you may want to consider getting a tablet with a similar operating system as any applications or games you’ve already downloaded will likely be compatible, plus the user interface will likely be familiar.

Written by John Biehler

John Biehler is a photographer, blogger, gadget geek, mobile phone nerd, WordPress developer, teacher, traveler, MakerBot operator & all around curious person. He’s spoken at numerous conferences including SXSW Interactive, Northern Voice, BarCamp and many others. He is also a frequent contributor to and many other online, print, radio and television outlets.

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