AARP RealPad Review and RatingsMost of us have a technologically challenged elderly relative or two. In fact, according to the Pew Research Center (and several other sources), about 70 million people living in the United States today are over the age of 50—and about half of those folks are only “marginally” connected to the Internet (or have an Internet connection but don’t use it much). And about 30 million seniors aren’t connected to the Internet at all.

Enter senior citizens’ advocate AARP. With the help of chip maker Intel, AARP late in 2014 introduced a compact Android tablet geared toward seniors, the $189-list AARP RealPad. According to Steve Cone, AARP’s vice president of membership and integrated value, the organization identified the need for a product, a value-added tablet designed to make technology less intimidating for seniors. That happened in late 2013, when the group started holding its AARP Technology, Education, and Knowledge (AARP TEK) seminars for members across the country.

AARP RealPadAARP’s CEO, JoAnn Jenkins, explained further that “AARP understands that while technology is a wonderful thing and boomers are one of the biggest consumers of personal tech, it can still be a daunting experience for a large majority of Americans 50-plus.” And there’s a lot of incentive to fix that, beyond a giant market opportunity: Personal-computing devices, like tablets, not only alleviate boredom and help stimulate the brain, but they can also help seniors stay in touch and participate remotely in events with friends and family.

The heart of the RealPad is an Intel Atom processor. About the RealPad itself, Brian Fravel, Intel’s director of North American marketing, said, “In addition to powering RealPad, Intel helped build the software and unique interface on the tablet, making it simple and intuitive to interact with a RealPad tablet, even for those with little technology experience.”

So goes the claim. Because of the unique front end on this tablet, and the services connected to it (which we’ll get to in a bit), this is a niche slate aimed at a particular group, even if the niche is huge. So it was clear to us that we needed to assess it from a couple of standpoints: First, how well does it hold up against other recent entry-level, compact tablets—essentially, its physical-hardware competition? Second, do the software, help system, and other enhancements succeed in assisting seniors not only to use the tablet, but also to access the Internet, e-mail, social media, and the like? We’ll look closely at that software and other enhancements in the Features & Apps section later on.

AARP RealPad (Landscape)As to the tablet itself—its build and screen quality, overall speed, and how well it holds up to today’s other entry-level, compact slates—we’ll cover these issues in several subsequent sections of this review. In a nutshell, though: Suffice it to say that the RealPad’s somewhat sluggish dual-core processor (an Intel Atom Z2520) and short battery life might earmark it, at first, as an underachiever among under-$200 slates.

The processing power, though, is not at all the point in a tablet like this. AARP and Intel are banking far more on this slate’s support and learning features to set it apart. These include a “RealQuick Fix” option for near-instant tablet status updates and one-click problem-solving, as well as numerous tutorials, videos, and enhanced help files. Those items are backed up by 24/7 live tech support, and the purchase price also includes a one-year membership (or membership extension) with AARP itself.

All of this can very well be worth the $189 going price, provided the senior in question is willing to and able to work through the tutorials. The point behind them is to alleviate as much of the frustration as possible in trying to learn to use the tablet. After all, if you have little or no computing experience, Android (or even Apple’s cleaner iOS, for that matter) can seem intimidating.

Our bottom line? As compact tablets go, were price the only thing this slate had going for it, we’d recommend that you pass on it. But if you (or your senior) have been avoiding technology because it’s just too hard to learn, AARP’s RealPad really should help. It’s a good effort, given that it’s the first of its kind.

Read the entire review at Computer Shopper.

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LG G Pad 8.3 Google Play Edition Review and RatingsLG Electronics is well-known worldwide for its household appliances, televisions, smartphones, even computer accessories—indeed, just about every other type of consumer-oriented gizmo, except tablets. Late in 2013, though, following the lead of HiSenseVizio, and a few other TV makers, the South Korean electronics giant entered the highly competitive tablet free-for-all with its own compact Android slate, the $349.99-list G Pad 8.3 Tablet. (That’s as opposed to the Google Play Edition of the G Pad 8.3 that we’re reviewing here; they are slightly different models.) As the name, suggests, the G Pads have an 8.3-inch screen. (We classify tablets with screens from 7 to 9 inches as “compact,” and 9.7 to 11 inches as “standard” or full-size slates.) Unlike most players in this ever-widening field that have debuted budget-friendly slates in the last 12 months (among them HP, Dell, and Asus), LG’s G Pad 8.3 is a premium device, and priced accordingly.

