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Friday, March 16, 2012

Should you buy the new iPad?

If you’ve been in the market for a tablet for a while, but feel overwhelmed by the choices now available, you’re not alone.

Since the original iPad surfaced two years ago, hundreds of similar tablets have hit the market ranging from the sub-$100 e-readers that are basically digital books all the way up to the 4G, multi-core, high-definition iPad recently announced by Apple itself.


If you’re anything like me, then one of the most important things is price. However, it’s not as simple as picking a price range and buying a tablet. You have to consider your needs first.

Some basic questions you may want to ask yourself first are: Why do I want a tablet? Do I want it for gaming? Do I want it for word-processing? Am I just going to surf the Web? Do I want it to replace my laptop? Or do I want it in addition to my laptop?

The Amazon reigns for us

If you just want something to complement your laptop, then you might want to consider an e-reader, such as Amazon’s line of Kindle readers or tablets.

Amazon’s tablets range in price from about $79 up to about $379. Amazon’s Kindle is the premier e-reader. If you’re a bookworm and will do mostly reading, you might want to go this route. The Kindle’s electronic ink display is easy on your eyes and looks very similar to paper. It’s low-priced and has an amazingly long battery life.

You’re not, however, going to do much Web surfing with the Kindle, unless you like single color (black) Web pages with no video or flash capabilities. There is an experimental browser available, but it’s quite slow at displaying images and if you’re using the non-touch screen version, you have to navigate with the menu keys. There is built-in Wi-Fi on all models (except for the DX, which has free 3G), but unless you’re using one of the 3G-capable models, you will only be able to surf in hot spots.

On the other hand, if you’re really into the Web and won’t be spending more than a few hours a week reading, then you may want to consider the Kindle Fire. Like the iPad, the Fire has an LCD screen, built-in Wi-Fi and is capable of playing movies, TV shows and music. And at under $200, the Fire won’t dent your budget too much.

The main drawback to the Fire is the lack of 3G, which again means you won’t be surfing the Web unless you’re in a Wi-Fi hot spot. That means you’re going to have to have a wireless router or spend all of your time at McDonald’s or any other spot that offers free Wi-Fi.

Android or iOS: What’s the difference?

If you’ve been searching for a tablet, you’ve no doubt heard mention of the dueling operating systems: Android vs. iOS. Basically, iOS is Apple’s interface and Android was created by Google for everything else.

The two systems are very similar, but each one has distinct advantages over the other.

For example, iOS comes with Apple’s App Store, which gives users access to the largest library of apps (programs), many of which are free or cost just a few dollars. Apple’s App Store currently has around 500,000 apps compared to Android’s 250,000, according to CNET. So, Apple definitely has more variety.

However, with Android, you have many more choices as to what tablet you’d like to try. The Android operating system is leased out to several tablet manufacturers, including the Kindle Fire, with many different options available. You can only use iOS on Apple’s iPad — nothing else.

So should I get an iPad?

So, you’ve thought it through, done you’re research and now you’re ready to buy an iPad. But wait! You’re not done yet. You’ll still have to decide which model and what features you’ll want.

If price is still a concern, then now is the time to buy. When Apple announces a new generation of iPads, the previous generation typically drops in price. Right now, you can get an iPad 2 for $399. You can find them even cheaper if you’re willing to buy certified refurbished iPads from Apple, which are an excellent bargain.

The big difference between the iPad 2 and the newest generation is the screen. The newest version of the iPad has a screen with double the resolution of the iPad 2, which means the tablet actually has more clarity and pixels than a 60-inch plasma or LCD TV. The retina display is the same technology that Apple has used in the iPhone and is quite remarkable.

And as far as options go for the iPad, if you go for the cheapest, you’ll be without 3G (or 4G, which is just faster 3G). There are basically three pricing/storage levels of the iPad: the 16GB, 32GB and 64GB, starting at $499 and increasing $100 for each storage level for the newest version. Add about $130 for 3G or 4G service on top of the base price.

Do I still need my laptop?

The question some may be asking themselves is: Will I still need a laptop if I buy a tablet. And the answer depends on the person.

While it may be hard to believe, you can do almost as much on a tablet now as you can on a laptop. Gaming? Check. Web surfing? Check. Watching movies/TV shows? Check. Word processing? Check.

Word processing? Really?

As a matter of fact, OnLive has just released an app that turns your tablet into a virtual Windows 7 machine, complete with access to Microsoft Office (Word, Excel, Powerpoint, etc.) and cloud storage. You can write a blog or a book, save it, come back to it later, delete it or do whatever you want. You can’t install your own software on it, but it does come in quite handy on the road.

So then, do you still need a laptop if you have a tablet? And my personal answer is no – with an asterisk. If you have a desktop computer at home and do little traveling, the tablet should suffice. If you don’t have a home PC or your job requires you to use specialized software or VPN, you may want to keep the ol’ laptop handy.

Otherwise, just trade the thing in and use that money to buy your new tablet. But be warned: With the way technology is advancing in this day and age, you might just have to trade that tablet up for the next big thing in a few years.