What size Tablet is right for you? Well, in my view, I wouldn’t let anyone else make that judgement for you. It all depends on what you need and want to do on a Tablet that will determine the best fit. Most of what you want to do on a Tablet these days is not limited by the screen size. If there are limitations they belong to the operating systems that power the Apps, but even those limitations are few and far between. What’s key is how you want to view AND want to touch the world inside that window that your Tablet provides. We’ve seen various screen sizes from various Tablet makers for quite some time now. But, in my view it is only lately that these choices have become a viable mainstream choice for consumers.
Google’s Nexus 7 and Amazon’s Kindle Fire HD (and its predecessor) have proven what many have said all along that the 7-inch form factor is attractive to many consumers. The iPad mini that is supposed to begin arriving for some users tomorrow will certainly continue that trend. Google and Samsung are unleashing its next 10-incher here shortly under the Nexus brand called the Nexus 10. The low price point ($399) will make it serious competition for Apple’s industry leading iPad (now in its 4th generation). Keep in mind though that the iPad 2 is still on the market for $399. And Microsoft is finally in the game with its widescreen 10-inch format Surface RT, as are a few OEMs that use Microsoft’s Windows platform. There are certainly other Tablets out there for the Android Platform as well. With the exception of Amazon’s still to come 8-inch Fire HD (due to hit customers hands later this month), we’re looking at a world of choices that settle on the 7-inch form factor and the 10-inch form factor. For the sake of this post I’m going to break things into those two categories: 7-inch and 10-inch although those broad dimensions don’t cover all the permutations.
Again, no one can pick what size Tablet is best for you. This is how I see these sizes and shapes fit into my Tablet experience. So, while you’re mileage may indeed vary and I doubt too many folks will have all three of the devices I’m looking at here at their disposal, I can offer one person’s view here.
The 10-Inch Form Factor
There’s one principle reason that the 10-inch Form Factor is my preferred size for a Tablet. That’s Digital Inking. I need the screen real estate to spill my digital ink on when I’m scrawling notes. I was used to larger Tablets back in the prehistoric Tablet PC days, but since using the iPad, I realize that a 10-inch screen covers most of my note taking needs. I’m anxious to see what Windows 8 Pro brings to the table and the Tablet regarding Digital Inking. As I said in my Surface RT review, that device sadly isn’t built for this kind of work. The iPad is certainly not a perfect tool for digital Inking either, but thanks to work that some of the developers of Apps like Penultimate, Noteshelf, and Stan Misanikov and his company Phatware (PhatPad, Writepad) there are some choices that make this a doable but not perfect solution on the iPad.
I also use the 10-inch iPad to view scripts when I am in rehearsal for a show. Smaller sizes wouldn’t work for me here.
The 10 inch form factor is also great for viewing video at my desk when I choose to do that as a secondary function while I’m working. As for reading, I prefer the smaller size form factors for eBooks, but the 10-inch size suits me well when I’m in browsing mode.
Speaking of browsing, I also prefer the 10-inch form factor for web browsing because I can get more, and easily readable content on the screen, especially in portrait mode.
When it comes to getting work done on a Tablet beyond note-taking, I prefer the 10 inch form factor, once again because I can see and get more info on the screen. In using a keyboard, my actions between touching the keys and touching the screen line up very well here and that’s important.
The 7-Inch Form Factor
Reading is the key function here. Whether it is eBooks, articles I’ve saved to read later, or perusal scripts, the smaller size form factor feels more natural in my hand.
The mobile nature of the smaller size form factor makes the smaller device preferable to take places where I might be waiting in line. That usually means I’m reading something, but occasionally it means some game play.
I actually prefer the 7-inch form factor for doing email chores. It forces me to be brief and concise if I choose to reply and allows me to put off emails that require a longer answer until I can gather my thoughts.
Now, none of the tasks I’ve listed above need to be or are exclusive to one sized form factor or the other in my usage. Those are my preferences as I’ve watched them develop in these recent months. (I’ve had a Nexus 7 for a few months now.)
The Windows Surface RT has thrown some interesting new twists into my thinking and usage, as I continue to work with it and I’m anxious to see what changes down the road as more
Metro Windows 8 Apps Metro Apps appear. (The heck with it. I’m still sticking with Metro.) While I have some real issues with the Surface RT in this first implementation, (see the review here), I find there are some very appealing things about the size and form factor. That is as long as I am comfortable in landscape mode.
While you may not be able to put your hands on each of these devices in any one retail location, I would offer that it is a good idea to at least check out the different size differences that are offered in locations like Best Buy. You need to imagine how you’ll be using a Tablet to make that worthwhile, because in most cases, holding the devices can be very seductive.
Of course things are limited to what I’ve talked about here. Quite a few folks are using the larger sized smartphones in the same ways I use a Tablet. Certainly if that works for you it could be a compromise without being compromising. But, then that’s the exciting about where we are now with the choices that we have before us.