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Customer Discussions > Tablet forum

Help with a purchasing a tablet?

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Showing 1-22 of 22 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Aug 5, 2012, 1:04:17 PM PDT
Sharon says:
Seems like reading other posts, there is a lot of good advice on here so hoping for some help. :)

I'm not super tech savy. I know how to turn on and operate most devices (computer, iphone, tablet, etc) but specs and the like are lost on me.

Basically, my computer is dying and I'm considering just getting a tablet to replace it. All I do is check email, facebook, pay bills online, occasionally watch netflix.

If I'm replacing my computer, I'd like something that has microsoft office capability or at least something similar. I think I remember reading that there are apps you can get for an android system that does this? least would need word and excel. I also would like to have something that either had enough space to store music and pictures or has the ability to connect with an external storage device to store these things.

I'm look to keep my budget between $200-300 for something and I'm planning to make this purchase in about a month (unless my computer dies before then). :) As you can probably see, I don't even know if there is something that does all this within that price range. But I appreciate any help that anyone can offer. I just don't want to walk into a store without any knowledge and have someone talk me into something that I'll later regret......just b/c I don't have a clue and know it. ;)

Thanks in advance!!

In reply to an earlier post on Aug 5, 2012, 1:24:05 PM PDT
Jay says:
The biggest question is do you play any of the facebook games, tablets don't play any of the facebook games very well.

In reply to an earlier post on Aug 5, 2012, 1:46:30 PM PDT
Sharon says:
No, I don't play any of the facebook games. I basically use facebook to communicate with friends.

Posted on Aug 5, 2012, 2:26:01 PM PDT
Jay says:
You really can't go wrong with any of the tablets on C. Schmidt's Listmania. (easiest way to find it from here is open the tablet social forum and click on his name (He's the first posting)) I'd get something from the Top Picks list if you can afford it (He put the tablets in order so the closer to the front of the list the better the tablet will be) but if you can't he also has a list for the Best of whats cheap. Most people find the 10" tablets the best for editing documents and the 7" tablets for reading or holding while watching a video.

Most of the tablets should let you use an external storage device, but when you decide which one you'd like let us know and we can give you a yes or no.

In reply to an earlier post on Aug 5, 2012, 3:49:29 PM PDT
B. Marks says:
First, if you can go into a store and look at a few tablets without buying yet, you'd be wise to do that. Just don't bring your credit card. :)

Doing that can give you a better idea of the size you might want and of what size tablet does what best.

They come in 7" and 10" models for the most part, although there are a few that are other sizes. The 7" is a lot more portable and easier to take with you although you can, of course, do that with either size. If you'll be doing a lot of typing you might want a 10". That might work better for Facebook as well. For reading e-books, if that interests you, the 7" is a more appropriate size but both are okay.

There are a number of office suites you can choose from. They all will read and write Excel and Word files but they aren't Excel or Word and they don't have all the many features of those programs. For basic word processing and spreadsheets they have plenty of features.

Netflix will work on most tablets.

For the purposes you've stated most of the specs aren't going to matter much. The screen size might. The amount of storage will matter if you think you want to keep a lot of stuff on board. Speed and graphics processing only matter if you do serious video editing or play advanced games. On the other hand you don't want to get something that's underpowered. If you stick with major brands and their newer models that won't be an issue.

Your stated budget will get you a pretty nice 7" tablet. If you decide you want a 10" tablet you might want to be ready to spend another $100 to get a good one. Or maybe get a factory refurbished tablet.

My suggestion is to start reading up on the various tablets available and see what catches your eye. And look in the stores to get a feel for them as well. Then ask questions in here about the things you see and get information about the tablets you think look pretty good.

Amazon has good information about most of the major brand tablets they sell and their user reviews fill in a lot of blanks. They both tend to be fairly reliable but you want to be a little cautious.

You might also go to Youtube and search on the name of the tablet you're curious about followed by the word "review", such as "Asus Transformer review" and watch some of the reviews that search finds for you. Again, be cautious about believing everything but they do tend to be reasonably honest, if sometimes opinionated, in those reviews.


Posted on Aug 5, 2012, 4:58:07 PM PDT
James Toy says:
I think as a general rule of thumb, tablets are great for consuming content, but they're less adept than full computers at creating content. Furthermore, a moderately priced PC provides vastly more power and storage than even the most expensive tablet. The main attraction of tablets is portability, but you sacrifice a fair amount of capability. Thus I would consider a tablet as a supplement to, not a replacement for, a full computer.

