FOGEY 5 Tablets

Mar 22, 2013 No Comments by

Tablets and smartphones. Tablets and smartphones. And maybe noodly cameras. These are pretty much the only consumer electronic categories showing consistent, significant growth, which is why Apple and Samsung are rolling in so much dosh. This is where most articles would now quote millions and billions in terms of sales and revenue over a certain period. Tech Fogey could do this but who cares? The numbers are big. Big deal.

Few punters and even fewer tech-sayers saw the tablet boom coming even after the dawn of the iPad. Smartphones, yes, but not so much the larger swipey, jabby, tappy tabs. Who needs an iPad? They’re just toys. Like laptops and netbooks but not as useful.

Nobody knows anything.

Tablet screen size probably has much to do with viewing distances, not wanting an achy shoulder from having too big a space to be sliding your mucky paws over or having a great hulking machine to wrestle with on a crowded train. There are now two standard screen sizes: 7(ish) inches and 10.1 inches. That 0.1 of an inch seems ever so random and if you know why it’s 10.1 inches and not 10 please keep it to yourself.

So that’s your first choice; small or even smaller?

But we’re getting ahead of ourselves because this isn’t a Buying Guide or a Category Overview, it’s a Fogey 5. We’ve done the grunt-work of researching and canvassing informed opinion to save you the bother.

As a category, there still aren’t that many tablets out there, especially compared with TVs of which there are kerzillions. TF scoured ten of the best tech reviews websites to reach the consensus below. Only 27 different tablets featured in any website’s top ten. There were a few considerations prior to the aggregation; tablets launched before 2012 weren’t included, for example. There’s also the tedious habit tech websites have of regarding two tablets as distinct and separate when the only difference is one is wi-fi only and the other is wi-fi plus 3G/4G, or one has 16GB of internal storage and the other 32GB. So we’ve not made those distinctions. There was some hoo-ha when the iPad 3 was launched because there was a 4G version but it only worked with the flavour of 4G available in the US. If any of the Fogey 5 tablets promise 4G connectivity we will point out whether that 4G functions in the UK. It’s an issue, really. The iPhone 5 smartphone only works with EE’s 4G frequencies and no one else’s. So if you have an iPhone 5 on Vodafone, for example, it will be using their 3G frequencies. That Apple will go to the trouble of making an iPhone 5 that runs on the newer 4G frequencies the government has just flogged off is extremely unlikely. Here endeth the lesson.


Apple iPad Mini

7.9 inches of throbbing tab

One of the rare occasions when Apple was beaten to the punch by Google (Nexus 7) and Amazon (Kindle Fire HD) in the race to introduce a smaller tablet. But being first isn’t always a good thing in terms of market domination; the iPhone wasn’t the first smartphone and the iPod wasn’t the first digital music player. It was their intuitive functionality that made them hits with consumers (well, if you have the intuitive tendencies of a 12 year old) and allowed them to set benchmarks and monopolise the zeitgeist. But back to the iPad Mini. Battery life is good (around 10 hours in use), it’s light (312g against 652g for a full-sized iPad) and looks lush. However, it’s relatively expensive (£349 for the 32GB version against £199 for the 32GB Google Nexus 7), the screen resolution isn’t what it might have been and the smaller size means it’s trickier to tap icons, although that’s even more true of smartphones and no one seems to be grumbling about that. Unless you’ve been living under a rock or are old enough to remember when everyone just adored Sir James Wilson Vincent Savile OBE KCSG (forgotten he was a knight of the realm, had we?) you might not be aware of all the wonders a tablet such as the iPad can perform. So: watch TV, play video games, take photographs, look at photographs, make Skype video calls, make videos, surf the Web, send emails, write stuff, watch stuff, listen to stuff, do time-wasting or work displacement stuff. Tablet PCs really are miraculous for filling the passing hours with inane flannel. With undue deference to those who work with clay, the iPad could be more accurately named the iPotter. Pottering – it’s how old duffers with nothing better to do as they dodder towards the grave, spend their days. And now we can all potter with a pad. And feel better for doing so, because using a tablet marks us down as cool and with it in ways that making endless cups of tea and nibbling custard creams while gazing balefully at Cash in the Attic simply doesn’t.

But we digress. Again.

The best thing about the iPad Mini is it fits in a standard-size jacket pocket. Sort of. Which makes it easier to lug around than a 10.1-inch tab. But you’d be mad to buy one just now because there’s an iPad Mini 2 in the offing. Although having said that, when the Mini 2 does arrive the original model will likely be discounted. Swings, roundabouts etc.

“The iPad Mini is the best iPad Apple has ever created,” said Tech Radar. “It offers better value for money, sits more pleasantly in the hand and can handle all the tasks you want at least adequately and many times better than you’d expect.”

