General Question

Yeahright's avatar

Can you share a few pros & cons of buying a tablet?

Asked by Yeahright (2293 points ) June 21st, 2012

I am considering purchasing a tablet for work and home management, reading, keep track of tasks, etc. I already own a netbook but do not use it as much as it is a bit heavy and cumbersome to carry with me at all times. I am looking for actual owners/users comments on pros & cons., and if it is really worth the investment. Perhaps key questions I should ask myself to justify getting one.

Thanks in advance for your comments they will be of great help since I need to clear my mind and get one or not for the right reasons.

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32 Answers

Tropical_Willie's avatar

I do not own a tablet but own a “Smartphone” with a keyboard that slides out. The tablet has a touch screen keyboard, I personally have a hard time with touchscreens.

tom_g's avatar

One obvious con to a tablet is the lack of keyboard – especially if you plan on doing anything more than a quick email here or there.
I recently bought this keyboard cover for my iPad 2, and it’s really good. There are cheaper options, but I wanted one that would work balancing on my lap like a notebook.

mowens's avatar

You wont use your laptop anymore. I stopped using mine….

robmandu's avatar

When you say “tablet”, should we assume you mean “not an iPad”?

Because the difference between the iPad and “tablets” is marked and severe. Give us an idea of what you’re shopping for exactly and I think we can help pinpoint specific challenges.

the100thmonkey's avatar

The first question I would ask is “do I really need a tablet?” – and I mean this seriously.

I thought I needed one for reading on the lengthy train ride to work, but once I had the thing in my hands and started reading, the first thing I wanted to do was write quick notes. I’ve actually found my Kindle Keyboard 3G to be more useful in that regard.

Having said that, Windows 8 is far superior to Win7 on tablets (I own a Windows tablet), although my Kindle really fills the role that my use profile defines.

As @robmandu says, you’re not clear on your choice of tablet – the 3rd party accessories for other tablets will be severely limited and OEM accessories are likely to be expensive and not very good, if you buy Android.

Really, it all boils down to what you will actually use the thing to do.

Yeahright's avatar

@robmandu I was talking tablet and/or iPad. I always thought of tablets as taking after iPad and also iPads being tablets too —if that makes sense— for they are not in the netbook category or in any other category. I am not aware of how different they are but I assume is something like an iPhone vs a BB. In any case, I cannot tell you what I’m shopping for exactly since I’m in the phase of gathering as much info as I can to decide. I guess after I do decide on the actual need and subsequent purchase, phase two will involve getting a tablet vs an iPad.
@the100thmonkey … “do I really need a tablet?” – and I mean this seriously. I know. It makes perfect sense. My answer to that is I’m not sure yet. I am a compulsive list maker and I have a BlackBerry and already have all kinds of lists in it, from my grocery list to my pet’s meds schedule —you name it. The screen of the BB makes it difficult to read my lists, recipes, charts, etc. I teach, so I also need to reduce on printed lists, lesson plans, assignments’ guidelines, grade books, etc. Well who knew that having to write this now would help me to streamline my needs!
Another use I was thinking of was reading for both pleasure and work. So your preference for you Kindle is a bit worrisome. Regarding accessories, I see now how important they can be; so, I will definitely consider the accessory availability for whatever model I chose.

dabbler's avatar

@robmandu Huh? The iPad is the Apple tablet. It’s competitors are mostly Android tablets from various manufacturers.
All the tablets, including iPad compete in the same product space, and in most cases the exact same apps are available on iPads and Androids. All the popular ones, anyway.

Ref the original question, as several folks have pointed out, consider how much you expect to type and the fact that most tablets do not have a keyboard. You can usually add a bluetooth keyboard. One that has an optional keyboard dock is the Asus Transformer, you can pull the tablet off and use it by itself or dock it and type on a real keyboard that doubles as a stand (the ASUS dock also has USB ports and an additional battery extending usable life well over ten hours in my experience).

For reading most tablets will Not be as handy as an e-reader because they are heavier and they all have glossy screens – which are a pain in the ass in daylight. You can get glare films for iPad and other tablets to make that more workable.

