It will be hard to enter a store without setting eyes on a tablet computer or an e-reader. Even if the Apple iPad dominates the field, but there’s a some contenders that all run Google’s Android software. Meanwhile, the smaller tablets look almost indistinguishable from some new e-readers that hope to unseat the Kindle. Here are the best options and some advice for figuring out which is the right choice for the person on your list:
Amazon Kindle (Wi-Fi only: $139; 3G: $189)
The Amazon Kindle 2, released in February of 2009, is more curvy and symmetrical than the original, and its new screen displays 16 shades of gray. Amazon says page turning is 20% faster and the Kindle 2 model features a 5-way joystick to help navigate the pages. Kindle 2 also talks to you (if you want it to), featuring a text-to-speech function with your choice of three reading rates and a male or female voice. In June 2010, Amazon lowered the Kindle’s price from $259 to $189, because of stiff competition from the iPad and the Barnes & Noble nook.Amazon Kindle Features:
- Fast, wireless delivery of books, no need to sync the device with a computer.
- Impressive initial collection of 90,000+ books ranging from New York Times bestsellers to obscure textbooks.
- Online backup; not worried about losing content if device is lost or damaged.
- Great for reading short content such as newspaper or Wikipedia articles.
Barnes & Noble Nook Color ($249)
The Nook Color, meanwhile, has a screen of 7 inches diagonally while the original Nook has a screen size of 6 inches diagonally, the same as the Kindle 3’s screen. The Nook is between 11.6 and 12.1 ounces and is ½ inch thick, and the new Nook Color is 15.6 ounces and almost 1/2 inch thick. The Nook Color comes with a built in 8GB memory while the original Nook only comes with a 2GB internal memory, or capacity of 1,500 books, but both have the option of expanding the memory to a total of 18GB – this will just cost one a little more (Online Barnes and Noble sells such a memory card for $79.99.) The Nook Color has a much shorter battery life than the Kindle series, only lasting 8 continuous hours, while the original Nook lasts only 10 days with the wireless off. The one thing that can be said for the Nook in this area is that the Nook has a replaceable battery – so if the battery dies out, one can switch it with a new battery, which will cost you another $29.99. The charging time on this devices is 3.5 hours.Barnes & Noble Nook Color Features:
- Color touchscreen: Like other wireless readers, nook has a black-and-white E-Ink screen for displaying books and magazines. But underneath the reading screen is a smaller color screen that lets users browse their collection and choose what to read. The 3.5″ color LED screen also features a keyboard for navigation.
- Share your books: This is the first ebook reader that lets you “lend” books to family and friends. The lent books can be accessed through computers and smartphones. You can lend a book for two weeks, during which time it’s unavailable to you. At the end of the two weeks, it reverts back to the owner.
- Android operating system: The nook is the first portable reader to operate under Android, Google’s OS for mobile devices. Since Android is open source, outside developers will be able to customize special applications for the nook, a la Apple’s iPhone apps. Nook also allows users to access existing apps for Android devices.
- Wi-Fi access: Besides being able to download books over a wireless 3G connection, the nook also lets you do the same via Wi-Fi. For now it only works on the Wi-Fi systems at Barnes & Noble stores, but plans are to offer it on other systems. Wi-Fi only nooks are now being sold at $149, $50 less than the 3G versions.
Apple iPad (Wi-Fi only: $499-$699; 3G: $629-$829)
Tablet PC’s have become more and more popular the last few years. In fact, anything “touch-screen” has. Apple’s iPhone and recent touch-screen iPods have almost reinvented the company’s cool-tech image, and have saved Apple’s high-end market for some time. The iPad, however, might not end up as popular as the phone and mp3 player have been. Tablet PC’s fill a niche that isn’t as clearly defined, and since Apple released theirs into a relatively new market, the iPad faces the daunting task of either defining that market, or finding out that it didn’t understand the niche as well as it thought.Apple iPad Features:
- Interface is extremely similar to the iPhone/iPod Touch. This means that most of the 50 million odd owners of one of these devices should be able to pick it up and go.
- The App Store is the iPad’s single biggest strength. No company has a finer base of programs (or nearly as many) available to its end users. Apparently 140,000 or so of those App Store programs will be able to be loaded up right away on the upcoming iPad.
- Large screen. In fact, its 10 inches makes it larger than most netbook screens, portable DVD players and mobile video game players
- 10 hour battery life is pretty decent.
- Big developer buy-in – It was good to see both Gameloft and EA demo their stuff during today’s presentation
- Ability to read books, newspapers and magazines in a simple format.
- Built in speaker and microphone
Samsung Galaxy Tab ($399 with two-year contract; $599-$649 without)
One of the biggest challenges facing Samsung was the time it would take to design an iPad-like device from scratch. Samsung sidestepped that problem by supersizing their popular Galaxy S series smartphone. The screen is somewhat smaller than the one on the iPad, but that allows the unit weighs in at an impressive 0.84 pounds. The Apple iPad weighs 1.5 pounds, and anyone who has carried it around for a day knows that that those 0.66 pounds are going to make a difference. It also provides a little more room for those on the go that want to carry their Samsung Galaxy Tab accessories and the like. Of course, price is the most important factor in this comparison, but at this time, it’s still a guessing game. A 16 GB iPad with Wi-Fi costs approximately $500, and the unit with 3G is $100 more. Upgrading to 32 GB adds about $100 to either model. Early word on the Galaxy Tab is that it will more expensive. Samsung expects the 16 GB units to be ~$900 and the 32 GB version to be ~$1,000. All Galaxy Tabs will have Wi-Fi and 3G support, so where looking at about a $300 difference at the top end. That’s too much, but most expect this to drop before debut and then again after the early adopter phase.Samsung Galaxy Tab Features:
- Flash Support
- Just Right Size for my hand
- Unlimited Apps download
- Ease of synchronisation (Do not need iTunes)
- Fast and responsive like iPad (Running on 1GHz processor)
- Long Battery Life (Look at the size of the battery: OSM)
- Phone features, great for conferencing
- Camera function