What is a Tablet Computer? Simple Question | Complicated Answer

By Stephen Harrison B.Sc., M.Sc., MBCS, CITP

What is a tablet computer? A basic question that has anything but a simple answer. These devices have been around since 2010 and come in various shapes and sizes, makes and models, and cost.

At the most basic level, tablets are flat, slim, rectangle shaped devices, with a glass front, or touch screen display. Each device comes with a rechargeable battery, and usually a webcam or camera as standard.

The more expensive the tablet is, the more likely its battery life is to be longer, and higher quality its camera, than cheaper devices.

Tablets come with speakers and various ports for peripherals such as headphones, and of course, for charging the battery. Traditional desktop and laptop computers have a lot more ports than tablet devices.

All these devices come with wireless connectivity, and usually Bluetooth capabilities, which can be used for file transfers between devices and printing facilities. Some are capable of connecting to a providers 5G service through a slot for a SIM card.

All this, along with the usual processor, memory and storage capabilities you find in all computing devices, is packaged together in a slimline casing.


Inside The Apple iPadWhat is a Tablet Computer?
Inside The Apple iPad
Source:- ifixit.com

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Below is an excellent video that shows exactly what is inside a typical android tablet device. When you see them stripped down like this you realize how basic but brilliant they are.


Inside a Typical Android Device Video

Inside A Typical Android Device Video

A tablet computer is nothing without a high quality operating system. The Apple iOS or iPadOS, and the Android O/S, are the dominant operating systems delivering the unique mobile device experience.

In the next section, we look at how you interact with a mobile operating system, and other types of hardware.


The Android Operating System ScreenshotsWhat is a tablet computer?
The Android Operating System
Source:- techcrunch.com

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What is a Tablet Computer ? | Operating Systems

Interaction with tablet operating systems is usually though finger gestures. A simple tap with your finger can open web links and apps,  and a 'drag' with the finger can scroll down longer web pages or blog sites, for example.

You can also invest in a stylus pen to help with undertaking some gestures. These can be very useful if you are fat fingered (like me) or have eyesight-related issues. They are also useful if you are unfamiliar with working these devices.


Tablet Computer On Screen or Virtual KeyboardWhat is a tablet computer?
On Screen or Virtual Keyboard
Source:- tiamat.tsotech.com

Tablet computers do not (usually) come with traditional physical keyboards and mice, or mouse pads. Keyboards and other input devices are virtual. These come in the form on an on-screen keyboard, for example.

However, there are some larger devices, called slates, that come with detachable physical keyboards.


The Google Pixel Slate With Detached Physical KeyboardWhat is a tablet computer?
The Google Pixel Slate With Detached Physical Keyboard
Source:- usatoday.com

This leads us on to the next section, which looks at the different types of tablet devices.

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Different Types of Tablet Computers

The slate device as mentioned above comes with a screen size anywhere from 6" up to and beyond 15" in size.

Mini Tablets are much smaller, usually between 6" and 7" and weight a lot less than other devices, due to their small size. The Amazon Kindle Fire is an example of a mini tablet.

Phablets, or phone tablets, are a sort of overlap. They are similar in size to a modern Smartphone.

Gaming tablets come with physical gaming pads (or D-Pads) that are connected to each end of the device.


A Gaming Tablet With Control PadsWhat is a tablet computer?
A Gaming Tablet With Control Pads
Source:- gameslearningsociety.org

2-in-1 hybrid tablet/laptop devices also come with physical keyboards that can be detached when required. They are also come in convertible format, where the keyboard folds behind the back of the tablet part of the device.

The 2-in-1 operating system tends to be Microsoft Windows based like traditional desktop and laptop computers, rather than the usual iOS and android operating systems.

Booklets were a type of tablet with two screens that had a 'clamshell' design. This enabled the device to be closed like a book. However, the concept never caught on, and they were soon discontinued.

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Final Thoughts

Tablet computers are part of everyday life, and they are not going anywhere anytime soon. Each generation of device improves in quality compared to the last. For example, ARM processors used in modern devices consume less power and therefore improve battery life.

There are also lots of add-ons available such as anti-glare screens for outside use or privacy screens. There is also flash memory, cloud storage options and Artificial Intelligence programs such as Siri or Alexa.

Take a look at the related pages below for further information on tablet computers.


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