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Tablets For Christmas?
The Geek Checks Out The Options
December 2016

1. Why buy one?

geekIf your gift recipient doesn’t have a large phone screen and does most of her/his reading of newspapers, web articles and do email on the phone, tablets are nicer particularly if you have have fading eyesight and arthritic fingers like me.

2. What else can it do for me?

Most things your smart phone can do but bigger.

You can even make free phone calls using WIFI (or if you buy a 4g-enabled tablet and pay for data) and the right free software (check out Dingtone, and Magic App). Be careful about straining your wrist when you hold the 10 inch screen to your ear too long. I used a 7 inch tablet while in France to make free WIFI calls to the states with great success using GrooveIP for free. Of course you can also use your phone to make free WIFI calls to anyone without having a contract with anybody.

geekGreat for reading the daily news with apps (programs) from The New York Times, The Washington Post, Politico, The Daily Beast, The New Yorker and on and on and on…

If you can do it on your computer you can most likely do it on the tablet as well but maybe a bit slower.

Most tablets like smart phones have a GPS chip so you can get directions and use them as chart plotters if you have a chart to plot and find the right software to use.

Video chat with relatives and friends using programs like Skype and FaceTime. For free.

Watch TV shows (live and not so live — those zombie shows) and movies.

3. What size to get?

Tablets are anywhere from 6 inches to 12 inches. Depends on your main use and how easy you want to move it to and fro.

4. Considerations for moving it to & fro

Will it fit in your purse? Will you have to buy a purse? Or will it stay at home all day long. Will you type on it using an external wireless bluetooth keyboard plus tablet stand replacing that heavy laptop for some uses? And if you type long documents on the tablet are you good at squinting.

5. Android or Apple or some other?

geekThis likely depends upon what you are use to phone-wise and computer-wise. My sweetie uses both an Android phone and her iPad and is comfortable with both. I dumped my iPad because I couldn’t modify it easily or use programs that Apple didn’t want me to use. Apple does get brownie points for usability and ease. Android wins the geek award for flexibility. Microsoft (really?) makes tablets and if you’ve ever watched an NFL game you will see that they have taken over the coaches and players with them. I don’t know if their tablets repel Gatorade however. That said, they aren’t nearly as popular as the other two systems.

6. What about costs?

You can spend $50 to a thousand bucks depending upon your needs, desires, and budget. $50 gets you a 7 inch color tablet with the Android operating system (sort of) and $1000 or so gets you something like a Microsoft Surface tablet and keyboard that runs a version of Windows and will be faster and more robust for heavy work than a plain ole tablet. In between, $100-$500 gets you a variety of 7 inch to 10 inch tablets with faster processors and larger screens for the bigger price.

7. OK, smart guy, What do you recommend for cheap?

geekIf you are not sure about this stuff spend the $50 and buy an Amazon Fire 7 inch tablet or 8 inch Fire tablet. Both run a modified version of Android with Amazon ads annoying you on the home screen, but these are the equivalent in features to the 7 inch Android tablets of two years ago for a fourth of the price. I bought one on sale for $35 and it is remarkably good for the price. Plus you can add a memory card to store more docs and movies on it. Take that Apple and Tim Cook which doesn’t allow for additional storage with memory cards in the I-devices.

8. And if you are more flush and want a bigger screen for a bargain?

It’s Android choices again. There are no inexpensive Apple tablets under $250. But there are a few Windows tablets in the $150 plus range.

Asus makes a nice stock no ads Android tablet such as the MeMO Pad 8, for $$70 at Amazon. And check out other sizes for much less than the competition. Asus is the company that made Google’s first Nexus tablets and they have made computer hardware for years.

Lenovo (the top-selling laptop maker world-wide) makes a very reasonably priced 10 inch tablet with Windows for $149 at Amazon. I have one and love it. Lenovo make other sizes as well starting at $70 or so but like with all of these choices check out the customer reviews to make sure you can find one that others like.

9. And if you want Android with better features and faster?

I used to own an 8 inch Samsung tablet with a gorgeous screen which is great for movies and has plenty of memory at 16 gigs and a place to add a storage card. It cost 7 times the cheap 7 inch Amazon Fire but I enjoyed watching TV on the cheapie too. Samsung rivals Apple for numbers of tablets sold at the premium level. You can get a lower resolution slower Samsung tablet for under $200 however.

10. And, Ta-Da, Apple?

They make very well-reviewed tablets starting with the 8 inch mini series at $300 and the 10 inch series at $400. That said you can get new, not-used older models of Apple tablets starting at $225 if you look around.

geekAs with all things computing you want to buy the most memory, best resolution screen, and fastest processor you can afford. New Apple tablets run from $300 to over $1000 for the iPad Pro. You pay more if you need 4g added on so that you can use the tablet with the web when you don’t have WIFI. The newer iPad retina screens are terrific and if you love your iPhone you’ll love your iPad. Same operating system, same software mostly and things sync up easily between the phone and the iPad.

Apple likes you to spend money on their devices so they’re not providing memory card slots for storage of photos and movies is a feature for them and not for you. Extra storage models will be costly beyond the basic iPad you choose. But with Apple you do get geek bragging rights :)

Your plan if confused?

Borrow a friend’s tablet. Hang out at Best Buy and Staples trying things out. Maybe even hang at Walmart if you think you won’t feel guilty and try their demo machines – then buy somewhere else and feel good. Both Android tablets and iPads sync their software with your other like devices such as phones and other tablets, so the transition from one device to another is relatively painless.

And when you talk to the kids on your new tablet using Skype or Apple’s superior FaceTime software, you and they will smile.

And one other suggestion for your grandkids…

geekIf you are looking for another tech option check out getting the tiny Raspberry Pi 3 computer system starting at $39. This system runs a Linux operating system, has 4 USB ports for a keyboard, mouse and hard drives, has an HDMI port for TV and monitors as well as an audio out port. In short, it’s a nice little computer with software to teach the kids programming and comes with Minecraft and other games. Great choice if the kids have an extra monitor in a closet.

Check out options at https://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss_2?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=raspberry+pi+3&rh=i%3Aaps%2Ck%3Araspberry+pi+3

Merry Merry!


The Village Geek on TownDock.net is edited by Roger Bullis. Roger's background? Professor of Communication and Digital Media. Roger is always trying to figure out the next way to enjoy great & cheap technology in a small town.