Smaller than a notebook but bigger than a smartphone, a tablet is compact enough to carry around. And with mobile connectivity, tablet computers combine performance and portability. Learn about iPad, Android and Windows tablets, plus more.
WHAT'S A TABLET?
A tablet is a wireless, portable computer operated via a virtual keyboard integrated into the touch-screen, rather than an actual physical one built-in (you can connect a keyboard via a wireless link or USB)
Compact and light enough to take almost anywhere, many tablets feature up to 10 hours of battery life. It's a great mix of computing power and portability
Throw in Wi-Fi or, in some cases, 3G technology which is run on a SIM card and a tablet offers entertainment on the go and music at the palm of your hand
OPERATING SYSTEM? PLEASE EXPLAIN...
An "operating system" (OS) is the program that runs your computer's software and hardware, giving your device its on-screen look and feel. Different operating systems have their own unique features, tablets generally follow the same basic user interface design irrespective of the OS used — that is, a series of 'home screens', similar to computer desktops, with shortcut icons.
In the case of tablets on the market today, there are three main operating systems:
Android is an operating system created by Google
Allows hardware enthusiasts to create additional buttons, including keyboards, and have different form factors with screens of various sizes
The software progressive framework has been engineered to deal with a hardware eco-system that is diverse and always evolving
The Developed-In-Nigeria range of Bamboo Tablets run on the Android platform
Windows based tablets allow users to run on an operating system that many are familiar with on their laptops
It includes touch-optimised desktop versions of the new Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote
Owners of Windows tablets and other Windows 8 PCs can sign in with their Microsoft account across different devices and view the same settings and preferences
It is important to note that Windows based tablets may not have the same functionality as Windows 8 or Windows 8 Pro
Apple iOS is the operating system used in the iPad, as well as iPhone and iPod Touch. The biggest advantages of iOS are:
Smooth integration with other Apple products
Over 500,000 apps available through App Store
iOS looks good and works well, but you can't customise it. In addition many Adobe Flash content will not play on iOS.
WHAT CAN A TABLET BE USED FOR?
Portable, practical and permanently connected, a tablet has so many benefits you can enjoy just about anywhere:
Work and play: Check emails, connect to social media sites like Facebook and Twitter, watch YouTube and video streaming, play your favourite music and the latest games
Apps: Hundreds of thousands of applications let you download games, music, news, business tools and more
eReader: Like a mobile library at your fingertips, you can download and store your favourite books, magazines or newspapers and read them on the go
GPS: Some tablets offer satellite navigation with the latest maps, street-by-street directions and up-to-the-minute traffic conditions
ADVANCED CAMERA INTEGRATION
Most tablets have two built-in cameras: a front-facing one for video-calling using Skype or FaceTime (Apple), plus a rear-facing camera for photos and video
The ability to play augmented reality games, translate text and get notifications via camera flash are just a few of the advancements we’ve seen in the past few years
Your tablets camera also doubles as a handy video camera, in fact most newer devices can even record in high definition
THE SKINNY ON SIZE, SCREEN AND STORAGE
The size of the tablet you choose will depend on just how portable you need it to be. Its physical dimensions are important the longer you use your tablet and carry it around. Second-generation Android tablets in particular are thinner and lighter than ever before.
Most tablets are approximately 1cm in thickness, weigh less than 1kg (some as little as 400gm) and come in screen sizes from 7-inch to 12-inch
Multi-touchscreens can detect more than one finger at a time for two-fingered scrolling, pinch zooming, two-finger tapping and swipe-style gestures
Tip! If you're planning to take your tablet outdoors, choose a less reflective screen for use in sunlight.
How much storage you need depends on what you use your tablet for.
If you intend to just surf the web, collate photos and music, and other basic tasks, a 16GB hard drive should do the trick
On the other hand, if you'll be storing lots of large applications, high definition video and other media, more memory will be required
As an approximate guide, a two-hour HD film uses about 3.5GB, whereas 12 music albums use about 1.5GB. Most tablets also come with a memory card slot, useful for transferring files and additional storage space
The better-spec tablets have a battery life of 10 hours or more
Tip! If you find yourself short on battery, turn the screen brightness down and, if convenient, switch off any wireless connections like Wi-Fi, 3G and Bluetooth.
THE IMPORTANCE OF APPS
In order to gain the best experience from your tablet, you will need to invest in a few apps.
The Apple App Store has been designed specifically to offer a large selection, and includes every popular app you can think of
Google Play is similar to Apple in regards to ease of use. Including anything from Excel, TV shows, magazines, and games to GPS navigation, the clarity and efficiency of apps are of a high quality
Microsoft’s Windows RT/8 app store is designed for the professional in mind. Whilst social networking sites are accessible, it is not a main feature
The Surface Pro is a little pricier; however it allows users to run full-fledged Windows 8 desktop apps
WHAT'S THE CONNECTION?
WiFi and 3G are both wireless methods of connecting to the internet on the go:
All tablets support Wi-Fi, so you can link to the internet — minus the tangle of cables — when within range of a wireless network at home, cafés, work, school, and so on
Some tablets are 3G-enabled, so with a special SIM card in your tablet you can connect to the internet anywhere you get a 3G signal via a mobile internet network
Upload music, images and other documents by connecting additional devices (like iPods, digital cameras and the like) to your tablet via USB cables
Bluetooth technology is commonly used for connecting peripherals in place of a wired USB connection. Tablets also feature HDMI ports, so you can watch videos stored on your tablet with high quality pictures and sounds through your flat-screen digital TV
Another way to get your tablet online is to use your 3G or 4G phone as a Wi-Fi hotspot for your tablet. Simply type in the details from your phone and secure the connection
Tip! This might drain your phone battery, so have a charger nearby. Tip! Not all phones and tablets are compatible, so check with your network carrier that this feature is available.