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3 Smart Tablets for Business Pros on the Go

By John Brandon, CIO
January 09, 2014 10:36 AM ET

CIO - Tablets are taking over the enterprise. According to a recent IDC report, PC sales will drop by an all-time year-over-year record of 10.1 percent. That's a nose dive by any standard.

Why the quick decline? Over the past year, Apple, Amazon and even Microsoft have pushed mobile computing on a tablet as a way to stay connected in business.

A tablet gives you fingertip access to email, a speedy browser, enterprise-scale apps that can tap into corporate servers and a low price (something that's quite attractive to upper management). The latest models push the processing envelope even further -- in some cases, providing full multitasking between apps, fast 4G cellular access and accessories such as the Logitech FabricSkin Keyboard Folio to essentially turn a tablet into a laptop.

Choosing the right model can be difficult. The three tablets reviewed here all use a 10-inch screen, run business apps, connect over Wi-Fi and work fine for reading books on the plane or playing games before a meeting starts. They each have distinct advantages. We explain some of the benefits of each tablet (and mobile operating system) for business users without diving into the boring technical specs too much.

Apple iPad Air: App Selection Makes It Worth Expense

The clear leader in tablets, the Apple iPad Air is fifth-generation model. It's easily the lightest, at just 1 pound (for the Wi-Fi only model), and surprisingly thin, at 0.29 inches.

Once you realize how portable it is, the new iPad Air becomes much more attractive -- but for business users, the real advantage is that there are so many accessories. For example, there are at least eight cover keyboards, or covers that also include a Bluetooth keyboard, and at home you can stream music to wireless speakers such as the B&W Zeppelin Air designed specifically for iOS devices.

App selection is similar to Android tablets, such as the Kindle Fire HDX (discussed below). However, apps for iOS often include extra features: Evernote for iPad, for example, includes a way to scan 3M Post-it notes and an easier AirDrop system for sharing your notes with other employees. Another bonus is that productivity apps such as Keynote (for presentations) and Pages (for documents) are now free.

The 16GB iPad Air costs $499; this is significantly more than most tablets, but it's worth the extra expense. If you add 4G LTE service, the price jumps up to $629. The Air lasts about 10 hours, snaps 5 megapixel photos and runs on a fast 64-bit processor -- a first for tablets. This is the tablet you want for employees who need the widest app selection.

Kindle Fire HDX 8.9: Battery Life, Customer Support and Browsing Advantages

The Amazon Kindle Fire HDX 8.9 is the tablet with the tech support feature you've likely seen on TV. CIO.com tested this feature and found it worked amazingly well -- even if the technician who helped us was actually a burly guy in his 30s, not the spokesmodel you see on TV. Select the Mayday option and video chat with tech support (who can't see you) to troubleshoot issues such as getting Wi-Fi to connect in real-time. For a business, it's a brilliant way to solve problems.

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