Glossary of Tablet Terms
3G/4G: 3G and 4G are mobile communication technology standards that provide Internet services to mobile devices like smartphones and tablets. The “G” stands for each generation of technology, making 4G (or LTE) the faster successor to 3G. Unlike tablets that are only Wi-Fi enabled, those with 3G or 4G will be able to access the Internet (and therefore email, social networks, app downloads, and the like) outside of wireless networks, providing more freedom to use all of your tablet’s features. However, that connectivity usually comes with an increased cost, as well as a monthly fee.
Accelerometer: A motion sensor that detects a tablet’s orientation. For example, when you turn your tablet from portrait to landscape orientation, the content will generally adjust to fit the screen. This is the accelerometer at work. Some games and apps also incorporate the accelerometer in other ways, though this varies from program to program.
Ambient Light Sensor: Determines how much light is available in the area surrounding your tablet and adjusts the screen brightness accordingly. This conserves battery life, allowing you to get more use out of each charge.
App Store: A digital distribution platform for software, such as the App Store for Apple® or the Google Play market found on Android™ devices. This allows you to download applications or apps, sometimes for free and sometimes for a fee. Apps will vary by store, operating system, and manufacturer. Most tablets come with some apps preloaded.
Bit/Byte: A bit is the smallest unit of measurement for electronic data. Eight bits equals one byte; approximately 1,000 bytes equals one kilobyte (KB); 1,000 kilobytes equals one megabyte (MB), and 1,000 megabytes equals one gigabyte (GB). These units determine how much information your tablet can store and retrieve.
Bluetooth: A form of wireless communication allowing devices to communicate with each other. For example, a Bluetooth keyboard or mouse might be compatible with a tablet, allowing these components to be used wirelessly.
Bus Speed: Measured in megahertz (MHz), bus speed is the speed or frequency at which the data on the motherboard is moving.
Capacitive Touchscreen: A type of touchscreen display that is very responsive to finger touches, allowing easy swiping, which generally results in an intuitive user interface; however, they won’t respond to a gloved hand or stylus. See touchscreen for more information.
Chipset: A set of electronic components in an integrated circuit that manages the data flow between the processor, memory, and peripherals. It is usually found in the motherboard of a computer or tablet.
Cloud Storage: Allows data to be stored virtually in storage space hosted by a third party, as opposed to on your physical hard drive. Cloud storage can be advantageous because it may make it easy to share information across devices or among users, as well as freeing up your own physical hard drive space.
DDR (Double Data Rate): A type of SDRAM (memory) that supports data transfers that effectively doubles the speed of the RAM. Double data rate type three (written DDR3), which is currently in use, is twice as fast as its predecessor.
Digital Media: Can refer to the places where digital files are stored (memory cards, hard drives) or the files themselves (photos, videos, MP3s).
eReader: Also called an eBook reader, this refers to a mobile electronic device designed for reading digital books (eBooks). While some tablets exist simply for this purpose, like the most basic Amazon Kindle and Barnes & Noble Nook models, most modern tablets have an eReader feature built-in, such as the iPad® iBook® app.
Expansion Slot: A slot that allows you to “expand” your tablet functions by using memory cards. Not all tablets have expansion slots, and they’re generally more limited than those found in computers.
FaceTime®: A proprietary video calling service from Apple, which comes built into Mac® computers, as well as iPad, iPhone®, and internet-enabled iPod® devices. It functions basically the same as other video chatting services, though is restricted to users with Apple IDs (so you can’t use FaceTime on your iPad to call a friend with an Android tablet). FaceTime calls can be made across various devices (iPad to iPhone, iPhone to Mac), so the service is particularly useful to those with multiple Apple devices.
Flash Memory: Sometimes called internal memory on tablets, this refers to how much room you have to store media files like photos, apps, and music. While a computer’s hard drive might have hundreds of gigabytes of storage space, a tablet’s memory much more limited, a trade-off for being so portable.
