How to decide between full-sized tablets: iPad, Nexus 10, Kindle HD, Surface RT, and Nook HD+

How to decide between full-sized tablets: iPad, Nexus 10, Kindle HD, Surface RT, and Nook HD+

Summary: As tablets mature, consumers have a wide range of excellent devices to choose from. But how do you pick just one? ZDNet's DIY-IT editor David Gewirtz helps you decide and even includes a handy decision tree chart.


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Apps and ecosystems

I pretty much covered the differences between the Android, Amazon, and Apple ecosystems in my previous article, so rather than repeating what I said, just go read the first two pages of it. Go ahead, I'll wait. Just click in, read those pages, and hit "Back" on your browser.

Welcome back. I'll assume you now know that Android is a little more open but slightly riskier, Apple's iOS is a bit more closed but somewhat more secure, and Amazon lives somewhere in-between, but it's mostly about access to the Amazon ecosystem.

The Nook uses the Barnes & Noble ecosystem (such as it is), rather than the Amazon one, and is really best if you're reading books purchased from B&N (although there's also a Kindle app on the Nook).

UPDATE: Apparently, there is not a Kindle app for the Nook, which makes this a far less compelling device.

Finally, the Surface RT uses the new Windows Store user interface, and while there are relatively few apps available, I'm sure there will soon be quite a few more, simply because developing for this interface uses many of the Windows development tools developers are so very familiar with.

My recommendation is this: if you're all about apps, you probably should buy the Nexus or the iPad. If you're about saving money, buy the Nook. And if you mostly want to consume Amazon content, buy the Kindle.

UPDATE: Apparently not. Too bad: Just a quick note about Kindle and Nook: there's a Nook app for the Kindle and a Kindle app for the Nook. Nice. So you're not particularly tied to the bookseller if you buy books from one or the other supplier. This is really smart and is something Apple should consider for iBooks. I like Kindle books (a lot), but because Nook books can be read on everything as well, they're a nice option.

While there are pleasantly functional Office clones that run on each of the tablets, they're not real Office and do have limitations. Get the Surface RT if you need a super-light machine that runs true Microsoft Word and Excel. Those are the RT's killer apps.

Sharing the tablet

Here's something new that I wish we'd seen a few years ago. Now, many families are multi-tablet homes, especially since many of us have upgraded, adding a second or third tablet.

In any case, the Nook HD+, the Surface RT, and the Nexus 10 (along with the Nexus 7, although I didn't mention it in the last article) support user profiles. What this means is that -- just like Windows and the Mac -- you can log into your own, personalized tablet UI and others in your family can log into theirs.

That means you can share a tablet in front of the TV, for example. Mom would have her apps and bookmarks and such, all arranged just so. Dad would have his. And even little Jane would have hers, with parental controls suitably employed.

Obviously, the big player missing out on user profiles is Apple. There's no such thing in iOS. Will there be? Who knows. It's Apple, after all. I wouldn't count on it.

Bottom line: if you want to be able to share your device and have it customized for each user, consider the Nexus, the Nook, and the Surface.

Cellular availability

Not all these devices have a cellular communications option. If you want to take your device on the road, and be able to go online where you don't have WiFi, a cellular communications option will be your friend -- sort of.

I paid an extra $130 for the Verizon 4G option on my third-generation iPad. Unfortunately, Verizon has almost non-existant service here at home, and there's no 4G service for probably fifty miles. So while I have the option, it won't work because the local infrastructure won't support it.

While all cellular programs have two cost components: the extra cost for the cellular circuitry and a monthly fee, Amazon has a unique $49 for the first year service program, detailed here:

See Also: More details on Amazon's Fire HD $49 4G-for-a-year program

The iPad and Kindle Fire HD 8.9" devices are your only options. The Nexus 10, the Nook HD+, and the Surface RT don't have the option to add cellular service.

Next up, iPad considerations and your tablet purchasing decision tree...

Topics: Tablets, Amazon, Apple, Apps, Google, Microsoft, DIY


David Gewirtz, Distinguished Lecturer at CBS Interactive, is an author, U.S. policy advisor, and computer scientist. He is featured in the History Channel special The President's Book of Secrets and is a member of the National Press Club.

