A few weeks ago, one of our faculty asked me for recommendations (or anti-recommendations) for tablet computers. I thought this might be a good topic for my blog. So, What's new in tablets?
My two cents: It depends on what you want to do with the tablet. Most people use tablets for consuming content or light input: surfing the Web, watching videos, replying to a few quick emails, checking Facebook, playing games. For that, almost any tablet will work. I prefer Apple's iPad (the larger one, $500) for these kinds of activities. It's very easy to do all of that, and the user interface is very nice. And most developers release versions of their apps for iOS (iPad and iPhone) first, so you'll have access to lots of extras via Apple's App Store, many of which have free versions. You can get an iPad version of Google Gmail which I love, but you'll have to sync your Google Calendar through another method to get it into the iPad Calendar. I also use my iPad to play Angry Birds, Bad Piggies, and Plants versus Zombies.
And I haven't used it, but Google's Nexus 10 tablet ($400) is supposed to be very good. Basically the same as an iPad, and you'd use it in the same way (surfing the Web, watching videos, replying to a few quick emails, checking Facebook, playing games). Google has a nice app store too called the Google Play Store. Almost all the apps you'd find in Apple's App Store are in the Play Store, including Facebook and most of the same games. And you can use the native Gmail client and native Google Calendar client to sync your Gmail and Calendar directly, all at once. In one of the screenshots, you can see a search box at the top of the screen with a microphone icon—that's Voice Search, which lets you ask questions like Apple's Siri. (Siri has "cute" answers for a lot of things, which are less helpful—but I find Google's Voice Search is more direct.)
Typing on a tablet can be kind of hard on your fingers, since you are just tapping on an on-screen keyboard, which is on glass. Imagine tapping on glass for a few hours. You can buy a separate wireless keyboard for either the iPad or Nexus.
If you use iTunes to purchase songs or rent movies, and you already own an iPhone or iPod for music/videos, then buying an iPad will be an easy transition as you can sync your iPad with the same music & videos.
I recommend against buying a Microsoft Surface. (The "Surface Windows RT" is $500, the "Surface Windows 8 Pro" is $900. The difference is the "RT" uses slightly different hardware, so cannot run "regular" Windows Surface programs.) We purchased one in Computing Services as a demo, and I don't like it. I find Surface very hard to use—but this may be personal taste, a few others like the Surface very much. But Surface does have one thing in its favor: a very nice keyboard/case add-on (about $100 if you buy it with the Surface, about $120 if you buy it separately). Let me know if you'd like to stop by sometime to give the Surface a test run.
If you prefer to do lots of typing on something that's lightweight and inexpensive, you may instead be interested in a Google Chromebook. Technically, this isn't a tablet; it's a lightweight laptop (about 2.4 lbs, and over 6 hours of battery before you have to charge it again). They have a few different models. I bought the Samsung Chromebook ($250) for my wife a month or so ago, as a "second laptop," and she now prefers the Chromebook exclusively. It doesn't run Windows applications, or Mac applications—it does everything on the Web. Literally, all it does is boot the laptop (in under 8 seconds) and run the Chrome web browser. You do everything in the web browser (Facebook, videos, games, etc.) The trade-off is that you always have to have an Internet connection. They have some off-line capability, but I haven't tried that. We also picked up a Samsung Chromebook in Computing Services as a demo. Let me know if you'd like to try it out or borrow it.