In fact, aside from the Samsung Galaxy Note 8.0, which lists for $399.99 and sells online for about $330, the original G Pad 8.3, at its debut, was one of the costliest compact Android tablets that had shown up in a while. You weren’t just paying a premium for a vanilla tablet, though; like the Galaxy Note 8.0, this Android came with several operating-system enhancements, spearheaded by LG’s QSlide and Slide Aside features, which allow you to display and work in more than one app at a time. Where this compact slate fell short of the Note 8.0, though, is that the latter also comes with Samsung’s highly functional S Pen stylus, as well as several productive S Pen-enabled apps plenty slick enough to warrant its higher-than-the-norm price.

LG G Pad 8.3 Google Play EditionIn addition to the standard G Pad 8.3, LG also makes a Verizon-ready LTE model (which we’ll be reviewing soon after this model) and a $349.99 Google Play Edition—the subject of this review. The G Pad 8.3 Google Play Edition is the first non-Nexus tablet distributed by Google (you can buy it direct), joining the ranks of some illustrious smartphones, such as the HTC One, the Samsung Galaxy S4, the Motorola Moto G, and the Sony Z Ultra. Like the G Pad 8.3 that preceded it, this Google Play version of the tablet is thin, light, and attractive, and more info

it’s relatively powerful, to boot. However (like other Google Play Edition devices), it comes with a stock (unaltered) build of Android, in this case Android 4.4 (a.k.a. “KitKat”).

LG G Pad 8.3 Google Play Edition

So, what does it mean for a tablet to be a “Google Play Edition”? An advantage of being a Google Play tablet, aside from running a plain-vanilla build of Android (which many users prefer), is that the tablet will automatically receive updates of the latest Android software well before most other Android tablets will. Also, it’s optimized for the latest apps, and you get more Google cloud storage for your content than do owners of other Android devices. On the other hand, youdon’t get QSlide and the other multitasking features that the original G Pad 8.3 came with.

What you do get, though, is a comfortable-to-use, durable 8.3-inch tablet, with a great-looking full-HD (1,920×1,200) display, that runs on a cutting-edge Qualcomm Snapdragon processor (which we’ll discuss in the Performance section later on). It also has a pretty good sound system for a slate. In fact, besides the above-mentioned Galaxy Note 8.0, only one other compact slate we’ve handled can boast the build quality of the G Pad 8.3: our 2013 Editors’ Choice recipient, Google’s own Nexus 7 (2013 Edition).

The problem we see for this G Pad, however, is that it sells for about $120 more than the 16GB version of the Google Nexus 7. Now, granted, the screen is 1.3 inches bigger, but aside from that and its MicroSD slot for expanding storage, we don’t see $120 worth of additional value here—even if this is the only “Google” tablet (including the big-screen Nexus 10) that allows you to bump up its storage capacity.

That said, the G Pad 8.3 Google Play Edition is, in a word, a sweet tablet. Aside from the lack of HDMI-out for connecting to HDTVs and, as mentioned, stylus support, it has just about everything you could reasonably ask for today in a compact slate. But does it have enough to justify its price?

Let’s put it this way: We don’t think that most buyers will be disappointed with it. But then, we can say the same about the less-expensive Nexus 7, as well as the more versatile, S Pen-enabled Galaxy Note 8.0. While we really do like this G Pad, it’s up against some rather stiff competition.

Read entire review at Computer Shopper.

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Dell Venue 7 Review and RatingsIn the closing months of 2013, we’ve seen tremendous growth—at least in terms of the sheer number of products—in the market for compact Android tablets (that is, models with 7-to-9-inch displays). It’s to the point, it seems, that we’re reviewing a new one every week or two. Some, such as the 2013 refresh of the Google Nexus 7, are fast and aspire to elegance. Others, such as HiSense’s Sero 7 LT and HP’s Slate 7, are no-pretenses budget models.

