Choose a Tablet – Part 2

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Tablets are growing in popularity. Lightweight, ultra-portable and with a user-friendly and immersive touch-screen, it’s no wonder that more and more people are wondering if a tablet could replace their PC. Last week, I started to answer a reader’s inquiry about choosing a tablet for email, Internet, Facebook and reading books and magazines. This week, we’ll explore getting and storing content on a tablet, as well as offline functionality.

A tablet’s operating system and manufacturer determines where content originates from and this should factor into your decision if you plan to purchase games, movies, books or magazines. Amazon has a huge library of reasonably priced media. Apple’s iTunes and Google Play stores each have a large amount of content but tend to be a bit more expensive. Before you buy a tablet, find out where you’ll need to go to get content. Make sure there’s a huge selection of apps and media and then review a few games, books or movies that you’d be likely to purchase to compare pricing. A dollar or two on an item won’t break the bank, unless you spend an extra dollar or two a few times a week.

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The iPad’s front-runner status means that you’ll have a massive selection of apps to choose from. This can come in really handy if you’re looking to integrate your tablet with other programs or things in your home (like Smart home remotely-controlled thermostats or lighting systems) as most app writers know that many of their likely consumers own an iPhone, iPad or iPod. However, most app stores will offer a wide selection of more common games and programs.

Storage capacity will determine how many apps you can install and how much data you can store on the device. Books take up very little space: you can expect to store about 1,000 eBooks in 2GB. Magazines can take a bit more due to color graphics and interactive features. Games can take up a lot of space: if they’re detailed and image-rich they can take up 1GB each. The true space hog is video content. If you buy an HD movie and want to be able to watch it offline, downloading it to your device will require 2-4GB of available storage.

Many tablet-fans will point you toward cloud storage solutions. Typically you’ll get a free account to store some additional content on the manufacturer’s cloud server, but you’ll need to have access to the Internet to access your cloud “data locker.” If you think you’ll store a lot on the device itself, consider a tablet that supports expanding memory via a removable SD memory card like Microsoft’s Surface or the Barnes and Noble Nook (iPads do not).

tablets definitely lose some functionality when they can’t get online

Tablets definitely lose some functionality when they can’t get online. With a WiFi-only device, you won’t have access to new emails or be able to use Facebook when you’re out of range of a WiFi signal. While books and magazines are typically downloaded to your tablet over WiFi (so that they’re later available offline), if you finish your book and want to download another when you’re not in WiFi range, you’re out of luck. Many games and applications rely on Internet access as well, though there are certainly plenty that retain full functionality offline.

While your tablet will be less useful offline, it won’t be a paperweight. Before you spend more on a tablet that supports cell signal and commit to the cost of a data plan subscription, try to determine how much time you’ll be away from WiFi and whether you’ll still get enough use out of your device when offline.

About The Author: Andrea 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 callnerds.com/andrea/.