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How to: Choose a tablet for your business

Jon L. Jacobi, Melissa J. Perenson, and Michelle Mastin | Feb. 14, 2012
The idea of using an easy-to-tote tablet for work appeals to you. You can use it for email, note-taking, presentations, accessing the Web, and other business tasks--at least if you're not dependent on complex spreadsheets or physical input.

Each of the Android tablets comes with special note-taking software, such as Notes on the HTC tablets, and My Script Notes Mobile on the ThinkPad. However, if you want to do more drawing, you’ll want to check out Wacom-based Windows slates like the Asus EP121 or the Samsung Series 7. Wacom pens will not work on N-Trig tablets, and vice-versa.

Connectivity and Ports

Wi-Fi: All tablets have Wi-Fi. However, not all have 802.11a, the 5GHz band traditionally used by businesses. 5GHz is also used in newer dual-band consumer-grade routers and can result in a better connection, simply because there are fewer devices using it.

The iPad 2 supports 802.11a, as does the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1, but many others do not. This is a feature some business users might need to connect in their offices.

Broadband: An increasing number of tablets have wireless broadband. Some iPad 2 models provide 3G broadband connectivity to either AT&T or Verizon and on a month-to-month basis--no service agreement. Samsung's 4G Galaxy Tabs, Motorola's 4G LTE Droid XyBoards, and others sold by providers also offer broadband, but these models are on a two-year contract basis. Given the fast pace of change in tablets today, a two-year contract could be too long a commitment for a small business.

If you're buying a tablet with mobile broadband, we suggest sticking with one that has 4G, so you can get the maximum possible speeds. At this writing, you're limited to 3G on an iPad 2.

Ultimately, whether you'll need broadband is something only you can decide, but either way, expect the broadband-enabled tablet to cost more than the baseline model. It might be more flexible for your business to use a mobile hotspot such as Samsung's LTE router, instead.

Bluetooth: You probably want Bluetooth if you have any intention of using a portable keyboard and mouse with your tablet. For connecting peripherals, 2.1 is fine. Few tablets lack Bluetooth, with the exception of some value-priced, consumer-centric models such as Amazon's Kindle Fire and Barnes & Noble's Nook Tablet.

USB: Whether you need USB depends on how you want to store and transfer files, and whether you want to leverage USB peripherals (such as a mouse, gaming pad, or keyboard). Apple's iPad lacks any integrated ports, though you can add one that will communicate with digital cameras for $30. Only a handful of Android tablets, including the Lenovo ThinkPad Tablet, the Acer Iconia A500, and the Toshiba Thrive, have full-size USB ports that will power an external drive. More common are micro-USB and mini-USB ports that won't.

HDMI: If you intend to use your tablet as a presentation tool, and want more folks than those sitting next to you at the table to see what you're showing, you'll need video output. HDMI is by far the most common type--and even the iPad supports it via a $40 adapter.

 

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