Tablet Purchasing Guide
Revised January 22, 2013
This tablet purchasing guide includes guidance and specifications from Information Systems & Computing (ISC) for a rapidly changing category of system: tablets. ISC distinguishes between two sharply distinct categories: the relatively mature Windows-based and Intel/AMD-powered Tablet PC notebooks (covered in the Notebook Purchasing Guide) and the new and rapidly changing mobile operating-system-based tablets. Only tablets are covered in this document.
Tablets are a far newer category than Tablet PCs. All tablets support touch-based interaction with fingers, often as the primary or only method of data entry. ISC has seen extremely rapid change in this segment and expects this to continue for at least the next year. Currently, ISC is providing guidance but no hardware or software specifications, except a recommendation that any tablet purchased should have at least 32 GB of storage (or the maximum available if that is less than 32 GB).
Tablets tend to weigh between one and two pounds and have 7 to 10-inch screens, though some devices are a bit larger or smaller. In the University environment, a tablet is suitable only as a complementary device to a more capable desktop or notebook. Though accessories such as keyboards and stands replicate some notebook functionality, it should not be deployed as a user's only computer.
A current example of a tablet is Apple's iOS-based fourth-generation iPad; a profusion of Android-based tablets from HTC, Lenovo, Motorola, Samsung, and others have been released over the last several months. Tablets based on Microsoft's Windows RT became available in October 2012 - an early example is Microsoft's own Surface.
ISC sees uses for current tablets as specific functions, not general purpose. Examples include mobile data entry, email triage, light web browsing, and kiosk use. Tablets generally do not function well for heavy document, spreadsheet, or photo editing. Tablet users should be cautioned that not all tablets have encrypted hard-drives and thus could leave confidential information vulnerable if the device is lost or stolen. Also, WiFi-only tablets cannot receive remote wipe commands when beyond the range of recognized networks. This is of particular concern as tablets are used for more notebook-like activities.
Support for tablets is substantially different than for Tablet PCs or other notebook computers and in many ways resembles support for smartphones. Users should be cautioned that applications available from platform stores may not undergo rigorous vetting and could leave sensitive data at risk. Pay close attention to application permissions and reviews, which may contain additional information about application reliability and hazards.
These specifications and guidance are revised when major changes in tablets from Apple, Dell, Lenovo, and other vendors become generally available.
Tablet manufacturers with which ISC has had good experience with include Apple and Samsung.
If your school or center is considering a tablet purchase, ISC strongly recommends a consultation to weigh pros and cons in today's rapidly changing environment (contact John Mulhern III in ISC, firstname.lastname@example.org; 573-3567).
Information Systems and Computing
University of Pennsylvania
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