E-book readers and tablets improve

Consumer Reports’ latest Ratings of tablets and e-book readers highlight some new models that match or even beat market leaders on performance, price and portability for consumers looking to buy a gadget to go.
While the iPad and Kindle still earned high scores, they now have company at the top of the Ratings. The Galaxy Tab 10.1, $600, a new 10-inch tablet from Samsung, almost matched the iPad 2, $730, 3G, Apple’s newest tablet, in screen quality. Like all Android-based tablets, it supports the Flash videos used by many websites. And a new version of Barnes and Noble’s Nook e-book reader, the Simple Touch, $140, outscored the Kindle in CR’s Ratings, offering touch-screen navigation and a lighter weight than the Amazon device. It’s the first time since the Kindle’s launch that it’s been outscored overall by another e-book reader.
Other devices, sometimes dubbed “tablet readers,” offer consumers a combination of tablet and e-reader traits. These hybrids place a heavy focus on reading but also include tablet-like features such a color screen and access to a selection of apps. One such example is Barnes and Noble’s Nook Color, $250, which is the top-scoring color model in CR’s tests. (Tablets offer the option to download e-book reading apps, including those from Kindle and Nook.)
For people looking to add more variety to their reading lists, on any type of device, a number of free e-book options are available for e-book readers. Hundreds of thousands of public-domain editions of many classic titles published before 1923 have been digitized by Google and offered up to the public as free downloads.
Other sources of free e-books include the e-bookstores for the Kindle, Nook, Sony Reader and Kobo devices and apps. Some public libraries also offer readers of e-books, including Nook and Sony models, the option to borrow e-books with a local library card after downloading the free Adobe Digital Editions computer software.
HOW TO CHOOSE
• E-book readers are best for books. An e-book reader remains the best choice if reading books is the top priority for a new device. Its lighter weight makes it more comfortable to hold during sustained reading and the text on an e-ink screen is easier to read than the text on tablets’ LCD screens, especially if plans include reading in bright light — as, say, on the beach.
• Tablets offer more reading versatility. A tablet is generally better-suited for reading e-magazines and e-newspapers. The iPad has by far the most access to magazines designed for the tablet experience. Plus, most tablets offer downloadable apps from Kindle, Nook and other digital booksellers that allow consumers to read e-books with the versatility of a tablet device.
• Choose a screen size and shape. Most screens on e-book readers and tablets are 6 inches to 7 inches or 10 inches. For e-book readers, CR recommends the smaller size range. With a tablet, the extra real estate of a 10-inch screen better suits such activities as Web surfing, video views and gaming. The iPad and most e-book readers have squarish screens which CR found to be better suited to more tablet uses than rectangular screens. For e-book reading, screen shape is a matter of personal preference.
• Opt for Wi-Fi connectivity. All but a few low-rated devices CR tested offer Wi-Fi connectivity. Most of the higher-rated devices also come in a version that can access cellular data networks as well as Wi-Fi.
• Consider apps selection for tablets. To make the most of a tablet’s capabilities, consider that there are a far greater breadth of apps available for iPads than for other tablets, though those competitors (especially those that use the Android operating system) are steadily expanding their selection.

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