As one new tablet PC announcement after another surfaces these days, you may be asking yourself, “What does a tablet give me that I don’t already get out of my computer or smartphone?”
At first, I didn’t see why I would need a tablet. But after observing quite a few PC World editors using them around the office, I relented and picked up a tablet last summer. Initially I had purchased the device to browse my massive library of digital comic books, but soon I found it useful for other, more-practical tasks. I started taking the tablet to meetings and using it to do quick Web searches, and it became my preferred way to read and respond to e-mail.
Although a tablet may not totally replace your PC anytime soon, using one has its benefits. Here are my top four.
Next to ordinary computers, tablets by design are comparatively lightweight and relatively easy to carry around. Many of them may still be too heavy to hold in one hand, but they’re great in your lap or on a surface. Reaching for a tablet to browse the Web during TV commercials is much easier than getting up, going to your desk, and booting up your computer. Even laptops, which are supposed to be mobile devices, can take a while to start, and they often get uncomfortably hot after a short period of use.
E-mailI don’t expect anyone to type out a proposal using a tablet’s virtual keyboard. However, a tablet in the workplace can be quite helpful for handling basic tasks, like checking e-mail or managing schedules. Here at work, I use a stand to hold my iPad up next to my monitor so that I can use it as a second screen. I leave the Mail app open, which lets me quickly see if I have new messages. For meetings you can jot down notes and download any relevant documents you may need to reference, into the tablet. That way, you won’t have to shuffle through a pile of papers searching for a specific chart or diagram.
Students may also find the iPad useful, particularly if you have to carry several books on a day-to-day basis. If those books are offered digitally, you may save some money (and possibly your back) just by packing them into a tablet that also can double as a laptop.
Tablets are great for entertainment. Since a tablet is basically just a large screen, it’s a stellar device for watching movies and TV shows. When you’re trying to watch an epic movie like Inception, a 3.5-inch screen just doesn’t cut it. With services such as Netflix and Hulu Plus, you don’t even have to fill your tablet’s internal memory with video files; instead, you can stream entire libraries of material directly to your device.
You can also find games to add to your fun. I think I’ve sunk more hours into Angry Birds than I have into any other game I currently own. Having touch-based controls on a tablet forces developers to get creative, leading to truly unusual gaming.
Games are not the only thing you can download into your tablet. One of the beautiful things about tablets is that most of them–the ones worth the money you’ve paid, at least–have some sort of marketplace where you can purchase additional apps to give your device a whole new level of functionality. Love to read the news and stay on top of current events? Download a few news apps. Love to tweet and spend all day on Facebook? Grab some social networking apps to stay in contact with friends.