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E-Readers vs Tablet Computers

E-Reader or Tablet Computer?

It’s hardly surprising that many people get tablet computers and e-readers mixed up. After all, you can use your tablet computer to read e-books if you like (among other things) – and companies like Amazon and Barnes and Noble market both e-readers and tablet computers under the same brand name – the Kindle and the Nook respectively.

However, the fact of the matter is that both these devices are very different – for the moment at least. They may well converge at some point in future, but today, e-readers and tablets are different animals.

Neither is it an “either/or” choice. You can decide to have one of each if you wish. It just depends upon your particular needs and, to some extent, on your budget.

E-Readers v Tablets In A Nutshell

Here’s the short version of the difference between e-readers and tablet computers. See if it helps you to make up your mind as to which one is right for you.

E-Reader Tablet Computer
  • E-ink technology display.
  • Monochrome.
  • Battery life measured in weeks.
  • Ideal for reading for long periods. No eye strain.
  • Clunky web browsing at best.
  • No video playback.
  • Light and portable (8 ounces or less is typical).
  • Relatively cheap (plenty available for less than $ 100)

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  • Back-lit LCD display.
  • Color.
  • Battery life measured in hours.
  • Not ideal for prolonged reading sessions – back-lit screen may cause eye strain.
  • Ideal for browsing.
  • Great video playback.
  • Still portable but heavier (e.g. iPad – 24 ounces).
  • Currently somewhat pricey (but prices are falling fast).

Know what you want now? Check out this post for details of the top tablet computers 2014.

The main differences between e-readers and tablet computers are driven by the display technology. This leads to significant variances in some of the important features – such as battery life and price. If you’re in the market for a new portable electronic device, and you still can’t decide which one is right for you, then check out the information below.

Hopefully, this will help you to decide which device is right for you – or maybe it will just help you decide which one to buy first!

And please, if you have experience of using either of these devices, feel free to leave a comment and share your thoughts. You might help other readers to make the right decision for them (thanks in advance).

E-Readers

What They’re Good At:

At the risk of stating the obvious, e-readers are great if what you mainly want to do is read e-books.

This is due to their special e-ink technology displays. If you haven’t used an e-ink display yet, then you’re in for a pleasant surprise. Reading on an e-ink screen is as near as makes no difference to reading text printed on paper. Because e-ink displays are not backlit, you will get less eye strain than when reading on either a notebook or laptop computer, both of which use backlit screens.

The other benefit derived from e-ink displays is the fact that they only draw power when the page is being updated. That means that e-readers can go for weeks between battery charges (rather than hours like a tablet computer).

E-readers are also small and compact. You can carry a collection of hundreds, or thousands, of books around with you in a gadget that is smaller and lighter than the average paperback book.

Finally, e-readers are good value for money. They (generally) cost a lot less than tablet computers and you can choose from millions of out-of-copyright e-books to download for free. Make your reader pay for itself if you like.

What They’re Not So Good At:

It’s all about the display again. As good as e-ink displays are for reading on, they have a slow refresh rate. That makes them unsuitable for watching video on.

They are also, at the moment, monochrome only. That may change in the (fairly) near future, but right now, you’re limited to black and white with e-ink.

Some e-readers have web browsing facilities, but given that they can’t play video and are monochrome only, it’s a somewhat clunky experience at best. Generally speaking, those e-readers that have web browsing capabilities are probably best suited to choosing and downloading new books to read and maybe sending the odd e-mail when your other gadgets are out of juice, on the blink or left lying somewhere else.

Tablet Computers

What’s Good About Them

Tablet computers are, in very broad terms, notebook computers with a touch screen and no keyboard (although you can add these on if you like). They are great if you want to browse the net when you’re out and about. Most have pretty decent screens which make video playback not just possible, but enjoyable.

You can use a tablet computer for pretty much anything that you might want to do on either a desktop or a notebook computer, with the caveat that anything which requires extensive typing will be somewhat painful unless you bolt a keyboard on.

There are plenty of apps for tablet computers and they should provide you with plenty of entertainment when you’re on the go.

What’s Less Good About Them

Those lovely, high definition, video playing, web browsing touch screen displays may look great – but they use a lot of juice. You’ll be lucky to get 10 hours between battery charges – although that does depend upon what you run on them (video playback might be more power hungry than browsing for example).

Whilst the backlit, LCD screens found on most tablets are great for video and web browsing, they are less satisfactory for reading e-books on. They are fine if you’re just going to read for a short time, but prolonged reading might lead to eye strain and even headaches for some people. It’s a bit like reading a book with someone shining a light in your eyes when you think about it.

The touch screens used by most tablets also tend to be more reflective and will not be good for reading in bright sunlight or under certain types of artificial light. Whether that’s a big problem for you or not will depend upon how often you might feel the need to read in such conditions of course.
Finally, all of that computing power and color screen loveliness doesn’t come cheap. Tablet computers tend to cost quite a bit more than e-readers, although the new range of 7″ tablets does seem to be priced quite a bit cheaper than larger tablets.

So Which Should You Choose?

Choose An E-Reader If:

  • You expect to read books, magazines and newspapers that don’t have a lot of graphical content.
  • You expect to read for long periods of time.
  • Long battery life between charges is important to you.
  • You have some other means of browsing the web (or you don’t intend to do this very often).
  • You don’t want to spend a large amount of money on what is, when all’s said and done, a secondary gadget.

Get Yourself A Tablet Computer If:

  • You expect to be surfing the web and/or playing video a lot.
  • You only intend to read for short periods at a time.
  • You want to read magazines or books which rely heavily on color and/or graphics to get their message across.
  • You don’t mind charging your device often – or even using it when connected to the mains.
  • You aren’t on a tight budget and are happy to spend a fairly large amount on a tablet.

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