Going Paperless: Is it Time to Buy a Tablet?

by Salary.com Staff - Original publish date: January 18, 2012

Is it time for a tablet?

Think about how much paper you use at your job on a daily basis. You print out emails and spreadsheets, take notes during meetings and fill out forms which are then shipped across the office.

But all three tasks can now be accomplished using tablet computers which saves time, increases productivity and ensures at least a few more trees will remain standing.

Top Productivity Apps for Going Paperless

Apps like Documents To Go and Quickoffice® Pro allow you to open Microsoft Word (doc) files or Microsoft Excel (xls) files. You can also “print” to an Adobe Acrobat Acrobat File (pdf) and view documents electronically using apps like RepliGo Reader or ezPDF Reader.

Evernote is a program available on Windows, IOS (Apple) and Android devices that allows you to take pictures of your white board, collect spoken notes or jot down handwritten thoughts during meetings.

And when it comes to filling out forms, you (or your IT department) can create web based versions of these forms and simply visit an intranet version, fill it out via your tablet and hit submit.

Going paperless is entirely possible, but it takes the right tablet. The question is, which one is best for you and your office?

Apple iPad (First Generation) Pros and Cons

Apple iPad (First Generation)

Price Range: $399-$533 wifi/$449 -$569 3g 
Screen Size: 9.7”
Operating System: ios
Pros: Has the most apps, runs Evernote well
Cons: No camera, no flash support, true multitasking requires an update, stylus based input takes some getting used to

If you’re only looking to replace paper, the price is far too high. But what you’re paying for is the Apple logo and the largest library of third party applications. The extensibility of the device to grow with your usage is unparalleled, at least until you consider the iPad2. One drawback is not being able to snap a picture of the white board for your notes, but accessing web forms is no problem, recording voice memos is a breeze and using the device as a virtual printer of pdf documents is a snap!

Apple iPad 2 (Second Generation) Pros and Cons

Apple iPad 2

Price Range: $499-$699 for wifi/$629-$829 3g 
Screen Size: 9.7”
Operating System: ios
Pros: Adds front and rear camera, lighter than the first iPad
Cons: Expensive for the 64gb version

The iPad 2 adds the missing camera. Now during meetings, you can easily capture images of the white board and add to your notes. It makes the best in class even better.

NOOK Color eBook Tablet Pros and Cons

NOOK Color eBook Tablet

Price Range: $249, wifi only 
Screen Size:7”
Operating System:Android 2.2 (Android 3.0 may be supported soon)
Pros: Expandable storage via MicroSD cards
Cons: Fewer apps than IOS, no camera, no microphone

The Nook is cheaper but you get what you pay for. Originally intended as an enhanced ereader, Barnes & Noble limits users to a subset of the full Android library. Evernote is available on the Nook, but it lacks a camera and there is no microphone, which makes taking voice notes impossible. While you can send your pdfs to the tablet, you’ll spend lots of time zooming in on your documents on the 7” screen in order to read the print.

Samsung Galaxy Tab Pros and Cons

Samsung Galaxy Tab

Price Range: $199-$729 
Screen Size: 7” -10.1"
Operating System: Android 2.2 
Pros: Full Android library access, support for all cellular networks
Cons: Monthly contract

With a new contract, this can be the cheapest option. But that means you’re tied into a monthly fee to use your tablet. If you want to buy yours without a contract, they can end up being more expensive than some iPad offerings. Evernote runs well and multitasking is a breeze. There’s a built-in mic and camera, so you can take all the notes you need. But again, the stylus input takes some getting used to and if you get the 7" version you may have to zoom in repeatedly to view some documents.

Motorola XOOM Tablet Pros and Cons

Motorola XOOM

Price Range: $599-$799 
Screen Size: 10.1"
Operating System: Android 3.0
Pros:Larger display, high resolution
Cons: Fewer apps than IOS

The screen is simply amazing. With one of the largest screens in the bunch and the highest resolution, you can get an entire legal-sized document on screen without zooming in. Evernoteallows you to capture written, audio and image notes effortlessly. I’m seriously considering one of these myself when I’m ready to retire my iPad1.

