Tech Profile: the Tablet
Tablets have been a hot item for a while now and they have shown great potential. If you manage to get the right one, you will want to take it with you wherever you go.
Tablets are about casual use and are great for movie watching, playing games and communication. They also have a few practical uses for the meeting room junkie or the creative in need to take some fresh air.
What Tablets Excel At
Best handheld graphics
Tablets sometimes come with a slight horsepower edge over smartphones and larger screens. When it comes to enjoying games and video on the go, tablets are a great fit.
Computing you don’t Have to Sit For
Some of the web entertainment doesn’t involve you in the action.
Want to catch up on your favorite YouTube shows while cooking dinner? Tablets are a perfect fit for this kind of thing.
Smartphones might have the advantage for communications, but that gap is fading. If your goal is to video chat with the family, a tablet is a solid all-in-one solution.
Emails and calendars are also easier to read and manage on a larger screen.
What Tablets do not Handle so Well
Like smartphones, tablets are the pinnacle of miniaturization. Serious compromises had to be made to achieve devices that small.
Not Full-Featured (usually)
Most tablets out there use simplified programs, even when the app is named after a program you use on the computer. Simplified apps are usually easier to use, but a few options might be left out. You might not even notice since the main features are preserved in mobile apps, but you might notice advanced elements missing in some documents.
As a result, a tablet is fine to get started on a document but you might need to use a computer for the finishing touches.
One Thing at a Time, Ok? (usually)
Tablets are better experienced when doing a single thing at a time. This isn’t a hard restriction anymore, but despite vast improvements in multitasking on tablets, it remains that doing more than one thing at once on a small screen is a little impractical.
If multitasking is you MO; a tablet is a great tool to extend your mobile workplace. For instance, used alongside a laptop or a smartphone, you could have two different documents open at once.
The Windows Tablet Conundrum
After reading the last two points you might be thinking “Wait a minute, what about those Windows tablets?”
Well, you’re absolutely right; We do have the option of running full-featured software on some tablets. It’s great that we have the option, but there are a few common drawbacks explaining why there still are so few of them:
- Higher cost
- Bulkier tablets
- Performance decreases rapidly when advanced features such as multitasking are in use.
Those tradeoffs are well worth it for some of us and allows access to advanced features those few times they're needed.
If you take this route, I would still advise comparing with equivalent laptops options and go with the option you think will be most convenient for you.
Hard on the Body
Tablets are pretty terrible from an ergonomics standpoint and should be avoided if you suffer from chronic pain. Using a touchscreen puts extra strain on your arms and back. Moreover, their handheld nature means most people will end up craning their neck while using them.
A tablet's ergonomics can be improved somewhat by getting it to stand on a table or by using a tablet holder for hands-free use but tablets remain better suited for short bursts of interaction.
Accident-Prone; Hard to Repair
Tablets are exposed them to all kinds of hazards. You will most likely drop your next tablet. If something breaks, your repair options will be limited not to mention expensive.
Protective cases are usually a must for tablets, but none is 100% effective. If you overdo it, a hot, bulky case could exacerbate overheating problems for a hot tablet and thicken it significantly.
Tablets are not built to last; they’re built to be portable and in some cases to have prolonged battery endurance. With that in mind, there’s little room for future-proofing. For this reason, a tablet will rarely keep performing past the 3 years mark, if not 2.
Great for Portability, So-So for Everything Else
With tablets, you pay a premium for portability and, as a result, you will almost always end up getting less for your money in every other regards.
A few models manage to offer great value for the price but usually sacrifice build quality in the process. Tablets being easy to drop, I'd say this rarely is a winning proposition.
Tablet Sizes and why it Matters
When it comes to tablets, the screen size is one of the first advertised features. But if size matter so much, then why are there smaller models out there still?
Well, I would argue that different-sized tablets have very different uses:
- Tablets with screens under 8” are lightweight, and easy to carry. You can take them with you in a handbag or it might even fit in a (large) pocket. It’s the modern day agenda and they make great Personal Digital Assistants. Their small format also makes them great candidates for mobile gaming, but also makes them somewhat redundant with smartphones.
- Larger tablets see a lot less travel in my experience. They are great for table-top use where smaller tablets are mostly held. Larger tablets can do anything a smaller model can do. Their extra size, however, makes them less practical to carry around or to handle in a pinch.
My general advice would be:
- If you move around a lot or are unsure what your needs are; take a small tablet.
- If the tablet is mostly to be used at home, larger models are great.
Areas where Tablets Have a Proven Track Record
For all their flaws, tablets have their use. To illustrate, let’s review two tablets I know are still used daily after years of service and how they've been used.
My Wife's Tablet
- YouTube player
- Alarm Clock
- Powder Room Computer
- Living Room Computer
My Parents' Tablet
- It has pretty much replaced the morning newspaper.
- It serves as a game console for the nephews.
- It has become an integral way of how we keep in touch.
If the Following Sounds Appealing, a Tablet Might be for You
Tablets are a great way to remain connected away from one’s main computer. They’re also great when there’s two of you in the house and one rarely needs to use the main computer.
You could also look into a tablet if your smartphone runs out of battery on a regular basis. Using the tablet instead of your smartphone for some of your apps could be an effective way of managing battery drain.
Tablets vs. Laptops, Which One’s Right for You?
When shopping for a tablet, do not expect it to replace your laptop. Some tablets do promise just that, but I haven't witnessed a single successful conversion yet. To be fair, it's not because it can't be done. It's because, at the same size and price, there's usually a laptop or 2-in-1 offering a better value.
Replacing your laptop with a tablet is most viable if your current laptop is over-sized and over-powered for most of your activities. However, If you're thinking of your current laptop as sluggish; it usually means any successor in tablet form has big shoes to fill.
Keep in mind also that, as we add accessories to tablets, their performance to cost ratio worsens. As a result, I usually consider the need of a physical keyboard for a tablet to be a red flag. If over-accessorized, a tablet can end up being bulkier, more expensive and less powerful than a similarly-priced laptop.
Tablets, the Quintessential Companion
The term companion summarizes what tablets are all about: if you chose the right one, you won't want to leave without it. Tablets are also at their best as a complement to a more capable device.
The web is starting to have a concrete effect on our daily lives and how we interact with each other. Tablets are a fresh new way to stay connected away from the desk.