How to Choose the Right Tablet

Software developer Daniel Elswick speaks for a legion of dedicated new tablet users when he sums up why he’s made the switch to the hottest computing trend since smartphones.

“I just don’t find myself doing much away from home that I need a full-fledged computer anymore,” he says. “Yesterday I used it [the iPad] for about five hours on my flight playing games and watching videos, and the battery was at about 55 percent when I landed.”

Millions of tablet users agree with Elswick about the ease of use and long battery life of the iPad. But Android and other PC tablets are gaining ground too. Here are the top five tablets heating up the market:

1. Apple iPad 2
, $429 to $829
Many Apple loyalists read about Steve Jobs resigning as Apple CEO on their iPad 2. The iPad is still the king of tablets by a wide margin. Thinner, lighter and faster than its predecessor, the iPad 2 also has two cameras so you can see your friends when you’re video chatting. It offers extra software, such as GarageBand. And unlike its older brother, it has rounded edges, so it can be held more comfortably for longer periods.

Upside: Tens of thousands of apps that users love and a high-definition video camera.

Downside: No USB ports. You still have to go through iTunes for many tasks -- such as upgrading your software or moving items from one folder to another -- that Windows users take for granted.

2. BlackBerry PlayBook
, $499 to $699
This attractive 7-inch tablet could become a major fighter in the tablet wars, especially for those who are already invested and committed to the “CrackBerry.” The hardware feels great, the tablet OS is easy to figure out, and the performance is staggeringly good -- especially when it comes to Web surfing. BlackBerry die-hards alone could turn this one into a winner.

Upside: Fast Web browsing, thanks to excellent Flash implementation. (Apple still refuses to use Flash on its tablets.)
Downside: Limited apps compared to the iPad.

3. Motorola XOOM
, $499 to $799
XOOM is certainly a contender for the hearts and minds of potential PC tablet buyers because it’s faster and smaller than most. The XOOM is equipped with a 32 GB hard drive for storing your photos, documents or movies. It also features 3G connectivity along with front- and rear-facing cameras, making it your portable camera too. The Xoom will be upgraded to Verizon Wireless speedier 4G wireless network in September, says the carrier.

Upside: Boots up faster than most other tablets because it’s loaded with high-end internal components.
Downside: To make the change to 4G, users can’t take the device back to the store but instead have to mail it back to Motorola -- the process is expected to take six business days.

4. Samsung Galaxy Tab , $429 to $599
The Galaxy Tab’s Android 2.2 operating system gives the device a number of selling points the iPad can’t claim, including full-featured multitasking. This means you can open multiple browser windows for your email, Facebook and other sites while also watching a movie. The Galaxy also features mini apps, which allow you to easily access commonly used features, such as a calendar, calculator or task manager. Mini apps can be launched as a pop-up over full-screen applications.

Upside: It’s a 7-inch slate -- a lot smaller than most other tablets, which is great if portability is your main concern.

Downside: Shorter battery life -- up to 7 hours of video playback.

5: Asus Eee Pad Transformer , $389 to 498
In the past, gadget reviewers have tended to agree: Android tablets don’t perform as well as Apple’s iPad. But not so with this sleek new tablet. It features a widescreen aspect ratio and an advanced touch display, which lets you see more screen real estate if you’re typing a document or watching a movie. The Eee Pad includes a keyboard dock that not only makes typing easier, but also doubles the battery life and boosts connectivity to the cloud.

Upside: Best price.

Downside: Apps: While there are thousands of apps for the iPad2, there are only hundreds for this tablet.

Got other questions or comments about tablets? Write in our message board below.

Like this article? Connect with us @EveryDayConnect 

4 Ways to Save on Gadgets

Anyone who has plunked down cash on a new gadget only to hear the near-maddening news that a better, flashier version is expected within weeks knows that knowing when to buy a new gadget is an acquired skill. “Hardcore techies update three to four times a year,” says PCMag.com editor Lance Ulanoff. “But you don’t have to get caught up in constant upgrades. That’s just the way technology is -- it’s constantly changing.” What else do you need to know to avoid emptying your wallet and going obsolete? Our experts share four principles they live by.