HTC Flyer Tablet Pros and Cons

HTC Flyer

Price Range: $499-$899 
Screen Size: 7"
Operating System: Android 2.4 
Pros:Fastest processor, supports flash, lightweight
Cons: Absence of Android 3.0

While HTC put extra effort into the interface with their Sense UI, it still skipped the latest version of Android. You can still get Evernote complete with voice and pictures, as well as PDFs, but this model would’ve been better served with the newer version of Android. The end result is the Flyer feels more like an oversized smartphone than a well-rounded tablet.

Asus Eee Pad Transformer Tablet Pros and Cons

Asus Eee Pad Transformer 

Price Range: $399-$799 
Screen Size: 10.1"
Operating System: Android 3.0
Pros: Lower price, Optional Keyboard
Cons: Bulky, heavier device

First off, the screen is huge and viewable from a wide range of angles (no dimming when you turn it left and right). It also supports HDMI out of the box. It features a 2 MP front-facing camera and 5 MP rear-facing, which makes grabbing information from the whiteboard simple. For a $150 you can add a case with USB ports and a keyboard, the Transformer lives up to its name by converting into a Netbook. Those considering the Xoom should also take a long look at the Transformer before heading to the register.

Blackberry Playbook Tablet Pros and Cons

Blackberry Playbook 

Price Range: $439-$839 
Screen Size: 7"
Operating System: RIM
Pros: Lightweight, access to flash
Cons: Fewer apps than Android and IOS, must tether to cell phone

The coolest out-of-the-box feature is HDMI output, which means this device can serve as your laptop when giving presentations. iPad users have to shell out an extra $40 for this . But this tablet lacks what every other tablet has: a cellular data connection. You have to pair it to your cell phone through Bluetooth to get a connection to cellular data services. Also, RIM did not adopt a common OS, which means no Apple or Android apps are available. But it does have a camera, microphone and PDF viewer. If you’re already addicted to your Blackberry you probably won’t notice the limitations, but if you’ve used other devices (especially from Apple) you’ll be disappointed.

HP TouchPad Tablet Pros and Cons

HP TouchPad 

Price Range: $725 
Screen Size: 9.7"
Operating System: WebOS (palm)
Pros:Dual core processor
Cons: WebOS means very few available apps

HP bought Palm a couple years ago and their phones and tablets run the operating system Palm developed. That means a smaller army of developers and fewer apps than Apple and Android. Luckily, you still get access to Evernote so you can still ditch your paper notepad. The device is slated to come with a camera, but at 1.2 MP the clarity will be much worse than it’s competitors offering 5 MP resolution.

Netbooks Pros and Cons

Netbooks

Price Range: some are free with cell contract but can run as high as $549
Screen Size: varies
Operating System: Windows
Pros:Almost any Windows application will run
Cons: Low battery life. Low resolution.You can find fully functional laptops in the same small form factor.

Think of Netbooks as ultra-portable laptops, sacrificing features like DVD drives, massive hard drives and monster screens. I like the Dell Inspiron DUO  because it fills the void between computers and smartphones. Unfortunately, it’s geared more towards being a Netbook than a tablet with a battery charge just shy of four hours. Ideally any tablet should be closer to 10. There’s a built-in camera to take pictures of whiteboards, but the 1.3 MP resolution leaves a lot to be desired.

Don't forget to eCycle

Tablets represent a great way for an office to go paperless. But remember, it is not environmentally friendly to simply throw out old electronics either. Not only are there are recoverable elements such as gold, silver and copper within most electronics, there are environmentally damaging elements inside as well. So when it’s time to upgrade, consider the following:

  • Give it to a friend if it’s still in working order
  • Donate it to a school or charity. Cell phones can be reconditioned and sent to developing countries.
  • If the device is broken or unusable, find a recycling point and drop it off there. Nearly all electronics stores offer recycling stations, as do neighborhood recycling centers.

Recommended Reading (try an ebook)

Paperless Joy: Paperless Business & Lifestyle Design With Information & Communication Technology

iPad Means Business: How Apple's Tablet Computer is Changing the Work World

Take Control of Your Paperless Office

Five-Star Apps: The best iPhone and iPad apps for work and play

Best iPad Apps: The Guide for Discriminating Downloaders 

Best Android Apps: The Guide for Discriminating Downloaders

A Simpler Guide to the best free Android Apps: 100+ apps to inform, entertain and organise

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