Some time this year, mobile devices will outsell desktop computers for the first time.
So some of you are going to get a tablet. The question is, what kind?
First you have to pick an operating system – Apple or Android.
I can’t answer that for you, but if you’re going to pick a new device – a tablet, or a phone – you really will be better off if you can see one in action. Reviews start popping up pretty quickly for most devices, but nothing is as direct as conducting your own test drive. You’re going to live with your choice for a while, so knowing its strengths and weaknesses will help you decide.
I’m not in the market right now – more about my newest tablet in a couple days – but the folks at AT&T just sent me an HTC Jetstream to test for a few days. (That's an AT&T photo, by the way.)
The Jetstream is a compact tablet, about the size and weight of an iPad, with a 10.1-inch screen. It runs Android 3.1 (Honeycomb -- the newest version of Android is called Ice Cream Sandwich; this is one version older, but the standard for most tablets right now) with a custom interface of widgets and commonly used apps on the home screen. It has 4G LTE (which means better speed and less lag time than 3G) and wifi capabilities. The model I had came with a 16-gb internal card. You can get one with 32 gb. There are no external ports for more storage.
Battery life is remarkably good in light use. Standby seems almost not to drain the battery at all. It recharges from 20 percent back to about 85 percent in an hour.
I used Pandora to check sound quality, and even through my cheap headphones, this thing sounds awesome. The volume on the speakers on the Jetstream is better than anything else I’ve heard. But unlike the headphone sound, the speaker sound quality is average, at least to my ears.
The Jetstream synced new email faster than either my desktop machine or my tablet when all three were sitting side by side.
Using the AT&T-branded QR code scanner took me right away to a National Geographic site for an upcoming dinosaur movie. (Love those dinosaurs, although not necessarily in 3D.)
But this is where I began to have problems with the Jetstream. The movie site took longer to load than with my tablet, and the trailer playback was choppy and came to a halt three times. (It played perfectly on my wifi tablet.) I tested connecting at a couple places around town, out by Parkland College and in west central Champaign, as well as a couple places in downtown Champaign. The tablet generally took a long time to load anything online, from downloading apps to checking websites to using Facebook.
Being able to connect anywhere via the cell network is a big draw for these tablets. Maybe I just picked dead zones, but it didn’t give me confidence that I’d be able to use this while traveling.
I tried the 8-megapixel rear-facing camera for both stills and video. At first, both were completely unusable – lines of some sort of interference were on the still images and throughout the video playback. I restarted the tablet and both then worked fine, so I think that was just an anomaly.
I transferred a video file from my computer to the tablet and that worked great. The device was instantly recognized and the transfer was quick. The adapter plug, by the way, is proprietary – one of my peeves generally.
Watching the video turned out to be a little trickier -- I thought that perhaps the app called “Movies” would play my movie file, but I was wrong. Neither did the app called “Watch.” I didn’t look any further, just downloaded Rock Player Lite, and there was my movie. It played flawlessly (this tablet has a 1.5 Ghz dual-core processor).
The tablet costs $749.99 with no contract and $599.99 with a contract. You’ll pay $35 a month for up to 3gb of use and $50 a month for up to 5gb.
Here are some previous tablet reviews: