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Deciding whether to buy a new device or to upgrade from an old model Apple or Android tablet, Windows PC or Apple laptop/ desktop computer, can be overwhelming. There are a lot of the choices and technical specifications to choose from. Where do you start? Do you choose Apple or a PC? Will your budget affect your options?

It’s a daunting task, but it’s easier if you break the process into a series of small steps. Doing so helps you define some minimum requirements and lets your budget dictate whether you can afford to add more power, storage or additional software/ apps.

Note : As you review your PC/Mac options, consider your eyesight and physical dexterity (whether to use a touch screen and on-screen keyboard versus a real keyboard with a touch-pad or mouse) – eyesight and dexterity will also influence your final decision.

Zoom meetings and tablet options

If you’re looking for the least expensive way to participate in Zoom meetings using a device that has a decent size screen and webcam, then you can simplify your search considerably.

Zoom support lists the minimum requirements for tablets, computers, and smartphones for you, and you can find a summary table with all of the requirements on the LINKS page of the Computer Club’s website (

The biggest difference between different devices is how many people you can see at one time in Zoom’s gallery view. The key is screen size and resolution. To see everyone in the meeting you may need to swipe left to see the whole group in small batches. Gallery view on a phone may let you see only four people at a time, nine at once on a tablet or a small-screen laptop that’s less than 14 inches. With a larger screen size or higher resolution on a laptop or a desktop computer, you can see up to 50 people at a time on one screen, so you can see 100 people on just two screens.

If all you want to do is check email, browse the web, and join Zoom meetings, almost any new smartphone, tablet, laptop, or desktop will work fine. If you have an older device, check the list of requirements in the table on the Computer Cub website to see whether it will work with Zoom.

Regardless of the size tablet you purchase, you can also buy an inexpensive, lightweight keyboard that provides a convenient alternative to using the on-screen keyboard. Except for some of these considerations, you may be able to meet all your digital needs with a good smartphone.

Android Tablets versus Apple iPads

The biggest differences between Android tablets and Apple iPads are cost and your familiarity with using Android and iPadOS operating systems. Android tablets are considerably cheaper than Apple devices. However, Apple ensures its developers give a consistent look and feel to all the apps that run on their devices. So, if you’re familiar with working on an Apple iPhone, you will quickly learn and feel comfortable on a new Apple iPad, laptop, or computer because the apps operate similarly.

The user interface on an Android device can vary significantly between manufacturers and apps. As a result, you may experience a steeper learning curve. If you don’t already have an iPhone or an Android smartphone, but you want to buy a tablet, it might be a good idea to purchase a tablet that is already used by the friend or family member who can help you learn the basics. Tablets and laptops versus desktop computers Small tablets – A smartphone can fit in your pocket, but a small tablet with an 8-inch diagonal screen, like an iPad Mini (around $350), an 8-inch Galaxy Tab A (around $170), or Amazon Fire HD 8 (around $70) will fit in a purse, a portfolio cover, or small backpack. Small tablets can also be convenient alternatives for using a separate Kindle reader because Kindle apps are available to download on both iPads and Android tablets.

Note that the prices for devices above are all at the low-end starting price and have a minimum amount of memory. While the cheaper models work with a lot of applications, you may want to store and share a lot of pictures and videos on your device. In that case, you will need more memory to store them, and the prices for models with more memory can be significantly higher. Alternatively, you can keep the device memory at a minimum, and pay a monthly fee for cloud storage instead.

The batteries will typically run around eight to 10 hours if you’re not watching videos all day or using them as a GPS system for turn-by-turn directions in your car. Therefore, you’ll probably want to keep them plugged in, so the battery doesn’t die before you get where you’re going.

Standard tablets – A standard-sized tablet (with around a 9.7- to 12.9-inch diagonal screen) weighs more than a small tablet (around 1 pound or more compared to 0.7 pounds). So, you’ll need a larger bag, carrying case or backpack to carry it.

These tablets cost two to three times the cost of the small tablets, depending on storage capacity, screen resolution and other options. The larger tablets are more expensive but give you more power and higher screen resolutions. If you want to read a magazine or book, for example, the larger screen size will be easier on your eyes.

All tablets use touch screens and are easier to use if you’re sitting in a chair or couch. You may be more comfortable using a laptop computer at a kitchen table or desk.

Here’s a link to the September 2020 WIRED magazine article about the best tablets for any application: Laptop computers – Laptops are portable, they can run between two and five pounds, with screens sizes ranging from 11 to 17 inches. There are two kinds of laptops – those with a standard keyboard and a standard or touch-enabled screen, and 2-in-1 laptops with a touch-enabled screen and a special hinge, that can operate either as a large tablet, or a standard laptop with a keyboard. Note that none of the Apple laptops have touch-enabled screens but have a standard screen and include a track pad on the keyboard.

While laptops are usually designed to run more applications used by students or by businesses (word processing, spreadsheets and slide presentations), you may want the power offered by a laptop if you do a lot of photo and/or video editing or use any of the more business-oriented applications. Laptops start around $550 and go up to $2,500 depending on the screen size, battery life, file storage, and computer memory.

Here’s a link to a WIRED magazine article on the nine best laptops for 2020: y8e5myzn Here’s another article providing guidance on selecting features and options for laptops: https:// Desktop computers – If portability is not a consideration, desktops offer a much larger screen, more storage capacity and no worries about battery life because they are always plugged in. Desktop computers are priced roughly the same as laptops, but often the monitor is sold separately.

So carefully review which features are included in your purchase and which are considered separately purchased “accessories,” like a monitor, mouse or trackpad, or webcam. If you plan to use your desktop computer for Zoom or another video conferencing app, make sure the computer monitor includes a webcam with good resolution and a microphone, or plan to buy a USB webcam that clips onto the monitor.

Here is a link to PC Magazine’s list of best desktop computers for 2020: wzflw2m Windows PC versus Mac – Price is one of the biggest advantages that PCs have over Apple’s Macs because there are so many competing manufacturers that produce PCs. However, prices for high-end, high-powered PCs (for gaming, business applications, heavy video editing, etc.) are comparable in price to Macs.

PC users typically install Microsoft Office, which is available as subscription service instead of making a one-time purchase. It includes Word (word processing), Excel (spreadsheet) and Power-Point (slide presentations).

A number of free alternatives to MS Office (like LibreOffice) are also available. However, all Apple computers and devices come loaded with the Apple equivalent to Microsoft Office applications. The Apple applications are Pages (word processing), Numbers (spreadsheets) and Keynote (slide presentations).

Apple interfaces and integrates well between its iPhones, iPads, MacBook laptops and iMac desktop computers, and syncs applications and data between all of them. Great graphics and higher resolution screens are now comparable on both Macs and PCs.

Windows PCs are better for hard-core gaming, interfacing with Android, PlayStation, and Xbox products. However, integrating and syncing data between PC computers and other devices is not easy.

Have a tech question or want to see an archive of previous TECH TIPS columns? Go to the Computer Club website at and click on the LINKS menu choice at the top right of the page.

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