“The iPad Mini is a joy to use and one which, thanks to its slightly larger 7.9-inch display is immersive and perfectly sized for a combination of business and pleasure purposes,” said Trusted Reviews.

Launched Q4 2012.

Wi-Fi only: £269 (16GB), £349 (32GB) £429 (64GB)
Wi-Fi + 3G: £369 (16GB), £449 (32GB, £529 (64GB)

More info here  Buy Apple iPad Mini 16GB Wi-Fi (Black&Slate) for £260


Google Nexus 10 & Nexus 7

Google Nexus 7 chirpy chirpy cheap cheap

It would make sense, if we’re going to put these two Googles together, to have put the iPad 4 (which isn’t its official name but is marginally less clunky than ‘iPad with retina display’) together with the iPad Mini but TF thinks sense and consistency to be somewhat over-rated.

Are we familiar with the competing operating systems – Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android? Some commentators think punters care about which operating system (OS) their devices run but each does pretty much the same thing and whichever you have, you get used to it. This does tend to promulgate a sort of blind loyalty to one or the other, so if you’re moving on from an iPhone 4 chances are it’ll be to an iPhone 5. The thing with Android is that more devices use it; only Apple uses iOS because that’s the way Apple wants it. Android users include Samsung, HTC, Sony and, of course, Google, whose Nexus tabs are developed in cahoots with Asus (7) and Samsung (10). According to Wikipedia, “Android had a worldwide smartphone market share of 75 per cent during the third quarter of 2012, with 500 million devices activated in total and 1.3 million activations per day.” Cripes! What a lot. There are other operating systems for tabs and smartphones such as Windows in Nokia smartphones and BlackBerry’s OS but iOS and Android dominate.

There’s also the obvious notion that it’s Nexus 7 v iPad Mini and Nexus 10 v iPad 4, so we could have dealt with them that way. But we don’t have the energy.

The consensus is that each Nexus tab has a wonderful screen, great build quality and is the best Android tablet in its respective size category. Each is also much cheaper than its Apple equivalent. Another plus-point is Google’s tabs and smartphones get Android OS upgrades before anyone else. And apparently the latest, oh-so-whackily named ‘Jelly Bean’ 4.2 OS is rather accomplished. There are some qualms about the availability of tab-specific Android apps (apps designed for smartphones don’t always work that well on the larger screens of tablets) but that paucity will only improve. The Nexus 7 is small enough to cart around in a pocket or chuck in a bag whereas the feeling seems to be that the Nexus 10’s niche is as a home device.

Google Nexus 10

Each Nexus tab is very popular and supply doesn’t always keep up with demand. Consequently some sellers on Amazon are charging a premium for the Nexus 10 – £374.99 for the 16GB model, for example, which is only £319 direct from Google Play. The 16GB Nexus 7 is £159 at Google Play and £185 on Amazon. So, go Play. Launched Q3 2012 (Nexus 7) and Q4 2012 (Nexus 10).

“If you want a cheap or small tablet, buy the Nexus 7; if you want the best performance, get the Nexus 10. And if both are too big for your needs, buy the Nexus 4: Google owns the Android mobile market right now,” said PC Advisor.

“With the latest Android Jelly Bean software, a high-definition screen and quad-core processor, the Google Nexus 7 is a jaw-dropping bargain,” said Cnet. And of the Nexus 10: “With a super high-definition screen, powerful components and the latest Android software on board, the Nexus 10 cleanly beats all its Android rivals. Better yet, it costs less than most too.”

More info and buy here


Apple iPad 4

Apple iPad with retina display

“With retina display” it says, as though anyone fully appreciates what that actually means. The gist is that the human eye can’t discern individual pixels when they’re packed together at a resolution of 264 pixels per inch, which is what the iPad 4 boasts. So there. And the Google Nexus 10’s resolution is 300 pixels per inch, which seems better but logic would suggest you couldn’t see that difference. Compared with the previous iPad, the 4 also has a more powerful processor and a better front-facing camera so you look less like blurry Vaseline-Man on Face-Time, Apple’s version of the Skype video call. The 4, as with the iPhone 5, also uses Apple’s new-ish Lightning connector plug for charging and docking. The advantage is you can’t put it in the wrong way round, the disadvantage is it renders all your old chargers redundant unless you shell out £25 for an adaptor.

All iPad screens have a 4:3 ratio. All movies are in 16:9 and competing tabs such as the Asus Transformer Pad Infinity, Amazon Kindle Fire HD and Google Nexus 7 have screens which display at this ratio. So, as with 4:3 ratio TV sets, when watching a 16:9 ratio movie there will be black bars above and below the picture.

Should you be a mentally deficient moneybags there is a wi-fi plus 4G version of the iPad 4 that works with EE’s 4G.