Geotagging: The process of adding geographical identification information to the media. For example, if you take a photo with a GPS-enabled mobile device, the device may automatically add information about where the photo was taken. Usually, this can be turned on and off in a tablet’s settings.
GPS/GLONASS: GPS stands for “Global Positioning System”; you’re probably familiar with the ones designed strictly for vehicles, but modern mobile devices usually have some kind of GPS feature installed, eliminating the need for a standalone GPS. Some devices use GPS with GLONASS (Global Navigation Satellite System), which works alongside the GPS to provide faster, more accurate directions.
Graphics Card: Also called a video card, it’s what allows the tablet to display pictures.
Gyroscope: Often combined with an accelerometer in a tablet, the gyroscope allows for more accurate recognition of movement. This is particularly useful in motion-controlled apps and certain games, which utilize more advanced controls than those that only use an accelerometer.
Hardware: The physical components of a tablet.
HDMI (High-Definition Multimedia Interface): The uncompressed, all-digital standard used for high-definition (HD) quality for consumer electronics and PC products using a single cable (an HDMI cable).
Hertz (Hz): A unit of frequency equal to one cycle per second.
High Definition: Means that the screen will be “widescreen” and at least twice as clear as standard definition (which is 480 horizontal lines). Generally, anything at 720 or more horizontal lines will be considered HD; 1920×1080 resolution refers to Full HD, and 4K (or 4,000) horizontal lines refers to Ultra HD.
I/O Ports (Input/Output): The connectors on a tablet that connect its external devices, such as a USB port.
IPS (In-Plane Switching): LCD screen technology was first introduced in 1996 and now used in many displays. IPS technology offers wide viewing angles and consistent, accurate color reproduction without blur.
iSight® Camera: A proprietary camera of Apple, previously an external webcam. Not to be confused with a FaceTime camera, iSight refers to the rear cameras in more recent iPhone, iPad, and iPod models, which generally have a higher resolution than the front-facing FaceTime camera.
LAN (Local Area Network): A set of devices, such as computers, printers, or video games, physically or wirelessly connected for interactive communications wirelessly.
LCD (Liquid Crystal Display): A type of display that uses standard compact fluorescent tubes to illuminate the picture. Unlike LEDs, they don’t produce their own light.
LED Backlighting: A way of producing light in LCD screens, resulting in a much clearer, brighter, better-looking display.
Level 2 Cache: Often written as “L2 cache,” this is a type of memory capable of high-speed storage, enabling quick access to the most recently used data and instructions.
Lightning Port/Cable: The power connector used on Apple devices starting in September 2012 with the iPhone 5, fourth-generation iPad, iPad mini™, 5th generation iPod touch®, and 7th generation iPod Nano®. It replaced the 30-pin adapter, with Apple claiming improved functionality and power capacity as reasons for a new proprietary charger.
Lithium-ion/lithium-polymer: A light, rechargeable battery often used in portable electronics such as tablets and smartphones.
Memory: The place where a computer keeps programs and data. This could refer to the hard drive, RAM, or cache.
Memory Card Reader: A device that accesses data on a memory card, such as an SD card.
Motherboard: A tablet’s main circuit board. It’s the central, essential part of a computer to which most other integrated parts are connected.
Multi-touch: A touchscreen or touchpad, sometimes referred to as multi-gesture, that recognizes two or more fingers, incorporating advanced functionality like pinching to zoom.
Network Card: A network card, network adapter, network interface controller, network interface card, or LAN adapter is a computer hardware component designed to allow computers to communicate over a computer network. It allows users to connect to each other wirelessly or by using cables.
Oleophobic Coating: An oil-resistant coating applied to touchscreens to help reduce fingerprints and smudges.
Operating System (OS): Software that takes care of basic system activities such as reading forms and saving to disk. It controls how system resources are used and provides a user interface. Tablet operating systems are generally optimized for a portable touchscreen experience. Among the most popular mobile operating systems are Google’s Android, which can be found on a variety of devices, and Apple’s iOS, found on iPhone, iPad, and internet-enabled iPod devices.
