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For Seniors: Buying the Right Tablet

Buying a tablet is not often an impulse decision. Before you decide to purchase a tablet, there are several things you might want to consider first.

Laptops and netbooks are portable computers, although a netbook is a smaller, much less powerful laptop (in terms of computing power).

Laptops (including netbooks) use computer operating systems; tablets typically use smartphone operating systems which are much less powerful. Unlike laptops/netbooks, tablets use touch-sensitive screens as their primary input device. There are some laptops however, that have a removable display that acts as a sort of tablet.

What is a tablet?

Tablets provide most of the bells and whistles of a laptop with more processing power than a netbook. They can connect to the Internet using Wi-Fi or (in some models) cellphone 3G networks. The most popular tablet today is the iPad.

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Tablets differ from laptops in that they typically have smartphone operating systems such as Apple’s iOS or BlackBerry’s OS. This means you interact with tablets like you would a smartphone rather than how you normally interact with a computer. They don’t have a keyboard or mouse or DVD drive. Some do have cameras for both still photos and video.

Decide whether a tablet would work for you

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A tablet (sometimes called simply a tab) lets you do most things you can do on a laptop such as reading e-mail and viewing pictures, but it is different from a laptop in several key ways.

  • The battery life on tablets is often longer than the average laptop, coming in at around 10 hours or so.

  • A tablet has a touchscreen that you use to provide input to your computer, either with your fingertip or a stylus.

  • There is an onscreen keyboard on a tablet you can use to enter text (though many models have wireless capability, which you can also use to connect to a wireless or Bluetooth-enabled physical keyboard).

  • Tablets are very light, weighing in at anywhere from slightly less than a pound to a couple of pounds. Tablets are also smaller than most laptops, anywhere from 7 inches to 10 inches or so in screen size.

  • Most tablets are available in both wireless only and wireless and 3G models. Depending on the device you choose, you can connect through a wireless network or a cellphone network on a model that supports both.

  • You can get free apps or purchase apps for your tablet that allow you to perform a wide range of functions, from video calling to playing games and playing digital musical instruments.

  • If you want a super lightweight device to browse the Internet, send and receive e-mail, and peruse content like ebooks, music, or movies, a tablet might be just right. If you need more of a workhorse to do a good deal of word processing or spreadsheets, for example, a laptop or netbook is probably a better bet.

  • As with a laptop, tablet screens have different resolutions, which means that some have crisper-looking graphics than others.

  • The storage capacity of a tablet will almost always be smaller than a laptop and can range from 8 GB to 128 GB.

Besides iPad, which has been available for over a year, most tablet models are relatively new to the market. Visit a site such as Tablet PC Comparison to read about the different features to help you make a choice if you decide a tablet is right for you.

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