What is an iPad?
The iPad is a tablet computer first offered by Apple in 2010. Although a few rival models were previously available, the iPad is largely credited with creating the current market for tablets – by late 2012, more than 100 million iPads had been sold worldwide.
The device resembles a much larger version of Apple's iPhone or its iPod Touch, and is about the same size as a magazine.
Key features and benefits of the Apple iPad
•The iPad uses the same operating system as the Apple iPhone, and uses very similar hardware. It is, however, much more powerful and capable than the smaller device.
•The iPad is perfect for browsing the web while lounging around, particularly because it comes with a wifi connection as standard. You can also buy, for a bit extra, a 4G version, which allows you to connect to the internet wherever you are.
•The iPad can access the Apple 'App Store', where you can purchase and download any of over one million applications, with nearly 500,000 made specifically for the iPad. The latter can also run almost all of the iPhone apps, but these might not have been modified for the larger screen.
•In 2013, Apple released the newest version of the device - the iPad Air. The iPad Air is incredibly thin and light, with a retina display screen, a 5-megapixels camera, Siri voice control software, improved ultra-fast wireless and more...
•The new iPad (full size) costs from £399, depending on how much on-board memory you choose and whether or not you want a 4G connection.
•A new iPad Mini is now available, it is 23% thinner and 53% lighter than the larger model, with a 7.9 inch screen. Available in black and slate or white and silver, wifi or 4G. Prices start at £269.
•The iPad does many things well and it's cheaper than a computer. However, it really isn't a replacement for the latter (or, for that matter, for a PC) if you need to do a lot of writing.
What is a tablet computer?
Tablets are small, flat computers with touchscreens that are between a book and a magazine in size. They're like large versions of a smartphone.
The most popular tablet computers at the time of writing are the Apple iPad and the Samsung Galaxy Tab.
Key features and benefits of tablet computers
•Tablet computers are usually less powerful than 'proper' PCs. Instead of working via a fully-fledged operating system (OS) such as Windows, a tablet will generally use an extended version of a smartphone OS.
•Small enough to fit in the hand but large enough to display a lot of text at a decent size, tablets are intended to bring the feeling of a book or magazine to a computer.
•The tablet is ideal for browsing the web, its size and shape making it easy to read and hold. All tablets include wifi to help you browse, with many including a 3G or 4G connection as well, allowing you to connect to the internet from anywhere.
•Just like smartphones, tablet computers will usually have access to an 'app store' where you can purchase and download a huge number of applications (or 'apps'). These can perform any number of things, from word processing to games – and are also designed for the tablet's larger screen.
•Tablet computers are also excellent media players. They'll play music on headphones or through their own speakers. Even more enticingly, videos look excellent on the relatively large screen.
•Most tablets include e-reader software that allows you to download books and other written material from the internet and read it on the machine. However, even though the ‘e-ink’ screens of dedicated e-reader devices such as the Amazon Kindle are much easier on the eyes for intensive reading, they’re not considered tablets as they’re not multifunctional enough. With the new launch of Kindle Fire, the reader element is an application and the screen is in colour like other tablets and it offers more functionality.
•Generally tablet computers have smaller screens than standard computers, which some people may find difficult to use.
•Some people may also find the access method of finger or pen more difficult, particularly if using a virtual onscreen keyboard, where the letters are smaller and therefore it is a smaller target.
With thanks to Alex Duin a freelance technology writer.