What Does This Tablet PC Specification Mean?
There’s a lot of jargon surrounding tablet PCs so in the What Tablet PC - ”Tablet PC Jargon Explained” section we’ve listed all of the key terms and specification details commonly associated with tablet PCs, plus a simple description of what they mean.
We’ve tried to make it as straight forward as possible without lengthy descriptions. Let us know if you think something is hard too understand or missing from the list via our contact us form.
Finally, for more detailed descriptions on these terms, there’s no better place than Wikipedia so if you need more information, head over here and enter the term you want to look for in the Wikipedia Search box.
Tablet PC Glossary of Terms
- Accelerometer – will re-format the screen depending on the orientation the tablet PC is held by so you can flip it between portrait and landscape modes.
- Adobe Flash plug-in – A fair amount of games, videos and animations on websites are produced in Flash so you need Flash compatibility to view these. If you have this then you’ll have access to the complete web – something the iPad doesn’t have – although there are downsides of using Flash such as the drain on the battery and somewhat buggy nature of Flash.
- Android operating system – an operating system built by Google. There are various versions with project names such as “Honeycomb”, “Froyo” and “Gingerbread” but on a tablet you’ll largely find Android 1.6, 2.0, 2.1, 2.2, 2.4 or 3.0.
- Application – also known as an ‘app’ – is the software designed to help you complete a task on the tablet PC.
- Aspect Ratio – you need an aspect ration of 16:9 for widescreen video so less than this limits the video/movie function with the result being you’d get a thick black bar at the top or the bottom if you try to watch a widescreen movie.
- Battery life – a lot of laptops will usually run out of power after 2-3 hours so the longer the better particularly if you’re on a long trip. Short battery life means there is a lack of mobility of the device and ultimately tablets are designed to be mobile computers. Imagine if you’re on a long trip and the battery runs out – you don’t want the hassle of constantly looking for a power supply to charge it back up and there’s not much point in a mobile tablet PC without any power.
- Bluetooth – used for wireless syncing with other devices such as a mouse, keyboard or printer.
- Camera – front-facing camera should mean you can use the tablet for video chat – rear-facing camera will allow you to take video and/or still photos. It’s more important to have a strong resolution (measured in megapixels) for the rear-facing one so you can capture clear sharp images.
- Capacitive screen – refers to the way the tablet’s screen responds to gestures – capacitive versions will be more responsive than resistive screens. The flip side of that is capacitive screens tend to be more expensive.
- Cellular capability – for making phone calls and text message if you have a cellular carrier agreement. Voice calls on a tablet PC would usually be made via speaker phone or via a Bluetooth headset.
- Digital compass – useful for if you’re looking at mapping or GPS related applications as this means the tablet PC can tell what direction you’re facing.
- FM Radio – some tablets come with built in FM radios
- Front facing webcam – has a camera that faces the same way as the screen on the tablet PC – useful for making video calls.
- GPS – Global Positioning System is a satellite navigation system that allows you to find your position wherever you are in the world. This is particularly beneficial for finding directions from where you are to another point.
- HD – High Definition – refers to TV and movies
- HDMI output – so you can buy a HDMI lead and hook the device up to your HD Ready TV or HD projector to watch the output on the big screen. In this way you can watch movies on the tablet through your widescreen TV. Some tablets have a HDMI output or a miniHDMI output
- High-resolution screen – Watch HD movies, HD TV shows, and HD music videos on your tablet PC’s screen. Screen resolution is measured in pixels.
- Infrared – for communication with other electronic devices such as your home audio visual system.
- iOS - this is the Apple operating system that runs on the iPad (and iPhone) and is optimised for touch-screen based devices. The great thing with the iOS operating system is you have access to the Apple App Store and iTunes music, videos and podcasts. Central to this operating system, as with all Apple software, is simplicity and usability.
- IPS – stands for in-plane-switching which basically means you get a good view of what’s on the screen even if you’re looking at it from an acute angle.
- Memory – Just as RAM is more akin to short term processing memory, you also need some longer term memory that can hold larger amounts of data and files such as music, movies or other documents – this memory also holds onto this data even when the tablet PC is turned off. Largely you’ll have some form of internal memory built-in and current tablet releases are generally giving you anywhere between 16GB and 64GB (GB = gigabytes). Some tablet PCs also allow you to extend this internal memory with a memory card. How many songs or movies you can store per GB depends on the size of these files but the more GBs of storage you have the more you can store – there is also a cost to this. Bear in mind that if you have a desktop or laptop computer (usually with much larger memory than a tablet PC) then you can swap files between devices to manage what is on the tablet at anyone time and make up for memory shortfalls.
