But this past spring, Google debuted the Google Nexus 7, which showed what a well-designed small media tablet could be. Now we have the souped-up Kindle Fire HD, and -- as of this past Friday -- Apple's own iPad Mini, an 8-inch tablet that seeks to dominate the media tablet market by being, well, an iPad. (This coming Friday, too late for this review, Barnes & Noble will ship its updated Nook HD 7-inch tablet.) Which should you buy? And can they serve any business use, even if incidental to their entertainment core?
Let's find out.
A good media tablet is all about quality entertainment: music, videos, books, magazines, games, edutainment apps, information services, social networking, Web browsing, and messaging (chat and email). Of course, it needs to be lightweight and easily carried in your hands, purse, or jacket -- and so much the better if it can be used to check on business in a pinch, such as when you're standing in line for the Jungle Cruise ride and your boss has a mini-crisis about one of your accounts.
Deathmatch: Media supportThe primary reason most people want a media tablet is, well, to access media over the Internet. But each media tablet also has its own method of transferring, storing, and organizing media files.
Getting media files onto your tablet. iTunes is Apple's not-so-secret weapon when it comes to media delivery on PCs, Macs, iPads, iPhones, and iPod Touches. It's a media organizer for movies, TV shows, music, podcasts, and books. It lets you buy music, videos, books, and all sorts of apps. It lets you import your own music, videos, and books as well. It syncs your media content to all your devices and keeps purchases consistent. It lets you create playlists; iTunes is the flexible central hub that simply has no rival on any competing device.
Google, Amazon.com, and Barnes & Noble all have music, video, and app stores, as does Microsoft, but they lack iTunes' easy integration of your existing media with the media they sell. Yes, you can use direct transfer of media files (in Windows) or transfer utilities (in OS X), cloud storage, or USB drives to transfer files to these devices, but all are a poor imitation of the iTunes experience.