1. Haggling isn’t just for flea markets.
Never assume the price on the tag is written in permanent ink. According to a Consumer Reports survey, only 1 in 8 buyers of electronics and computers negotiated the purchase price, yet half of those who haggled paid significantly less. (On computers, they saved an average of $105.)

An even bigger surprise: Even brick-and-mortar stores are receptive to haggling. At retailers, like Sears and Best Buy, hagglers had a 60-percent success rate. And at independent shops, like appliance store HHGregg, negotiators showed an 80-percent success rate.

The next time you’re ready to buy a gadget, Ulanoff suggests checking out his favorite sites: TechBargains.com  and LogicBUY.com. You can also try Newegg.com, AnandTech, Engadget or ArsTechnica.

2. Your old gear is still worth money.

Ever heard of Buy Back programs? Many big stores, like Best Buy and Walmart, have them. When you “exchange a device with a Buy Back program, a predetermined percentage of its original value is put toward your purchase of a newer model, assuming the used device is in respectable condition,” says Paul Eng, Web editor at Consumer Reports.

The newer your device, the more money you make. The only possible drawback is that payment takes the form of store credit, and the store’s price for your new gadget might be higher than competitors’.

Buy Backs are worth checking out anyway, says Eng: They are “especially convenient for those with larger gear that they’d need to safely discard when replacing, such as laptops.” You just drop off the clunky old gadget, and the store properly disposes of it for you.

3. Being a late adopter doesn’t mean you’ll be stuck in 1995.
Only you can decide which tech upgrades matter most. “You have to focus on the results, what you’re using the technology for,” says James Abels, founder and CEO of ThreeMinuteMedia.com, a media-tech startup. Before you buy that latest model, ask yourself whether its new features improve your daily hustle or are uniquely important to you.

Although Abels follows the technology beat and has been eyeing the iPad, he has chosen to hold off until the next generation hits the shelves. “The difference in the next iPad is supposedly screen quality,” he says. “That matters to me.”

4. Timing is everything.

For the beloved techies in your life (yourself included), follow blogs and podcasts (we suggest Engadget, Tom’s HardwareTechCrunch  and PC Mag’s Decide.com ) and make a list of the tech gifts you need. Then, keep your eyes peeled for deals online. And if you can wait, time it right: “The tech industry continues to constantly roll out products, but keep in mind that the holiday season (November through January) opens heaps of price-cut opportunities,” says Eng.

Bonus tip: Wherever you buy, “do not spend extra on an extended warranty of, say, three years,” says Ulanoff. “The value drops so quickly that this is not a good deal.”

Cloud Computing 101: Protect Yourself Online

Cloud computing has certainly made life more convenient. The cloud allows you to back up photos and music in a Web vault, collaborate simultaneously on a document in Texas with a colleague in Tennessee, or buy something online with one click of the mouse.

But if you don’t take the proper precautions to protect yourself online, what you gain in convenience from the cloud you may lose in privacy. “People want to be able to access their applications not just from their computer, but from their phones, tablets, etc. And if they’re using the same user ID and password everywhere, they’re going to run into trouble,” says Tom Packert, chief technology officer at CareCloud, a company based in Miami, Fla., that implements cloud-based solutions for medical professionals.

Easy-to-crack passwords are less of a problem thanks to sites like LastPass.com, which make it easy to create virtually unhackable passwords you can actually recall. Use the program to create one master password that better protects all your unique passwords on any website you visit and cloud-based service you use. The site also allows you to test your current passwords to see how secure they really are.

But decodable passwords are only one of many security issues cloud-based computing entails. Here, a look at the different types of Web users that may live in your home, what breaches each is vulnerable to, and the steps you can take to protect your family’s personal information.

Family member: The Desktop Surfer
They use the cloud to:
Back up files, pay bills, shop online

Security risk: Malware, which includes viruses, worms, spyware, adware and rootkits. “It’s everywhere,” says Packert, “so you really shouldn’t be doing your banking on the same computer that your entire family uses.”

Protection plan: Try OpenDNS , a superfast DNS service that acts as a low-budget firewall to block malware and other harmful bugs from sneaking onto your computer. Webroot  also offers antispyware and antivirus protection that is specifically designed to deal with vulnerabilities posed by cloud computing. Meanwhile, Symantec  is a software program you can install directly on your PC. Once you’ve selected your firewalls, install Secunia PSI , a free program that compares all of the software on your computer with updates that are available online and downloads new versions when necessary.

