The Only Tablet Buying Guide You Will Ever Need

tablet buying guide

Did you know that there is an app for everything? If you search hard enough, you will see that there is a tab for everything as well. They come in a wide variety of sizes and prices that can serve your every need.

Our complete tablet buying guide will give you a good idea of what you can do with your tab and how to choose your best fit from the huge bag of options available.

Features to look for

You won’t get everything in every brand. But here is an idea of what to look for in a tablet.

pick the right tablet

Size and shape

The first thing to decide on is the screen size. Nowadays you have plenty of options starting from 7 inches to 18. If you’re looking for a graphics tablet, you can get as big as 22-inch ones. 8-inch and 10-inch tablets are the most popular and most comfortable for personal use.

The shape is just a matter of preference. The way the industry is going, most of the latest tabs have very similar shapes. The best way is to check out the device at the store and see how it feels to hold it. Most of them have rounded edges, but a metal back might feel more slippery.

Weight

This falls into the size category but is usually not given enough attention. You will mostly be holding the tab in your hand, so you need to check if the weight is comfortable. If you happen to ignore this feature before buying, you can get a stand for the device. But that doesn’t put it in a comfortable position for all activities.

Portability

Height, weight, length, and width all contribute to portability. If you plan to carry it around (which you probably will), get something light and preferably slim.

Another thing to consider here is if you can set it up anywhere. For example, tablets that come with a keyboard cover, like the Microsoft Surface Pro, have an attached kickstand at the back. These are sturdy enough but don’t often stand on uneven surfaces. So just having a stand does not guarantee you will be able to use them anywhere.

System

  • Operating system

These are the main operating systems you will find – iPad OS, Android, and Windows – and less popular, Fire OS. There are a handful of Linux tabs too if you’re into those. The best thing about Android is the familiar UI and the enormous app collection in Play Store. Fire OS is based on the Android layout, so you get a similar experience, but the Amazon store is not that stocked with free apps yet. You also get a pretty big collection in Apple’s App Store, but not so much in the Windows Store. However, since you can run third-party apps in the Windows OS, that’s not much of a problem.

  • RAM

Another thing you should look at is the tablet RAM. You can easily get a 2 GB RAM in a budget device and that can take care of most activities. But if you are looking for a powerful tablet for gaming or work, we recommend you go for 4 or 6 GB ones. If you don’t have budget concerns, try to get 8 GB. The larger the RAM, the faster it works. Although the speed also depends on the processor, a high RAM does make multi-tasking easier.

  • Processor

Now, the processor is not something everyone understands or even cares about. So we will make it short and simple. You don’t have much of a choice if you want an Apple device, but for others, you need to be looking at the clock speed and cores. Dual-core processors are a thing of the past. You need at least quad-core (octa-core better) and 1.2 GHz clock speed. 2 GHz is also available readily. Anything above 1.3 GHz is great.

These specs are based on current standards and average usage. With lower specs, the device will work slower and might lag – simple as that.

Storage

If you’re wondering how much storage do I need on my tablet – it’s more than you think.

16 to 32 GB internal storage is common, but if you get the option for 64 GB – take that. It may not seem like a big deal, but the system uses up a few gigabytes. So you don’t get exactly what it says on the box. Also, security updates and system updates take up a lot of space. You should never let updates hanging to save space. Not updating the software regularly puts your device at risk.

Also, in some tablets, you may find the option for a micro SD slot, which solves a lot of problems. You can expand your memory and use external storage for apps and media.

Connectivity

Pretty much every tablet out there allows Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connections. Only some come with a cellular network connection as well. If you want to buy one device for the home and stay connected while you’re out, this might come in handy. There are some, like iPads, that comes in two models – Wi-Fi only or Wi-Fi + cellular.

Having the cellular network connection is considered as somewhat an additional feature, so those cost a little more. If it is not essential for you, no need to spend that extra dough. You can always make a call on Whatsapp or Messenger.