Processor: Also known as the CPU (central processing unit). As the primary element carrying out the tablet’s functions, it’s effectively the “brain” of the tablet. A dual-core processor has two execution cores, while a quad-core has four, etc; generally, more cores allows for faster computing.
Processor Speed: The rate at which the CPU performs calculations per second. It’s measured in megahertz (MHz) or gigahertz (GHz). 1000MHz equals one GHz.
RAM (Random Access Memory): The place where a tablet keeps programs and data when they are in use. It’s measured in megabytes or gigabytes (see bit/byte for more info).
Resistive Touchscreen: Can typically be used with a finger or stylus, but require pressure to be applied to the screen, which can sometimes affect ease of use. See touchscreen for more information.
Retina Display: A type of LCD screen specific to newer-model Apple MacBook Pro®, iPad, iPhone, and iPod devices. Retina displays have a high enough pixel density that the human eye is unable to notice pixelation at a typical viewing distance. Basically, Retina displays are clearer than typical LCDs.
SATA (Serial ATA): A way of connecting a hard drive to a computer. Most computers made after 2005 use SATA hard drives, which is generally faster and more efficient than SATA’s predecessor, PATA.
Screen Resolution: Maximum number of pixels that can be displayed on the screen. This number is a product of the number of columns and the number of rows. For example, a display with a 1920×1080 resolution can display 1,920 columns of pixels and 1,080 rows of pixels. The higher the resolution, the clearer the screen; see high definition for more info.
Software: The actual programs on a tablet, as opposed to the physical components. This includes apps and the operating system itself.
Solid-State Drive (SSD): Like a standard hard drive, a solid-state drive is used to store data. However, SSDs read and write files much more quickly, resulting in better performance overall. Hybrid drives combine the standard features of hard-disk drives and solid-state drives, resulting in a more optimal performance than a hard drive alone at a better price than a large SSD.
Soundcard: A piece of computer hardware that controls its sound input and output.
TFT (Thin Film Transistor): A type of LCD flat-panel display that is made to be as thin and light as possible, taking up less space than bulky old-school computer monitors. TFT displays also generally have higher resolutions than older displays.
Touchscreen: A display you can interact with by touching it with an object, typically a finger or stylus. Touchscreens are one of the defining characteristics of tablets. For more information on different kinds of touchscreens, see a capacitive touchscreen, resistive touchscreen, and multi-touch.
USB (Universal Serial Bus): A high-speed serial port technology that allows a variety of input and output devices to be easily attached to a PC. A USB device can be plugged in or unplugged without turning off the PC and is automatically recognized and configured upon plug-in. Typically modern computers will have USB 3.0, USB 2.0, or some combination of the two. On paper, USB 3.0 is faster, though how much faster will depend on other factors, like your hardware.
Webcam: The term webcam is a combination of “web” and “video camera.” They can be used for video chatting or recording videos, and are built into most tablets. Some tablets may even have two cameras, one that faces the front and one that faces the back, with the front being more suited for video chatting.
WiDi: This Intel-developed technology is short for Wireless Display, and lets users to stream music, movies, photos, videos, and apps wirelessly from a compatible tablet to a compatible HDTV or through the use of an adapter with other HDTVs. WiDi technology is capable of Full HD 1080p video and 5.1 surround sound audio, but you’ll need the appropriate hardware to achieve that.
Wi-Fi: Wireless networking technology that uses radio waves to provide wireless high-speed Internet and network connections. Wireless networks will generally use a 2.4GHz or 5GHz network, with 5GHz networks being able to carry more data. Some devices offer dual-band Wi-Fi, which works at both 2.4GHz and 5GHz frequencies. Some newer tablets use MIMO (Multiple Input Multiple Output) Wi-Fi, which increases the performance of existing Wi-Fi networks.
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