Family member: The Mobile Worker
They use the cloud to:
Share documents, videoconference, back up files

Security risks: Exposing company computers to unsecure networks. “People plug their laptops into their unsecure network at home, then go into the office and log on to the company server,” says Packert. Also, since laptops are portable, they’re easy to steal -- along with the sensitive data they contain.

Protection plan: “Humans are easy to hack and laptops are easy to steal, so every laptop user should install encryption software,” recommends Packert. A program like TrueCrypt will make your data unreadable, so if your machine does get stolen, the thief will have the laptop -- but not the information on it.

Family member: The Social Networker
They use the cloud to:
Surf Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, foursquare and Flickr

Security risks: Since teens are often doing the most social networking in your house, they’re also the ones inadvertently giving away confidential information every time they play a game on Facebook, create a user profile or update their status.

Protection plan: Have a talk with your kids about the danger of revealing too much personal information on social networking sites. “It’s not your page on Facebook; it’s Facebook’s page about you,” says Packert. Also, make sure your antivirus software is up-to-date.

Family member: The Smartphone Addict
They use the cloud for: GPS tracking, social networking, sharing photos

Security risks: GPS tracking, which many Web-based services now use, can leave you widely vulnerable to security breaches -- even if you did save 10 percent off your bill by “checking in” at your favorite restaurant.

Protection plan: Anytime your phone or tablet asks to track your location, click “Don’t Allow,” which disables the GPS tracking. Also, if your tablet has the option to encrypt your drive (the Motorola Xoom does, for example), be sure to choose that option. This way, if someone walks away with your tablet, you’ll only be out a gadget -- not most of your private information.

Regardless of whether anyone in your family fits one of these profiles, you should be aware of the available security tools to protect yourself online if you use cloud-based computing. As technology gets more sophisticated, so do the hackers and thieves messing with it. Says Packert: “Security breaches can happen to anyone if you’re not careful.”

Can a Tablet Replace Your Laptop?

If you’re tired of lugging around your laptop and tablet everywhere you go -- or admiring your buddy’s new tablet -- you may be wondering: Can a tablet PC simply replace your laptop?

The short answer: It depends. There’s no doubt that tablets are lighter and have a longer battery life than most laptops. On the other hand, tablets can tie the hands of power users who need to get more demanding work -- like creating content -- done on the go.

To figure out what’s right for you, here’s what to consider before you buy a tablet or leave your laptop behind for good:

  • Are you all about apps and/or Apple? Did you get in line at 4 a.m. for the latest iPad? In this case, your iPad may already be replacing your laptop. iPads already have a built-in ecosystem of apps, which devotees love. “Right now, if I get something on my iPhone, I can use it on my iPad as well -- most of the time,” says software engineer Daniel Elswick.
  • Are you a content creator? Says Peter Christy, principal analyst at the Internet Research Group: “Whether or not a tablet is the right solution depends on how much content you create. For a writer, a PC with a keyboard is clearly better. Most executives are mostly information consumers -- information ‘snackers,’ as some call it -- and are happy to be forced to relatively terse email replies via a tablet.”
  • What’s your email style? Thinking about your email style before getting rid of your laptop is also essential, he notes. “Women in general treat email differently and think a lot about many of the messages they send -- tone, completeness, balance. This biases them toward the use of a laptop.”

If you’re considering replacing your laptop with a tablet, here are some other pros and cons to consider:

Pros of Tablets

  • Better Price: An iPad starts at $499, but the new MacBook Air laptop (though very light) starts at $599. In the PC side, the Dell Streak Tablet starts at $399, but a Dell laptop typically starts at $599.
  • Portability: They’re lighter and smaller than your laptop, which makes them ideal for travel. Plus, it’s easy to pass a tablet around at a party to show the latest YouTube video, your vacation photos or your Facebook status update.
  • Battery Life: Impressive battery life -- typically from seven to 12 hours, depending on how much video content you watch.
  • Fast Bootup: They wake up much more rapidly and are much easier to use compared to opening and activating a laptop.
  • Versatility: Doctors now use them for inputting patient information. Some restaurants are passing out tablets instead of menus (though that move is getting mixed reviews).

