Tablet Overview: iPad, Kindle Fire, Nook, Android

It’s a time of year when tablet computers  are bought in large numbers as gifts for self and other.


In my opinion, the iPad is still the champion.  There is really no comparison out there.  All iPads have the same performance and hardware functionality.  The only thing you are shopping for is storage and you will find a 16 GB, 32 GB and 64 GB model.  For the vast majority of people, the 16 GB model will be an exceptional experience.  If you really needed to store a lot of songs or data on the iPad itself then, the 32 GB or 64 GB models seem appropriate.

$499 will get you the WiFi 16 GB version of the iPad.  It will connect to your home wireless network and to other WiFi networks such as coffee shops, hotels, and libraries.   There is still plenty to do on the iPad offline, such as reading books, playing games, and working on documents.  However, if you know you will be needing to get online often in areas that do not have WiFi, well then one of the WiFi + cellular iPads starting at $629 is what you really want.   The $130 upgrade gets you a chance to connect to Verizon or AT&T’s advanced wireless networks for a charge of $20 or $25 extra per month respectively.


The press is ablaze about Amazon’s new Kindle Fire tablet.  It is substantially smaller than the iPad (9.7 in. vs. 7  in.), however, it is large enough for reading purchased Kindle Books.  I cannot emphasize strongly enough — THE KINDLE FIRE IS NOT AN IPAD REPLACEMENT.  Amazon’s knows this even though it make take some subtle advertising jabs at the iPad.  The Kindle Fire will succeed and iPad sales will not slow down at all during the 4th quarter of this year.

If you as as parent or a gift buyer are thinking, I really can only afford $200, so I will buy (name) a Kindle Fire instead of the iPad that he or she really wants,  IT’S A BAD IDEA.  You would be better to get them an iPod Touch if its a $200 Apple product they were after.   The Fire is an Amazon consumption device.  I see it has being more suited toward adults than kids.   The Fire is a very limited tablet computer.

If you or the recipient are someone who ….

A)  Wants to buy Kindle e-books from Amazon,  B) Purchase music from Amazon (which can also be downloaded into iTunes — different topic for a different time),  C)  Rent movies from Amazon,  D) Subscribe to Amazon Prime for $80 a year which allows you to watch thousands of movie and TV show titles for FREE similar to Netflix, E) Shop often at

…. then the Kindle Fire is a great purchase.   It has very weak web browsing capabilities and no built in e-Mail client.   If you or the person you are buying for,  only wants a Kindle for book reading one of the other Kindle’s such as the Kindle Touch (a black and white device), is a much more appropriate purchase.  If the person using the Kindle DOES NOT have easy access to a WiFi internet connection, please purchase one of the “3G” Kindles.  These start at either $139 or $149 depending on the model you choose.  There is no charge for the 3G data use.


I don’t know what the future holds for Barnes and Noble, but I don’t see them going the way of their late competitor, Borders, any time soon.  One year ago, the Nook Color was rated the best e-Book reader on the market.   And B+N just updated the Nook Color with a new version this fall.   You can buy many of the same e-Book titles for Nook as you can for a Kindle device.  However, you cannot mix and match.  Some Nook fans argue that their device is more versatile because it allows one to download e-books loaned by local libraries.  Personally, this doesn’t turn me on.  I still check out books from a physical library, but I would NEVER do it in e-book format.

Don’t buy the Nook Color at $200 because you want an e-Book reader.  If that is the case, the Kindle Touch w/o ads at $139 is a far better buy.

However, if you really are looking for that cheaper, “near iPad” substitute, then the Nook Color is a good buy.  Unlike the Kindle Fire, the Nook Color has an SD card slot just like your digital camera.   And you can buy an SD card ($20) and load the Android operating system on it to use the Nook in its full glory as a true tablet computer.  When turning on the Nook, you will have the option of booting to it its internal memory or the SD card.  Setting up the Nook this way does not affect any Barnes and Noble content that has been purchased or the original software.

However, Barnes and Noble isn’t going to help you set this up.  You will need to follow these instructions to load Android on your SD Card.

It may seem like a scary process, so your friendly, local technology consultant would be happy to do it for you.  You want the Nook Color and not the newly introduced Nook Tablet.

Android Tablets

While I’m such a big fan of Android phones, there is  A LOT of inconsistency among the Android tablets.  While Apple controls the software and design process on every iPad,  Google is like Microsoft in the sense that they do not have a major say in the Android devices that are built.  You can buy a Dell computer, Lenovo or HP without the maker of Windows having a major say in the building of that product.  I think the iPad and Nook Color are excellent choices in the tablet computer market space.  The Kindle Touch is great if you only want a book reader.  Android tablets, advertised as such, are only good if you have some burning reason for an ANDROID TABLET.  You or your recipient has to really want it.  And…. the good ones are really not that much cheaper than the iPad.  So if you want a tablet that’s as big as the iPad — roughly 10 inches — and you aren’t into the whole Apple ecosystem then go Android.

If you fall in this category, please buy one that has been or will soon be updated to the latest Android software, 4.0, known as Ice Cream Sandwich.   Hungry yet?    Sony is making quality Android devices and this one is belongs at the head of the class — the Sony Tablet S.  Interestingly enough this device is marketed as being very friendly for OLDER ADULTS, however a young person will love it as well.