Tablets are a big thing this holiday shopping season. Tons of high end and budget models have been released and people are finally starting to see how handy they can be in daily life. Think about it, you can get a $300 netbook you’ll mainly use for internet and possibly word programs, a $200 mp3 player designed primarily for music and video playback and a $150 eReader just for reading books and magazines. Or, you could save a lot of money and just purchase a $300 to $400 tablet that can handle all of those functions, sometimes even all at once. On top of that, Android tablets are now a very viable gaming platform. Even GameStop has decided to start carrying them, with models they sell coming stocked with games like Sonic CD.
You can’t just go and grab the first tablet you see though. These are expensive devices and you need to invest in a tablet that is going to meet all of your needs and be able to handle not only ordinary web browsing, media playing and ereading, but also be able to play every Android game out there.
The Android OS is the most important thing to look at when you’re shopping for a tablet as it will determine what apps and games you’ll be able to run. The absolute best version available right now is Honeycomb. If you have an unlimited budget, that means you want to look for a tablet with Android 3.0 installed. Get one like that and you’ll be able to handle pretty much every app out there. If you want to even go a step further and get something that will last you three or more years, you may want to investigate the tablet you’re most interested in to see if it’s going to eventually receive a free upgrade to 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich after it’s released.
If you want to save money and go with a more basic gaming tablet, then you can get by with an Android 2.3 Gingerbread OS. Don’t go any earlier than Gingerbread though, as an earlier OS like 2.2 Froyo or 2.0 and 2.1 Eclair will severly limit the number of games you can play and apps you can download.
Even though most Android games aren’t that large, there are a few with massive space requirements. For example, the Android version of Spectral Souls requires an over 1gb data download to play it. If you get a tablet like the Kindle Fire, which is an 8GB tablet but only has 6GB available for storage and no expandable storage options, you could find yourself running out of space very quickly. I mean, even if this tablet is going to primarily be used for apps and gaming, you’ll probably want to keep some music, books or other media on it as well.
So here’s what needs to be done. If you don’t want to deal with expandable storage, you’re probably going to need a tablet with at least 16GB of space. A 32GB tablet would probably be for the best, but I’m sure most people could manage well enough with 16GB if money is an issue. If you are okay with maybe buying an SD card or microSD card, then look for something with at least 4GB of onboard storage. Also, check and see what the expandable storage limitation is while you’re shopping. Most tablets have a 32GB external SD/microSD limit.
There are two kinds of processors that have been showing up in tablets recently, single core and dual core. For people who are just using tablets for basic functions, a single core processor is fine. It works well for daily use and the majority of the available apps on both the Android Market and Amazon App Store support single core processors.
However, for a gaming tablet you may want to pay more for that dual core processor, but not just any dual core processor. Some of them may actually end up being the same speed as a single core processor if it isn’t advanced enough or a quality product. The idea solution would be to get a tablet with a Nvidia Tegra 2 Dual Core 1Ghz or Qualcomm Snapdragon Dual Core 1.2Ghz processor.
Size and Screen:
If you’re reading this, you’re a gamer and as all gamers already know, bigger is better. You’ll want a nice large screen with a large display resolution so you can see everything. That means it’ll be best to avoid the 7″ tablets and keep an eye on the 10″ tablets. You’ll also want to look for a 1280×800 display resolution, though games will still look impressive on a tablet with a 1024×768 resolution.
You’ll also want to make sure the tablet has a multi-touch screen. There are two kinds, capacitive and resistive. Each kind has its pros and cons, but I’ve found capacitive screens to be more sensitive and accurate even though it means you have to use your fingers and can’t rely on a normal stylus.
When most tablets offer a battery life estimate, that’s just what it is. It’s a best case scenario estimation of how long a battery will last. If you’re using your tablet for gaming, especially if it uses any kind of Wi-Fi features, it is going to eat away at your battery and the next thing you know, your supposedly 8 hour battery has died after not even four hours. You best bet is to round up. If you think you may be using the tablet for four hours straight at a time with the Wi-Fi on, then go for a battery that will last at least 10 hours.
Also, keep in mind that the processor will also have a big influence on battery life. A single core processor uses less power than a dual core one!
Test Them Out
This is the most important step of all. You need to actually get out there and try using some tablets. Best Buy, Office Depot, Target, hhgregg, Frys and even Staples typically have a handful of tablets on display for people to investigate. Get a feel for the different sizes and weights to find something you think would be comfortable and easy to use on a daily basis.
And, in case all of that was too much to absorb at once, here are basic and optimal checklists so you can see if your future gaming tablet would work for you.
- OS: Android 2.3 Gingerbread
- Memory: 8GB with expandable storage
- Processor: Anything with a 1.5Ghz or higher single core processor
- Size: 9″ with 1024 x 768 resolution
- Battery Life: 8 hours
- Wi-Fi 802.11b/g/n
- Gyroscope built in
- Accelerometer built in
- OS: Android 3.1 Honeycomb
- Memory: 32GB with expandable storage
- Processor: Nvidia Tegra 2 Dual Core 1Ghz or Qualcomm Snapdragon Dual Core 1.2Ghz
- Size: 10″ with 1280 x 800 resolution
- Battery Life: At least 10 hours
- Wi-Fi 802.11b/g/n
- Gyroscope built in
- Accelerometer built in
If you’d like to do a little more research, you can find out why you shouldn’t cheap out and get a budget tablet like a Next6 Nextbook or what you can expect from a middle of road tablet like a Vizio VTAB.