Tablets (Winter 2010)CNET's Donald Bell walks you through the highs and lows of picking the right tablet computer, ranging from the Apple iPad, Android devices, e-book readers, and Windows slates.
Tablets, they're like a combination between a Smartphone and a laptop only not nearly as practical. So, what? The whole world has iPod fever and you wanna know what other Tablets are out there, which ones are the best and what to avoid. I'm Donald Bell and I review Tablets here at CNET and I'm here to give you my best advice when in comes to buying them. Okay. First of, take a minute to step back and really figure out what you want to accomplish with the Tablet. If web browsing is important, something with a 10-inch screen like the iPods comes in handy. So, you're not wasting your time zooming in and out of web pages. If mobility and E-book reading are the big draws, a 7-inch screen offers a nice book like feel and better portability than a 10-incher. For all the fun stuff, music, video, games and apps, Apple just dominates. There's no contest. If you're on a budget, don't rule out the iPod Touch. It doesn't have the iPod name or the size, the added score is essential the same thing. On the other end of the spectrum, if you really wanna use a Tablet for business and traditional document and spreadsheet editing, Windows Vista Tablets and Convertibles are still your best option. Once you've figured out what you want to accomplish, figure out your budget. If it's $400 or less and you're hoping to get more than E-reader with some email, web and media playback capabilities, you're probably going to be disappointed. Apple priced the iPod with a pretty tighten margin in order to dominate the market and it worked. So far, products I've seen in that 200 to $400 range have all cut-corner somewhere. Also, keep in mind that you can still get a decent laptop or a NetBook in that $500 to $800 range. Sometimes, people get so focused on the Tablet, they forget that laptops offer a much better value. Okay. So, now you know what you want a Tablet for. You know what you wanna for it. Now, ask yourself, how soon do I really need it? You gotta have it. That's fine. If you're thinking about the iPod and you don't wanna buy one right before they come out with a new one, know that Apple typically releases on a yearly cycle. They-kicked off with an April release and they'll probably keep to that each year. Now, if you're thinking about an Android Tablet of some other OS, my advice is to give it sometime. These guys are playing catch up and waiting can only help you. For 2011, Rim's got their Blackberry Playbook. HP has their rumored Web-OS Tablet and Google is promising a Tablet optimized version of Android. If you want more choices you won't have long to wait. Now, taking all of my advice and warnings and just throwing them out the window, let's say you wanna figure out some Tablet you've come across as worth buying. Here are 4 things you should consider right after that. First, can you easily return it? There's a lot of lame Tablets out there and you don't wanna get stuck with one. Second, if you're buying it as fix and wrapper, you're probably gonna get burned. Don't let your geek-hacker pride get the best of you. Third, stay away from 2-year contracts. This is a category that is moving too fast for a 2-year window. Finally, no matter how good the spec sheet looks, you need to try out the keyboard. There's a lot of complex factors that go into making a touch screen keyboard work. Key layout, multi-touch support, key size and spacebar with. Even among Android devices, everyone seems to do it a little bit differently. If it's not jiving with you, it's a deal breaker. So, there you go. That's all of my Table buying wisdom, condensed under 5 minutes. For CNET.com, I'm Donald Bell.