The original iPad was released in April of 2010. As with many things Apple, the iPad had little direct competition at the time of its release. Earlier attempts such as the ScreenMedia FreePad (1998), Microsoft Pocket PC (2000), and Nokia 770 (2005) never really caught on. Quickly following the release of the iPad, however, Samsung released the Galaxy Tab in September of 2010. Over two years later, Microsoft released the Surface in October of 2012 alongside the general release of its new operating system Windows 8. The Surface Pro followed in February of 2013.
Despite the continued and growing competition, according to the industry research firm NPD Group, Apple’s tablets accounted for 59% of all tablet sales in 2013. It is clearly the most popular, but does that make it right for you?
Types of Tablets
The iPad, Galaxy Tab, and Surface, along with many others, are a new generation of mobile computer sometimes also called “slates”. They feature cameras, a microphone, and a touchscreen that allows a finger or stylus to replace a mouse and keyboard. Most are larger than smartphones or personal data assistants with screens measuring 7 inches or greater.
Touchscreen laptop computers or “convertibles” actually pre-date the iPad. These are usually fully featured laptops with keyboards that can be hidden using a swivel or slide joint. Dell, HP and Lenovo, just to name a few, offer a variety of convertible laptops.
How to Decide
The techie in me still enjoys hardware specs and comparisons. After a while though, I just want someone to point me in the right direction. With that in mind, this article will focus on the use case for the devices.
Personal Use: Easy answer, get an iPad. With three sizes to choose from, you can pick one that’s the right fit and you’ll love it. Apple’s iOS operating system is simple to use and anyone can figure it out. My six year old son and seventy year old aunt both have iPads. If you are just browsing the web you can get about 9 hours out of the battery. You also have access to about 1.2 million apps. The iPad isn’t cheap, it’s Apple after all, and starts at $249 for a 16GB iPad mini ranging all the way up to $929 for a 128GB iPad Air with Cellular. If you either don’t like the Apple price or prefer the Android platform there are a lot of options and there are just as many apps available on the Android platform. A 16GB Samsung Galaxy Tab 3 is about $179.
Business Use: Once people started to use iPads in their personal lives, they wanted the same portability and ease of use for business. The iPad has come a long way on that front, but unless you use a line-of-business application to do the majority of your work, the iPad is primarily confined to checking email and reviewing, not editing, documents.
A few months ago, Microsoft released apps for Word, Excel and PowerPoint, but to unlock their full functionality you need an Office 365 subscription. An Outlook app was also released, but I freely admit I find it dreadful compared to the iOS mail app. In the end, with an iPad you can check your work email and, armed with an Office 365 subscription, do some light document editing.
If you want to get real work done, you’ll need a Surface Pro. Microsoft’s Pro tablet was aimed at business users from the start, but the original form was a bit small and awkward. Since the release of the Surface Pro 3 in June, all that changed. The Surface Pro 3 has a 12” screen and is both thinner and lighter than a MacBook Air.
But, can the Surface Pro 3 replace your laptop? The simple answer is yes. If you are on the go and want one device that can do it all, the Surface Pro 3 is well worth considering. It runs Windows 8.1 Professional, so you can install any software that you need on it just like a laptop. It has plenty of power and the top-end model boasts an Intel i7 processor, 8GB of memory and a 512GB Solid State Drive. There is also a docking station that allows you to connect it to a full-size keyboard, mouse and multiple monitors, when you are in the office. The Surface Pro 3 starts at $799 and tops out at $1,949 for the high-end model.