Additional features

  • Camera – There is little chance you will be using a tab to take pictures (phone cameras are just too good these days). But you might have to, and you will probably use it for video calling. In case you are going for a budget option, you might want to check what kind of front camera it has, if at all.
  • Audio – Plenty of devices look like they have dual speakers, but they don’t. So if you don’t like using headphones, make sure you get dual loudspeakers. You can also try to get something with Dolby Atmos Surround Sound, if possible.
  • Display – Both IPS LCD and AMOLED displays can work pretty well if the resolution is high. 1280 x 800 pixels is good enough for 7 to 10-inch screens. In the case of resolution, the higher, the better.
  • Battery – This is the case for the battery. The bigger, the better. How much battery your tablet consumes depends on the RAM, processor as well as the size of your screen. For an 8-inch tab with a 4 GB RAM, something above 3000 mAh is okay, but 4000 mAh is best. For tablets, you will find batteries with over 9000 mAh capacity too. So if you have a powerful processor, look for complimentary battery capacity.
  • Ports – Whether it’s a flash drive, an accessory, or a phone that needs charging, we still need ports. Most tabs do not have extra ports other than for charging and you probably won’t miss it. But an additional port can be very useful.

How to decide?

When there are too many options, it can be overwhelming. When you are about to purchase a tablet, here are the most important questions you need to ask yourself:

  • What will you use the tablet mostly for?
  • Who will be using it?
  • What is your budget and can you go over it?

Categorize your needs

Once you have the answers to these questions, you can decide accordingly.

What you will use it for?

For reading

Your best option is to get an E-Reader. In the past, this meant pretty much the same as a tablet with fewer features, but that’s not what we’re talking about.

You may have heard of Amazon Kindle. It uses an E Ink technology which means that the display is not LCD. It does not have the harmful blue light that smartphones, laptops, and tablets do. The display feels like reading paper and you get some extra features like a built-in dictionary, highlighting, changing the font size, etc. But these are not meant for any other activity – just reading.

Although Kindle Paperwhite is the most popular in this category, there are other options like Kindle Oasis (also by Amazon), Kobo Clara HD, and Nook Glowlight that are pretty good.

You can also look at regular tablets for reading and then just get an ebook reader app on it. The updated software these days lets you adjust brightness, add a blue light filter, etc. Amazon Fire 8 HD and iPad Mini (definitely the best small tablet) is highly recommended.

 Amazon Fire 8 HD
XP-Pen Artist 12

For artwork

You need a good tablet that supports a stylus. Plenty of Android and Windows tabs support Wacom styli (which is the brand to go for). All you need is to get a drawing app from the Play Store and sketch away. For this, you might want to get at least an 8-inch screen size and HD display.

If you’re not a professional but just enjoy digital art, don’t go for a drawing tablet. Samsung Galaxy tabs come with a stylus of their own and are great for drawing. You can also get an iPad and an Apple Pencil, which is also highly recommended by artists.

However, the best choice is to get a graphics tablet. Now, these tablets need to be connected to a computer or laptop to work. You can get a variety of sizes and with or without a display. They all come with a stylus so you don’t have to buy one separately. Wacom, XP-Pen, Gaomon, and Huion are the most popular brands.

These are a different category, so they also have some other features you need to check. For more details, check out our review of the best drawing tablets as well as some great budget options you might like. We recommend Wacom Intuos for beginners and budget shoppers, and XP-Pen Artist 12 and Wacom Cintiq for professional artwork.

For (office) work

If you need to work on the go, you need a good processor. A low RAM may still get the job done, but it will hamper multi-tasking. 10-inch screen sizes are optimum, but 11-inch might be more comfortable.

Windows tablets are the best for work. The reason for this is the fact that your work laptop probably runs Windows. Let’s not forget that Windows also supports more external systems compared to any other OS and Microsoft designed it to increase productivity. You can just sign in to your Microsoft account on the Windows tab and get everything synced too.

Microsoft Surface Pro 6 and 7 are the best options. They come with a slim keyboard attachment that is easy and comfortable to use. Windows 10 now has a tablet mode, so you can easily switch to and from PC mode with just a tap. You can also check out Lenovo Carbon X1 (the tab, not the laptop) which is a super-powerful device too. These are a bit pricey, so you may also opt for other brands that offer tabs with a good keyboard.

