A tablet’s display is arguably one of the most important aspects of the user experience and certainly a large part of one’s first impression when dealing with a new tablet. Since the release of the first iPad Apple has set the standard in terms of display quality, although over the years some competitors have almost caught up.
As a standard modern tablets utilize high-definition displays (1280×720 or higher) and anti-glare technology. Apple takes this further with use of their mystical ‘Retina Display’ technology which basically relies on extremely high pixel density to produce crystal clear imagery for all of their products. Modern Android tablets have begun to catch up and devices such as Google’s Nexus range provide solid competition to Apple’s dominance as the king of eye candy.
The touchscreen elements of a tablet are a different story altogether. Most modern tablets use multi-touch functionality allowing more than one gesture to be used at the same time. Resistive touchscreens (more accurate) are generally used for tablets requiring a Stylus input whereas Capacitive touchscreens are the most effective for general tablet finger swipes.
Tablet manufacturers use a variety of different materials in order to produce the best results. Most top displays use IPS LCD display technology coupled with Gorilla Glass, a specific kind of glass produced with extra toughness to help withstand breaks which are common place in the mobile world. Models such as the latest Nexus 4 saw extremely high rates of broken screens which can be offset by the use of a smartphone case. The replacement parts for some phones are relatively affordable for non-newbie users.
Most tablets use a different processing architecture to standard PC’s – ARM vs x86 or x64 architecture – which use less power than traditional PC processors and are perfect for smaller mobile devices. Mobile specific operating systems such as Android and iOS are developed in order to take advantage of the ARM hardware environment. Most Windows tablets (with the exception of Windows RT) use a version of Intel’s chipset named the Atom range which also offers lower power consumption than traditional Intel processors. AMD is also a contender for x86 / x64 operating systems with their Fusion range, though tests have shown a clear winner in the ARM department in terms of preserving battery life at the expense of traditional processing power.
RAM is temporary memory used to store info for applications currently running – the more RAM your tablet has, the more applications it should be able to run simultaneously without slowing down. The RAM used in tablets differs to traditional PC RAM in that often RAM is not expandable and manufacturers will pre-define how much memory is required based on testing, although it’s not unheard of to hack a tablet in order to super juice it to multitask like a demon.
Graphics processors are a major component of tablets in order to provide a smooth multimedia experience. Leaders in the field are NVIDIA with their Tegra range of processors which power the majority of tablets on the market aside from Apple’s leading iPad which uses a proprietary bundled graphics and CPU unit.