Tablets: What can you actually do with them?

When you want to buy a tablet, the most important choice you have to make is which operating system you choose. Apple's iOS, Google's Android or Microsoft's Windows? Despite the fact that the operating systems differ considerably, there are of course also quite a few similarities.

When Apple released the first iPad, the device was not enthusiastically received by everyone. After all, who was waiting for a big iPod touch? We now know better and the tablet has become an indispensable device for many. For the first time, there is a mobile device that is powerful enough to run complex software and connect wirelessly to the Internet, yet is compact enough to fit in any bag.

Due to the relatively large screen, unlike a smartphone, a tablet has the right size to comfortably read text and edit it if necessary. In fact, pretty much all the functionality you'd expect from a notebook is squeezed into a device you can work on in places you couldn't before.


The software on a tablet is perhaps even more important than the hardware. The operating systems all offer a slightly different user experience. There are differences in the way you browse the web, manage images, and sync email. There is also a big difference between the different operating systems in both the quantity and quality of the apps.

No matter how good an operating system is, without apps you will probably get bored of your tablet quickly. We can be brief about the amount of apps: the iPad still has the best papers in the app area (475,000 iPad apps at the time of writing), while Windows 8.1/RT has the smallest app offering.

Windows 8/RT currently offers the fewest apps, but that could change.

As with normal apps, the iPad is also the platform with the largest offer for games. The latest iPad Air and iPad mini with Retina display are graphically very powerful and capable of displaying beautiful visual effects. Something seen in games like Mass Effect Infiltrator and Infinity Blade 3 (review).

There are also high-quality games for Android, but there are a lot fewer in number. That is not due to the capabilities of the best Android tablets. Rockstar's Grand Theft Auto 3 runs just as smoothly on an Android tablet as it does on the iPad and looks just as good. Windows tablets include similar hardware, but currently offer a lot fewer games.

The App Store on the iPad is well stocked with both paid and free games.

The iPad's popularity with developers is due to its higher market share and limited hardware offerings. Developers know the iPad's strengths and weaknesses better than they do for the entire line of Android tablets that use different graphics chips.

Android also offers an infinite number of new apps.


Because tablets are designed to be immediately ready to use and always on standby, they are ideal for quickly checking if you have new mail messages. iOS, Android and Windows are perfectly suited to use for email. We do not have a clear favorite in this area.

Apple lets you use different webmail services, Exchange, IMAP or POP3 accounts. You can link all of these to the Inbox, so that you can quickly find new messages. Reminders, appointments and contacts can be synced with the iOS apps.

When you start using an Android tablet, the device will ask you for your Google account, with which the tablet automatically also uses your Gmail address. The Google account is used for all Google services, including Picasa, Google Docs and YouTube. Although a Google account is always linked to the tablet, the different manufacturers sometimes treat e-mail in their own way. Samsung, for example, has its own mail program. Like iOS, Android also works with Exchange servers and also supports IMAP and POP3 accounts.

In Windows 8.1/RT, email is handled by the Email app. Of course you can use an account, but other mail services are also well supported, as we are used to from Windows.

Like Android and Windows, the iPad supports the most popular email accounts.


One of the reasons to buy a tablet is to watch videos. Movies and TV series do take up a lot of space. A tablet with 16 gigabytes or less of memory can quickly become too small if you mainly want to use a tablet to watch videos. However, the video service Netflix (review) is available for all platforms, which lets you stream movies and series online.

Music that you already have can be listened to on any tablet without any problems. For videos, this is a bit more difficult because tablets do not support all file formats. The iPad is the most picky about what it plays. You therefore almost always have to convert your own videos to a format that is played by iOS. You can use a program like Handbrake ( to convert a video to a suitable format. Then you record the movie in your iTunes library and put it on the iPad. Fortunately, the VLC app lets you play multiple file formats on the iPad.

Android 4.3 and Windows 8.1 (RT) are a lot less picky when it comes to video formats and can play more formats on their own. So you have a good chance that a movie will work without converting. However, not all video files can be played and, for example, audio also causes problems with the Android tablets with the NVIDIA Tegra 3. For example, an audio track in the DTS format will not be played back. Of course you can also use a program such as Handbrake on an Android or Windows tablet to convert a file.

Whichever tablet you choose, you can never completely avoid having to convert (some) video files. A tablet with a USB port is useful because you can then put your videos on a stick and play sequels. Almost all Windows tablets and most Android tablets have a USB port.


If you really want to work on a tablet, you can't get around a keyboard. All tablets support separate bluetooth keyboards. It would be nicer to purchase an official keyboard that comes with your tablet, if available. Your tablet is often neatly used here so that you get a kind of small laptop. Apple itself does not make such a thing for the iPad, most other manufacturers do have their own keyboard stocks for tablets.

All tablets can be connected to a keyboard and there are special docks for some tablets, such as this ASUS Transformer Prime.

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