The Apple iPad isn't the only tablet on the market. In fact, you can find an Android tablet with similar specs and a much lower price.
I received a 32 GB Apple iPad 2 as a gift. It was beautiful. But it cost $729 (with 3G service). Gift or no gift, I can’t justify owning anything that costs $729, especially when I could return it and get a comparable tablet for much, much less. So I did.
I took the iPad back to the Apple store and spent the money on an Android tablet.
Sounds simple, but it wasn’t. After reading CNET’s Best Android Tablets review, testing out several in person, and reading more consumer reviews than I can count, I narrowed it down to three choices: keep the iPad, get a Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1, or buy a Sony Tablet S.
I went with the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1. Here’s why…
- Apple iPad 2: 1.33 pounds
- Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1: 1.24 pounds
- Sony Tablet S: 1.30 pounds
Size matters – especially if you’re planning to carry your tablet around with you. Ultimately, I picked these three devices as finalists because they were thin and lightweight. When choosing a tablet, look for one that weighs 2 pounds or less. Otherwise, you might as well drag around a full-sized laptop or netbook.
2. Screen size
- iPad 2: 9.7 inches
- Galaxy Tab 10.1: 10.1 inches
- Tablet S: 9.4 inches
Screen size is a matter of preference, but I look for the biggest size I can find without increasing the weight too much. A bigger screen is easier to view and causes less eye strain over time.
3. Storage capacity
- iPad 2: 16 GB to 64 GB
- Galaxy Tab 10.1: 16 GB
- Tablet S: 32 GB
When deciding on storage capacity, consider what you plan to store on the tablet. In my case, I knew I’d only store a few apps, TV shows, photos, and MP3s. So 16 GB is more than enough storage space for basic needs like those. But if you plan to use the tablet for work, go 32 GB or 64 GB.
- iPad 2: The iPad 2 has both front-facing and rear-facing video recorders but shoots videos at 720p and lacks quality for still shots, according to Wired.
- Galaxy Tab 10.1: 3 megapixel back, 2 megapixel front-facing
- Tablet S: 5 megapixel back, no front-facing
Most tablets don’t have high-quality cameras, but they do have some differences worth considering. For example, if you want recording capabilities, look for a tablet with a camcorder. If you want to do video chat, look for one with a front-facing camera.
5. Battery life
- iPad 2: 11 hours on average, according to CNET’s performance test
- Galaxy Tab 10.1: Up to 9 hours, according to PCWorld
- Tablet S: 6.2 hours on average, according to CNET
Battery life is something you shouldn’t compromise on if you plan to travel with your tablet. I get about 8 hours with the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1, which is enough to work on throughout the day.
- iPad 2: ranges from $499 to $829, depending on size and 3G connection
- Galaxy Tab 10.1: ranges from $430 to $526, according to CNET
- Tablet S: ranges from $469 to $599, according to CNET
All things considered, price was the biggest factor in my decision. I got my tablet for $430, but you find can one from $99 to $900.
After some waffling and a lot of grueling research, I ended up with a new tablet and $300 left over – which I spent on a new iPod. Hey, I don’t always hate on Apple!
Bottom line: For most people, tablets are more of a toy or a convenience device. I use mine during commuting, at coffee shops, and when I’m too lazy to fire up my laptop at home. It’s far from necessary. And $729 is just too much money to spend on something you won’t use that much, especially when you can get an Android tablet for much less. I don’t regret going with Android on this one.