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Which Tablet PC should I buy & when?


OK (now that the iPad 2 has been announced), which (tablet should I buy) and when?

- Candice


This question was answered on March 4, 2011. Much of the information contained herein may have changed since posting.

With the recent release of the much anticipated Motorola Xoom and this weeks announcement of Apples iPad 2, the which tablet and when question just got a lot more complicated.

As of this writing, there are only three real contenders for the masses interested in a fully functional, full size tablet PC: Apples iPad or iPad 2 and Motorolas Xoom.

What you plan to do with it, who you are as a user and where you plan to use it most will be the biggest factors in choosing one of the available options today.

At the 10,000 ft level, the primary difference between Apples iPads and Motorolas Xoom is the operating platform (its very much like MacOS vs Windows  ease of use vs flexibility & openness).

Apples IOS platform follows the companies traditional model of tightly controlling the environment and what you can do with it You can only install apps that they approve (unless you are willing to jailbreak the device and operate outside of their support), but since they essentially created this category, the number of apps designed for the iPad is over 65,000 vs the hundred or so for the new Android 3.0 tablets.

Apple is also notorious for proprietary interfaces instead of using industry standards, which can cost you more in special adapters and flexibility.

Motorolas Xoom operates on Googles Android platform, which is much more open and flexible Those that like to tweak and geek are clearly more attracted by the Android platform The Xoom also has built-in industry standard mini-USB & HDMI connectors and expandable memory for additional storage (a big knock on the iPad is its fixed storage).

Apple clearly offers more choices in its range of tablets with 6 different Wifi only options and multiple 3G cellular enabled versions from both AT&T and Verizon (there are actually 18 different options for iPad buyers  9 options of the original iPad and 9 options for the iPad 2 because of the different cellular providers).

If you plan on using your tablet primarily in locations where you know there will be a Wifi hotspot (your home, office, coffee shops, etc.) than the Wifi only version of the iPad or iPad 2 will be the best bang for the buck.

If you dont care about cameras, multi-tasking or an active GPS, than one of the original Wifi only iPads will likely be you best choice If you do want those features, than your choices will be between the 3G enabled iPad 2 and Motorolas Xoom.

If youre a road-warrior that needs to be connected wherever you go, than the 3G enabled iPad options from AT&T and Verizon or Verizons Motorola Xoom might be worth the extra ($130 -$230 more monthly data charges) If this is the case, your first task is to figure out which cellular network has the best coverage for your travels.

The AT&T version of the iPad & iPad 2 have the 3G receiver built-into the tablet, while the Verizon version of the original iPad is simply a Wifi tablet that requires their Mifi mobile hotspot device (available as a bundle) in order to connect to the data network.

The Motorola Xoom and the iPad 2 for the Verizon network both have the necessary CDMA circuitry built-in and the Motorola Xoom will be capable of upgrading to Verizons speedy 4G LTE network in the near future

Motorolas Xoom will reportedly be able to use Adobe Flash by this spring, while Apple has made it clear that they have no plans to every support Flash on the iPad.

Choosing which Motorola Xoom model is pretty easy, since at this point there is only one: 32GB Verizon 3G enabled ($799 outright or $599 with a 2-year Verizon data contract) but Motorola will likely offer a cheaper Wifi only version down the road.

The when to buy question in technology is always the same: wait if you can! The longer you wait, the more you get for the same money or the lower the price will be for the same device.

To add to the confusion, new tablets from Samsung, HP, Dell and Blackberry are scheduled for launch sometime this spring.

In my opinion, mid-summer will be a sweet spot for making a tablet PC purchase decision, because all of the major players will have thrown their hats in the ring and the tech world will have had a chance to play with all of them.

Just remember, pioneers get arrows, settlers get land!

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Posted by Ken of Data Doctors on March 4, 2011