There are a million different Android based tablets from 4" to soon to be coming 14" or greater?  Really?

But just as there are different sizes there are just as many in differences between them in function, quality and more importantly price!  So you really need to do your homework if you want the best for your money and what you were looking to do with it.   Of course buying the most expensive will get you maybe all that you want but it may not be what you need. Even the cheapest can do what most expensive tablets do. The price disparity can be from $50 to $1,000. There is a lot to choose from.

Below is what you should expect when comparing the various attributes of an Android tablet.

  Android vs Android
 
Size:
  • many sizes from 4" to coming soon 14" !!
  • most are wide aspect ratio aka 16:9 / HDTV
  • Thickness and weight various greatly.  They don’t sound like much weight at 730grams or 1.6lbs but after holding it for few minutes.  You will feel the weight. 
  • Thinness is a different story.   Thinner doesn’t necessarily means better.  It will be more fragile, think of it as a piece of glass which it is.

 

  • 7" perfect for mobility and small hands like children and for mom’s to carry in purse.
  • 10" better for at home or office use
Apps: Need to be careful here.  Some android tablets do not have direct access to Google’s App Market now known as Play which means you may not be able to access to all that is available.  An example is Amazon’s Kindle Fire comes only with Amazon’s own App Store and no access to Google’s Play.

So you need to consider that before you buy.

Battery: There is a huge disparity between quality tablets and low budget tablets.  Where low budget tablets will have very poor battery life of only 2-4hr max whereby good quality like Asus Transformer tablets can easily do 5-8hrs and some more premium tablets like Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 can do 10hrs.   You need to decide if you can live with a battery life for your particular tablet you’re considering.   If you’re not using it all day and turn it on sporadically then you should be ok with any tablet.   Since the display is what eats up most of the battery life.
Display: Lowest resolution are found in the smaller 4-7" from grainiest 800×480 to good resolution of 1024×600 to highest currently is 1280×720 with some coming out now with even greater of 1920×1080 which is getting closer to iPad’s own Retina display.  Generally with higher resolution you also get brighter more vivid color screen thus more expensive.   The current 1280×720 size tablets are still very very good in brightness and colors and worth considering.  No need to wait.
Interoperability: Like the iPad, android is very particular about what format your video files are in.   In general, if they are Mac compatible files then they will play on android tablets.  And  with the right 3rd party movie player app you can play back other video formats.  Caveat is there isn’t any one good 3rd app that plays everything under the sun.  Please see getting videos to play on your tablet article for more info.
Touch Screen: There are basically two types of touch screens:

  • Resistive: Single finger only and need to press really hard to make contact.  Old outdated technology.  Typically found on your ATM machines.
  • Capacitive: Typically called multi-touch where you can place two or more fingers on the screen for interactivity.  Like pinch and zoom functions.  This is the current technology.

There is no real choice here.  You must get the capacitive touch screen where you expect to do pinch and zoom on maps and images and also get better interactivity with lighter touch.

The newer technology in this arena doesn’t really affect us as user per se but more in thinner devices as technology of the touch screen becomes better.

But here are the critical points you need to have in mind when choosing the right android tablet for you if you’re not choosing the Apple’s iPad.

  1. Android version.  Latest is 4.0.x aka Ice Cream Sandwich but minimally Android 3.x aka Honeycomb is ok too.  Both were specifically designed to work on tablets.   And if you do get a tablet with Honeycomb, search on the company’s website to see if they are planning on upgrading it to 4.0.  Anything less than Android version 3.x like 2.2 or 2.1 is not really worth the trouble unless you want it for very very limited things and no future application compatibility.  Also Android 2.2/2.1 does not support functions like pinch and zoom you do with a map or an image.   So it’s one finger gesturing only.  However some manufactures may have extended 2.2 or 2.3 versions of Android to have pinch/zoom which is called multi-touch capability.
  2. Cheap tablets generally comes with other cheap factors like:
    • bad / weak display where viewing angles are terrible and/or colors are muted dull
    • Cheap tablets have batteries that are good for only few hours at best and more than likely unreplaceable if they go bad.
    • Too little RAM.  At a minimum, an Android tablet should have 512MB of RAM
    • Too weak of CPU. This is a hard to judge just by reading the specs.  The design of the hardware greatly determines how well it will performance.   Cheap doesn’t always necessarily mean it’s slow and unusable.   The best is to see if you can find someone demo’ing it on Youtube.   Then you can get a general idea of how fast it functions albeit in limited way.  Here is what you should be looking for:
      – surfing the web, how fast the page comes up
      – how soon the tablet responds after a touch
      – switching between apps or exiting then launch new, how fast is the transition?
      – reading pdf files, how fast can it turn pages?
    • No Secure SD card slot to expand memory
    • Some lack pinch/zoom if it only has Android 2.1/2.2 so everything is single finger gesturing only.

Right now is a great time to buy tablets.   They are not only cheap but they are very capable of providing you with every function and speed of the more expensive models.   Here are some examples only at $100-200:

  • $99 at Walmart and Fry’s the Visual Land Connect or even cheaper Matrix One with Android 4.0 is fantastic for what you pay.   Only issue is display only is 800×480 but hard press to see that "limitation" when you view anything from webpages to movies especially at 7".   Most definitely worth your look.
  • Twice the cost but better quality but lacks expandability ie no Secure SD slot are two entries:
    1. Amazon’s Kindle Fire at $199 but limited in many ways to using only Amazon’s services including using only their own app market.  No camera, gps, microphone or gps.

       
    2. Google’s own tablet: Nexus 7 much like the Amazon’s Kindle Fire but have access to all things Google including the Android app market called: Play
    3. But then here is a great deal at Walmart… Asus Transformer TF101-A1 with 10" for only $249!  It’s refurb but hey!  This is really a steal.   It comes with Android 3.0 Honeycomb but when you get it.  It will auto upgrade to latest Android.