The pros and cons of these new devices
By Marc Saltzman
IT’S ONE OF THE HOTTEST segments in the
technology world: tablet computers.
Usually referred to as simply “tablets,” these
ultra-thin, lightweight and wireless devices let you
perform a number of tasks—such as surfing the
Web, reading email, playing games or watching a
movie—but rather than requiring a mouse and keyboard, they allow you to tap or drag your fingertips
on a 7- to 10-inch touch-screen.
Tablets resemble an electronic book reader, and
yes, they can be used to download and read e-books
and magazines, but they can do much more. Once
you use one—be it in the kitchen as a digital cookbook, on the couch while you curl up with a movie
or on a long plane ride as you solve a digital crossword puzzle—it can be very tough to put down.
So it’s no wonder tablets are poised for explosive
growth this year and next—and there are many different tablets to choose from. They’re not quite a PC
replacement, mind you, so here’s a quick look at
where tablets excel and where they don’t quite compete with conventional computers.
installation process required: Simply
tap on what you want to download
and the app will appear as an icon.
And finally, because tablets are
ultra-thin and lightweight (a pound
or so), they’re perfect for toting
around—and they make ideal
travel companions, too. No, you
can’t fit the larger models in a
jacket pocket or clutch purse, but
they are certainly a more comfortable alternative to lugging around
a 6-pound laptop in a bulky shoulder bag.
The advantages: size and apps
Using your fingertips to swipe through websites, tap through games or pinch and zoom in on
photos feels incredibly natural and intuitive. There’s
nothing between you and the touch-screen tablet.
Unlike computers, tablets require no waiting
time to boot up. Tablets go into a sleep mode when
unused for a few minutes, but they wake up the
moment you press the power button. This is incredibly handy when you’re out and about. Compare
this to a laptop or desktop, which can take a while
to load the operating system and programs.
While battery life is (finally) getting better with
laptop computers, they don’t hold a candle to tablets. Depending on the model, tablets can last about
10 hours on a single charge, which is about three to
four times longer than some laptop batteries. Many
tablets can charge up when plugged into a computer’s USB port.
Software is also super simple to download and
use. Using a Wi-Fi connection (or, in some cases,
cellular connectivity), most tablets will let you
download thousands of applications (“apps”) from
an online store. Apps are programs that customize
what your tablet does. There is no complicated
The cons: not quite your PC
While tablets are a portable and
personal way to interact with your
digital life, they don’t quite replace
For one, tablets don’t have a physical keyboard, therefore they’re not as
conducive for a lot of typing. Sure, you
can often pick up a keyboard docking station for a tablet when you’re in one place for
a while, but using the “virtual” keyboard means you
won’t likely be as accurate or fast as with a traditional
computer. Tablets are more ideal for consuming
media than for creating content.
Second, it can be a bit tricky getting your information on and off a tablet. Some of these devices
don’t have a memory card slot or USB port; therefore you can’t easily access or copy files. In other
words, if a friend gives you a thumb drive with photos on it, you could insert that into your laptop but
not a tablet. To get data on and off a tablet, you’d
need to connect it to a computer, email it or upload
it to a cloud computing service.
Finally, computer screens come in a number of
sizes, from a 10-inch netbook to a 27-inch desktop
monitor. Some users prefer more real estate. Laptops
and desktops also have an optical drive to install
CD-ROM software or play (or record to) DVDs.
In short, tablets borrow from the best of your
smartphone and your computer, but they don’t
really replace either. They’re wonderfully appealing devices that are difficult to put down. But it’s
important to be aware of what they can and cannot
do—before you buy. C
electronics or computers
you purchased at
Costco? E-mail them to:
Or send them to:
The Costco Connection
P.O. Box 34088
Seattle, WA 98124-1088
or fax to (425) 313-6718.
in the subject line. Marc
will answer selected ques-
tions in this column. We
regret that unpublished
questions cannot be
The Costco Connection
Costco sells a variety of tablet computers from
leading manufacturers in the warehouses and
online at Costco.com. All computer purchases
come with free technical support from Costco
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