That second group—budget-priced compact tablets—is where the model we’re looking at here, Dell’s $149.99-list Venue 7, fits in. Like several like-priced, no-frills budget slates we’ve looked at lately (notably Asus’ $149.99-list MeMO Pad HD 7 and HiSense’s $149.99-list Sero 7 Pro), the Venue 7 is light, thin, and attractive, and it performed reasonably well on our benchmark tests given its price. It’s fast enough to perform most tasks comfortably, though not an ideal pick for the most resource-intensive Android games.

Dell Venue 7In addition, the Venue 7 turned in one of the shortest unplugged runtimes in our battery-rundown test we’ve seen in some time—as much as three to eight hours behind some other compact models. We’ll talk more about this tablet’s battery life in the Battery Life & Conclusion section later on.

Our review package contained the Venue 7 alone, equipped with 16GB of internal storage, for $149.99 list. However, Dell offers some interesting bundles on its Web site. You can, for example, choose the Venue 7 with a Targus stylus for $159.99, or a “Venue 7 + Essentials Bundle” for $199.99, which includes the Targus stylus and a 32GB SanDisk MicroSD card, which boosts the onboard storage capacity from 16GB to 48GB.

In addition to the Venue 7, Dell also offers the Venue 8, an 8-inch-screened version of the tablet. It sells in a set of bundles parallel to its smaller sibling’s: a stand-alone Venue 8 version for $179.99; with a stylus for $189.99; and a $229.99 Essentials 8 Bundle with a stylus and a 32GB memory card.

We should also point out that the Venue 8 has a slightly faster (2GHz) Atom processor than the Venue 7’s (1.6GHz), which should, theoretically anyway, make for a slightly faster slate. Also, don’t confuse the Venue 8 with the Venue 8 Pro, which is a full-on Windows 8 tablet. (Hit the link for our review of that one.) In any case, nothing about either Android version, the 7- or 8-inch, is particularly ground-breaking. In fact, the Venue 7 is, for the most part, just another entry-level compact Android tablet. It brings little new to the conversation. At $150, it’s one of the cheaper compact tablets we know of, but certainly not the cheapest. And that’s our main quibble with this tablet: We couldn’t find a compelling reason to recommend it over the other 7-inch Androids out there in its price class.

Dell Venue 7That said, given the price, we couldn’t find any reason not to recommend it, either, for first-time buyers, as a second slate for the family, or perhaps as an inexpensive tablet for a child. Given its comparably priced competitors, though, we’d like the Venue 7 a lot more at $129, or perhaps even a bit less.

See entire review at Computer Shopper.

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HP SlateBook 10 x2 ReviewHP dipped its toes into the Android-tablet market a few months ago with the debut of the solid-enough but largely unremarkable Slate 7, a compact Android tablet. (We classify tablets with screens of 7 to 8 inches as “compacts,” versus “full-size” models with displays 8.9 inches or larger.) While certainly not a bad tablet for the price, the HP Slate 7 was more notable for what it lacked than for what it delivered. It didn’t have GPS functionality or a gyroscope, and its screen was lackluster and low-resolution. On its second Android-tablet offering, though, the Palo Alto, Calif.-based electronics giant has hit the ground running. The $479.99-list SlateBook 10 x2 looks to have a lot more vim and vroom out of the box, starting with its processor chip.

HP SlateBook 10 x2 DetachedThis full-size (10.1-inch) HP tablet represents a much bolder, head-long plunge into the Android fray. With its Nvidia Tegra 4 processor, it delivers record-breaking Android performance, plus a high-resolution screen, a decent keyboard dock, and several highly useful productivity apps. Also bold are some of the design decisions HP has made, such as the placements of the power button, volume toggle, and speakers. (We’ll discuss these and a few other key design features on the next page.)

