June 10, 2011, 7:38 PM — Tablets are new and so it's easy for manufacturers to throw out a blizzard of specs. The ones that really matter, though, are those that determine how quickly a tablet will respond to your input and how well images and text will display on its screen.
Tablets: Specs That Don't Matter
"This Space Intentionally Left Blank": At the moment, there's very little you shouldn't be paying attention to when buying a tablet. Fortunately, manufacturers have refrained from filling tablet specs lists with confusing jargon. Here's hoping things stay that way. Related: How to Buy a Tablet
Tablets: Specs That Sometimes Matter
Ports: With tablets, integrated ports are a double-edged sword. If the ports are built in, you don't need a dongle to add HDMI, an SD Card, or a USB device. Ports add weight and thickness to the tablet, though. For many people, the port-free Apple iPad 2 and Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 are capable, attractive choices; and if you want to add (some) of the aforementioned ports to one or the other, you can easily do so via extra-cost dongles. However, if you plan to buy a tablet and use it for productivity tasks (not just media consumption), find one that has the ports you'll want on board. Related: iPad 2 vs. Xoom vs. Galaxy Tab: Which Tablet Works Best?
Tablets: Specs That Always Matter
Screen resolution: The higher the resolution, the sharper the display--that's a rule of thumb you can count on. While many tablets have crisp 1280-by-800-pixel displays, some--such as the Apple iPad 2 (1024 by 768) and the abysmally low-resolution Dell Streak 7 (800 by 480)--fall shy of that. Because the screen is such an integral and unchangeable part of a tablet, don't skimp on the resolution. Related: High-Res Tablet Display Saves Energy
Processor speed: Most bargain-bin tablets cut corners on the processor, and carry a sub-1GHz CPU. Single-core models, especially those with CPU clock speeds less than 1GHz, are slow. Stick with a dual-core CPU, or a single-core CPU that's at least faster than 1GHz. Related: Your Next Tablet May Have a Quad-Core Chip