Posted on Aug 5, 2012, 5:21:17 PM PDT
Hi SharonB,

Messing around with tablets is probably the best part of my day, and they're a big part of my lifestyle as a student. I own/use the Apple iPad MC705LL/A (16GB, Wi-Fi, Black) NEWEST MODEL, ASUS Transformer TF300 T-B1-BL 10.1-Inch 32 GB Tablet (Blue) (with keyboard dock), HP TouchPad Wi-Fi 32 GB 9.7-Inch Tablet Computer, ASUS Nexus 7, and a Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 (link sadly not available due to the ongoing sales ban in the U.S.). These tablets span the gamut of prices from cheap (the Nexus 7 is a phenomenal deal at $199 USD for 8GB onboard storage and $249 for 16GB) to pretty expensive (the iPad 3 cost the most, but the TF300T and dock combo cost something pretty close).

Before diving into your requirements, if you don't find any of our posts here helpful, some great sites for tablet reviews include (but are absolutely not limited to!):

+ Android Police
+ The Verge
+ TechRadar
+ Engadget

CNET is a bit wishy washy, but...for the sake of thoroughness I'll leave it in.

What caught my eye (and concerns me) is that you intend to pay bills. It's entirely possible you could pick up a tablet and never have a problem with it, but you should absolutely confirm you'll have a backup means of getting payments through if a tablet cannot. Keep in mind that many major, name-brand websites still don't display properly/have full functionality on the mobile web on any platform, be it Apple, Android, or anything else (such as webOS, QNX, or even the upcoming Windows 8). Tablet browsers have come a long long way, but just keep in mind that they are not desktop replacements yet in that regard.

E-mail, Facebook, and Netflix are all experiences that are very easy and enjoyable on tablets. Actually, I lied. E-mail and Netflix are fun experiences on tablets. Facebook's app is universally horrible on iOS and Android-- it's basically the mobile website repackaged in a half-baked code layer. If all you do is check posts and photos, you could probably make do. But for your budget (which basically means Android tablets), keep in mind that the Facebook app is especially poor and you'll want to look into one of two alternatives: a) use the mobile/desktop website in browser (not the best option, but often less frustrating than the app), or b) look into an alternative app such as FriendCaster (highly reviewed; I like it myself, but I'm not a big Facebook guy).

Office is a bit of a sticking point. As Barryem mentioned, none of the apps out there *are* Microsoft Office, so you will always be at some risk of seeing some absolutely bizarre formatting glitches. Two notes. First, Microsoft is rumored to be working on Office applications for iOS/Android-- although this is still just a rumor, as they themselves are releasing Windows 8 as a hybrid computer/tablet operating system. Second, good office applications are going to cost you, often in the neighborhood of $15 or so. When you buy apps from the Google Play store, you have a fifteen minute refund window-- use it wisely. Caveat: some tablets actually do come with office suites preinstalled!

With that in mind, here are some good office suites for tablets.

+ Documents to Go is a perennial favorite and it's been around basically forever. It's not super pretty, but it gets the job done. Documents to Go has been preloaded on many Blackberry systems for years, and is a top-paid app for both iOS and Android. I can definitely say the iOS app looks better than the Android app and has more built in functionality. You'll find though that that's a moot point-- Android lets apps work together, so you can open files from Dropbox in Documents to Go and save them back without ever having to lift a finger. Supports Word, Excel, and PowerPoint, but loses some advanced functions of Word and you really just don't want to edit any PowerPoint on a tablet, ever (applies for all subsequent entries unless stated otherwise). It can also read PDF documents.
+ QuickOffice Pro HD is another good option with strong cloud service integration (you can easily access Google Docs, Dropbox, and Box files to name a few). The graphics are a bit cartoonish, but it's quite workable. Much better on Android than on iOS. Pretty good Word support and good enough with Excel. Same PowerPoint performance as above, and it can also read PDF documents.
+ Polaris Office can't be bought on Android (it's available on iOS), but it's preinstalled on some Samsung and ASUS tablets. It deals very well with '97-'04 Office files (.doc, .ppt, .xls), but not so well with the more modern '07 files (.docx, .pptx, .xlsx). Great interface, but it does have its issues (and I've had documents I saved being flagged as "damaged" and "potentially malicious" when I got back to my computer).
+ CloudOn is a really popular service nowadays, for one reason: it brings real Microsoft Office to iOS and Android. There's a catch though: your tablet has to be online for it to work. Basically, CloudOn connects you to a remote Windows computer running Office and gives you some options for moving files about. Since you're working with the real Microsoft Office, there are no formatting problems. However, because of that, you're also working with software that was never designed for tablet use, so be prepared for some frustration.

I'll interject here that if Office is an important part of your life, my advice would be to try and get your computer to stagger through until October, when Microsoft unveils its Surface tablet (and when its hardware partners start launching their own Windows 8 computers/tablets/whatever they come up with). You will have guaranteed Office compatibility on those devices, and if you can learn the Metro interface (which is actually quite fun to use, so long as you have a touchscreen), it may be the best option for you.

