What to Know Before Buying a Tablet or E-Reader

November 27, 2013

in Travel Tech

  • SumoMe

(Be sure to thoroughly read our advice on purchasing tablet computers and e-readers before reading our next post on the major ones currently available.)

Question Box

(Raymond Bryson Flickr Photo)

To Buy or Not, That’s The Question

If Shakespeare’s sulking Dane, Hamlet, were alive today and considering the purchase of a tablet computer or e-reader, he might say “Alas, poor me! I know them not that well!”

But before Hamlet had to decide which device to buy, he would have to answer this question: Why should I buy any of them?

After all, if you don’t need a tablet or e-reader, why not keep the money you would have spent on it in your pocket.

Are You a “Road Warrior?”

Do you travel a lot, for either leisure or business? If so, even though you might have access to a “communal” computer in your lodgings, at a library or other public places, toting along your own computer might be desirable.

Airport Departure Gate

(Stephen Hanafin Flickr Photo)

A tablet is definitely smaller and lighter than a laptop computer, although laptops generally have more power and can run more robust software programs than is possible on a tablet. And if you already own a laptop, you may not need yet another electronic gadget to buy and maintain.

But carefully analyze your “on the road” computing needs because today’s tablet computers may fit them just fine.

And don’t forget that due to a recent change in FAA rules on the use of “portable electronic devices,” you may be able to use your tablet or e-reader during all phases of a flight and not be required to stow it away during takeoff and landing as you would have to do with a laptop computer.

Unless packed in a TSA-approved bag, you must remove your laptop from it carrying case when sending it through the X-ray machine at security checkpoints. You needn’t do so with a tablet or e-reader.

Home Use

If you will be using a laptop or desktop computer at home and a tablet only when on vacation, buying a tablet may make not make financial sense.

Task-based purchase decision

Before deciding which, if any, tablet computer or e-reader to purchase, consider which tasks that such a device must be able to perform for you, such as:

  • Viewing Websites
  • Sending and receiving e-mail
  • Uploading photos and videos to online albums, YouTube and social networking sites
  • Reading and writing documents
  • Watching videos and viewing photos
  • Reading e-books (electronic versions of guidebooks, as well as fiction and non-fiction books)
  • Reading magazines and newspapers

E-readers will only let you do the last two; tablets will do them all.  But if your computing needs exceed the power of a tablet, they would be better served by using a laptop computer.

Do “Hands-On” Testing

When comparing tablets or e-readers, it’s helpful to be able to pick them up, turn them on, and see how the feel in your hands. (Is too heavy, too bulky, or Goldilocks “just right”?)

To research this story, I didn’t ask manufacturers to send me their devices for “bench testing.” With the exception of the iPad (I own last year’s 4th generation model), I did what you would do: Went to stores, talked to sales clerks, and picked up the tablets and e-readers on display to see how comfortable they felt to handle and hold, and how easy they were to use.

Apple has retail stores where you can pick up and try out the iPad Air, iPad 2 or iPad Mini, and check out the Mac Book Air light-weight laptops which might be a better choice for you if you are both a business and leisure traveler.

Apple Store

(Andreas Dantz Flickr Photo)

Barnes & Noble bookstores often have a Nook counter where an employee can demonstrate how the Nook gadgets work and let you try them for yourself.

Nook Display

(Wesley Fryer Flickr Photo)

Amazon.com does not have any bricks-and-mortar stores, but you may be able to find its Kindle e-readers and tablets in a retail store near you.

Best Buy stores offer a good “hands-on” shopping experience since most will probably have working display models of all of the Kindle and Nook devices as well as the iPad and iPad Mini, Android tablets, and the Microsoft Surface.

BestBuy Mini

(5goldpieces Photography Flickr Photo)

Office supply store Staples sells several tablets and e-readers. Its competitor, Office Depot, seems to offer fewer choices (and no Kindles).

Target stores carry tablet computers, although  it no longer sells Kindle devices. Wal-Mart carries various mobile devices, too.

What you actually find in-store versus online may depend on what is stocked at stores near you, as opposed to what the retailer elects to sell only through its Website.

Biting the Buying Bullet

So now you’ve thought through your computing needs, decided that a tablet computer could help fill them, have done a quick “live test” of these devices at a local store, and are ready to make a purchase decision.  But which one should you buy?

Our next post will help you choose from these that we’ve  reviewed:

  • iPad and iPad Mini
  • Samsung Galaxy Note and Tab
  • Google Nexus
  • Barnes & Noble Nook
  • Kindle Fire
  • Nook and Kindle E-Readers

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