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Size matters when it comes to buying tablets

It’s the hottest category in the world! Everyone wants a tablet, but which one? Thankfully, the difference between most tablets is fading. Almost all of them come with great processors, ever-improving battery life, fantastic form factors and amazing apps and utilities. Rajiv Makhni explains...

brunch Updated: Feb 23, 2013 17:22 IST
Rajiv Makhni

It’s the hottest category in the world! Everyone wants a tablet, but which one? Thankfully, the difference between most tablets is fading. Almost all of them come with great processors, ever-improving battery life, fantastic form factors and amazing apps and utilities. The big question that remains is, what size screen is best? And that is becoming an increasingly baffling and a very confounding question!

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Most people will break down tablet screen sizes into three: 7-inch, 8-inch and 10-inch. That would be mistake number one. If you are really serious about buying a tablet and getting the perfect one suited for your tasks – the tablet screen-size breakdown is actually five size categories. Let me take you through all of them.

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When phablets came, people snickered and laughed. Today, millions of phablet sales later, they are all wiping the egg off their faces! Phablets are increasingly getting the most attention and innovation in the field. But can they play the role of a tablet? In their current iteration – no way, as a tablet is much more than just a larger screen smartphone. But future phablets are starting to look amazingly good. At 6.1 inches, full 1920x1080 HD screens, almost zero bezel around the display, 8 core processors, additional whiz-bang graphic processors, battery life better than any smartphone and enhanced functionality, including intelligent stylus features – this is going to be the personal tablet of choice.
Pros and cons: You’ll be able to do anything you do with a normal-sized tablet, except that you’ll be squinting a little. And you can’t use it as a sharing device. It’s yours and yours alone.

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The Tipping point effect

The 7-inchers came in as the poor man’s tablet but have eventually become the reason tablet sales rocketed. Low prices, underpowered, resistive screens, suicidal battery life – they still sold like hot cakes. That’s because they have many compelling reasons going for them. Easy to hold in one hand, fits your palm, easy to carry, can be pocketed, perfect fit for a bag, thin and light and very aggressive pricing. In fact, the pricing on these is almost comical now and will only get more amazing with Google, Asus and Acer going all out in this space. The next generation will have great processing power, higher resolution screens and even lower prices – always a good combination.

Pros and cons:

Better as e-readers, good for quick browsing, great for social networking; but completely suck when you want to watch a special-effects movie or play a graphic-intensive game. And forget about making presentations on this one. It may not be around for too long.

If you build it, they will come

This is that strange screen size that shouldn’t have worked – and yet may well become the category killer – 7.9 or 8 inches is the future. Why? Well, the screen-size ratio works better for most things you’ll do on a tablet – it gives you just that much more screen space so that you don’t squint and more importantly, Apple makes the iPad Mini in this size and is selling sackloads of them, thus others have to follow. Lots of action here as Apple will bring in a retina display in the iPad Mini 2, most 7-inch tablets will move to this size in the future with similar specs and prices here again will spiral downwards.

A lot of action: The iPad Mini doesn’t fit your palm well, but the battery life is better
Pros and cons:

It doesn’t really fit your palm well, but as most are super-thin you can still manage. Games and movies fit perfectly on this and the battery life is better here. It also breaks up the confounding clutter of the 7-inch tablet market and that is a big deal.

The King is dead, long live the King
The 9.7 or 10-incher is what started the whole thing off. It’s still a great choice, but may not be the way to go if you’re a new tablet buyer. Why do I say that? Well, the best tablet is a tablet that is always with you when you need one – and this isn’t the easiest one to carry. While you do see people walking around with one encased in an ugly, thick, padded cover even at parties – it’s just not practical in the long run. While it’s early days yet – expect this category to wean off eventually.
Pros and cons: This is still the best for movies, games, presentations as well as sharing – but you’ll do it mostly in your home and not on the move. A 10-inch tablet will become the choice of corporates as well as the screen you’ll snap off an ultrabook hybrid, while consumers will move to the 8-inch model.

The Future, now
The most exciting space in tablets may well be one that most people haven’t experienced as yet. I call this the Family Tablet or Desktop Tablet. This will be around 27 to 32 inches, will be an all-in-one PC, will run about three hours on battery, can be propped up straight and used as a desktop with a wireless keyboard and mouse, or flattened and put on a table or even stand for the whole family to play games and use apps customised for it (think Microsoft Surface for 1/10th the price), can be used in the family room for TV and movies (they’ll come with fantastic premium audio and graphics) and will also be a gaming and presentation machine par excellence.
Pros and cons: It’s all good and it’s what every family will own soon. You’ll see major action from Lenovo, Asus and HP in this area.

Like I said right in the beginning, tablets are the hot-ticket item of this decade and they are coming out to get you from five different directions. Never has size mattered more! Well, that may not be entirely true, but then that’s a whole different column.

Rajiv Makhni is managing editor, Technology, NDTV, and the anchor of Gadget Guru, Cell Guru and Newsnet 3

From HT Brunch, February 24

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