Is There a Good Alternative to the iPad?

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With the rise of new Android tablets, and the LeapPad for kids, is there any reason to get an iPad anymore? After all, competition is good, and Apple hasn't updated their device for a few years, leaving a chasm of opportunity for better tablets to fill in the gaps.

Unfortunately, that hasn't happened: Nothing has really appeared that could give the iPad a run for its money. But things could change and, more important, it might be a good idea to shop around if you're thinking about picking up a new tablet or e-reader this year. Here are a few ideas to make your decision easier.

Android is getting better. New tablets are running an improved version of the Android OS called Honeycomb, as well as a new phone version called Ice Cream Sandwich. If the tablet you're looking at doesn't run those OSes, don't even think about buying it. Older and cheaper tablets are rarely, if ever, upgraded to the new hardware and anything other than Honeycomb on a tablet is an exercise in frustration.

Honeycomb adds lots of next generation features and offers a much-improved interface over older Android versions. iOS die-hards should note that Android is often confusing at first, but these tablets can do much that iPads can do at cheaper prices.

There are some great single-purpose tablets out right now. If you don't want to spend all that cash on a new iPad, why not look at the Nook Tablet or Kindle Fire? These tablets are actually e-readers designed to consume only Barnes & Noble and Kindle content, but they work well and support the Android Marketplace.

The Kindle Fire is surprisingly powerful for an e-reader, and if you've been using the e-ink readers in the past, this is an obvious next step. Think of the Kindle Fire as an inexpensive, entry-level tablet with plenty of cool features. It's great for parents, kids, and book fans.

Windows will have some surprises up its sleeve. Windows 8 is going to be a very unique tablet experience with all the power of Windows with a lot of the user interface features found in many new tablet systems. For example, there won't be a desktop in the way we all know and love, but instead the tablet will have a set of tiles that launch apps like Word and Exchange. It is a complete change from what came before, but you'll have to wait until next year to really see a rise in Windows 8 availability.

So, given that there are a few great reasons to go Android this year, why would you go iPad? Well, for starters... 

There will be a new iPad in March. If the rumors are true, expect a new iPad with a better screen this spring. The iPad 3 won't have a "retina display" like the new iPhone, but people are reporting that the screen is indistinguishable from printed text and will improve gaming and graphics considerably. 

Again, no one knows what Apple will (or won't do), but most rumors have a grain of truth, especially when it comes to iPhones and iPads.

Nothing quite matches the iPad right now. It's easy to make a tablet these days, but it's almost impossible to make a good one. I've used quite a few devices over the past year, and nothing has knocked the iPad out of its place in the gadget pantheon. If you're an "anything but iPhone" family, Android will work and work well. If you're looking for the best of breed -- at least right now -- iPad is your best bet.

Are you considering purchasing a tablet? Which one?

 

Image via Apple

 

 

ereaders, gadgets, tablets, apple