Okay, back to actual tablets. With your budget, you're going to be seriously looking at refurbished models-- factory refurbished if at all possible, as those usually have some kind of warranty on them if you run into problems. Many people have complained about not being able to use their warranties because Amazon is not an official retailer (for manufacturers like Samsung), but personally, my Galaxy Tab 10.1 had screen issues after I purchased it refurbished from Amazon, and Samsung took it in for repair without questions.

On the whole, refurbished tablets have the benefit of being individually tested for quality control, so you can also be pretty confident that you're getting a tablet that works.

On the low end of the scale, you have the Nexus 7 tablet. Built by ASUS and running the latest and greatest of Android, it's amazingly fast, has a vibrant screen, and comes with a nice $25 of credit in the Play Store that you can use for apps, music, and whatever. It has a webcam and microphone for video chatting, and it's extremely portable. On the other hand, there's no office suite preinstalled, so you'll have to purchase one. The 7" screen size isn't for everyone either, and there's no removable storage. That last one might be a big biter for you, since the Nexus 7 is only offered in 8GB and 16GB variants. If you intend to replace your whole computer, you'll want to get really cozy with cloud services like Dropbox, or run a home fileserver using something like the Seagate FreeAgent GoFlex Home 2 TB STAM2000100. Again, keep in mind that going with the latter option is just adding to your cost. The keyboard is also smaller (as it'll be on a smaller screen), so keep that in mind if you plan to do a lot of typing. You'd want a bluetooth keyboard for sure for when you have to write longer e-mails or work on office documents.

My personal recommendation is that you go for the ASUS TF300T Transformer Pad (linked above), or if you can afford it, the ASUS Transformer Prime TF201-B1-GR Eee Pad 10.1-Inch 32GB Tablet (Amethyst Gray). Be aware that the latter has had some reported WiFi and GPS issues due to its all-metal construction (although not everyone is affected). The Transformer series (with the exception of the original TF101) is powered by the same Tegra 3 processor in the Nexus 7, meaning these guys are fast, powerful, and boast long battery lives. Their biggest draw, though, is their keyboard dock. If you want to go with a tablet, I cannot recommend these tablets more, because the docks have three things going for them. One, they carry extra batteries that will extend the (already great) lives of your tablets. Two, they're keyboards. You can really get a lot of work done on Android with a physical keyboard and mouse. Third, and most importantly, they give you full port access-- a full-sized USB 2.0 port and a full-size SD card slot for both. The transformer Tablets themselves also have microSD card slots that can support up to 64GB of extra space, and you can purchase an adapter to attach flash drives to the tablets themselves. They're both 10.1" devices, so you'll have much more screen space to play with.

Last, but not least, you should consider the iPad 2 (or the new iPad). They're more expensive, but well-supported by a booming accessories and app market. Personally, I prefer working with Android, but for your needs an iPad would probably perform just as well-- but at a price premium. You can always get a Android tablet with more storage for much less, and they have the advantage of often supporting removable storage. On the other hand, no matter what tablet you choose, you should be hosting your files in the cloud (that is, off of your device) as much as is possible.

On the whole, I'd actually recommend you seriously consider budget laptops. There are great ones out there for <$400 that are light and quick, and will suit your needs just as well as a tablet (unless you really like the portability factor/battery life). My second recommendation is that you wait for the Microsoft tablets due in late fall and winter as serious options. Microsoft is dead set on winning this battle, and they're going to bring their A-game to the table. If you want a tablet and know your needs, I'd recommend looking for a refurbished Transformer-line tablet and the keyboard dock (which will usually run you another $120 or so). Lenovo has recently launched a similar offering (the Lenovo Idea Tablet S2110 10.1-Inch 16 GB Tablet with Keyboard (Black)), but I don't know enough about it to give you any serious advice about it. It does offer less storage space and expandability than the marginally more expensive Transformer tablets, and ASUS has a great track record for update support.

My biggest warning is to watch for expenses. You want to spend from $200-$300, meaning most of that will already go on the tablet. If you buy a case or a Bluetooth keyboard (the latter is not necessary, but it is convenient), you're looking at another $50, easily. Apps to replace your computer offerings could be at least another $20 (although you can definitely keep your old machine around for when you need it). I'm not discouraging you to look at tablets, but do be aware
that the sticker price isn't everything.

Hope this post helps. If you have any questions, I'd be glad to answer them. Best of luck!

In reply to an earlier post on Aug 7, 2012, 10:34:56 PM PDT
Janet M says:
Hey Chris - thanks for the good info. I'm going to pass it on to family members who are new to Android. You covered everything they need to know.
PS - I was new to Android about two years ago and monitored CNET and Engadget before I chose my first one. and YES! turning on an Android tablet is the best part of my day, too.

In reply to an earlier post on Aug 8, 2012, 11:39:37 AM PDT
Glad to hear it helped. :) Android is a great platform if you've got the patience and interest in getting everything just-- a little-- more-- right! Still working on mine, haha. Best of luck to them and yourself!

