It’s well known that, in 2013, tablets represent the hottest technology in the market. Bridging the gap between smart phone and laptop, tablets continue raising the bar in hopes to supplant the laptop for the modern road warrior. This article will review four of the most popular tablets in the market that don’t typically require or use a data plan. All four of these tablets are based on the premise that they will be used on wireless Wi-Fi networks. While tablets, such as the iPad and the Motorola Zoom can certainly be used without a wireless subscription, this isn’t necessarily their target audience. The four tablets reviewed in this article, all of which are based on the Android operating system, are:
- Nook HD
- Kindle Fire
- Samsung Galaxy
- Google Nexus
The Nook HD is the latest in Barnes and Noble’s offerings in the tablet market. It is another step in the evolution that began with the Nook Color, continued through the Nook Tablet, and now the HD, which like the Galaxy, is available in both 7 and 10 inch sizes. The Nook is based on Android Ice Cream Sandwich (ICS), but is a custom version developed for Barnes & Noble. Besides the obvious handicap of being unable to download Kindle books, most apps available in the market are paid versions. At an average price for $.99 to $1.99, this isn’t really a deal breaker and comes with the benefit of a no ads environment. Even with a limited selection of apps, this tablet may be all anyone needs. In addition to a great eReader, the Nook can handle email, games, web browsing, videos, music and pictures.
Amazon’s Kindle Fire is it’s latest entrant into the fierce tablet battle. It is a 7 inch tablet and has a good feel and excellent sound quality. To match Nook’s no ad policy, you will have to shell out an extra $15. Like the Nook product, it doesn’t have complete and unfettered access to the Android app market, but if you are an Amazon Prime member, you will have access to that complete catalog. The interface is Amazon’s own, with a carousel type feel, where apps and books scroll by in an endless stream. Favorites can be pulled out and added to the bottom of the screen for easier access. The Kindle Fire has a unique book experience allowing you to both listen to and read a book at the same time, but you have to own both versions of the book for this to work.
The latest installments in the Samsung Galaxy line are the Galaxy Tab 2 models available in a 7 inch and 10.1 inch screen. Both are based on the Android 4 Ice Cream Sandwich (ICS) operating system. The models come with 8GB and 16GB of memory respectively, and about half of that is available for consumer use. As with the other tablets reviewed, you can add a micro-SD to get an extra 32GB of storage. An advantage of the Samsung and Google products is you aren’t given a ‘crippled’ version of the OS. This is the full Android ICS operating system and can download and use all the apps available to that marketplace. Another feature of this tablet is a front facing camera, which makes Skype an option. The processor is 1.0 GHz with 1GB of RAM.
The Google Nexus 7 is Google’s attempt to grab some of the tablet market with it’s own Android 4.1 Jelly Bean operating system. Like the Galaxy, which runs Ice Cream Sandwich, this is the full, open Android operating system capable of downloading all apps in the Android market, which include the Nook and Kindle eReaders. The Nexus also has a front facing camera for video chat over its Wi-Fi network. Anyone using an Android smart phone will be right at home with the user interface with the home screen and frequently used apps in the tray at the bottom. Thanks to the newest version of the Android OS, the Nexus has some new features, including Gesture Type (similar to Swype) and Daydreams, a programmable, interactive screen that is displayed when the tablet is asleep or charging. The Nexus also has the ability to add multiple users, each with their own home screen and configurations.
All four of these tablets are more alike than different and any one of them would be a great first tablet for anyone. Until you actually use a tablet for a bit and understand how you want and need to use it, you don’t really know what you don’t know. At this price point and with the features each one offers, you can’t make a wrong choice.