More questionable, though, is the choice of screen. Despite building in a display with a more-than-adequate 1,920×1,200 native resolution, HP left the SlateBook 10 x2 out in the cold with a screen that’s too dim compared with the displays on several recent competing Android slates, such asToshiba’s Excite Pro and Sony’s Xperia Tablet Z.  We found that even when cranked up, the screen rendered dark scenes in movies with too little detail, making certain parts tough to see. (Black portions, especially, were a little cloudy or muddy-looking.) It’s not that the screen is unacceptable; it’s just not as eye-catching as competing ones. We’ll talk more about the display in the Features & Apps section a little later on.

HP SlateBook 10 x2 Front View

While that display foible is a major one—a tablet is essentially one big screen, after all—it doesn’t change the fact that the SlateBook 10 x2 turned in the fastest scores we’ve seen to date for an Android tablet on nearly all of our benchmark tests. It also endured a respectably long time on our demanding battery-rundown test, and the keyboard docking station—a good one for the price—houses a second battery that, when the tablet is docked, extends the unplugged runtime by about another five hours.

As you can see, this slate has a lot going for it. The screen is disappointing, but not so much that we consider it a deal breaker—unless, that is, your primary concern is watching movies. If so, we suggest you get a look at this tablet before you buy, to make sure you can live with the dim display panel.

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Fujitsu Stylistic Q572 Tablet PC Review and RatingsFew of today’s tablets hit a happy medium between consumer-centric fun and business-optimized practicality. The former gets most of the love, with most slates we see leaning toward social media and media consumption, rather than running business applications. To that end, most of the full-size (10.1-inch) slates we review focus on delivering great-looking graphics on screens built into sleek, attractive chassis, instead of concentrating on the security and durability features many business users need.

One company that consistently bucks that trend, offering no-nonsense, business-ready tablets, is the information-tech and communications giant Fujitsu. Case in point is theStylistic M532, an Android slate we reviewed back in September 2012—one of the first Androids built to meet military-grade durability standards. That slate and earlier Windows 7 Fujitsu models, much like the Windows 8 model we’re reviewing here today, the $879-list Stylistic Q572 Tablet PC, placed practicality in business settings way above leisure functions and style.

Fujitsu Stylistic Q572 Tablet PCWith this latest model, though, Fujitsu has pulled out all the stops. Not only is this slate durable, but, as you’ll see in the Features & Apps section a little later in this review, the list of security features—which includes a CompuTrace-enabled BIOS, a fingerprint reader, and a SmartCard reader—is very impressive. We haven’t tested a slate to date that’s so well-protected.

In addition to providing security on every front, the Q572 comes with a slew of other business-ready enhancements (mobile broadband, stylus-pen support, and a swappable battery), as well as a wide range of connectivity options, including full-size USB and HDMI ports. In fact, aside from, perhaps, an infrared (IR) emitter and face-recognition, we can’t think of any other reasonable features Fujitsu could have stuffed into this exceptionally full feature set.

The Stylistic Q572, then, is one well-endowed tablet, which explains its high price. What also makes it distinctive is that it’s the first slate we’ve seen that runs on AMD’s low-power, mobile-optimized Z-60 accelerated processing unit (APU), which AMD is offering as an alternative to the Intel Atom processors seen in most new Windows slates. It’s a bold move, to be sure. As you’ll see in the Performance & Conclusion section at the end of this review, even though the AMD chip has a 64-bit data path (compared to the 32-bit Atom), the Q572 struggled with many of our performance tests.

Fujitsu Stylistic Q572 Tablet PC Lying DownA complaint we’ve had about most Fujitsu tablets is that their screens are often lackluster compared to many competitors’. The ones we’ve seen simply have not been as brilliant and color-rich, and this one is no exception. Videos, images, even Web pages appear somewhat washed out and subdued, to the point that the best praise we can give is that it’s, well, adequate. Adequate enough for Web browsing, word processing, e-mail, and other typical business applications, but at no time will anything on the screen jump out and wow you. If media consumption is high on your list of priorities, this is not your tablet.

