November 25, 2012

Choosing a tablet

Here's a guide to the top options in large and small devices to help shoppers select the best one to give, or to keep.

By PETER SVENSSON The Associated Press

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A shopper reacts after buying a new iPad Mini in Seoul, South Korea, earlier this month. Apple has plenty of competition in tablet computers now, giving consumers a variety of good choices in sizes and capabilities.

The Associated Press photos

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The new Microsoft Surface runs a version of Windows adapted for tablets.

Additional Photos Below

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.

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Additional Photos

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Hugo Barra of Google holds up the new Nexus 10 tablet, which beats the iPad’s screen resolution.

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The Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 comes with a “pen.”

Kindle Fire
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The Kindle Fire from Amazon now sports a camera and speakers on either side of the screen.

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Google’s Cheryl Pon shows off apps on the new Google Nexus 7 tablet. It has access to thousands of applications written for Android smartphones.

ASSOCIATED PRESS

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The new iPad Mini has fewer pixels than other small tablets, but it has two cameras, front and back. It’s the only small tablet that has access to Apple’s App Store, with a wide selection of high-quality apps.

ASSOCIATED PRESS

 


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