Tablet Buying Guide: How to Pick the Perfect Slate

What Specs Matter?

The beauty of tablets versus notebooks is that the software doesn’t need the most powerful hardware to run smoothly. That’s why most of these slates are powered by ARM-based processors typically found in phones. However, you’ll see a lot of emphasis this year on dual-core mobile processors, because they promise smoother multitasking performance.

Nvidia’s Tegra 2 chip, for example, has dual-core power, plus the ability to stream full HD (1080p) video. Meanwhile, an integrated GeForce graphics chip provides console-quality gameplay. You’ll also find a dual-core chip from Texas Instruments, the 1-GHz OMAP 4430, in the BlackBerry PlayBook. We’ve seen this tablet play a 3D game while playing back high-def video clips. Apple, Qualcomm, and Samsung are also rolling out dual-core processors.

The dual-core A5 chip inside the iPad 2 does provide a noticeable performance boost, whether you’re opening apps, or editing video using iMovie. The graphics performance of the iPad 2 is also up to nine times greater than the original iPad, but developers are still in the process of tapping into this new chip’s power.

Some cheaper slates have slower single-core CPUs under the hood, running anywhere from 600 to 800 MHz. We’re not saying you shouldn’t buy these tablets, but you shouldn’t have high expectations, either.

When it comes to storage, it seems that tablet makers are following Apple’s lead by using 16GB of storage as a baseline. Those who want to store more photos, videos, and other content locally will want to opt for 32GB or 64GB. An SD card slot can be especially useful for not only expanding storage but for quickly transferring content from your camera, but many slates lack this feature.



Tablet Buying Guide

AUTHOR BIO
Mark Spoonauer
Mark Spoonauer
Responsible for the editorial vision for Laptopmag.com, Mark Spoonauer has been Editor in Chief of LAPTOP since 2003 and has covered technology for nearly 15 years. Mark speaks at key tech industry events and makes regular media appearances on CNBC, Fox and CNN. Mark was previously reviews editor at Mobile Computing, and his work has appeared in Wired, Popular Science and Inc.
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  1. Craig Says:

    Why don’t you ever comment on the limitations of the ipad? I have the apple IPAD and no one ever comments on the fact that one cannot open any websites that have incorporated Adobe flashplayer. (There are more websites that utilize this than one would think). Apple’s continued reluctance to allow total access to its products (citing, adobe flash is not a good program and causes crashes) is unacceptable. I already have a father. If I want to use add-ons to the electronic devices I purchased, then why not allow it, understanding that the machine could crash?
    I do not know much about the competitive devices, but I am assuming that there are no restrictions.

    My 2 cents

  2. charles Says:

    Since when did apps come to mean something different from program? “Microsoft doesn’t have it’s own app store” Last time I checked, it had literally thousands of programs able to run on Windows. Even if Windows isn’t the best software (right now at least) for tablets to run, please don’t sound ignorant in saying that Windows based tablets have no apps available.

  3. mirekk Says:

    There’s no such thing as perfect tablet, or perfect anything for that matter. It’s simply a matter of individual preference. Anyhoo the tablets of today are still relatively simple (media consumption) and require some more work (more interfaces, more storage space, etc.).

  4. Mark Says:

    Tabs are fun if you get the right one. Number one priority inputs. If so it doesn’t matter how much onboard storage is if you can pop in a flash drive or sdcard. Two GUI must be 3D capable. Three not locked in, to a carrier, or proprietary anything especially inputs and app store. Android tabs meet all those criterions. Ipad is more of a 20th century 1D device. Great for kids and the elderly. No frills, no thrills. Also, there selling points buying apps and garage band, be serious. I’m not buying a tab to continuously line apple’s pockets with my money, plus, the connectivity issues they hope no one notices.

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