One of the main reasons to buy a tablet is entertainment. Movies and TV episodes take up a lot of storage though, which has to be shared with any apps, documents, pictures and music you keep on the tablet. A tablet with 16GB of storage or less can quickly fill up.
More content is available to purchase for the iPad than for other tablets. The iTunes store has an enormous selection of music, podcasts, TV programmes and films available, while Apple’s Newstand has a wide range of digital magazines and newspapers as well.
Android, meanwhile has the Google Play store. This offers movie rentals, apps books and - soon in the UK - music. There are alternatives, too: the Amazon Kindle store has one of the biggest libraries of eBooks anywhere. Zinio caters for a range of digital magazines. For music, a subscription to Spotify and its vast catalog of songs for streaming is an alternative to storing music directly on the device. Kindle, Zinio and Spotify are also available as apps on the iPad.
It can be tricky to put content you already own, such as DVD, onto an iPad. It has to be in a very specific format, then imported into your iTunes library. A free video encoding program such as Handbrake can take an existing film, then at the touch of a button, reformat it for the iPad’s screen size. But this process takes a long time unless you have a very powerful processor.
There are fewer restrictions with Android. Android tablets can handle a wide range of media formats, and you can usually copy a movie from your computer directly onto the tablet, or onto a MicroSD card. Some of the cheaper Android tablets can’t cope with high-definition video, though.
Similarly, the PlayBook supports plenty of common video formats including DivX , MKV, QuickTime, WMV and AVI at up to 720p for playback on the 7in screen. It's particularly good for watching videos while travelling due to its size and weight. Plus, the front-mounted stereo speakers provide better quality sound than the iPad and most Android tablets when you're not using headphones.
Another option is to stream movies or music from your computer to the tablet using an app such as Orb, or Emit. Content no longer takes up precious storage, and can be viewed over a wireless network - even a mobile data connection with certain apps.
On the iPad, video streaming can get around the format restrictions. An iPad app called Air Playit HD can play videos that are encoded as avi, mkv or wmv formats, which are shared from a desktop computer. An Android version has just been released too.
DLNA, an open technology for wireless media streaming, is supported by plenty of apps for the iPad, and is natively supported by Android. Many network-attached storage (NAS) devices come with built-in DLNA servers, so you can stream video directly to a tablet, without needing to leave a computer turned on.
Deciding which platform is best is tricky. If you're happy to convert video to suit the iPad, or buy content from iTunes, it's certainly a slick experience. Photos look great on its screen, too, especially the new iPad's 2048x1536 display. If you prefer to have a tablet that can cope with various video files, Android - or indeed the PlayBook - is likely to be a better option.
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