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Learn More About Tablet Computing Before You Buy

With the launch of Apple’s new iPad and the Android Ice Cream Sandwich operating system for Google led devices, the tablet computing choice has never been stronger.

Touchscreen tablets are now challenging some laptops for portable performance thanks to being faster, lighter and packed with more software and features than you’ll ever need to use each week.

But how do you know which one is right for you? Read on to find out with our guide to choosing the best tablet to suit your needs.

Should I buy an iPad?

This could well be the first question most tablet purchasers will ask. The basic choice is between an iPad or one of a range of tablets either running Android as their operating system – like the mobile phones – or something less well-known with its own OS.

The iPad certainly has a lot of aces up its sleeve. For a start, it comes with the widest selection of apps, dedicated to the tablet format.

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The newest model has the Retina display, a 9.7 inch touchscreen with more pixels crammed in than in a massive high definition TV, making for the ultimate viewing experience. This has been enhanced by a new processor chip with better graphical capabilities.

Apple’s own suite of software is also second-to-none with the iWork and iLife apps, which now includes iPhoto for editing your pictures and displaying or sharing them in albums.

There is also a better quality rear iSight five megapixel camera that can record stills and take HD movies.

Like its predecessor, the iPad 2, the iPad retains a 10 hour battery life although it is just slightly heavier and thicker.

It comes in both Wi-Fi and 4G varieties, allowing it to work with new superfast mobile and wireless broadband networks. However, these will not be connected in the UK until at least 2013.

But with prices for the iPad 2 now slashed to just £329, it could well be worth looking at this as an entry level tablet. It does though only come in a 16GB memory size with the new iPad available in both 32GB and 64GB.

It’s also worth remembering that you don’t know need a computer to own an iPad. Everything can be done straight out of the box from setup to downloading new updates to the OS as they become available.

So why would I buy an Android device instead?

Apple’s own operating system in the iPad is called iOS and is not used by any other manufacturer. Android on the other hand is the operating system designed by Google, which has been adopted by the likes of Samsung, Motorola, Sony and Archos.

This gives you far more choice over specifications, features and ultimately price when choosing a tablet.

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Version 3 of Android, known as Honeycomb, however was not designed specifically for tablets in the same way the iPad’s software was which meant that devices running it did not have many tablet apps and the performance may not have been as strong.

But version 4, Ice Cream Sandwich, is tablet-focused and many of the devices on the market right now will be able to upgrade to it, for free, over the air.

So it is important to check whether the one you’re interested in will work with Android 4.0 and when it will be available to download.

Other advantages of Android are that it is compatible with Flash-based websites, unlike iPad, and that it can be seamlessly linked to other Google products such as Gmail and Calendar. It also features the full range of Google software as standard such as Maps and YouTube.

What Android device is best?

This comes down to personal choice but the top-of-the-range Samsung Galaxy Tab is a leading force.

It is available in 10.1, 8.9 and 7 inch screen sizes giving you lots of choice over how portable you want it to be and with fast processing and options for both 3G and Wi-Fi, you get all the connectivity you need.

However, the camera, screen and battery life may not match up to the iPad.

The Motorola Xoom 2 is another good product. Again it comes in 10.1 or 8.2 inch versions and with a simple to use interface, it works speedily and intuitively. It may not be an obvious choice but it’s well worth considering. You can read a review of the 10.1″ Xoom 2 here and the 8.2″ here on PluggedIn.

Sony has the Tablet S, in 16GB and 32GB varieties, but this is Wi-Fi only. There’s no mobile 3G connection. But it is the only PlayStation-certified tabletgiving it the edge in the downloadable gaming stakes.

Finally, there are a wide range of cheaper tablets available from Asus, Archos, Arnova and Acer. While they may not feature the same kind of technology as their more expensive rivals, they may be useful for those looking to buy a tablet for occasional use or to see what all the fuss is about.

Do all tablets do the same basic things?

Whatever tablet you buy, you’ll be able to surf the web, send emails, write documents, check out social networks, read eBooks, play games and have fun on the move.

The quality of their cameras will differ though for both taking pictures and movies and making video calls.

Cheaper tablets will also have a shorter battery life, which is important if you are using it on the move a lot.

But the best way to decide what tablet you like the most, is to visit a Comet store and take one for a test drive. Until you get your hands on it and get a feel for the device, it’s difficult to know just what it can do for you in the real world.

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