The tablet market has come a long way since last year. Where once there was only the Apple iPad there are now several Android and Windows alternatives. So the question is, “Which one is right for photographers and artists?” As with all technology, it depends on your needs and the dollars you're willing to spend. Image processing and sharing programs like Instagram, Photoshop Express, Aviary Editor, and Snapseed are easy to use while allowing great results to be made. So, let's take a look at the possibilities for the creative use of tablets.
Today, many photographers are using their smartphones to make, process, and present photographs. After working with a four inch touch screens, moving to something larger is a natural. There are also many photography apps in the marketplace and as with desktop software the most popular and feature rich apps are cross platform. These apps, like their desktop siblings, fall into two basic categories, those for Casual Users and those for the Serious User. Casual Users, are concerned with having fun and creating memories that look good. Serious Users want to have fun too, but want more control creating dynamic images. Serious Users don't have to be creative professionals, just someone who takes their image making seriously. In either case users want their tablets to give them more convenience and power than their phones.
So, what are some of the features a tablet for creatives should have? First there's size. Tablets come in two sizes 7 inches and 10 inches. As with monitors the more screen real estate you can have the better. However, unlike a monitor, you're going to carry this screen with you, and portability is the reason you want a tablet. The original iPad was about 9.5 by 7 inches (1.33 lbs.) and many of the first Android tablets were this size too. Now there seems to be a major shift to the 7 inch tablet space, including the Apple, with iPad Mini (7.9 x 5.3 - .68 oz.). Many feel that you can't to serious work with a 7 inch screen. Yet, it was just a year ago, people were not talking about tablets of any size doing any work at all. So while many believe that Apple’s new Retina Display with its 2048-by-1536-pixel resolution is the new gold standard in screen resolution, the iPad Mini is 1024-by-768, same as the iPad 2. But the iPad Mini being a smaller form factor, its screen appears clean and sharp. Android tablets screens begin at 1280 x 800 offering impressive display quality.
Other features for creatives are performance, storage, and connectivity. When producing art you don't want the device to be lagging behind your creative process. Most tablets have dual-core CPU and GPU processors which make them very responsive. For its starting price point of $199.00, the Nexus 7 has a quad core CPU and 12 core Nvidia GeForce ULP graphics processors that beats the iPad mini in performance. Because of tablets form factor storage is limited. Common storage sizes are 16, 32 or 64 GB, so a companion feature to look for is SD card expansion. However if there is one, there are USB adapters that allow the connection of card readers to the tablet.
When discussing connectivity, there are Wi-Fi, 3G and 4G to choose from. I wouldn’t recommend buying a tablet with a carrier attached. Remember the tablet is new technology and will become outdated during your cellular contract. Just use your smartphone as a hotspot when needed and go with standard Wi-Fi connectivity. Also speaking to the point of connectivity is the tablet’s port connections or their lack.
Finally, consider your potential workflow and use of your tablet. Will it be a presentation tool, e-reader/notebook, an ultra-portable photo lab, field monitor or camera remote? What are the app choices for the tablet’s OS? Take a look at Gizmag 2012 Tablet Comparison Guide, to help research the choices out there. With careful consideration and research a tablet can be an enjoyable mobile device and a useful creative tool.