How to Choose a Slate or Tablet PC

apple-islate

In about a week, Apple will likely announce its new slate device, and some are predicting we’ll be up to our armpits in these things by year end. Since most of you will probably wait until the end of the year to either ask for or purchase one of these things, you have a lot of time. But some of you will feel the need to buy sooner, and it is always best to think about what you want to do with one of these things before the feeding frenzy kicks in, when many people run out and buy something that they’ll either regret or never really use. The factors to consider are size, connectivity, battery life, book reading, application store, accessories, and price. Let’s take each in turn.

Screen Size Does Matter

The screen size for tablets will range from five inches at the low end (about 90% larger than an iPhone) to over nine inches at the high end of the spectrum. Five-inch products are the most portable; they can be carried on the belt, easily in a purse, or in a jacket pocket. If it has phone features, you can even hold it to your face without looking too geeky. Although they fit in pants pockets, like the iPhone, you risk sitting down and then standing up with a cracked or broken device if you put it in your back pocket. Seven inches is a “tweener” size, clearly too big for your pants, but still small enough for some jackets and nice in a purse. You will likely need a headset or speakerphone mode for calls, though. On a belt, you’ll look like a gun slinger. Stepping up to over nine ninches, you have something that transports like a hardcover book or a small laptop. You clearly need a headset for calls at this point, and may have a custom bag to carry the device. The larger the screen, the better it will render Web pages and multimedia, and the more likely it will render magazine content, textbook content, and newspaper content in native form.

So the larger the device, the more useful it is. But because it is large, you may not take it with you as many places. With my Kindles, I found that while the smaller devices are more portable, I enjoy the larger screen enough to go through the extra trouble to carry the device with me anyway. Most the folks I know, however, prefer the smaller Kindle.

Connectivity

It appears there will be several choices for connectivity on for this class of device: Wi-Fi, 3G WAN, and 3G WAN plus cell phone. These are connected devices, and clearly the 3G experience will be the best. However, the devices that have this capability will come with data plans costing in excess of $50 a month. If you are primarily going to use the device at home, or in a few known places where you have Wi-Fi access, then you may – and I use this word for a reason – be able to live with a Wi-Fi-only device. This is like choosing between the iPhone and the iPod Touch. The fact is, you’ll generally see many more folks using the connected features of the iPhone because the 3G network is always on.

Having a second phone doesn’t make that much sense to me, but I know a number of folks who have both a Blackberry and iPhone. The phone service does come at an extra cost, but if you can live with a wireless headset and will always have the device with you when you need a cell phone, then these phone features will, if you use them as your primary phone, keep you from having to buy two cell phone service plans. A lot of folks don’t like headsets, though I increasingly see folks talking to their phone in speakerphone mode.

These things consume a lot of data, and if you do go with a 3G data plan, you likely should consider a flat rate, as the data usage plans can get really expensive for a device in this class. Currently, I’m expecting data plan costs to come down sharply when 4G is wide spread in around 2013, so fortunately, things will get better.

Battery Life

Tablets use a lot of power, and it looks like battery life will range from around two hours to 10 hours, based on a combination of factors. Realize that everyone will likely be overly optimistic in terms of actual battery life. The rule of thumb with laptops is take what the vendor says and cut it in half for real battery life under normal use. It is too early to tell how far off the claims will be, but if you plan to use the device as an e-reader, make sure it has enough battery life to get you through a typical reading session for you. For multi-media use, you’ll want at least three hours, or long enough to get through one long movie and have something left over if you want to play a game or do something else.

Personally, for the first generation of devices, I’d really favor a replaceable battery just to make sure I don’t get stuck because I forgot to charge the darned thing.

The views expressed here are solely those of the author and do not reflect the beliefs of Digital Trends.

Product Review

The ThinkPad X1 Extreme is a love letter to PC geeks

Lenovo’s ThinkPad line-up is targeted at business use, but it’s long appealed to hardcore PC geeks as well. The new X1 Extreme, which combines a powerful processor and high-resolution screen with Nvidia graphics, seems built for them…
Deals

Score 2 Amazon Fire HD 8 tablets and custom cases for under $100

For a limited time you can purchase two Amazon Fire HD 8 tablets for only $100, and they are normally priced at $80 each. The tablets are also being sold as a bundle along with two custom case vouchers.
Home Theater

What is MHL, exactly, and how does it work with your TV?

There are more ways to mirror your smartphone or tablet to your TV than you might think. Check out our rundown of MHL for everything you need to know about the wired protocol and its myriad uses.
Mobile

Asus's monster gaming phone is coming October 18 with a hefty price tag to match

Asus understands you can't carry your gaming PC around with you, so it created the ROG Phone, a hardcore, high-specification smartphone designed for mobile gamers. It's coming later this month.
Mobile

Pocket transforms articles into podcasts with an assist from Amazon

Read-it-later app Pocket is adding an option to turn articles into easily navigable podcasts with its new app redesign for iOS and Android. The feature relies on Amazon's voice-to-text service Polly.
Deals

Save up to $1,000 with the best smartphone deals for October 2018

Need a better phone but don't want to spend a fortune? It's never a bad time to score a new smartphone and save some cash. We rounded up the best smartphone deals available that can save you as much as $1,000.
Mobile

Preapproval for iPhone Upgrade Program now available for iPhone XR

Apple took the wraps off of its new set of iPhones, including the iPhone XS, iPhone XS Max, and the new iPhone XR. The iPhone XR is being offered as the "affordable" iPhone, and it's a little different than the more expensive models.
Mobile

Put your iPad Pro to the test with these great games

Did you recently purchase a 10.5-inch iPad Pro, or are you enjoying the 12.9-inch version? If so, we've rounded up a few of the best iPad Pro games currently available on Apple's mobile platform.
Mobile

Got gadgets galore? Keep them charged up with the 10 best USB-C cables

If you weren't already aware, USB-C is quickly becoming mainstream. That's why we've rounded up some of the better USB-C cables on the market, whether you're looking to charge or sync your smartphone.
Computing

How to protect your iCloud account

From Chinese hacking to identity theft, it's not surprising if you're a little worried about your iCloud data. Here's how to protect your iCloud account with a few simple security steps. It will only take a few minutes, and we'll walk you…
Mobile

Upcoming iPad may lose a few millimeters, along with its headphone jack

The new iPhone XS, iPhone XR, and Apple Watch aren't the last devices we'll see from Apple in 2018. There are plenty of rumors about a new iPad coming this year too, and it may share some design similarities with the new phones.
Computing

Which is best: The Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Extreme or the 15-inch MacBook Pro?

To try and help nail down the best 15-inch laptops in the world, we compared the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Extreme vs. MacBook Pro 15 in a head to head that looked at their power, design, and portability.
Mobile

Google Pixel 3 vs. Apple iPhone XS: Does Google’s A.I. take down Apple?

The Google Pixel 3 is here, boasting top-tier specs like a Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 and 4GB of RAM, and some of the world's best artificial intelligence features on a phone. But can it take out the Apple iPhone XS?
Mobile

Hinge's new feature wants to know who you've gone out on dates with

With its new "We Met" feature, Hinge wants to learn how your dates are going with matches in its app. That way, it can inject the information into its algorithm to provide future recommendations that better suit its users' preferences.
1 of 2