Tablets for Business: 6 Options for Mobile Productivity

By James A. Martin | Posted April 15, 2016
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    Tablets for Business: 6 Options for Mobile Productivity

    There's been a lot of talk lately about tablets that can replace PCs—especially from Apple's iPad-Pro-promoting CEO, Tim Cook. For most small businesses, however, only a Windows 10 tablet might fully replace a Windows (or Mac) computer, and even that's questionable.

    Still, there's no denying the productivity benefits that a tablet affords you when you're on the go. Here's a look at six tablets for business worth considering. Three of these tablets for business run the Windows 10 OS; two of them run iOS; and one runs on Android.

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    The iPad Mini 4: Tablets for Business

    Apple's iPad Mini 4, introduced last fall, is the best take-anywhere, do-practically-anything tablet. Its petite size (8-inches long, 5.3-inches wide, 0.24-inches thick) and weight (0.65 to 0.67 pounds) makes it an excellent tablet for business—whether on a sales floor or at cashier stands (especially paired with Square or other payment card readers).

    Also, the 7.9-inch Retina display makes it remarkably easy to read in bright sunlight—useful for real estate agents and other professionals who work in the field.

    You can't completely replace a laptop with an iPad Mini 4, but there's no shortage of ways you can use the tablet for business instead of a laptop. At the recent MarTech USA conference in San Francisco, for example, numerous attendees used iPad minis, paired with external keyboards, to take notes (and snap photos of projected slides) during sessions. FYI: My favorite iPad Mini 4 hardware keyboard is Zagg's Slim Book (currently $90), which features backlit keys, a protective backing for the Mini, a video mode (making it easy to share a video with others), and a battery that Zagg says lasts two years on a charge.

    The iPad Mini is pricey (thanks, Apple) starting at $399 and going to $729. But it's also a quality product.

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    The iPad Pro: Tablets for Business

    Did you know that the iPad Pro has a newer, smaller sibling? The 9.7-inch iPad Pro ($599 to $1029) is a worthy successor to the still-available iPad Air 2.

    They share the exact same dimensions and weight: 9.7- x 6.6- x 0.24-inches; 0.96 to 0.98 pounds. But the Pro offers significant improvements, including a faster processor, enhanced cameras (including a flash and a 5-megapixel front-facing camera for better video conferencing, and 4K video recording), and four stereo speakers.

    You can also use Apple's Pencil stylus ($99), which is surprisingly handy for annotating Office documents, and Smart Keyboard ($149). The keyboard lacks backlit keys and is noisy when you type on it, but it's slim, light and doesn't need recharging.

    A plus: You can configure this iPad Pro, as well as its big brother, with 256GB of storage.

    If you're firmly ensconced in Apple's iOS ecosystem and feel that a Mini is too small and yet the bigger iPad Pro is too big, the 9.7-inch iPad Pro may be your just-right tablet for business.

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    The Samsung Galaxy TabPro S: Tablets for Business

    Samsung recently released the Galaxy TabPro S, a sleek Windows 10 (Home edition) tablet. Unlike many of its competitors, such as Microsoft's Surface and the iPad Pro, Samsung's new TabPro S includes a keyboard cover with its $900 price. The keyboard also offers a touchpad but only gives the tablet two viewing angles. Still, that's one more angle than you get with Apple's Smart Keyboard.

    Among the Samsung tablet's top features is its brilliant 12-inch AMOLED screen; it's one of the first Windows tablets to feature this screen technology. The thin and light (11.4- x 7.8- x 0.2inches; 1.5 pounds) tablet for business includes a USB-C port for adding compatible peripherals (a small but growing list). Some reviewers call the tablet's battery life exceptional at about 11 hours or more, but they also complain about the lackluster Intel Core m3 processor.

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    The Toshiba DynaPad: Tablets for Business

    In case you haven't noticed, the once-derided stylus is making a comeback. Not since the heyday of the Palm Pilot has the digital pen received so much attention, with Apple's Pencil and Microsoft's Surface Pens ($60) leading the way.

    Then there's Toshiba's early 2016 release of its DynaPad tablet (starting at $570), a Windows 10 Home tablet with an impressive, sleek design (weight: 1.28 pounds) and pressure-sensitive digital pen.

    Wacom, a name long familiar to graphics professionals, designed the stylus. The Wacom TruPen offers 2,048 levels of pressure—twice what Microsoft's pen offers. (Apple hasn't said how many levels of pressure its Pencil offers.)

    The DynaPad's 12-inch HD display features Corning Gorilla Glass 3 protection and anti-fingerprint coating. A higher-end model ($649) includes Toshiba's TruType keyboard. Early DynaPad reviews touted its low price and surprisingly solid build quality but complained of its limited built-in storage (64GB).

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    The Lenovo Tab3 10 Business: Tablets for Business

    Last February, Lenovo introduced its latest tablet for business, called—in case you need to be absolutely sure it's for business—Tab3 10 Business.

    It's an Android 6.0 tablet that features Android for Work, a program for people who want to use the tablet for both work and play, but who want to keep everything (apps and files) separate. The tablet also comes with Android for Work apps, as well as a mode that lets you set up the tablet as an interactive kiosk. Additional business features include enhanced security and geo technology for tracking devices.

    Tab3 10 Business is a confusing name, but here's the scoop: The '3' indicates it's a successor to—you guessed it—the Tab2, while the '10' refers to the tablet's screen size.

    The tablet features a USB port that allows for simultaneous charging and syncing, and it supports peripherals such as keyboards, mice, and USB 2.0 card readers. It includes two Dolby speakers, and something that's still a bit unusual: facial recognition, which lets you unlock the tablet by putting your face in front of the camera. Say cheese!

    Lenovo Tab3 won't be available until July, and prices haven't been announced as of this writing.

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    The Dell Venue 10 Pro 5000: Tablets for Business

    Dell offers multiple tablets for business, including the Venue 10 Pro 5000 series. This family of business tablets consists of three options: a 64GB tablet ($499); one with 128GB of storage ($549); and a 128GB model with cellular LTE connectivity ($699).

    Each business tablet features the Windows 10 Pro operating system; a 10-inch display; and USB-C, USB, and micro HDMI output ports. The lightest version tips the scales at 1.46 pounds. The optional Dell Venue 10 Pro Keyboard ($129) includes a touchpad and ships with Dell's Mini Active Pen stylus.

    Venue 10 Pro 5000 reviews have been mixed. Some reviewers tout the Venue 10 Pro's convenient size and comfortable 16:10 aspect ratio screen, but they also complain about short battery life, and the optional keyboard doesn't include an extra battery to keep the tablet running even longer.

    James A. Martin writes about mobile technology for Small Business Computing, CIO, and other websites. Follow him on Twitter, @james_a_martin.

    Do you have a comment or question about this article or other small business topics in general? Speak out in the SmallBusinessComputing.com Forums. Join the discussion today!

While a tablet can't completely replace a laptop at work (yet), it can make working in the field more productive. We take a look at six tablets for business. Which one is right for you?

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