As long as “work and home management” does not involve a Lot of data manipulation or number-crunching you can get what you need from a tablet.

Something to consider between the Apple tablet and the Androids is that the Apple has almost no connectivity ports on it. Most Androids have some kind of USB possible and a lot of them have an HDMI output to connect to your TV (e.g. stream netflix to tv! Angry birds in jumbo-vision!).

Rarebear's avatar

A tablet is a convenient device for consumption. It is not a creation device. My advice is wait until you absolutely can’t stand it any more and you feel you really need one.

I use both my computer and ipad, but I use them for different things. The ipad I use for reading documents, internet, and videos. My wife and daughter play games on it, but I’m not really a computer game player. There are a lot of other nifty uses for it (for example, say, a guitar amplifier), but nothing you NEED.

robmandu's avatar

@Rarebear, while it might apply to other “tablets” on the market from other vendors, it’s been long accepted that the iPad is used for creation, not just consumption.

@dabbler, in technical journalism, a false equivalency is oft given to iPad competitors by referring to the “tablet market”. The problem is, there isn’t any real tablet market worth speaking of outside of the iPad (and maybe, if we’re being generous, Samsung). Google, Amazon, RIM, HP, Acer, LG, Dell, Motorola… none of those guys offers anything substantive or competitive. In any case, there are hardly any tablet-specific apps to be found for Android-based tablets.

When spending my hard-earned lucre on technology products, the value proposition for me is upgradeability, support, and expandability. The iPad offers all three of those in spades. And it’s price-competitive with everything else out there to boot.

That said, an iPad for me would be a luxury item. With an iPhone and a notebook computer, I have all I need. Any other buyer’s situation could be very different than mine, though.

gorillapaws's avatar

@robmandu While Apple likes to push the idea that iPads are great for content creation, in practice they just aren’t as good at this as a laptop. For content consumption, they’re much better than a laptop. This has been my own experience as an owner of both an iPad and a MacBook. I COULD create a Numbers spreadsheet on my iPad, but it’s not as nice of an experience as using the laptop, and using the iPad for viewing/making minor edits to the file later.

I absolutely love my iPad for reading news items, articles, browsing the web, reading e-mail, watching movies, using Flipboard to browse Facebook, and the articles other programmers link to on my twitter feed and on Hacker news. While I own the iWork apps, I don’t think I’ve ever used them on the iPad except to play around a bit.

Rarebear's avatar

Agree with @gorillapaws. I write a lot of documents and do a lot of presentations, and edit and manipulate a lot of astrophotos. The ipad simply isn’t as good as a regular computer for those. But I also read a lot of medical articles and astronomical technical manuals and I can’t STAND reading them on a laptop. I much prefer my ipad. They’re complementary.

dabbler's avatar

@robmandu
“upgradeability, support, and expandability.” Support I’ll grant you, but who needs support using a tablet? They are rock-stupid easy to use.
But in what ways are iPads upgradeable or expandable? Name one. Most tablets aren’t upgradable or expandable at all including the iPads. The cases are sealed and iPad have no ports into which you can plug anything excppt a vga-compatible video out, how dinosaur.
( Note that lots of android tablets have at least a micro-SD slot that allows expansion of storage mem.)

Androids are more than 30% of the tablet market. If that’s negligible then Apple computers are negligible at only 25% of the market – personally I’d call both of them significant.

Hardly any apps for android? The opinion article you cite didn’t even bother to look it up, the answer is 450,000 How many apps do you need? Having 500,000 apps in the iPad store means most users will never need, want or consider 499,950 of them.
There are android apps for almost anything you can do on an iPad except iTunes.
That and “Futurama Head in a Jar” which I can’t get yet for android. Ya really need that.

Until the iPad 3 came out the best screen on tablets was the top-end Samsung Galaxy. And lots of tablets had equal or better features as the iPad 2 including screen, weight, and battery life, often for 100$ less (e.g. mid-range galaxy and asus transformer).

