iPad gets competition; Best Blu-ray players

December 13, 2010

But competition is heating up. Consumer Reports just tested several new tablets to see whether any of them give the iPad a run for the money. Included in the tests were the Samsung Galaxy Tab and less-expensive tablets, including one sold at Walgreens.

The iPad is the most expensive tablet computer, ranging in price from $500 to more than $800. But you get a lot of bang for your buck. On the iPad, you can create documents, browse the Web, and play plenty of games.

The less-expensive tablets cost about $100, and Consumer Reports finds that you get what you pay for. One thing to notice with the less-expensive tablets is that you don't have access to the Android market, so you're limited to third-party applications. That's a big problem. Another drawback is that the touch screens on some are less sensitive, so it's difficult to get where you want.

However, the Samsung Galaxy Tab has a lot to offer. It costs less than the iPad, anywhere from $400* to $650. It's smaller and lighter, too, so it's easier to hold while reading books. And Consumer Reports' tests show that the Galaxy's screen quality is comparable to the iPad's. The Galaxy's small screen might make it less appealing than the iPad for watching movies and TV, but it definitely gives the iPad some competition.

One difference between the iPad and the Galaxy tab is battery life. Consumer Reports testers found that while the iPad lasts for a full 10 hours, the Galaxy goes for just 7.

If you're looking for a tablet computer, right now your only real choices are the iPad or the Galaxy. And the choice depends on what's most important to you. Either could make the perfect present for someone on your holiday list this year.

*To get the Galaxy Tab for $400, you have to purchase a data contract.

Best Blu-Ray Players

'Tis the season when people are buying all sorts of electronics. If you're looking to give a Blu-ray player, your timing is very good. Prices have fallen dramatically. Consumer Reports can help you sort through all the choices. It tested more than 40 Blu-ray players, costing as little as $80 all the way up to $650.

The most important test assesses picture quality. The good news: Every Blu-ray player rated "excellent" for high-definition picture quality. And lower-priced players can still pack in plenty of features, such as a USB port so you can watch home videos on your TV, and Internet capability, which allows you to access movies online if you pay for a service such as Netflix or Vudu.

Some of the Blu-ray players are Wi-Fi capable, which means you can connect to your home network wirelessly.

Another consideration—how long it takes the player to load a movie. Consumer Reports measures how many seconds it takes until the first screen appears. Some take only 9 seconds; others can take as long as 37 seconds.

If a 3D TV is in your future, Consumer Reports recommends the $200 Sony BDP-S570 Blu-ray player, with built-in Wi-Fi. Right now there's not a lot of 3D content, but it will play Blu-ray discs and regular DVDs. And you'll be set to go if you decide to buy a 3D TV.

Not likely to go 3D any time soon? Then the Samsung BD-C5500 is a good choice. And it's a Consumer Reports Best Buy at $140.

If streaming movies from the Internet is important to you, be aware that Blu-ray manufacturers have agreements with certain service providers. The two recommended Blu-ray players in this report stream movies from Netflix. Consumer Reports says if you're interested in one service in particular, make sure the player you get offers it.

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