For Seniors: Buying the Right Tablet

Buying a tablet is not often an impulse decision. Before you decide to purchase a tablet, there are several things you might want to consider first.

Laptops and netbooks are portable computers, although a netbook is a smaller, much less powerful laptop (in terms of computing power).

Laptops (including netbooks) use computer operating systems; tablets typically use smartphone operating systems which are much less powerful. Unlike laptops/netbooks, tablets use touch-sensitive screens as their primary input device. There are some laptops however, that have a removable display that acts as a sort of tablet.

What is a tablet?

Tablets provide most of the bells and whistles of a laptop with more processing power than a netbook. They can connect to the Internet using Wi-Fi or (in some models) cellphone 3G networks. The most popular tablet today is the iPad.

Tablets differ from laptops in that they typically have smartphone operating systems such as Apple’s iOS or BlackBerry’s OS. This means you interact with tablets like you would a smartphone rather than how you normally interact with a computer. They don’t have a keyboard or mouse or DVD drive. Some do have cameras for both still photos and video.

Decide whether a tablet would work for you.

A tablet (sometimes called simply a tab) lets you do most things you can do on a laptop such as reading e-mail and viewing pictures, but it is different from a laptop in several key ways.

  • The battery life on tablets is often longer than the average laptop, coming in at around 10 hours or so.

  • A tablet has a touchscreen that you use to provide input to your computer, either with your fingertip or a stylus.

  • There is an onscreen keyboard on a tablet you can use to enter text (though many models have wireless capability, which you can also use to connect to a wireless or Bluetooth-enabled physical keyboard).

  • Tablets are very light, weighing in at anywhere from slightly less than a pound to a couple of pounds. Tablets are also smaller than most laptops, anywhere from 7 inches to 10 inches or so in screen size.

  • Most tablets are available in both wireless only and wireless and 3G models. Depending on the device you choose, you can connect through a wireless network or a cellphone network on a model that supports both.

  • You can get free apps or purchase apps for your tablet that allow you to perform a wide range of functions, from video calling to playing games and playing digital musical instruments.

  • If you want a super lightweight device to browse the Internet, send and receive e-mail, and peruse content like ebooks, music, or movies, a tablet might be just right. If you need more of a workhorse to do a good deal of word processing or spreadsheets, for example, a laptop or netbook is probably a better bet.

  • As with a laptop, tablet screens have different resolutions, which means that some have crisper-looking graphics than others.

  • The storage capacity of a tablet will almost always be smaller than a laptop and can range from 8 GB to 128 GB.

Besides iPad, which has been available for a few years, most tablet models are relatively new to the market. Visit a site such as Tablet PC Comparison to read about the different features to help you make a choice if you decide a tablet is right for you.

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