A Tablet Dilemma in 3 Parts

Mari Silbey —  November 15, 2012 — 16 Comments

I have three tablet purchases to consider this holiday shopping season. And oddly, each one involves a different operating system.

To start, there’s the obvious. With the launch of the iPad Mini, my Apple-obsessed husband finds himself percolating over whether to ask for the new, smaller Apple tablet. Sexy as it is, there are two detractions. First, no Retina display. Since he already has the iPad 2, it would be nice for a new purchase to include the Retina upgrade. Second, the data plan. My husband is grandfathered in on an unlimited AT&T data plan, which would likely go away with the transition to LTE. Keep in mind to that he just traded in his iPhone 4S (at a profit) for the new iPhone 5, so he is covered on the new Apple gadget front. What’s a gift-giving wife to do?

Next there’s the new Microsoft Surface RT.

This one’s a possibility for my dad; something in theory that the whole family could go in on together. (Dad, I’m pretty sure you don’t read this site. Hope not!) To put the purchase in context, my dad is a Microsoft fan boy. Truly. The big question, however, is whether to wait for the Surface Pro to come out (likely next year) with its support for the full Windows 8 OS. There’s nothing terribly practical about buying a tablet with the lightweight RT operating system, except it would be fun. And, my dad does have a full-fledged laptop for work. I’d rather have him toodling around on a tablet for fun than peering with great concentration at a tiny smartphone screen, which is what he does now. Still the Surface tablet isn’t cheap. At $200, maybe even $300 it would be a no-brainer for a group present. At $500, the decision is much harder.

Then there’s me. I’m still working off my husband’s hand-me-down iPad 1, and while I wouldn’t mind picking up a Kindle Fire HD to go with my own Android ecosystem, I have no good reason to do so. I use the iPad to play random games and browse shopping apps, and the first-gen tablet handles both leisure-time activities quite well. For anything else, I tend to have my phone and laptop close at hand. The biggest advantage to the iPad for me is that it’s not set up to do email, or even to access my Twitter account. In other words, I can’t do any work on the iPad. Maybe if I spent more time playing with photos and videos the Kindle Fire would be a worthwhile holiday purchase. As it is, I can goof off just fine with the iPad 1. Happy Holidays to me.

16 responses to A Tablet Dilemma in 3 Parts

  1. Another interesting option to consider is the new $249 ChromeBook. It’s cheaper than a Surface and most tablets, but has a keyboard and the form factor of a MacBook Air.

    There’s zero OS maintenance it administration, and yet it sports a full desktop-class multi-tab (Chrome) browser. So for couch surfing it beats the heck out of a tiny phone screen or single tasking tablet, especially one where the on-screen keyboard covers half the screen and (in many cases) forces you to type in an even smaller text field.

    I played with one recently and immediately ordered one for myself… At $249 you also don’t really need to worry (much) if anything happens to it, especially since you can log into a replacement and instantly access all of your stuff (via the google cloud).

  2. For your husband I wouldn’t obsess too much about the non-retina thing. If he’s using an iPad 2 he’ll just think the Mini is higher resolution than what he’s used to. And I do think this size is perfect–lighter, thinner than the 10″ iPad which I’ve always thought was too heavy. Personally I’m waiting for the NEXT gen retina when I hope they move to Sharp’s IGZO display tech to cut down the battery draw and let them get back to lighter/thinner again.

    For your Dad, I assume you’ve read the reviews of the Surface. I assume you know about its early adopter status and the lack of certain apps so far, that you can only run stuff from the store, the weird desktop inclusion just to run office etc. But of course also the fantastic hardware build quality and design. And that this just might be the future, its just taking them a while to shake things out.

    Don’t buy a Surface without a keyboard cover of some kind, so add $100 or whatever to your price, meaning $600+. That would be silly. I don’t know whether the touch or type would be better. If you think he might type on it a lot and doesn’t adapt well to new things I’d get the type, but the touch is lighter and thinner and people say you adapt to it quickly enough, and its certainly cooler, lighter and clicks to the screen better.

