TechieTalk: Tablets Redux

By Roy Mathur, on 2012-03-12, for The Independent Daily, Mauritius (in which an edited version appeared)

New iPad

The world's gone tablet crazy again thanks to Apple's fandom hyped new iPad release last week. So listen to the doctor because we're talking tablets once again. The new device is roughly the same size as the old iPad 2, but with:

-A better 2048 x 1536 resolution Retina screen.
-A fast A5X quad core CPU.
-A new 5 mega pixel camera.
-HD video recording at 1080p.
-3G and the faster 4G LTE data connections.

The new iPads will come with 16 GB, 32 GB and 64 GB of internal storage and cost USD 629, 729 and 829 respectively. The basic iPad 2 with WiFi only will now cost a reduced USD 399.

But, just suppose you don't want to pay a premium for the latest and greatest of Apple's super-slates. Does this doom you to tech obscurity. No it doesn't and you may even find that other tablets offer more bells and whistles and better value than the new iPad.

iPad 2

For a start the iPad 2 is still a pretty good machine. In my experience WiFi reception is not always great so, make sure you at least opt for the 3G version. There's still a great screen, reasonable battery life in Airplane mode and a simple interface. Add free ebook apps like CloudReaders and Stanza and you've got a world-class Kindle Color beater. Expect a big price reduction soon.

Toshiba AT100 (AKA Thrive)

This is heavier than the iPad 2. It's screen is not quite as perfect, so why buy it? Connectivity, that's why. This 16 GB device has both built-in HDMI, micro and full-sized USB and an SD card slot, but alas, no 3G. It's also cheaper than the iPad 2. Courts is selling these for Rs25,299.

Acer Iconia Tab

This is another connectivity monster with HDMI, micro and full sized USB ports, a microSD card slot and built-in 16GB of on-board storage. It has a nicer screen than the Toshiba, but again, no 3G. This machine is even cheaper than the Toshiba at Rs22,999 from Courts.

Both these devices make you wonder when Apple will take the hint and make their devices more accessible. I am an iPad 2 owner and after the debacle of having to always transfer files through iTunes I sometimes wish that I'd bought one of the above machines and saved myself a headache.

Tablets: Pros and Cons

Pros: most are pretty simple to use, quick to boot with long battery life. One major advantage I have found is that my iPad 2 tablet generates very little heat, so reliance on air-condioning in our device-killing climate is lessened. (I have already cooked one Toshiba laptop in Mauritius).

Cons: They all still have appalling displays for outdoors use, so forget reading in the park. Also, as versatile as these tablets are, they still require a companion computer for synchronisation, backup and configuration. For example, I have found backing up my iPad 2 to Apple's iCloud service over Wifi to be absolutely impossible despite Apple's claims to the contrary. Tablets are also still no replacement for a real computer in terms of availble software. You can't run Microsoft Office or Adobe Photoshop on one. Think of them as a luxury purchase rather than a necessity. A road warrior or student would be better off with a smart-phone and a laptop. Talking of phones, in most cases tablets will not double as mobile phones. And even if you could, you'd look a right twit talking into a ten inch slab plastered to the side of your face.

Sources: Acer, Apple, CNet, TechRadar, Toshiba