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.

Mobile

The Apollo Traveller is the fastest recharging power bank we’ve ever used

Power banks are getting better all the time, but the Apollo Traveller from Elecjet hits new heights in terms of charging and recharging speeds thanks to the use of a graphene composite for cooling. Here's what happened when we tried it out.
Mobile

Bag yourself a bargain with the best budget tablets under $200

The battle for your budget tablet affections is really ramping up. Which tablet, costing less than $200, should be commanding your attention? We take a look at some different options for the budget-conscious.
Gaming

Here's how you can play your favorite PC games with a Nintendo Switch controller

Nintendo's Switch controllers, including the Joy-Cons and the aptly titled Pro Controller, use Bluetooth, which makes them compatible with your PC. Here's how to start using them for PC gaming.
Computing

Having enough RAM is important, but stick to these guidelines to save some money

Although not quite as exciting as processors and graphics cards, RAM is one of the most important parts of your PC. Not having enough can hurt performance. So, how much RAM do you need?
Computing

This gaming PC rig costs less than most smartphones. Here's what we put inside

Building a great gaming PC doesn't take as much time or money as you might think. We've put together a list of great gaming components to build a budget gaming PC for under $500.
Computing

These are the 6 best free antivirus apps to help protect your MacBook

Malware protection is more important than ever, even if you eschew Windows in favor of Apple's desktop platform. Thankfully, protecting your machine is as easy as choosing from the best free antivirus apps for Mac suites.
Computing

Get ready for new AirPods, MacBooks as rumored dates for Apple WWDC 2019 emerge

Apple developers and fans alike look forward, every year, to the company's World Wide Developer Conference, WWDC, and for this year, we already have the rumored dates that might bring us Apple's latest tech announcements.
Computing

This Mac keyboard is slim, dark, and clicky, but it’s still not perfect

There aren't many great mechanical keyboards for Macs. The Keychron K1 is just the latest attempt to join that hallowed group, but does its blend of style and substance tick all the boxes?
Computing

These 30 useful apps are absolutely essential for Mac lovers

There are literally hundreds of thousands of great software programs compatible with MacOS, but which should you download? Look no further than our list of the best Mac apps you can find.
Mobile

Need a date for Valentine's Day? Cozy up with the best dating apps of 2019

Everyone knows online dating can be stressful, time-consuming, and downright awful. Check out our top picks for the best dating apps, so you can streamline the process and find the right date, whatever you're looking for.
Computing

One of these monitors will look great next to your new MacBook Pro

Apple doesn't make its beloved Cinema Display monitors anymore, which makes finding the best monitor for the MacBook Pro more difficult. In this guide, we break down some of our favorites and offer something for every size and budget.
Mobile

Smartwatch sales soared in 2018, with Apple leading the charge

The NPD Group, a market research organization, has reported smartwatch sales soared in 2018. Apple is leading the charge, but it's clear there's still room in the market for competitors, as Samsung and Fitbit also did well.
Business

Apple loses battle to use Intel modems in Germany in latest clash with Qualcomm

Apple is following the Federal Trade Commission's lead and has sued Qualcomm for a massive $1 billion in the U.S., $145 million in China, and also in the U.K., claiming the company charged onerous royalties for its patented tech.
Mobile

Worried about extra data charges? Here's how to check your usage on an iPhone

It's common to get a little nervous about nearing data limits. Keep your peace of mind by checking how much data your iPhone is using. Our guide on how to check data usage on an iPhone helps you stay in control.
1 of 2