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  • How to decide between full-sized tablets: iPad, Nexus 10, Kindle HD, Surfac

    There is no decision to make as the Microsoft Surface RT should be your only choice. It offers all the benefits of using Microsoft Windows on a portable device. The benefits of having an attachable keyboard, an app store, and wifi to make you more productive. It has received the highest marks in a number of reviews and has a very sturdy hardware build. The competition just can't compare to the Microsoft Surface.
    Loverock Davidson-
    • Agreed

      The iPad is a clostrophobic product where everything must be done through iTune.
      Same for the Kindle fire and the Nook
      Nexus 10 is a spyware. Sorry Google but I don't trust you anymore
      The only devise that can connect easily on my Windows network, allow me to synch easily with all my other computing divises (laptop, phone, desktop, using SkyDrive), use Office as well as other Apps including all the one that I need (Skype, Netflix, games, News from all the major medias) is the Surface RT

      I have an iPad that I don't use anymore, a Playbook that I still like and use because of it's zippyness and it's no nonsense Interface and now I have a Surface rt 64gig. The surface rt is the winner.
      • iTunes?

        "The iPad is a clostrophobic product where everything must be done through iTune."

        Sorry, but you don't need to go anywhere near iTunes to use an iPad.
        • music, video, document

          Everything on an iPad must be done the Apple's way even connecting to a bluetooth printer. Apple are control freaks that I just don't understand. Don't get me wrong I own 5 brand new iMac for the Office, an iPad, my son and daughter have iPod and I do appreciate Apple stuff and I beleive Apple have an excellent product list. The problem is that they just don't in a non Apple environnement.
          • I own an iPad and a Surface RT

            I think you are all being pretty silly. That iPad is a very capable device. Certainly it benefits from lots of Apps, and some of them are pretty darn good...sure, there is a lot of junk too but overall, you can find lots of good apps. I'm not sure I buy into the whole "ecosystem" argument, however. I'd say, some people confuse ecosystem with Apps. iOS isn't really much of an ecosystem. It has great apps. It has light integration with iCloud. Its apps are distributed through the iTunes store, but to call it a coherent ecosystem, is a stretch.

            The Surface RT is a surprisingly good piece of hardware. Although it doesn't have a retina screen, I'd say it is somewhere between the iPad 2 and iPad3/4 in terms of quality. Movie quality is sharper and smoother than the iPad, but Text on the iPad 3/4 is sharper for reading.

            The Surface RT doesn't have as many Apps as the iPad, which is to be expected, but don't underestimate what it comes with out of the box. The Office suite is stunningly good. The basic apps like Mail, Calendar, Video, Music, People, Weather, Maps News, Sports, Camera, Internet Explorer, Photos, Finance etc. are all very good. SkyDrive is wonderfully integrated throughout the OS and is a foreshadowing of what iCloud could one day become. Tack on Skype, Lync and Messenger and your communication hub becomes very versatile.

            But, it still needs apps. They are coming quickly, but it needs apps.

            An often overlook app is Remote Desktop. The Remote Desktop app on Surface is unlike anything I've ever seen...and I wonder why it hasn't been done before. With the ability to use the tablet as a giant trackpad in Remote Desktop, you are no longer limited to only Metro apps...and it works well.

            Integration with Exchange, SharePoint, Messenger, Skype, Lync, SkyDrive, Xbox. The ability to access network shares, other computers on the network, printers, DLNA devices. The ability to use the USB port for hundreds of thousands of existing devices, Wacom tablets, webcams, USB audio devices, keyboard, mouse, trackball, xbox controller, etc. etc....and you begin to realize that even the RT device is more than we ever expected. Now that is integration. That is a real ecosystem.

            Bottom line. iPad has an App for that. Surface has the promise of something more amazing.
      • Glad you have the 64GB one...

        because at least you start with 49GBs. The 32GB model only gives you half.