- Microphone – useful if you want to record audio on your tablet PC. Watch out for dual digital microphones on some tablet PCs that pick up the ambient background noise.
- MicroUSB – port that takes a microUSB connector allowing you to connect the tablet PC to other PCs and for charging it via a power socket.
- MicroSD – for additional primary storage compatible with a Micro SD rather than a standard SD card. The storage would typically be used on a tablet PC to have additional music, video and documents on a Micro SD card that can be slotted in-and-out of the device when needed.
- Multi-tasking – ability of the tablet PC to run more than one application at a time – allowing you to be on email whilst also working on spreadsheet or having music playing in the background.
- Multitouch Screen – you control what the tablet PC does by tapping or pressing on the screen. It will respond depending on your finger gestures. Getting the hang of this is pretty easy as it’s designed in an intuitive and user friendly manner. You can zoom in and out and scroll around pages dependent on various finger gestures.
- Operating System – This is the software that means your tablet piece of hardware turns into a usable computer system that you can use without huge amounts of technical knowledge. In the tablet PC world the best known operating systems are Windows, Android and iOS (used on an Apple iPad) – see the next email in this series for more information.
- Processor – The processor is the tablet PC brain. The speed of the processor is measured in GHz (gigahertz) so the higher the number of GHz the faster the processor. You’ll see processors referred to along the lines of “1GHz Tegra 2 SOC” – with the first part referring to the speed, the second to the manufacturer name and the 3<sup>rd</sup> part the model of processor.
- RAM – stands for Random-Access Memory and is the memory capacity the tablet PC uses to store data whilst it’s in use and typically the contents are lost when the device is switched off. Almost akin to short term memory used for processing, this is limited so the more RAM you have the better.
- Removable Battery – useful if you want to bring a secondary charged battery with you when out and about to swap in when your tablet PC battery runs out of charge. Not all tablets have removable battery but you can usually get external power packs that can be hooked up to your tablet to achieve the same result.
- Resistive screen – refers to the way the tablet’s screen responds to gestures – resistive screens aren’t as responsive to finger gestures as capacitive screens but use of a stylus does help. Resistive screens also tend to be cheaper.
- Screen resolution – the higher the resolutions, the more pixels you get on the screen and the sharper/clearer picture you’ll get.
- SD Card slot – means you can add an SD card (SD = Secure Digital) with additional memory to store files such as music and video. Digital cameras typically use an SD card so if you have the SD card slot then you can take the SD card directly from your camera, slot it in to the tablet PC and directly upload your photos for viewing.
- SD Card Reader – same as SD Card Slot – for quickly getting your pictures off your camera and onto the tablet PC or for reading SD cards with video, music or other documents.
- Speakers/Headphone jack – Built in speakers and a headphone jack provide the options to listening to your music or the sound from a movie.
- USB port – allows for numerous things such as the ability to add peripheries – plugging in a printer, a mouse or an attachment to directly add photos from a camera’s memory card. Equally you can use USB sticks as an external storage source that has files (such as music) without taking up space on the tablet PCs internal memory. The more USB ports the better, one USB port is a bit limiting – e.g. you couldn’t attach a printer if you were already had your USB stick or external keyboard taking up the slot.
- Video Output – HDMI/DVI socket – means you can run a lead from the iPad to your High Definition TV – this could be useful if you put a HD film on your tablet but wanted to watch it back on a bigger screen.
- WebCam (or front-facing camera) – for video chat with services such as Skype.
- Windows operating system – most people will be familiar with Microsoft Windows desktop operating systems such as Windows XP, Windows Vista and more recently, Windows 7. The latest Windows based tablets are based on Windows 7 but there are variations of this operating system that are more optimised for tablet PCs.
- Wireless (WiFi) – if you have a wireless network set-up at home or you are in a public wireless area then the tablet PC will find the WiFi signal for you and connect the tablet PC to the internet. Then you are able to browse the web, access files, download apps without linking it up to a PC.
- 3G – allows you to connect to the internet wherever there is a 3G mobile network connection (you will also need to pay for a plan with a mobile network to use this) so if you’re out and about you then wouldn’t need to have a wireless connection to get an internet connection.