Choosing an Android Tablet

April 27th, 20116:36 pm @


Choosing an Android Tablet

What is Android?

In the same way that most PC’s need Microsoft Windows to make the basic box useful and user friendly, Mobile Phones and Tablets also need a basic piece of software to handle core functions. Companies like Apple have their own proprietry software, whereas Android, first created by Google, is ‘open’ and is available for any mobile phone manufacturer to use and develop further.

Android takes care of all the basic functions on the mobile device, like making calls, accessing files, sending emails etc, but can also be extended by downloading extra applications from the Android Market Place, in the same way that Apps can be downloaded to Apples iPhone or iPad devices. Although the Apple App Store is larger, there are still hundreds of thousands of additional apps for Android devices. Amazon have improved the situation further by introducing their own App Store for Android devices.

Android Versions

Android Products can be split into two basic categories : Mobile phones and Tablet PC’s. Android was originally developed purely for mobile phones, and many versions have appeared. The current version is 2.3, nicknamed Gingerbread.  If you are looking for a new Android powered mobile phone, ensure that it is at least version 2.2 (nicknamed Froyo) get the best features.

It became clear that the versions of Android developed for mobile devices did not suit larger Tablet devices.  So, a seperate version of Android was developed especially for Tablet PC’s, version 3.0, or Honeycomb as it is known.

Android Contributors

Many of the worlds top technology manufacturers have come together to form the ‘Open Handset Alliance’ which now oversees developement of Android and Android powered devices.  Companies include Google, HTC, Motorola, Samsung, T-Mobile, Asus, Garmin, Sony Ericsson, Toshiba and Vodafone to name a few.  Many of these manufacturers have their own range of mobile phones and tablet PC’s using the operating system.

Although Android is not considered to be quite as user friendly or stable as the software powering Apple products, the devices themselves often offer features that are missing from the basic Apple products, like USB ports, SD Card slots, front and rear facing cameras or Adobe Flash support.

Tablet Specifications

There are an incredible number of Android Tablet PC’s on the market already.  There is a huge variation in price, specification and build quality to suit any purpose or budget.  Here are some of the considerations when buying any Tablet (or mobile phone!) device :

  1. Screen size and resolution
    Larger screen size means larger device.  Some people will love the larger 10 inch screens, others will prefer a 7 inch device that fits in a large pocket.  Resolution is the actual number of dots that make up the screen image, and more is better.  I would recommend 1024 pixels wide as an absolute minumum for comfortable internet browsing, but 1280 pixels or more is preferred.
  2. Processor type and speed
    The processor does all the work, so more powerful processors make for a faster device, capable of more multitasking.  Speed is measured in Gigahertz (Ghz), and the higher the value, the better.  1Ghz is typical.  Some devices now have Dual Core processors, which means even more processing power.  Unfortunately, more processing power means more power consumption, so keep an eye on battery life estimations.  A good Tablet should be capable of 8 hours browsing between charges.
  3. Front and Rear Cameras
    Not all devices have front and rear facing cameras.  Front facing is for general scenery and portrait type shots.  Look for camera values of 5 megapixels (MP) or more for good quality photos, and supported by a flash of some kind.  Rear facing cameras are for video calls and video conferencing.  1 – 2 MP is typical
  4. Wifi and 3G
    Wifi networks are the type of wireless computer network you might have at home or in the office.  3G networks are mobile phone based computer networks that are available as you walk down the street.  You will need at least one of these networks to connect to the Internet for browsing, downloading emails etc.  Devices with both types give most flexibilty but are more expensive.  Technology moves on and mobile netwrok providers will soon be rolling out faster 4G mobile networks, so watch out for signs that your next Tablet is future proof!
  5. HDMI connection
    HDMI connectors allow you to plug the Tablet into a High Definition TV Screen like the type you have at home.  Can be great for watching films, playing games etc, but also an important consideration for business presentations etc.
  6. GPS/aGPS and Digital Compass
    One of the huge benefits of Android is access to Google Maps and other location based services.  Make sure the Tablet has GPS (Global Positioning System) built in. aGPS (Assisted Global Positioning System) means the Tablet can also use the mobile phone network to make positioning faster and more accurate.  I also recommend ensuring the device has a Digital Compass.  This means the Tablet knows which direction you are facing.  Route planning applications don’t need it, but future ‘augmented reality’ and other location based services will depend on it.

Popular Android Tablet PC’s

Below are some of the most popular and highest spec devices currently on sale :


Motorola Xoom

  • Powerful and High spec Android 3.0 Tablet
  • 10.1 inch widescreen display (1280 x 800 pixels)
  • 1 Ghz Dual Core processor
  • 5MP front camera with built in Dual LED Flash, 2MP rear camera
  • Wifi and 3G versions available.  The Xoom is also ready for 4G mobile phone networks as they become available.
  • Battery offers approximately 9 – 10 hours internet browsing or video playback time between charges
  • HDMI output.  Micro USB port to connect to external devices
  • Built in aGPS and Digital Compass
  • Weight 700g, Dimensions 249 x 168 x 13mm

Optional Accessories include :

  • A Durable case that doubles as a stand
  • A Charging Dock with built in speakers, HDMI port and Bluetooth technology for use with external keyboard and mouse
  • A Standard Charging Dock with speaker connector
  • A light weight Bluetooth keyboard designed for Android

Acer Iconia Tab A500

  • Android 3.0 Tablet
  • 10.1 inch widescreen display (1280 x 800 pixels)
  • NVidia Tegra 2 Processors, 1 Ghz
  • 5MP front camera with built in LED Flash, 2MP rear camera
  • Wifi with optional 3G Module
  • Battery offers approximately 9 – 10 hours internet browing or 8 hours video playback
  • HDMI output. Micro USB connector
  • Built in GPS and Digital Compass
  • Weight 756g, Dimensions 260 x 176 x 13mm

Optional Accessories include :

  • A Charging Dock with built in IR Remote Control
  • Wireless RF keyboard

Samsung Galaxy Tab

  • Android 2.2 Tablet
  • 7 inch widescreen display (1024 x 600 pixels)
  • 1Ghz Processor
  • 3MP front camera with built in LED Flash, 1.3MP rear camera
  • Wifi or 3G models
  • Battery offers approximately 7 hours video playback
  • Built in aGPS
  • Weight 380g, Dimensions 190 x 120 x 12mm

Optional Accessories include :

  • An 83 key Keyboard Charging Dock

More Information

Android Homepage

Android 3.0 Video

Android on Wikipedia


Motorola Xoom

Acer Iconia Tab A500

Samsung Galaxy Tab