What is the difference between the three major computer tablets?
You might find that this year someone on your gift list is asking for an iPad or computer tablet which is often just referred to as a tablet and sometimes a tablet pc. Tablets are particularly popular with students due to their smaller size and ease of mobility, although they are also becoming more popular with a large sector of the population who needs a mobile computer for work and play.
If you are feeling confused as to what makes up the difference between an Android Tablet, an iPad and a Windows tablet, perhaps I can help you with that.
In this article I will explain the differences of the three major types of computer tablets and give you some recommendations on specific models. You have probably heard of all three options:
iOS, from Apple
The OS for mobile by Google, loads of manufacturers, including Samsung
- Windows 10
Yes, from Microsoft. Also loads of manufacturers. Shown above, with an keyboard that’s also a cover.
What is a tablet?
Different tablets explained in a nutshell
Let’s start off with an explanation of what a tablet actually is. Computer tablets are mobile computers that are larger than a mobile phone and less cumbersome than a laptop computer. Tablets use a touchscreen technology instead of having an actual keyboard built in. The screen will show what is called a “virtual keyboard” when typing is required.
Most models of tablets offer an option of plugging in a special keyboard with the use of a USB connector or through some other means, but not all do. Often times the users of tablets will have a stylus that can be connected to the tablet to make typing easier and drawing more precise than touching with their fingertips.
So, what are the differences when it comes to an Android Tablet versus an iPad versus a Windows tablet? In a nutshell they are each operated by a different OS or operating system.
Android Tablets use a Linux based mobile OS (aka Android). iPads use a mobile OS from the Apple/Macintosh company (iOS). Windows tablets are operated with mobile Windows based OS from Microsoft, Windows 10, which by now you probably have on your PC or laptop. Or should.
How to choose between tablet options – Basic options are the same!
- They can all browse the web.
- Typing on a touch screen
They all compensate for not having a keyboard with predicting what you wanted to type as you’re typing it. The result can be quite fast, even if you are only typing on a screen. On Android you may have to install a new ‘keyboard’ program / software to get this feature, but that’s easily done.
- Typing on a keyboard
You can get an external keyboard for most tablets, it will work through bluetooth. However, that comes with a price: weight. Only the Windows Surface can be bought with a touchcover that is also a keyboard. This means the Microsoft Surface is essentially a laptop replacement, especially if you get the type cover.
Aside from the touch cover, MS has also designed a Type cover. The difference? It’s more like an actual keyboard. Both snap onto the Surface easily, they’re of comparable price and even of comparable weight. Based on the reviews I’d probably go with the TYPE cover, because I type with 10 fingers and need to find my way blind. However, some people really like the touchcover, so it’s a choice issue.
- You can use each as an ereader
Kindle app and PDF reader apps are available on all platforms.
- You can use each to listen to music
You may want to pick your device based on whether you have already bought movies and music content for your XBox (MS Surface), iPod (iPad) or Android.
- You can watch movies on each
Again: apps like Netflix and Amazon Movies are available on each platform and you’ll only be limited by your geographical presence. Us folk in the EU don’t have the options US citizens do. However, iTunes and Xbox content are NOT available across platforms.
Some are faster than others. However, the choice does not depend on the OS you pick.
There’s a reason for price differences and like with PC’s it has a lot to do with the hardware. The expensive tablets are generally faster.
- You can NOT use USB with most tablets
Some Android tablets and the Windows Surface tablet are exceptions; you Can use USB with the Windows Surface tablet and some Android tablets
- You can NOT use Micro SD on iPad
You CAN use Micro SD with most other tablets
- You can edit full MS office documents ONLY on tablets like the Microsoft Surface tablet, which features Windows RT. That includes Excel documents.
Other tablets do have apps that allow files to be edited and created that are compatible with MS Office, including Excel. However, I would not recommend using them for anything beyond simple typing.
- You can take notes in Evernote or another note application on all tablets
- You can share files across your mobile gadgets and pcs with apps based on the cloud on all tablets. Dropbox and Evernote are my favorites, but Google Drive is also good.
- Social media apps
Twitter, Facebook and the like all have apps available for all tablet platforms.
There are games available for each tablet. However, the iTunes App Store is gigantic while the Windows App Store is still missing a lot of the popular options. Android has a few less, but for a casual gamer like me, it definitely has enough games to keep me occupied in a quiet moment.
Tablets for productivity?
Windows: laptop replacement
If you want a tablet you can also work on, a Windows tablet (with stylus and keyboard cover) is really starting to be a good buy. It has taken a while for Microsoft to iron out the rough edges of Windows 10, but it’s getting there. However, you will need a stylus…
Android / iPad
For productivity Android and iPad are both less obvious choices. However, if you can manage – like I can – with Google Docs, then there really isn’t any reason NOT to go with Android or iPad.
The difference is: A well chosen Windows tablet may replace your laptop or PC. An Android tablet or iPad probably can’t just yet.
Kindle Fire – the eReader that’s really a tablet
I know that most people think ereading when they think of the Kindle line. However, when Amazon developed their Kindle Fire they went a step further and created something that’s really more like a tablet.
It’s an android tablet in fact, without the label and with some missing features. The main thing you’ll miss, comparing it to an Android Tablet, is Google Maps. You won’t have full access to the Google Play Store and this is one of the few popular apps in there that didn’t make it to the Amazon app store.
Otherwise – this is a great tablet for the money: very well designed to be easy to use and with top specs as well. In fact, it is assumed in the tech-industry that Amazon loses money for every Kindle they sell. They’ll get it back with you being tied firmly to the Amazon store. However, I don’t see that that’s a problem. Most of us are tied the Amazon store pretty firmly anyhow.
The Kindle is the best tablet for people who aren’t going to be using their tablet for anything beyond the usual: reading, browsing, mailing, taking a few notes, listening to some music, watching a few movies, and playing some popular games.
I also asked my readers which tablet they preferred:
As you can see, it’s a tie between Android and Windows.