Rarebear's avatar

As an ipad owner I’m sort of curious about the “upgradibility and expandability” @robmandu mentioned. I would have preferred to buy an Android, if nothing else because of the SD card slot. But my work didn’t support it so I couldn’t. I’m happy with my ipad, though—it does everything I need it to do. And I agree, the Android market for apps is just as good as the ipad market for apps for most users. And there are actually a couple of apps (like Google Sky) that I would like that are not available for ipad.

robmandu's avatar

@gorillapaws, there are a heckuva lot of artists, journalists, and musicians – just to name three groups – that would be willing to argue with you. But I will agree in principal that it’s not for content creation for everyone.

@dabbler, you’re thinking hardware where I’m thinking functionality. I’m not implying it’s a beige box PC tower bought off the shelf at Fry’s.

When Apple releases new versions of iOS that provide new features which upgrade the device, they often support the older models. And speaking of support, if you’ve ever taken a defective, broken, or simply questionable device to the Genius Bar at an Apple Store, the customer support they provide is frequently very generous. If you’re interested in the upcoming Windows 8 ecosystem, ask the current Windows Phone 7 and 7.5 users – like owners of the recently released Nokia Lumia 900 how they feel about support. Or any Android user who still cannot run Ice Cream Sandwich.

It’s also important to note that the app ecosystem for Apple’s iOS products is amazingly rich, diverse, and simply dwarfs the competition to near nothingness which allows me to expand on the core set of functionalities to have a device that is uniquely mine to use.

These concepts cannot be overstated in comparison to offerings like Microsoft’s Surface (ain’t out yet), Amazon’s Kindle (limited functionality device intended specifically for content consumption), RIM’s Playbook (they almost can’t give them away), HP’s TouchPad (they did give them away and then quit), or any of the standard distribution Android-based tablets – the best of which is the Samsung Galaxy Tab.

Speaking of the Galaxy Tab, they still can’t run Ice Cream Sandwich which is Google’s latest Android OS for tablets released back in October, 2011.

I’m not trying to join Apple’s PR department here. If the querent is curious to compare “tablets” in general, then it’s crucial to understand the competitive landscape. However, if the querent chooses any particular model of tablet, I’d be happy to participate in discussing that product’s particular strengths as they fit his lifestyle.

Rarebear's avatar

@robmandu Now I understand. There are two features of the ipad that I wish they had and they never will. First is Flash, and second is an SD card slot.

robmandu's avatar

@Rarebear, not having Flash is annoying, but I’ve found that I’m increasingly bothered at the web sites that insist on using Flash instead of playing to the OS in your hand.

The main reason why I feel that way is because Adobe, after promising Flash for mobile devices for as long as they could get away with, finally had to face the truth that Flash is just too much of a pig for mobile devices and so they quit all further development. Why web sites then insist on sticking with dead tech when it seems the whole world realizes that we’re moving into the post-PC era is beyond me.

I agree that direct access to an SD card is really nice… but I’ve found that I can get the job done well enough by slamming the SD card in my laptop and then using apps like DropBox (over the Internet) and AirSharing (over local WiFi) to move the files I want around.

Rarebear's avatar

Oh, I do the same workaround with Dropbox and Google Drive. But I hate workarounds like that, and it’s an extra couple of steps.

And the whole Flash thing—I know they decided not to support it anymore, but it’s frakking everywhere. For example, recently I had a file I wanted to upload to a Yahoo Group from my ipad, but I couldn’t because it used flash technology. I had to email the file to myself, and then load it from my computer. PITA.

But whatever, I’m just whining. At the moment, I’m sitting in a doctors office typing this on my ipad with my Belkin bluetooth keyboard.

dabbler's avatar

@robmandu Do tell, what functionality do you mean that isn’t also on most Android tablets ?
Don’t get me wrong, I like the iPad it’s very impressive but please describe some functionality that iPads have that is unique among tablets ? I just don’t understand your hyperbolic dismissal of the other tablets out there. Compared to any specific Android out there (hundreds of Android choices, dwarfing the range of iPads available), there can be ways the iPad may be somewhat superior to it but it’s a matter of degree, not paradigm shift.

Also in what way is the arguably marvelous experience of adding apps functionality unique to the iPad? Name a significant app (besides iTunes) or any iPad app functionality that dwarfs the same thing from the android app store ?

p.s. Ice Cream Sandwich is on the current Asus transformers as well as lots of other android tablets.

