Tech Tips: A Guide to Tablets
By: John Carmitchel
The tablet computer has made enormous strides in the last few years. Thanks to popular tablets like the iPad*, the thin, touchscreen-operated computers have become the weapon of choice for many computer users as they offer a great experience when browsing the web or using one of thousands of specialized apps.
Tablets vary by their power and operating systems. Processors like the Intel® Atom™ provide considerable power for the current generation of tablets, and some tablets have dual core processors, including the Motorola Xoom* and Asus Eee Transformer*.
Tablet operating systems. Most tablets use a special operating system designed to make the most of a touch interface, this gives the tablet the cool interactive feel that makes them fun and useful. A good operating system is an important part of a great tablet computer.
Popular tablet operating systems include the Honeycomb* version of Google Android*, mobile versions of Windows 7* and XP*, and Apple's iPad OS*. All of these operating systems have distinct advantages and disadvantages and all feature proprietary app stores which expand the capabilities of tablets.
Apps include everything from games to specialized word processors and even instruments. Generally, apps make use of a tablet's touchscreen to deliver an experience that a user couldn't get from a typical computer. A touchscreen is a very intuitive control system, so tablet manufacturers try to deliver the most easily accessible operating systems and apps possible to make sure that tablets offer a different experience from what a user would get from a laptop or netbook.
Keyboards and docks. Nevertheless, there are quite a few situations in which a tablet can benefit from the addition of a keyboard or keyboard-equipped docking station. While it's possible to type on the face of a tablet, an attached keyboard can make this process much easier.
Tablets like the Asus Eee Transformer have optional docking stations with built in keyboards which cost extra, but can basically turn a tablet into a full-featured netbook. Apple also sells an optional keyboard for use with its iPad.
Cameras. Most of the current generation tablets also have forward and rear-facing cameras. These cameras are meant to make it easy to use video-conferencing apps and to take a quick high-res photo. It's another way that tablets differ from traditional computers. Since they're flat and portable, an included camera can be a great feature.
Newer tablets have serious power and numerous apps to take advantage of that power. They're an ideal way to browse the web, read an eBook, or to play games. Tablets are a casual type of computer, although they do have professional applications (especially for doctors and lawyers). They can be extremely engaging and useful, especially as prices drop below the $400 mark and the list of features provided by modern tablets continues to grow.