        Too F'N funny.
        Arm A. Geddon
        • nop

          I poped in an sd card and now I have 32 gig more + 30 gig of free skydrive storage. Try that on an iPad
          • You said it gbouchard99! Just buy an SD card!

            iPad owners are suckers - we Surface owners can drop coin on a SD card. All those chumps can do is sign up for iCloud, giving them access to unlimited gigabytes of movies, TV shows, audio and video music tracks, books, magazines, documents, etc. Who wants to have to choose between all that media when we can carry a tidy 32 G on board for some extra coin?
          • Amazon Prime gives me all that far more cheaply than Apple

            The article is correct in pointing out what you get with a Kindle. If he likes reading on an iPhone, he would love my S3! I'm thinking a Paperwhite might not be a bad idea because it does one thing and does it very well. I could read on it at home and keep the same page ready on my phone.
    • I can see why you wouldn't want to buy a Surface RT

      As Dave pointed out, other tablets are lighter or less expensive so if weight and price are an issue (and they are for a lot of people) then an Android tablet would be better.

      However, there is absolutely no reason to ever buy an iPad. It simply doesn't offer any benefit over the Surface RT. It is comparable in content consumption (unless you are watching video in which case iPad sucks). However, it is completely useless for content creation.

      As for the ecosystem, there are 2 aspects to that. Surface RT supports an ecosystem of 420 million hardware peripherals. iPad supports, well, let's be nice and just say that iPad doesn't.

      As for software, I spent over a year trying to find good content creation apps in the iPad's ecosystem. There aren't any. Not one in the 250,000 app store. Pages? Please, that was probably the worst out of all of them. MS Office trumps 250,000 fart apps.
      • Ah, the persistently narrow-minded, intolerant idiocy

        You and LD CANNOT (or choose not to) see that this is a world of many different needs, desires, priorities and preferences.

        What is the matter with you two?

        If someone, after a careful evaluation, decides that an iPad is best for them, who the hell are you to tell them that they are wrong?

        You REALLY need to get over yourselves. You both (and others here) have a pretty despicable mindset.
        • I'm sure that everybody agrees

          that consumers should THINK FOR THEMSELVES. Do not just listen to "either side" in this forum (Microsoft supporters, Apple supporters, Android supporters etc.), but try the devices YOURSELF and make the correct decision FOR YOU.
          • Exactly!!

            Arm A. Geddon
          • in an ideal world

            There would be no Apple. But we're working on one thing at a time. If you want to be productive, go android or windows. If you want to be ignorant and viewed as sheep and being stereotyped as a 11 year old girl, then go ipad.
        • D.T.Long ...Please don't call Loverock Davidson-, gbouchard99,.toddbottom3

          NARROW MINDED.....

          they can't help that fact as they all feel like they can walk on water when it comes to IT......

          but I totally agree with you I do wish they would get over theselves as they can't seem to except that others may have a totally different opinion and if there opinions work for then, then its totally exceptable........
          Over and Out
          • Hi!

            Hello there!!!
            Loverock Davidson-
          • Hi

            I don't walk on water but I am tired of people bashing pruducts that don't know of. I have the chance to be a .net developper, a teacher, a t-sql programmer and do have access to most of the new software and hardware out there. I have tried to love Apple and I bought an iPad, and an iMac, I used for a while and then I felt frustrated by Apple's narrow view. Then I bought a few Android tablets. I then realized how bad they are and how I hated their design and graphic Interface.

            The rt is not perfect and I wouldn't try to sell it that way but it a whole lot more than any other tablet right now. Most of the time, it makes perfect sens. I can't the same about any iPad or even a Nexus. Numbers and figures don't count. The only thing that is how much a device can be usefull and fun in the same time.
          • you need to

            Invest in a spell checker, even a cheap one.
        • FYI, Toddbottom3 used iPad (based on his posts) prior to buying Surface RT

          And I have 4 types of tablets with me iPad 2, Samsung Galaxy Tab (original), Sony Tablet S, HP TouchPad, and Surface RT. And when I talk something, I base it on my personal experience unlike few of us here who constantly bang their disliking platform. I am not pointing fingers at you and hate say this, but you also are part of that "few of us".
          Ram U
          • we need edit.

            I am not pointing fingers at you and hate to say this, but you also are part of that "few of us".
            Ram U