Nexus, Surface, Galaxy, Nook vie with iPad among full-sized tablets
Tablets are at the top of many wish lists this holiday season. But what to get?
The choice used to be pretty limited, with the iPad dominating the latecomers. But this year, the field is more even, as tablets from Apple's competitors have matured. In addition, Google and Microsoft are diving in with their own tablets, providing more choice.
The first step in the buying process is to decide on the size of the tablet. They fall into two rough categories: the full-sized tablet, pioneered by the iPad, and the half-sized tablet, epitomized by the Kindle Fire.
Full-sized tablets, which generally have screens measuring about 10 inches on the diagonal, are better for surfing websites designed for PCs, and far better when it comes to displaying magazines and documents. Overall, they go further toward replacing a laptop. They cost $400 and up.
Half-sized tablets, which have screens measuring roughly 7 inches on the diagonal, are cheaper and lighter, but just as good as full-sized tablets for e-book reading. It's an excellent first computing device for a kid, or a gentle nudge into the digital world for an older adult with little computing experience. This year's crop costs $199 and up, but last year's models are less.
If you've settled on a large tablet, here are some top choices:
• Apple iPad, fourth generation (starts at $499)
Apple usually updates the iPad once a year, so it was a surprise when it dropped a new model in October, with a faster processor and the new “Lightning” connection and charging port, replacing the wide port inherited from the iPod. Like the third-generation iPad introduced in March, it has an ultra-high-resolution “Retina” screen. The model's resolution of 2,048 by 1,536 pixels is only surpassed by the Google Nexus 10.
That means the current iPad is two generations ahead of the iPad 2 that was on sale last holiday season. It packs enough improvements to make the upgrade worth it. The iPad 2 is still on sale for $100 less, but it's not a very good value for the money: If $400 is all you can spend, there are better tablets out there than the iPad 2.
While other tablets are starting to approach it in terms of hardware, the iPad still enjoys the best support by far from third parties, both in terms of quality applications and accessories like cases.
One caveat: The base model of the iPad has only 16 gigabytes of storage, which fills up fast these days. The thoughtful giver goes for at least a 32-gigabyte model for $100 more.
Other than that, there are few downsides to the iPad: No one will frown when opening this package.
• Barnes & Noble Nook HD+ (starts at $269)
For a book store, Barnes & Noble makes some amazing tablets. The HD+ is its first model that approaches the iPad in size, with a screen that's 9 inches on the diagonal. That makes it slightly smaller than the iPad, and the resolution is lower as well but still very respectable. At 1,920 by 1,280 pixels, it can show more detail than a living-room HDTV.
The Nook is family-friendly, too. You can create user accounts and restrict them from certain content, so there's less risk that your kids will stumble upon your copy of “Fifty Shades of Grey.”
Like the basic iPad, the basic Nook HD+ comes with just 16 gigabytes of storage memory, but it can be expanded with a microSD memory card. That means another 32 gigabytes will cost you just $25 — a good deal.
But the Nook is the least versatile tablet in our roundup. The number of apps available is small, and it's focused on Barnes & Noble content like e-books, magazines and movies. It doesn't have any cameras, while the competitors have two each. It's best for someone who's likely to stick to media consumption and doesn't need the latest apps and games.
• Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 (starts at $499)
If the Nook is for the avid reader or movie watcher, the Galaxy Note 10.1 is for the creative type. It's the only tablet in our roundup that comes with a “pen” that can be used to write and draw on the screen. In our test, this worked well, though the number of apps that take advantage of the pen is still small. (Other tablets, like the iPad, only respond to finger-like objects, so third-party styluses for them are of necessity thick and clumsy.)
The Note 10.1 runs Google's Android software, giving it access to a wide array of apps originally written for smartphones. The selection is not on par with the iPad's but better than other alternatives.
The Note's screen falls into the low-resolution category, sporting 1,280 by 800 pixels. That's a third of what the iPad musters.
Like the Nook, the Note 10.1's storage memory can be expanded with cards.
The Note's appeal is somewhat niche, but it could be just the thing for the budding or established artist.
• Microsoft Surface (starts at $499)
Microsoft's first tablet seems at first like a throwback to the first iPad. It's thick, heavy and rugged. But it's really doesn't have much in common with the first iPad or any Apple- or Google-powered tablet. It runs Windows RT, a version of Windows 8 adapted for tablets. It comes with a version of Microsoft's Office suite and the ability to connect to wireless printers and some other peripherals, like USB drives. The covers for it have functional keyboard printed on the inside.
The screen resolution is 1,366 by 768 pixels, placing it in the low-resolution category.
The Surface screams “work, work, work.” It's the tablet for those who are wedded to Word and want to take their writing on the go.
One thing to note about the Surface: the basic model starts out with “32 gigabytes” of memory, but of that, only 16 gigabytes are available to the user. It accepts memory cards of up to 64 gigabytes, however, so expanding the memory is cheap.
Note that even though it runs Windows, the Surface doesn't run standard Windows applications. It will run only programs specifically adapted for Windows RT. The selection is, for now, quite limited.
• Google Nexus 10 (starts at $399)
This is Google's first full-size tablet and the only tablet from any manufacturer that beats the screen resolution of the iPad. It boasts 2,560 by 1,600 pixels, a third more than the fourth-generation iPad.
It's also the only tablet in this roundup that has speakers on either side of the screen when it's held horizontally, making for good stereo reproduction when you're watching movies. It has a grippy, rubberized back and widely rounded corners. There's no memory card slot or an option for a cellular modem.
Most people don't associate Google with online books, music or movies, so it may feel odd that the Nexus steers buyers to Google's Play store. The Nexus 10 is a snappy performer, and among the iPad's competitors, it comes the closest to matching the versatility of Apple products.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- McCutchen, Pirates cruise past Twins
- Steelers unfazed by Brady suspension saga
- Beaver County widow won’t lose home over $6.30 late fee
- Police: Scottdale man had child porn on computer
- Housing Authority to treat Brookline senior complex for bedbugs
- Judge adds 2 years to sentence of Baldwin Borough man acquitted of murder
- Gibsonia’s Saad shows off Stanley Cup at 911th Airlift Wing
- Power out at UPMC Mercy, hospital operating on backup generators
- Steelers’ Wheaton adjusting his game moving to slot receiver
- Plum High School teacher held for court on charges of intimidation
- Sewickley Twp. man who received food stamps didn’t disclose gas royalties