Choosing a tablet

It’s only a few years since the launch of the iPad and the subsequent scrabble by the likes of Samsung and Microsoft to compete in the tablets market. Many iPad owners will tell you they’d never make the switch but Android tablets have gained a lot of ground since the early days of Apple domination. Most brands now come in various shapes and sizes to suit you and your budget. Think carefully about how much storage you might need on your tablet and whether you’re happy to access the internet over wi-fi only or you want a constant internet connection. Both of these decisions will have a significant impact on the price. Click the Which? guide tab above for more advice on tablets.

Tablet buying guide

Tablets are becoming more and more popular, thanks to their portability, user-friendliness, and wide variety of features. The Apple iPad invigorated the tablet market back in 2010, prompting other major technology brands to hop on the bandwagon too. Today there are literally hundreds of models to choose from, with something to suit every taste and budget.

What does a tablet do?

Because they’re a fairly recent addition to mainstream technology, many people still aren’t familiar with what a tablet is. In short, it’s basically a mini touchscreen computer. There’s no real limit to what you can do on a tablet, but they’re most commonly used for web browsing, enjoying multimedia, playing games, reading ebooks, and sometimes making Skype calls too. Because they’re compatible with apps (handy downloadable software, commonly seen with smartphones) you can expand their features to allow them to do even more.

While tablets are an excellent addition to most people’s lives, they generally aren’t considered a complete substitute for a regular laptop. Beyond sending emails or light work tasks, they generally lack the keyboards and processer speeds necessary to make them ideal for professional use.

Features and specifications to look out for

With multiple models being produced by big brands like Samsung, ASUS, and HP, there’s no shortage of tablets to choose from. However, just like computers and smartphones, they come in a variety of shapes, sizes and specifications – along with varying features too.

• Size: Depending on what you’ll be using your tablet for, size certainly matters. Many consumers opt for a 7-inch tablet, which provides a decent-sized screen and excellent portability - giving you the versatility to use it at home or out and about. If you’re mainly going to be using your tablet at home however, then consider a 10-inch tablet or larger. These sometimes offer HD screens, and are more useful for watching TV and films, as well as playing games.
• Memory: The more memory a tablet has, the more videos, music, pictures, and apps you can store on it. Tablet storage typically ranges from 8 – 128GB, and models are generally more expensive the more they offer. If you’ll be using your tablet mainly to browse the web and store a handful of files, then 16GB will usually do the job. If you’re going to download lots of apps and games, and load it up with movies and music however, then a 32GB memory will probably be more appropriate. Some tablets, such as those in the Samsung Galaxy range, provide a slot for a memory card, which allows you to add additional storage if you need it.
• WiFi or Cellular: All tablets will connect to the internet via WiFi, but if you need on-the-go internet access that doesn’t rely on WiFi hotspots, then a cellular model might be something to consider. Cellular tablets make use of the 3G or 4G mobile internet networks in the same way as smartphones. They’re generally more expensive than regular tablets, and you’ll need to pay a monthly fee for your data.
• Power: As with a computer, a tablet’s processor determines its speed and power. A dual or quad core processor is generally recommended if you want something capable of handling all tasks with ease.
• Built-in Camera: Many tablets offer the convenience of a built-in camera, some of which are capable of producing stunning high megapixel results. Whilst most people are more likely to reach for their phone than their tablet whilst taking on-the-go snaps, it’s a useful feature to have. Some models such as the Apple iPad also provide a front-facing camera too, making them excellent for Skype calls.
• Keyboard: A few tablets come equipped with a keyboard or keyboard compatibility, making them more useful for more work-related tasks. For most professionals though, a small laptop would probably be more ideal.

Operating Systems: Android, Apple, or Windows?

Tablets run on a variety of different operating systems, with Android, iOS and Windows being the most popular. Apple’s iOS is favoured for its user-friendliness and well-stocked app store, but is exclusive to pricey iPads. The hugely popular Android operating system features on many more affordable tablets, along with top-end models from the likes of Samsung, Sony and Amazon. It provides a well-stocked app store, and lots of versatility. Windows on the other hand is better suited for work. Some tablets run on Windows RT, a mobile version of the popular PC operating system, whilst some utilize the full version of Windows which runs regular computer software. In any case, both offer versions of popular PC programmes, such as Microsoft Office.

How much can you expect to pay?

There are tablets for absolutely every consumer and their budget. A basic no frills model suitable for web browsing and multimedia can be snared for as little as £40, while a premium model boasting all the bells and whistles can easily set you back several hundred pounds.

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