It’s heavier than previous iPads. You might get wrist ache, your poor poppet.


“The new iPad with Retina Display is the best large tablet going with better battery life and performance than both the iPad 3 and the other large tablet competition,” said Trusted Reviews.

“The latest iPad adds several tweaks and improvements to secure its position at the top of the tablet heap. It’s better all around, but third-gen owners need not apply,” said

Launched Q4 2012

More info here  Buy 16GB Apple iPad 4 in black for £368.90


Microsoft Surface RT

Microsoft Surface RT with optional keypad

Google’s Android operating system was designed to power smartphones and then tablets. Google has an operating system for PCs called Chrome. Unlike its 75 per cent market share of mobile OS, Chrome only has a 37 per cent share of PC OS, although this still makes it the most widely used browser in the world. More so than Internet Explorer or Firefox. Who knew? And to add a slice of irony Microsoft was fined £484 million by the EU in March 2012 for being slightly anti-competitive when it comes to PC Internet browsers. Windows PCs come with Internet Explorer as the default browser, not Mozilla’s Firefox or Chrome or Yahoo. It’s as if all cars, regardless of the badge on the bonnet, had a Ford engine. Anyhoo, Bill Gates could have paid the fine out of the loose change down the back of his sofa. Although it does mean that money which might have gone to Bill and wife Melinda’s philanthropic ventures will now be trousered by EU pen-pushers.

And even though Microsoft is demonstrably playing catch-up in the mobile arena, in terms of wares both soft and hard, the geek media was rather taken with their first jab at a tablet. There are several options in terms of storage capacity but the principal decision will be whether to go with a flexible keyboard/screen cover that has touch-sensitive keys or a solid one that has proper resistive keys like those you’d find on a laptop. Either way, each is an optional extra at £99.99 and £109.99 respectively.

If you’ve never owned a tablet, you’ll soon get used to Microsoft’s on-screen navigation options. If you’re coming from an Apple device it might induce brain-ache. It’s not as though Microsoft is just being wilfully different; patent litigation between tech companies has got so bad in recent years that ‘patent troll’ has entered the lexicon to describe those legal serfs who comb through competitors patents and scream ‘patent infringement!’ at the most tenuous transgressions.

Surface is aimed at PC users who want a tablet that’s also a powerful PC – a proper work/play machine. Battery life is exceptional (up to 8 hours in use), the 16:9 ratio screen is good but could be better, there is handy integral kickstand for propping it up and it features connectivity found on no iPad: full size USB, mini SD and mini HDMI. But…. Aside from for the Office suite and a desktop version of Internet Explorer 10, the RT can’t run what are know as ‘legacy apps’, which is to say all the software you might have already bought that’s loaded onto your existing PC. That also means you’re stuck with IE10 because for now no other browsers will run on a Surface RT.

There’s a useful thread of Surface-user comments from here. The Pro version of Surface that’s discussed in the exchanges on Cnet was launched in the US in Feb 2013 and will be out in the UK in the coming months.

“Microsoft’s hardware designers should be applauded for delivering a solid tablet which delivers a great experience, but now it’s down to the fortunes of the Windows Store to decide whether Microsoft Surface is remembered in history,” said Tech Radar. The reference to the Windows Store relates to there not being that many apps (fewer than 40,000 is the estimate) by comparison with Apple’s App Store with over 300,000 iPad apps.

“It does the job of a tablet and the job of a laptop half as well as other devices on the market, and it often makes that job harder, not easier. Instead of being a no-compromise device, it often feels like a more-compromise one,” said a slightly disgruntled Joshua Topolsky at The Verge. These comments are middling-to-negative to show how even expert reviewers can rarely reach a consensus. It’s also telling that consumer review scores for the Surface RT were often higher, on average, than those of tech website experts.  Oh, and the Surface RT costs Apple money.  Was this wise?

Launched Q4 2012.

More info here  Buy 32GB Microsoft Surface RT for £469.99


Close but no cigar:

Kindle Fire HD 7 inch 16GB £159
Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 16GB £349
Asus Eee Pad Transformer Infinity TF700T 64GB £535


Fogey Find:

Logitech Ultrathin Keyboard

Logitech Ultrathin Keyboard-cum-cover

Turn your iPad into a laptop with a Logitech Ultrathin snap-on keyboard. Its carcass mimics that of an iPad creating a tab sarnie when closed. It communicates wirelessly with your iPad via Bluetooth. There are plenty of other iPad keyboards but this is the best.

“Logitech’s Ultrathin Keyboard Cover might be the best keyboard accessory ever made for the iPad,” said Cnet.

“9 out of 10 – Nearly flawless; buy it now,” said Wired.

More info here

Buy Logitech Ultrathin Keyboard Cover for iPad 2 and iPad 3 – Black for £79.99