The iPad is the best choice for most people.
Al Fasoldt's reviews and commentaries, continuously available online since 1983


Cheapskate's guide for 2012: Tablets

November 25, 2012

By Al Fasoldt
Copyright © 2012, Al Fasoldt
Copyright © 2012, The Post-Standard

If you're making a list and checking it twice for holiday gift-giving, leave room at the top for an iPad or one of the iPad's many competitors. Whether a new tablet is the Apple of your eye or the Android of your dreams, keep this report handy as you do your comparison shopping.

Tablets have been around for years, but they got no respect until Apple came up with the iPad. It quickly established how a modern tablet should look and operate -- light and easy to hold, with a bright display, an on-screen keyboard and all-day battery life. A good tablet, the iPad taught us, should also have a great selection of "apps" -- special software that can do virtually anything.

The iPad is the best choice for most people. It's extraordinarily easy to use and excels at the three things most of us want to do on the Internet -- email, Web browsing and social networking. It's also got thousands of games and more than a half-million other apps. Many of them are free.

You have a choice of two iPad models -- the new iPad mini, which sells for $329 to $559, depending on the amount of built-in storage and type of Internet connectivity, and the full-size iPad with Retina display, which runs from $499 to $829. You'll find iPads at Apple stores and some independent retailers. You can also order iPads online from Apple and some other sources.

A deal that's hard to pass up is a refurbished iPad from Apple's online store. All refurbed items are sold with new warranties and healthy discounts. Look for "Special Deals" on the store website at http://store.apple.com/us.

Google's Nexus 7 tablet is the shining star of the Android family. it's easy to hold, has a gorgeous 7-inch screen and, like most other Android devices, the same incredible choice of apps as the iPad. It sells from $199 to $299, depending on storage and networking options. A newer companion, the Nexus 10, has a 10-inch screen with the same features and sells for $399 or $499. Go to http://www.google.com/nexus.

Amazon and Barnes and Noble have their own Android tablets, but they're optimized as book readers. I don't recommend them as tablets. (Amazon's Paper White Kindle is a fabulous e-reader, however.)

Name-brand companies such as Samsung also sell Android tablets, but the best buys in the Android world are found in the scores of third-tier brands such as Coby. Their tablets are mostly small or mid-size and are sometimes discounted for less than $125. They're hard to find locally, but you'll see dozens listed at online discounters. Try New Egg at http://www.newegg.com and search for "Android."

Finally, Microsoft is selling its own tablets, called Surface for Windows RT and Surface Pro. They're kinda-sorta like laptops but don't do well as either tablets or laptops and have had dreadful reviews. Get a real tablet instead.

Next: Desktop and laptop computers.