Microsoft Surface Pro 6
iPad Mini

For gaming

This requires a more powerful system. Depending on the game, you need a high RAM, fast processor, and long battery life. You can make do with lower specifications. But the device needs to run multiple operations simultaneously during a game, so it will need to work harder if it has a low capacity. This results in the device freezing, apps not loading, and heating problems.

For regular Play Store games, an 8-inch screen and anything beyond 2 GB of RAM is good enough. You can also enjoy most games on a 7-inch tab like the iPad Mini because it’s still powerful.

For Other Multimedia usage

If you want to watch movies and videos, the display should be your most important criterion. HD is good, but try to find full HD displays to make the best of your movie experience. If you want to carry the tab around, we recommend 10-inch tablets. There are larger ones that you might enjoy more like the iPad Pro 12.9.

Most tablets have a front camera and the main camera but they’re not all that great. The Samsung Galaxy S6 and iPad Pro are exceptions in this case. The image quality lives up to the brand image. The audio is also great on these tablets. However, for music lovers – just get a good pair of headphones.

iPad Pro 12.9

For Travel

This is a bit tricky, although you might think otherwise.

If you mostly use the tab when traveling, it’s probably your secondary device. You need a balance between portability and usage. An iPad or a tab from the Surface range can probably meet most requirements easily but they will cost you. If you are not willing to spend that much, you need to prioritize.

First, decide what you will use the tab for while traveling. Do you just read and watch videos or browse the internet? Or do you need to get work done while you’re out of the office? Pick your most important activities. If you don’t have to work, you won’t need a keyboard.

Next, see what kind of travel is concerned. Are you going on a month-long trip? Or are you taking three short trips within a few weeks? It’s always best to pack light, but if you are not going to be moving a lot, you can get a larger device. It might even make sense to carry your laptop if you need it. But if you are moving a lot, get something slim and light to fit in your backpack.


A little bit of everything

Well, it’s either this or shopping on a budget. If you want to use your tablet, you can. But you will need to make a hefty investment. With how the latest tablets are being improved and software developed, it will probably be worth it.

And if Goldilocks wants a mix of all features, just look for the best 10-inch tablet.

Who will be using the tablet?

For Students

The best choice for students might be to get a laptop. Depending on what they study, they may need more power than they initially anticipated.

That being said, you might consider either:

  • An iPad since it’s easy to use and carry. Get a keyboard with it, if required.
  • Or, a Windows tablet because it will support most apps that a laptop does, and most new ones are designed to work well with keyboards.

You can always consider Android if you’re on a budget but Windows is more useful.

For Kids

Let’s just start with the fact that kids should not be introduced to technology too early.

For children, you want something relatively small that won’t damage easily. Amazon Fire tablets are a great choice because of the sturdy body. Their displays are pretty good and you can dim the brightness to protect your little one’s eyes.

Although Windows tablets are a bit fancy and more suited for work, the new Windows 10 Home gives you various parental controls. So if you have curious little pre-teens, you might want to consider that. Also, by that age, most kids understand the consequences of damaging a gadget – so one less thing to worry about.


For elderly people

For seniors as well, you might need to get something that will not damage easily. You should look for something easy to use. We recommend an Android device. Also, you can increase the display size, background colors, and make multiple adjustments to suit their needs.

How much do you want to spend?

Most people don’t know this, but you can get a tab for as little as $50. That being said, you shouldn’t just get the cheapest one on the market. You might be disappointed with the features. You will get quite a lot of features for about $300. If this is your secondary device, you can even find a great selection within $200. There are a good number of budget tablets. Amazon Fire 8 has been rated as the best value tablet for some time.

You can get more powerful devices if you go above $400. We agree that even for gadgets, brand value has a price. If you buy a good product at a high price, you will get more usage out of it and it will last much longer than budget alternatives.

In conclusion

This might seem like a lot of information to take in but trust us. You will not regret spending some extra time on research when you find that perfect device. Note down what features you would like to have and then check out the options. You can search by price on Amazon to narrow down the selection.

The most important thing is to go through tablet reviews and tablet comparison before you go shopping. Do not run with the crowd – many buyers just get excited about new arrivals and make impulsive purchases. Spend where you will get your money’s worth.

We hope you found this article useful. Shop smart and share this article with your friends and family. Follow us on Facebook for more helpful articles!

Author

David Castano

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