The Stylistic Q572 comes in only one standard configuration, which includes 4GB of RAM and a 64GB solid state drive (SSD). As mentioned, this model lists for $879. However, you can special-order this slate on Fujitsu’s Web site with additional RAM and larger SSDs (128GB or 256GB). Alternately, you can opt for a 64GB or 128GB SSD with Full Disk Encryption (FDE), for added security. Prices, of course, depend on the options you choose. (We should add that you can also get this slate with Windows 7 instead of 8 for the same price.)

At first glance, the Q572’s price may seem a bit high. However, considering this slate’s wide range of features (among them the replaceable battery, mobile broadband, stylus support, and the security options), $879 doesn’t seem that far off the mark. We did find its less-than-stellar performance and somewhat washed-out screen concerning, though. If you need a slate for watching videos, viewing photographs, or playing games, this one will disappoint you.

Our bottom line? The Stylistic Q572 works in strictly-business settings where security is important and display quality doesn’t matter much. Its durable build, support for mobile broadband, and the ability to swap out the battery make it suitable for long shifts on, say, factory and warehouse floors. As a business tool, it would serve you more adroitly—in certain settings—than most consumer-oriented tablets. Conversely, many consumers would find it lacking on a few key fronts.

See the full review at Computer Shopper.

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Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 Review and Ratings If you’re familiar with last year’s Samsung Galaxy Note smartphone, you know that its claim to fame was its pen, or stylus, input device, which allows users to write and draw directly on the screen. While pens are not unheard-of on cell phones (or even tablets, for that matter), we typically see them on Windows-based tablets, not Android-based handhelds. The original Galaxy Note, though, was well-received and hailed as an innovative addition to the Android cell-phone market. (See a review of the Galaxy Note smartphone on our sister site, PCMag.com.)

Building on that success, Samsung has released a full-size 10-inch tablet version, the $499.99 Galaxy Note 10.1. Overall, the implementation of pen input on this slate seemed slightly under-developed, as we discuss in detail in the Features & Apps section a little later in this review. However, the pen itself is not the only new and interesting feature of this tablet.

The Galaxy Note 10.1, for instance, is the first slate we’ve seen built around Samsung’s Exynos 4 processor, the first quad-core alternative to the powerful and power-efficient Nvidia Tegra 3 CPU found in most new slates nowadays. Another feature we found interesting was this slate’s ability to run two apps side-by-side, which adds a new dimension to multitasking on a tablet. So do Samsung’s mini-apps, which also allow you to display and use multiple programs on the screen simultaneously. (We discuss these features, too, in the Features & Apps section.)

In addition to these impressive new technologies, the Galaxy Note 10.1 is attractive, thin, light, and comfortable to use. As with most Samsung slates, this model’s screen displayed photos, graphics, and movies with aplomb, and the slate itself performed quite well on our suite of benchmark tests, turning in some of the top scores we’ve seen among Android slates—especially on our battery-rundown trial.

Samsung offers two versions of the Galaxy Note 10.1: the 16GB ($499) version we reviewed here, and a 32GB model that costs an additional $50. On the whole, these prices are in line with other, competing high-end Android models. And, we should also point out that this slate comes in either black or white…

Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 Review

Overall, we liked this tablet. As with most Android tablets, during our hands-on time with this slate we fingered a few areas that could use improvement, but that’s to be expected. We’ve looked at many Samsung slates over the past couple of years, and the Galaxy Note 10.1 is certainly the most impressive of the lot so far.

Read the review at Computer Shopper.

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Lenovo IdeaTab S2109 Review and RatingsHere in 2012, it’s tough not being an Apple iPad. In attempting to chip away at the Apple über-slate’s lopsided share of the tablet market, Android slate makers are experimenting with lower-priced, entry-level models, with varying degrees of success. Two of the best tries are Asus’ $399.99 Transformer Pad TF300 and Acer’s $449 Iconia Tab A510. Both are built around 2012’s fast, power-efficient Nvidia Tegra 3 quad-core processor and come with 32GB of onboard storage—making them top-notch values in their own right.

