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Product Reviews

Finding alternatives to the iPad

Android tablets showing signs of improvement

Samsung’s Galaxy Tab 7.

Samsung’s Galaxy Tab 7.

Apple’s third-generation iPad offers the best detail and most accurate colors Consumer Reports has seen on a tablet yet. The 4G version, $630, now tops the magazine’s ratings.

Apple pumped the camera up to 5 megapixels. The broadband version now offers 4G Internet access, which in informal tests was very fast and dependable.

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Finally, battery life exceeds any other tablet’s.

Several new Android tablets also receive Consumer Reports’ recommendation. The Toshiba Excite 10LE (Wi-Fi, 16 gigabytes), $530, is the lightest 10.1-inch tablet the magazine has tested, weighing in at just over a pound. It’s also a very thin 0.31 inch.

Samsung added a new tablet to its Galaxy Tab line. The Samsung Galaxy Tab 7.7 (Wi-Fi, 4G, 16 gigabytes), $700, has an OLED display that provides deeper blacks and a wide viewing angle.

If you are worried about taking a device to the pool or beach, consider the Pantech Element (Wi-Fi, 4G, 16 gigabytes), $450, which is claimed to be waterproof. Its 10-hour battery life is the longest among the smaller tablets tested. But it’s not as readable in bright sunlight as some other models.

If you read e-books and miss the feel of a paperback, consider the Sony Tablet P (Wi-Fi, 4G, 4 gigabytes), $550. It has dual 5-inch screens, and you can hold it like a book, though that works only with books from Sony’s market. When playing some games, the lower screen is a controller. But the split screen can get in the way when Web browsing.

For 7- to 8-inch-screen tablets, Best Buys are the Amazon Kindle Fire (Wi-Fi, 8 gigabytes), $200, and Barnes & Noble Nook Tablet (Wi-Fi, 16 gigabytes), $250.

Keeping computer files safe

Odds are good that when you buy a computer, it will come loaded with an antimalware program. Acer and Dell, for example, include a free McAfee trial with their laptops, and Toshiba includes a Norton free trial. But there’s no need to pay when the trial runs out: You can get good protection, especially against online threats, free of charge.

Consumer Reports evaluations turned up free programs that should adequately protect all but the most at-risk Internet users from viruses, spyware, and other online threats.

Pair a free program such as Avira, which Consumer Reports recommends, with other free tools to build a “suite” that should keep you safe. Make sure Windows’ firewall is on, to help prevent malware from downloading and keep malicious websites from grabbing data off your computer. But if you remotely access files on your computer when you’re away from home, for example, you will need stronger protection.

If your e-mail program often allows spam messages into your inbox, add a free antispam program such as Spamfighter. Browsers such as Firefox warn if you’re visiting a risky site.

Apple computers experience far fewer attacks than PCs. Apple’s firewall and other security features offer sufficient protection.

But Mac users may want to install an antimalware program to avoid passing on Windows malware to others.

Before you install free software, uninstall any preloaded security programs. Some free programs might have persistent pop-ups that try to sell you the pay version.

Pay versions of security software offer more features and are simpler to use, with a single interface, just one download and installation, and a single upgrade from time to time.

Watch for automatic renewals once your subscription ends, especially if you’re not planning to use the program again. Antimalware programs let you know when your subscription is about to end with pop-up messages. Several automatically renew, although you can opt out of that service.

Consumer Reports writes columns, reviews, and ratings on cars, appliances, electronics, and other consumer goods. Previous stories can be found at consumerreports.org.
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