Android Tablet Buying Tips
Sep 9, 2010 8:24 AM –
The following is a guest post from the guys at iGadget Life website.
If you look at the market today, it would seem that an Android tablet is something yet to come. And while that is true for the most part, you can buy Android tablets as we speak from many sources. Sure, they may not be brand names, but the prices are attractive, and… they are available. But as with any cutting edge product that is making its way onto the market, there is one thing to remember – Caveat emptor, let the buyer beware.
After all, little is known as to what to expect from an Android tablet. And, being that it is a new product in a new market niche with more or less undefined user expectations, it would be easy to make a lot of assumptions that there is a certain level of functionality present. But a quick scan of what is available proves that this is not the case. And we should expect Android tablets, with their free operating system, to be available from a lot of sources. The floodgates are building.
So, what should a potential Android tablet buyer look for? Well, the most logical answer is simple – the one that will address your needs. If you need only the most basic functionality, then a lot of products will fit the bill. But you just might discover that you grow quickly beyond the most basic uses, and at that point looking for a capable device will have been beneficial. And what key features should you look for in a Android tablet? Let’s look at some that I feel should be present in any practical Android tablet.
Of all of the things that I am convinced an Android tablet needs to have, this is the most important for sustained usability – it must run, or be able to run, Android 3.0. This not only sets you up for strong future app compatibility, but it also adds many features that will make your tablet experience nicer.
Such details include support of higher resolution graphics (prior Android was targeted towards the smaller phone displays) and better battery management. The interface has been standardized, with a revamped display and animated actions. By comparison the previous version of Android looks utilitarian. And you do want a pleasant tablet interface that will support the higher resolution, trust me.
On top of that, Android 3.0 is expected to bring a better app store and streaming music capability. Plus, the specs for Android 3.0 call for at least a 1GHz processor with 512MB of ram. A lot of the Android tablets in the wild today do not meet these specs, and app performance may suffer as a result.
If you are looking at a tablet today, you may think that having a multi-touch is standard. But a lot of the Android tablets on the market today are single touch only. This means that your control will be limited to only basic operations, such as icons, scrolling, etc. There is no pinch to zoom, and rotating a picture using two fingers is impossible.
As time goes on I believe the single touch tablet will be phased out completely, and then it could cost more to do a single touch tablet than the more popular version. But until then, I would suggest to research the tablet and make sure that it is multi-touch before purchase.
Decent Pixel Resolution
If you are buying an Android tablet, you may want to use it as a reader. And one of the great things about a tablet reader is the ability to see full page views of magazines and PDFs. But if the tablet does not have a decent screen resolution, that full page view can quickly degenerate into a “What does that say” guessing game. This is even more pronounced on some PDFs that cannot be easily navigated outside of a full page view.
Instead, try to limit your tablet choices to those that have a worthy display, pixel wise. I would suggest that any tablet under 1024 x 600 (rotation orientation notwithstanding) not be considered as a logical choice. In fact, having a crisp screen is so important on a tablet that I would suggest this resolution be the bare minimum starting point, with a nod towards a 1280 x 760 as being preferred.
Why 1280 x 760? Well, if you have been reading up to this point, you will realize that a decent screen pretty much requires Android 3.0. And what is the new resolution support in 3.0? You guessed it, 1280 x 760. Having this resolution would not only give you a better full page view, but it would validate that the tablet was built for Android 3.0, not an Android tablet put out at the last minute.
Of course, I would not kick a 1024 pixel unit to the curb any time soon. As proven by other tablets on the market, such a display can render a very readable full page view. But I would consider that to be a practical minimum.
Ample Internal Memory or Memory Card Slot
Hopefully you will only consider an Android 3.0 tablet, which means that you will have a minimum of 512MB for the tablet to operate on. But you still want storage space for all of your apps and media. For this you’ll want gigs. As to how many gigs will vary by person, but at least 16GB.
Of course, this does not all have to be internal to the tablet. Some Android tablets now ship with memory card slots that allow you to easily expand memory as required. This will be fine for most uses, but you should factor in the price of a memory card in the overall cost for the tablet. And if you have a few spare cards, then judge accordingly.
If the tablet in mind does not have memory card expansion AND it has less than 16GB, then my answer is simple – walk away. Despite many accesible online storage solutions, to be practical you need storage. Maybe at a later date, when mobile coverage is everywhere and carriers have dropped monthly traffic caps, then it will be a non-issue. But for now, get the storage room.
Fast Enough Processor
Again, if you are getting Android 3.0, the specs have you covered here. The minimum I would suggest (and as the specs call for) is a 1GHz processor. Anything less than this and you will find a tablet to be a very slow and unrewarding experience. And anything too fast could have a horrible battery life. So shoot for around 1.0 GHz and you will probably be okay for this generation or so.
Now this one is open to interpretation. Some of you may have a use in mind for a tablet that does not require a camera. And that makes perfect sense. But if you are thinking about a tablet as a communications device, then just imagine how much better they can be with a camera ala Skype or similar. I would put this as optional, depending on your intended use. But it does bear mentioning, since it can avoid the dreaded face palm later if it is overlooked.
This is another optional feature that should at least be considered. If you need access to flash drives, then having a port to plug them in would be nice. In my opinion a lot of users with an Android tablet may not need these, as a tablet tends to be a casual use device. But if you even think you might need one, make it a requirement. Even Android tablets available today have them on board, so it might be harder to find one without, than with a USB port. Still, verify that the tablet is so equipped if this is a perceived need.
There are other things to look for in an Android tablet, but they can vary as far as intended uses and desired conveniences go. For example, many users may really want a common USB mini socket to make recharging and interfacing simple. Whatever your needs, verifying that the minimum features are in place will make sure that your Android tablet experience will be a good one.