Cons of Tablets

  • Price Value: When it comes to features you get for the cost, laptops are actually the better deal.
  • Keyboard: Typing for an extended period of time on a tablet is not ideal because it’s a touchscreen, not a real keyboard. Though some tablets, like the ASUS, have a keyboard dock you can buy, a laptop is still better designed for when you’re on the go.
  • Limited Software Selection. For example, you won’t be using Photoshop of the full version of PowerPoint. Though you can now edit documents using Microsoft Word, you’d still be editing by using the touchscreen -- a time-intensive process.
  • Small Screen. Tablets’ screen size ranges from 7 to 10 inches; laptop screens can be more than 17 inches, depending on your needs.
  • No Built-in CD or DVD Drive. Some have MicroSD card slots, but check the model if that’s important to you.
  • iPad Con: No USB port. Apple claims you don’t need a USB port, but some think it’s a huge inconvenience. (This is only an iPad con; other tablets have USB ports.)

The biggest thing to keep in mind is that somebody doesn’t have to decide between a tablet and a laptop. It doesn’t have to be either/or; many people are still settling for both. You just need to pick the right tool for the job … and have the biceps to cart around both if you need to.

The App Guide: Apps for Healthier Living

If you are thinking about healthier living, look no further than your smartphone. There are apps that can help you eat healthier food, lose weight, exercise more often, sleep better and inject some peace into your hectic day. And because your phone goes everywhere with you, these apps help you stand a better chance of sticking to your healthier habits.

We’ve looked at hundreds of apps an, but this list will turn you on to the kinds of apps available to help you get started. Then, when New Year’s rolls around, you don’t have to resolve to get healthy -- only to stay that way.

Healthy Living App No. 1: iTreadmill 

Helps you … Run better
With this app in your pocket, the world is your treadmill. ITreadmill is a jazzed-up pedometer that tracks your steps, distance, time, speed and calories burned -- just like the treadmill at the gym. It also enables you to set goals for those criteria and receive alerts as you progress. The app features a music player that pulls in tunes from your iPod too.

Need something a little more goal-oriented? C25K (Couch to 5K) is a much-loved app based on the popular program that gradually takes you from couch potato to 5K runner in just nine weeks.
Available On:
IOS devices. For Android, search “pedometer” in the Android Market 

Healthier Living App No. 2: Lose It!

Helps you … Eat right and slim down
Lose It! is designed to help you shed pounds by tracking your calorie intake and physical activity. The app also has a cloud component, so you can enter data, track progress and interact with friends on the website. No matter where you enter your data, it all syncs up.

Available On: IOS devices. For Android, try Calorie Counter 

Healthier Living App No. 3: Nike Training Club 

Helps you … Train with a pro
The free Nike Training Club features dozens of full-body workouts and drills in a slickly designed -- and beautifully photographed -- app. It includes workouts with celebs, celebrity trainers and pro athletes, as well as video demonstrations so you can check your form. You can select your fitness level, set goals, track progress and pull in your favorite workout tunes from your iPod.

Available On: IOS devices. For Android, try the highly popular Endomondo Sports Tracker 

Healthier Living App No. 4: Wellness Tip of the Day 
Helps you … Get tricks to stay healthy

Getting and staying healthy isn’t just about hitting the gym and eating the right diet; it’s also about the little details, like drinking enough water, stretching and getting better sleep. Wellness Tip of the Day does exactly what the name implies, helping you keep those details top of mind.

Available On: IOS devices

Healthier Living App No. 5: Relax Melodies 

Helps you … Meditate and rest
If getting more sleep is what you need the most to get healthier, Relax Melodies could help. If you have trouble clearing your mind to get to sleep -- or perhaps want to introduce daily meditation into your life -- this app provides several options. It gives you a set of ambient sounds, including the standards like rain, wooden flute and wind, and lets you mix them together to create your own custom relaxation sounds. You can pump up the flute volume, play a gentle wind quietly beneath the flute and add a light rainfall. Or go for something more abstract like a mix of zen, storm and cavern.

Available On: IOS devices. For Android, try Relax and Sleep