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Opening A New Tab

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Phew! Now that we've sailed past the Mayan nightmare scenario, we're all set to enjoy Christmas and the year-end, which by the sound of the cash registers ringing all over the country is going to be very tablet-y indeed! Everywhere you look, customers are picking up tablets with this one simple realisation - most of what they do can be done with a tablet. So this Christmas, go out and get a tablet for yourself or your loved ones (or both!). But which one, you ask? I break down the options for you!
 
iPad mini: Launched just in time for Christmas, the iPad family has finally added a long overdue 7.9-inch variant - the mini. Like its bigger brother, the mini is made from the same high-quality materials and is every bit the premium product you would expect from Apple. At 7.2 mm thickness, it's easy to clasp in the hand and…it's gorgeous to boot! In a segment that favors plastic heavy construction, the iPad mini has taken the premium approach, a move that separates the device from its competition.
 
Crucially, I found the weight and the smaller form factor quite the compelling proposition. At 308g, it's about half the weight of the regular iPad, and the weight difference makes the mini so much more a take-everywhere device. Even over prolonged use like a long subway ride, it's easy to hold in one hand, like you would hold a paperback. It also slips in easily into a small bag or a large jacket pocket, so it's always with you - not something one can say about the suddenly much heavier iPad.
 
Yet, it can be argued that there's an element of compromise with the mini. It packs in the same dual-core processor and memory as the iPad 2, which in pure hardware terms was getting long in the tooth. It runs the latest iOS6 just fine though, so everyday tasks like browsing, YouTube and email, but you can feel the difference in demanding apps and games.
 
And possibly the most critical omission - the mini doesn't pack in the high-resolution Retina display of the larger iPad, opting instead for a 1,024x768 pixel iPad2-spec display. The bigger iPad's screen is much sharper, and there's really is no going back once you have experienced a superior screen. Pit the two together, and text and user interface elements on the mini's screen appears a tad grainy and jagged. And like all current generation iOS devices, the screen is extremely responsive to all the taps, swipes and scrolls I threw at it, and there was never a stutter in getting things done. Another neat thing I noticed, which I hope will make its way onto the larger iPad, is a thinner screen bezel. Now, courtesy the larger screen that's now much closer to the edges of the device, it's entirely likely that the stray thumb will touch the edges of the screen when you're holding the device. What Apple has done is to ensure holding the device doesn't register the unwanted finger placement as a touchscreen selection/command.
 
Compared to the competition, the mini does ostensibly offer more screen real-estate than standard 7-inch rivals, but its screen doesn't fare as well when it comes to sharpness - be it for everyday tasks like using the browser, email or looking at photos. Use it for multimedia and the difference doesn't seem as stark - in terms of video playback or game play, the mini holds its own with a strong colour palette and decent contrast ratios ensuring the device is a more than viable option for multimedia absorption.
 
Of course, a Retina display akin to the iPad or the iPhone seems like a sure-fire inclusion for the likely second-generation update. Having said that, if you're a first timer at tablets and haven't used the Retina iPad extensively, the mini's display won't irk as much.
 
So, which one will it be? The iPad mini or the bigger iPad 4th generation? Convenience and portability and a great Rs 21,900 (16GB) starting price vs. bleeding-edge hardware? Either way, you can't go wrong.
 
…And The Contenders
Nexus 7: I've reserved nothing but high praise for Google's first tablet attempt, and had Asus kept India pricing somewhat similar to the rock-bottom $199 (~Rs 12,000) US pricing, the Nexus 7 would have been the no-questions-asked pick for a tablet to buy this Christmas. Just look at the hardware it packs in - a high-resolution 1200x800 pixel display, a quad-core Nvidia Tegra 3 processor and the latest Android 4.2 (Jelly Bean) operating system. At Rs. 19,999 (16GB), it's still a great buy if you're looking for the latest Android experience in a 7-inch package.
Asus Eee Pad Transformer Prime TF201: If hammering away at a physical keyboard tops your list of needs from a tablet, the Asus TF201 is one to strongly consider, more so if you can score a deal on this tablet. Sit the tablet down on the slim keyboard dock, and you get a full keyboard, a USB port and a card reader and a big boost to battery life - an excellent choice for productivity-obsessed power users.
Samsung Galaxy Tab 2: A sub-20K price tag, 3G and voice calling, the latest Android update and a nice portable 7-inch form factor - if you want a device which does it all without being remarkable in any one department, this is the device to buy.
Micromax Funbook Pro: Want to buy big on a shoe-string budget? The Funbook Pro (Rs 9,999) from Micromax may not pack in the latest greatest hardware, but it will work for anyone looking for a device for casual web surfing and the occasional movie. Not recommended for gaming enthusiasts, though.
Samsung Galaxy Note 800: This is the tricked-out 10-incher to pick up - besides the sizeable HD display and Jelly Bean, the Note 800 (Rs. 37,500) includes a S-Pen stylus for jotting your thoughts (or doodles) down, and it can run apps side-by-side.


 
Five Questions to Ask Yourself before Buying a Tablet
  • Do I need one? Is the tablet allowing you to completely replace your laptop for your computing needs? Can you move over completely from the PC? If so, the tablet may be a great device to pick up. If not, consider whether it is a need, or a want
  • Which Platform? So you have the Apple camp - the iPad and the mini, and the Android camp with its bevy of hardware choices. Also, Microsoft entered this segment with tablets running Windows RT, a slimmed down version of Windows 8 that runs on ARM processors, but the options are limited at the time of writing. It will come down to what suits you personally, but broadly speaking, Apple's iOS is clean and intuitive and has a fantastic selection of apps made for the tablet, while Android allows for an amazing amount of configurability and seamless integration with Google services such as Gmail, Maps and Google Talk. Windows RT will give you the closest thing to a desktop experience on a tablet, plus you get Microsoft Office with the OS, but it is really early in the Windows RT device release cycle for the platform to have truly matured.
  • Where are the apps? If you want quality apps, the iPad is hard to beat with its nearly 300,000 made for tablet apps available in the App Store. Not to say Android hasn't made big strides in this department, but the sheer number and variety of tablet-optimised Android apps are lacking here.
  • Screen Size and Storage? This may seem like an obvious choice, but it's an important consideration to make. Keep in mind what you intend to use the tablet for - a bigger screen is good for ebook reading, web surfing and movie watching, while a smaller screen means the device will be portable and may actually get taken along to places (and be useful) where a bigger tablet may not. As far as storage is concerned, remember that with the iPad, you get what you buy on day 1, no expandability. Sure, cloud storage is an option, but with the patchy Internet connectivity we have, on board storage is always better. If you're a media junkie with several memory cards worth of songs and videos you must carry along, many Android tablets let you expand storage via a built-in memory card slot.
  • Wi-Fi only or Cellular?: If you largely plan to use the tablet indoors, or have a 3G plan on your cell phone that you plan to share with your tablet, save yourself some money and pick up the Wi-Fi only version of the tablet you like.

technocool at kanwar dot net