Buying a tablet – 10 tips to help you buy wisely

Written: Friday 26th December 2014

Many first-time buyers will either think “I need to buy an iPad” ….. or (at the other end of the scale) “let me buy a cheap tablet to get started”, as I’m on a tight budget.

The first could lead to you spending £400 on a tablet whose features you hardly ever use (and could have got for £100-150!).

…. whilst the latter could lead to you quickly regretting your “impulse purchase” when you first want to make a Skype call or want to listen to music, watch a movie – or take a photo.

I recommend you compare these features to see which are most important to the way you’ll use your tablet:-

  1. Screen quality/resolutionFor general use, the quality of most tablets will be fine – but if you’re planning to watch many movies, you may want to check the resolution is high enough.
  2. Battery life – Tablets use a built-in battery, so this will determine how long you can use it before needing to connect it to a mains socket to recharge. There will be a wide variation in the length of time they last, with cheaper models usually having a lower life.
  3. Webcam quality This will be built into the front of the tablet for use by Facetime (iPad users) or Skype (commonly used on Androids). Whilst they all look the same, the cheaper models will often have a very low quality camera, which will probably disappoint you!
  4. Rear-facing camera quality – Some very cheap tablets may not even come with a camera! iPads come with a very high quality one for photo-taking, but ‘Android’ based tablets will vary in quality, so you can compare what’s best for you.
  5. Speaker (sound output) quality – Not all models will have stereo speakers, and nor are they always high quality. Plugging in headphones may not always be convenient, so good speakers are invaluable.
  6. Portability – Most models now sold are relatively small, slim and lightweight – but you may be surprised by the weight difference between a 7″ and 10″ model (after you’ve been holding it a while, or carrying it around).
  7. Ease of typing – If you’re typing more than a few emails or letters, you’ll find the keyboard on a 10″ tablet much easier to use. Even within 7″ tablets, some will have clearer keyboard layouts.
  8. Flexibility – Tablets based on ‘Android’ have often been customised by the manufacturer (eg. Samsung) and can often be further customised by each user. iPads have a limited range of customisation, by comparison.
  9. Accessibility – If you have a visual impairment, all tablets offer ways of adjusting the screen to make it easier to read.  If you have a choice of the iPad or an ‘Android’ based device, you would be wise to compare the two to see which you prefer.
  10. Storage capacity – Before buying an iPad, you need to device how much built-in storage capacity you need, as it’s difficult to add more if and when you run out. ‘Android’ based devices are more flexible, but it’s still wise to get one with a generous amount of built-in storage capacity – as you’ll need this for programs; you can however, store your photos and/or videos separately on a slot-in Micro-SD card (not possible with an iPad).

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