On the flip side, though, we’ve also seen several less-impressive so-called “budget” models, such as Samsung’s $399.99 Galaxy Tab 2 (10.1) and Acer’s $349 Iconia Tab A200, both built around dual-core processors and sporting only 16GB of storage. What makes these slates less attractive than the TF300 and A510 are their ho-hum CPUs and allotments of storage.

Alas, this group is where Lenovo’s recently launched IdeaTab S2109, the subject of this review, belongs. It’s a $449, 9.7-inch slate that also packs a dual-core processor and only 16GB of storage. Still, you can’t say it doesn’t have big aims: More so than the four full-size 10.1-inch slates mentioned here, the 9.7-inch IdeaTab S2109 takes direct aim at the iPad. It looks quite similar to Apple’s iconic slate, with the same-size screen. Certain specs are similar to Apple’s $399 entry-level iPad 2—notably, the 1,024×768-pixel screen resolution and the display’s 4-to-3 aspect ratio. Unlike the iPad 2, though, the IdeaTab S2109 has only one camera. And a key place where the IdeaTab S2109 didn’t come close to the iPad was in battery life. On our Battery-Rundown Test, we saw less than half the runtime of the iPad 2.

Overall, though, this slate performed respectably on the rest of our performance tests. It’s also light, thin, and attractive, and it comes with an above-average set of connectivity options, notably both HDMI and USB ports. We also liked, as we discuss in the Design section of this review, this IdeaTab’s four-speaker SRS surround-sound system, which put out exceptional audio.Lenovo IdeaTab S2109 Review

Although this is a capable Android slate, you can pick up much more powerful models with twice the built-in storage at the same price or less. So, with that in mind, we’d like to see this IdeaTab ratchet down in price before we recommend it.

On that note, Lenovo offers a cheaper version of the S2109, with 8GB of storage, for a list price of $399. In addition, as we wrote this (mid-July 2012), the company was offering both the 8GB and 16GB versions of this tablet at discounted prices on its Web site, shop.lenovo.com. We don’t know how long these prices will last, but at the time we wrote this, the site offered the 8GB model for $389, and the 16GB version—after an “eCoupon” discount—for an even lower $349. (Odd, that.) Overall, though, even these prices are too high, especially for the 8GB slate.

Read full review at Computer Shopper.

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Asus Eee Pad Transformer Prime

Asus Eee Pad Transformer Prime - what a wonderful slate!

In the highly competitive tablet market, the big news in early 2012 has been the emergence of Android 4.0–based slates. (You might also have heard about Android 4.0 via its code-name, “Ice Cream Sandwich,” or ICS.) To our delight, we got our hands on one of the first tablets that feature the new operating system right out of the box: Asus’s $499.99 Eee Pad Transformer Prime TF201. (Certain older tablets will see updates from 3.0 to ICS in the coming weeks.)

The Transformer Prime is a re-engineered replacement for 2011’s Asus Eee Pad Transformer TF101. In addition—as if the new operating system weren’t notable enough—the Transformer Prime is the first tablet we’ve seen that makes use of Nvidia’s Tegra 3 quad-core processor.

All told, we found a lot to like in the Transformer Prime. It’s built well, and it has a gorgeous 10.1-inch screen, a thin design, and strong performance. And because the Transformer Prime makes use of the newest tablet core processor and operating system, it stands out as one of the most impressive Android-based tablets to date.

Granted, $499 may seem like an average price for a high-end slate with a screen this size, but it’s actually something of an aggressive price, in this case. Keep in mind that you get 32GB of storage, not the standard 16GB you see in slates of this price, as well as the up-to-date Tegra 3 processor. (The only major shortfall, for some buyers, will be that the Transformer Prime is Wi-Fi only; if you’re looking for a 3G or 4G tablet, you’ll have to keep looking.)

Read the review at Computer Shopper.

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Fujitsu Stylistic Q550 Slate PC

Tablets are hitting the market at a break-neck speed, and man are they in no way created equal. The Fujitsu Stylistic Q550 Slate PC comes with a load of great features and runs Windows 7 Professional. I ran Photoshop and Illustrator on it without incident and was overall impressed with this device. You can see the entire review at Computer Shopper.

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