Rarebear's avatar

A buddy of mine has an ASUS transformer and loves it.

gorillapaws's avatar

@dabbler I don’t believe Flipboard has an Android Tablet version. It’s a pretty amazing app.

gorillapaws's avatar

@Rarebear I believe it’s just the Android phone version scaled up. That’s a pretty shitty user experience, compared to an app designed for a larger screen (like when you run an iPhone app on an iPad in 2x mode).

Rarebear's avatar

Ah. I just googled android flipboard.

dabbler's avatar

And you can’t get Google Sky Map on the iPad.
That’s an app that uses the built-in accelerometers and GPS to show you the stars and planets in the sky (with their names and names of constellations) in the direction you are holding the tablet. This works offline too so if you are on a remote hillside w/o a WiFi connection no problem.

dabbler's avatar

If you know that you need a specific app or functionality (like Flipboard or HDMI output or an extended mem slot) then by all means get the platform that best does that.
But an objective comparison of the iPad and all the other top-end tablets will show them to have most of the core functionality in common.

Yeahright's avatar

Thanks for all the answers. Keep them coming, they are so interesting. I’m taking note of all the tips. This is exactly what I wanted.

Yeahright's avatar

Some Q’s came to mind:
1. How would I transfer MS Office docs from my laptop/PC to the tablet?
2. What if I want to print something? How would I go about it?

dabbler's avatar

If your tablet has USB ports you can use a typical thumb drive. Same goes for SD/microSD slots, you can load the docs onto the SD card from your computer and pop the card into the tablet.
And how about pictures from your camera or your computer?
You can plug your camera into your tablet over its USB cable or pull the card from the camera and plug it into the tablet, Transfer the pics, and maybe use the (free for iPad and android) Photoshop Express app and you’re ready to show them off on your tablet.
What’s that you say? You don’t have a USB port or a card slot? Perhaps you’re on an iPad.

There are also connectivity apps that let the tablet be seen on other computers over your personal network.
————————-
Printing is a mixed bag. HP makes available free (ipad and android) an app that will make its printers available from your tablet and that works surprisingly well.
From what I can tell there are no free apps that make most brands of printers all available but there are a few for less than 10$ that have good reputations for making that work well.

Rarebear's avatar

I use an app called Quickoffice Pro Hd. It’s pretty good for transferring office docs although the formatting can be messy. It’s not that good for PowerPoint. I also use good reader.

Rarebear's avatar

And there are alternatives to google sky. I have several. Stellarium is free but I have an excellent paid app that is professional quality called Skysafari.

robmandu's avatar

@dabbler, the iPad’s (and indeed all iOS devices) killer feature over Android-based tablets is upgrade support for legacy hardware. Fragementation and no viable upgrade path even for recent devices is seriously hurting Android.

So yeah, if you want to go and buy a brand-new Android device to match the current functionality of iOS then I’m sure you can guarantee some feature parity… for a time. But that iOS device will continue to receive new feature updates over time for years where Android’s track record shows that the device will go stale pretty quickly.

I realize that the über-geeks out there will like root and run custom ROMs on their Android devices to get a bit more life out of them… but I think it’s fair for us to assume that such a route doesn’t apply to most people.

And it gets worse: tablet-specific apps for Android aren’t getting any developer love, either.

That’s why I asked the querent’s intent early on in this discussion. If all of those criteria had been evaluated and Android-based tablets were still the best fit, then we should discuss those directly. Else we end up doing this – arguing iOS vs. Android – which often just devolves into partisan politics, it seems.

I do think it’s telling that we’re not discussing PalmOS, Linux, or even Windows 8-based tablets.

dabbler's avatar

@robmandu I see your point, although it varies widely with the manufacturer you chose, and neglecting upgrades seems to be especially true for android phones.
However, unless there’s something actually wrong with the tablet you get it’s quite conceivable the thing will be as serviceable as needed, as is without any ugrades, for as long as you’d want to keep it.
Better android tablets do get OS upgrades (mine does) and the apps are routinely checked for available updates. But it’s true it depends a lot on who made your android what upgrade experience you will have.

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