In reply to an earlier post on Aug 8, 2012, 9:30:09 PM PDT
Janet M says:
Hey Chris - I think you'll appreciate this. I'm over 50 years old and for years I watched the young ones in my family carry their worlds around in the palm of their hand. When I ordered my first Android I did it on my own. I didn't ask for their help. I didn't want to look old or stupid! Like you advised, I did my "homework". Within 24 hours of receiving my Archos 43 I was totally hooked! Now at family gatherings they all crowd around me - to see what new gadgets I'm using (the latest two: Acer Iconia and Toshiba Thrive). I see now why they are fascinated. Me too!

Posted on Aug 8, 2012, 9:32:18 PM PDT
Glad to hear it. :) I'm still in college, personally, but I remember seeing a lot of this stuff basically blooming up around me while I was getting to this age. Pretty cool beans, considering this stuff was essentially inconceivable just a few years back!

In reply to an earlier post on Aug 9, 2012, 7:43:02 PM PDT
Janet M says:
So very true! It is so different from Windows OS. I love that I can try out news apps - and if I don't like them, just hit uninstall and they're gone. Nothing like trying to remove a program from Windows!

In reply to an earlier post on Aug 9, 2012, 7:45:04 PM PDT
I had a discussion with a classmate about whether tablets could be used for work, and his primary argument was tablets have smaller screen sizes. But if you're trying to use a tablet for desktop work, you're doing it wrong.

The neat thing about tablets is their smaller screens. It forces people to think critically about what information to display. The result is you get some really wonderfully designed apps that display information quickly, efficiently, and hopefully in a pleasant way!

If you haven't already, I'd try out Zite (not tablet optimized, but still good), Google Currents, and Flipboard (also not tablet optimized, but they're almost certainly working on it)!

In reply to an earlier post on Aug 10, 2012, 12:52:49 AM PDT
Janet M says:
Thanks Chris. I'll check out your recommendations. You're right!- with a tablet you don't get the whole newspaper, just the parts you want to read. I hadn't thought about it that way.

Posted on Aug 10, 2012, 1:07:30 AM PDT
Janet M says:
Just checked your three recommendations - I'm going to start with Flipboard - combining my social network with world news sounds interesting! Update: Flipboard is not compatible with my Toshiba Thrive or Acer Iconia. I'll try Currents. Thanks again

Posted on Sep 4, 2012, 12:43:27 PM PDT
Sharon says:
Thanks everyone! Your information was very helpful- particularly Christopher and Barry. I'm definitely interested in finding out more about the microsoft one. I will have to look into that before we make a decision! We have decided to wait at least another month because we just haven't settled on one yet so will let you know if I have any other questions. Thanks!! :)

In reply to an earlier post on Sep 5, 2012, 5:31:48 PM PDT
Well at least until Amazon's announcement tomorrow.

The live link...

LOL That link even gives me their starting time and date for my location here in Oz...
Event begins on September 7 at 3:00 AM

In reply to an earlier post on Sep 5, 2012, 8:42:47 PM PDT
Janet M says:
Thanks Pete - Thank goodness I'm on the side of the world that will be watching at 1PM.

In reply to an earlier post on Sep 5, 2012, 10:12:45 PM PDT
Tired of waiting for packages to arrive? Amazon's newest shipping option delivers your package a day before it's ordered

In reply to an earlier post on Sep 5, 2012, 10:38:25 PM PDT
pussmom212 says:
Thanks for the info on the currents app,had not heard of it before downloaded it today.This is one of the things I cherish about this forum lots of new ideas and for the most part terrific people with limitedless help and patience. I speak primarily of C,Schmidt and Barry who have helped me immensly,even when my questions were "dumb" and never making me feel that way. J.W. you are newer to me but I'm enjoying our t301 and Thrive conversations. All in all a great group,(I'm not forgetting the ladies)

Posted on Sep 6, 2012, 2:58:42 AM PDT
Janet M says:
Hey pussmom - I really appreciate all the nice people who post in these discussions. I have a damaged nerve in my face and some days I can't get outside my home. I can't just jump in the car and drive to the mall anytime I want. I felt so deprived! Now that I am using Amazon for most of my purchases I'm anything but deprived. No matter what I need - a tube of lipstick or a new pair of shoes - or an Android tablet - I know I'm getting a great product at a really good price - thanks to all the kind people who review the product and post here in these discussions. Instead of feeling isolated, I feel like I'm part of a big community of people willing to help me make informed decisions about what I buy. When I hear the UPS truck coming toward my house it feels a little bit like Christmas!

In reply to an earlier post on Sep 6, 2012, 8:55:48 AM PDT
C. Schmidt says:
Most welcome, Pussmom
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Initial post:  Aug 5, 2012
Latest post:  Sep 6, 2012

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