Just about every tablet has some sort of email program. As tablets switch on instantly like a mobile phone, they're ideal for checking your email messages without waiting for a PC or laptop to boot up.

Whether you use a web browser, Microsoft Outlook or your tablet’s email app to log in to a web-based email service (such as Gmail or Hotmail) any new messages, sent replies or flagged conversations will appear on whichever device you use to log in next time. When a new email arrives, the PlayBook, iPad and Android tablets notify you with an alert noise, and a message summary appears on the screen.

See also: Which is the best tablet: iPad, Android or BlackBerry?

The iPad can work with multiple accounts using the built-in Mail app. Apple gives you an email address ending in @me.com when you sign up for iCloud, but you can set up any number of web mail, Exchange or POP email accounts too. The different accounts are nested in the Inbox, so you can easily find messages.

You can choose to view each inbox separately, or all together in one big list. Conversations are shown in threads, so it's easy to track back through who said what without scrolling back through the inbox.

iPad Email

Setting up an Exchange account (usually for your work email) on iOS is straightforward, as long as you know the server addresses. Reminders and contacts can also be synchronised with the iPad’s respective apps. Even if you have, say, an Android phone and an iPad, you will be able to access your phone’s contacts, stored on Google’s servers, on your tablet as well.

When you first turn on an Android device, it asks you to sign in to a Google account, which by nature means you’ll also have a Google Mail email address. This account is used across a number of web sites, including Picasa, Google Docs and YouTube. Different manufacturers handle email in different ways. Samsung has its own email client on the Galaxy Tab (shown below), although you can download the official Gmail app from Google Play if you wish.

Samsung Android Email

 Android also works with Microsoft Exchange servers. In the email app on the Samsung Galaxy Tab, after adding a new account and entering the server details, it detects whether it's dealing with a traditional POP3-based email server or an Exchange server, then goes on to ask for the other details of your Exchange account.

On the PlayBook, all communication is handled by a single app called Messages. It combines Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn with traditional email, including Microsoft Exchange, Gmail, IMAP and POP3 accounts. You can use Blackberry Bridge to share data such as email, contacts, and BBM (Blackberry Messenger) between the PlayBook and a Blackberry smartphone over Bluetooth.

BlackBerry PlayBook Email

Overall, we prefer the iPad's email client over the alternatives on Android and the PlayBook.

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