Choose a Tablet – Part 1

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Tablet and smart pen on white table.

Last week, Christina P. sent me a great question about how to choose a tablet and what they do, an inquiry I receive regularly so I thought I’d share my reply in this two-part series:

I am considering a tablet for Internet, Facebook and reading – books and magazines, but I don’t even own a smart phone, so I’m very confused. Do all tablets generally offer the same features? I don’t understand why iPads are a lot more expensive than other tablets. Is the retina display worth the extra cost? If I plan to use a tablet on the road, will I need a cell phone plan for it? If you download a magazine, is it saved on the tablet, or do you need some type of internet connection to read it? What other tablets would you recommend? Thanks for any help you can give me.

Not all tablets are created equal, but there are some great options available that will give you the functionality that you’re looking for. The leader in the tablet market is undoubtedly the iPad, with sales figures leaving nearest competitors Samsung and Amazon in the dust. It’s a proven, reliable product that will definitely handle surfing the net, cruising Facebook, and keeping up on your news and magazines.

Apple products are generally more expensive than their competitors. This doesn’t inherently make them superior, but the price point is set due to its market share and frankly, Apple charges the price that people will pay to get an iPad. Just about any tablet from an established, reputable manufacturer would easily perform the functions you need. There are so many tablets on the market that it can be confusing to try to pick one up off the shelf. Stick with a well-known brand like Samsung’s Galaxy, Microsoft’s Surface, Google’s Nexus or an eReader from Amazon or Barnes and Noble to ensure reliability.

Speaking of eReaders that offer tablet functionality, Amazon’s Kindle Fire or Barnes and Noble’s Nook are significantly less expensive and will still give you access to Internet, email, and Facebook, as well as books and magazines. For the basic functions you list in your inquiry, I highly recommend that you consider Amazon’s Kindle Fire HD, starting at $269 for a version with 16GB of storage and a screen size and resolution comparable to the iPad 2 with retina display ( There are less expensive versions with either a smaller screen or lower resolution, but across the board you’ll save an average of $200 or more going with Amazon over a comparable Apple product.

our nerds can help you find the best tablet for your needs!

As for the retina display upgrade offered on iPads, it increases the resolution capability of the screen. This will improve the clarity of magazine pages, and support viewing HD videos or content from the net. The best way to decide if it’s worth the price is to view it next to the standard iPad 2 to see if notice a marked difference.

In fact, I’d recommend that you visit a retail outlet that carries several brands (such as Target or Best Buy) to see, touch and play with a few tablets and eReaders before you decide so that you can see how they compare. Note screen size, resolution and storage capacity when price shopping to ensure you’re comparing similar products. Navigate between applications to make sure it feels user-friendly and relatively intuitive.

Stay tuned next week for more on how to get content on the device, storage capacity and whether or not to consider a 4G version to improve functionality when you’re away from WiFi.

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About The Author: Andrea Eldridge is CEO and co-founder of Nerds On Call, a computer repair company that specializes in on-site and online service for homes and businesses. Andrea is the writer of a weekly column, Nerd Chick Adventures in The Record Searchlight. She prepares TV segments for and appears regularly on CBS, CW and FOX on shows such as Good Day Sacramento, More Good Day Portland, and CBS 13 News, offering viewers technology and lifestyle tips. See Andrea in action at

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