Industry experts say the selection of computer tablets has nearly tripled since last year. That's good news for consumers but confusing for shoppers, particularly those who are trying to pick the right tablet as a holiday gift.
Shoppers will find new models, different operating systems, different features, and, of course, a wide range of prices. From $170 to well over $500, there is something for everyone. Jonathan Rodriguez, Mobile Manager at Best Buy, says it's important to know who you're buying for. If you're shopping for a college student, for example, Rodriguez says a 10-inch tablet with a keyboard is a good choice.
"Most of the 10-inch tablets come with USB adapters, so they can put flash drives in; SD slots, so they can transfer information. So, if they have to share with other students it's a lot easier," Rodriguez says.
For a busy, working person, he suggests a new Windows-based tablet.
"It's really good because it comes with its own version of typing, doing presentations, and spreadsheet programs," he explains. "It's very easy for people to adapt coming from desktops and laptops."
Rodriguez says the iPad is a good device for almost anyone, but suggests it's particularly good for older, retired people because of ease of use.
"A lot of people also go for the 7-inch tablet because it's easier on the hands. It's like a book," he says.
While the iPad may be the gold standard, its price is not the gold standard for everyone, and Apple is facing stiff competition from brands like Samsung, Asus, and Acer.
While tablets are not exactly toys, they are finding their way into the children's market, as well. Parents might consider the tabeo from Toys R Us or the Nabi tablet available at Best Buy.
"It's a small portable tablet," Rodriguez says. "Made with rubber on the outside. It comes with apps designed for children, programs them show them how to do colors even help them do homework."
Consumer Reports recently rated 35 different tablets. For 9-to-10 inch, 4G plus Wi-Fi models:
- Apple iPad
- Apple iPad 2
- Motorola Droid Xyboard
- Samsung Galaxy Tab
For 7-8 inch screens, 4G plus Wi-fi models:
- Samsung Galaxy Tab 7.7
- Pantech Element
- Samsung Galaxy 7.0 Plus
- T-Mobile SpringBoard
- Motorola Droid Xyboard
One final note: it's not just the brand, operating system, or price that matter. It's what the user does with the tablet and how the user maximizes the tablet's potential. The appeal of any tablet, Rodriguez says, are the apps that can be used on it, and the brilliant things the tablets can do with those apps.