    For you? Figure that part out yourself. Rocking an iPad 2 myself and hoping for a Mini.

  3. “Another interesting option to consider is the new $249 ChromeBook.”

    In a certain way, now that ChromeBooks seem to be ready for prime-time, they’re perfect machines for ‘insert your relevant relative here’.

    I’ve got a relative who does everything in a browser, so why not get them a ChromeBook, with their current outdated laptop both as backup and for very occasional tasks?

    (Dunno if printing from Chromebooks is ready for prime-time yet, however.)

  4. I thought there was an Asus Chromebook as well for like $199. No idea about the build quality. Like you say Chucky, might be a fine idea for many ‘technologically challenged’ (i.e. normal) people who just want to browse the web. At the $199 price point I think it starts to make a lot of sense. Assuming the keyboard isn’t awful…

  5. Glenn, the Samsung Chromebook is a hair faster and lighter as it uses solid state memory (16GB) versus a hard drive (320GB). I played with the $250 one… found it a bit plasticy and sluggish. BUT it might make a better mobile blogging platform than my iPad 3 which hasn’t been very good for productivity.

    My wife is ready to trade her iPad 3 for an iPad Mini. At first the lack of resolution bothered her, but she’s decided the lesser weight takes precedence when laying on the couch or in bed.

    As for me, I’m still thinking I want something like the Galaxy Note 2 as both tablet and phone, and then picking up a laptop – whether it be the cheapie Chromebook or new MBA. Hm. Decisions, decisions.

  6. What’s a gift-giving wife to do?

    GET HIM THE MINI!

  7. “it might make a better mobile blogging platform than my iPad 3 which hasn’t been very good for productivity.”

    See, that’s the thing. Mari, unlike Dave, perfectly understands the iPad general use-case scenario. As she writes:

    “The biggest advantage to the iPad for me is that it’s not set up to do email, or even to access my Twitter account. In other words, I can’t do any work on the iPad.”

    And she even itali-emphasizes the most important part of that.

    The things are nice toys.

    —–

    I think I speak for one and all of Dave’s readership when I demand that he purchase one of the new $249 Samsungs to play with and report upon.

    With great power comes great responsibility.

  8. Wow. Size DOES matter….

  9. I gotta say the surface is pretty amazing. I think once the app store catches up its going to be the better buy. I primarly brought it because it has everything the ipad lacks; Keyboard, USB, and the ability to have multiple users. I also recently upgraded my touch pc to win 8 and the seemless data between the 2 is pretty great.

  10. I prefer my chrome book to my w8 dell 11z. It wakes up faster and is so light. I’m still trying to figure out how to do some of the things I want to do, but it surfs the web quite well.

  11. Go with the Mini – it’ll retain it’s value well enough you can trade up to a retina Mini next year if it comes out … I somehow doubt it will, but it depends on the availability of the screens and a significant improvement in process (say from 35nm to 22nm) for the CPU/GPU. I don’t think you will lose the grandfathered plan in the process – though don’t quote me on it – if you just take the SIM card out from the old one and insert it into the new one.

    I would skip the RT for now and wait for the Pro.

    And in your case … have you considered a Nexus 7?

  12. Make any decisions Mari?

  13. Michael- Sure, but now the relatives are reading so I have to hold off posting until after the holidays. :)

  14. I tried to buy a Chromebook on a few occasions, but apparently Best Buy received Chromebook displays without any inventory to sell.

  15. “So I gots a little over a month to replace this iPad with something I can effectively blog on at CES. Hm, Chromebook?”

    I don’t know if a Chromebook is the answer for your CES needs or not, but, as stated, as your editorial desk, I demand you purchase one to review for your nice blog here.

    —–

    Also, don’t skimp on business cards. Buy nice embossed ones on good linen paper. It’s a cheap investment in yourself, even with a slightly larger initial outlay.

  16. If I’ve been tracking your tweets correctly, you should’ve have your Chromebook for a while by now, no?

    So, as your editorial desk, how ’bout a post on initial impressions of how you see it as a use-case scenario before New Year’s, unless Festivus or CES travel prep intrudes, of course…

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