Should You Buy a Tablet?

Portability, big screens, and easy pairing could be exactly what you need

You may not need a tablet if you’re already satisfied with your mobile gear, but they make great digital media viewers, and you can even game and get some work done if the need arises.

This guide will help you determine if a tablet is necessary for you using several questions and factors related to your needs, budget, and lifestyle.

What Is a Tablet?

A tablet is a touch screen device like a phone with a much larger screen or a small laptop without the keyboard. Like phones and laptops, you can use tablets for entertainment, work, and other purposes.

They’re better for media consumption than phones since they have bigger screens, and you can pair a tablet with a wireless keyboard to approximate a lot of the functionality of a laptop if you’re trying to get work done on the fly.

Tablets are also less portable than phones but more so than most laptops.

Who Should Get a Tablet?

You might have a good use for a tablet if you:

  • Enjoy reading and surfing the web on your phone, except for the eye strain
  • Want to be able to leave your laptop at home and still be able to get some work done
  • Want to save your phone's battery for phone things while you do social media, email, games, and everything else on a device with a bigger screen

Who Shouldn't Get a Tablet?

Not everyone needs a tablet. You might not if you:

  • Don't mind your phone's small screen when watching videos and playing games
  • Need to carry your laptop everywhere for your job and can't get work done on a tablet
  • Aren't interested in streaming video, reading and listening to books, and keeping up with productivity tasks on a single device

Why You Should Buy a Tablet

Tablets are flexible devices that can be useful in a variety of situations. You can use a tablet to check and respond to email, participate in video calls, watch movies and tv shows, surf the web, read ebooks, play games, and more. Since there are so many different ways to use a tablet, there are also many reasons you might want to buy one. Here are just a few of the most important.

You’re an Avid Reader

You love reading, and you’d like to start reading more books. Perhaps you wouldn’t mind adding in a few audiobooks here and there? Tablets are excellent e-readers because of their large screens, but they’re still light enough to hold comfortably for extended periods.

Reading an ebook on a tablet.

golibo / iStock / Getty Images

You Can’t Get Enough Streaming Content

Whether you’re trying to catch up on your favorite Youtube creators, check out the latest documentary on Netflix, or binge-watch a new K-drama, tablets are more convenient than laptops and provide a better viewing experience than phones. Plus, they aren’t as bulky as laptops. Streaming apps don’t take a lot of power to run either, so even older and budget tablets make great media streamers.

You Love Playing Games on the Go

When you have a bit of downtime throughout the day, you like to fill it with mobile games. Phones are fine as mobile gaming platforms, but tablets provide more screen real estate to display the game, and they’re typically more powerful, which results in better performance. You can also use a tablet to stream games through Xbox Game Pass and Amazon Luna.

You’d Like to Increase Your Productivity

You’re always looking for ways to increase your productivity in the office and elsewhere. Tablets are better than laptops for taking notes during meetings, especially if you get a tablet that supports stylus input. Jotting notes down on a tablet makes it easier to keep everything organized than if you were taking notes on paper. You always have the option to pair a wireless keyboard if you need to get more serious work done either in or out of the office. 

You Want to Lighten Your Daily Carry

If you carry around a bulky laptop every day, you might be able to lighten your load by leaving the laptop either at home or the office and packing a tablet instead. It’s more challenging to replace laptops and phones with tablets unless a phablet meets your needs. These hybrid devices provide all the benefits of a tablet, with big screens and long battery life, but can also function as a phone.

When You Shouldn’t Buy a Tablet

Tablets have a lot of uses, but they fit into an in-between space where some people will find them more valuable than others. Some people need a laptop, and a tablet won't do, while others don't need anything but a smartphone. Or, if you're already happy with your phone, laptop, and e-reader, you might struggle to find the need for a tablet. Here are some of the reasons you might not want to get a tablet:

You Barely Use Your Phone and Never Needed a Laptop

If you only use your phone to make and receive calls, and you’ve never felt the need for a laptop, then you’ll probably struggle to find a use for a tablet. Think about what you can do with a tablet, like use it as an e-reader or stream Netflix, and ask yourself if you’d use your phone for such things if the screen were bigger. If the answer isn’t yes, there’s no reason to get a tablet.

Your Phone Works Fine For Media Consumption

If you already use your phone for everything you’d use a tablet for, and you don’t have a problem with the small screen size, a tablet might not be the best purchase. The same is true if you only watch streaming services on your TV and already have a dedicated e-reader or only read physical books. You may still want to consider whether a tablet would be more convenient in some situations, but don’t buy one if the answer is no.

You Absolutely Need to Carry Your Laptop Everywhere

Do you have a mission-critical app for work that will only run on your laptop or another reason you can’t ever leave your laptop behind? If that’s the case, there isn’t much point in adding a tablet to your daily carry. You might still want to pick up a tablet to use as an e-reader or watch streaming services in bed, but it’s unlikely to help reduce electronic clutter in your particular case.

Is It Worth Getting a Tablet?

Whether or not it’s worth getting a tablet is a personal question, and the answer depends on your circumstances. For example, if you like watching YouTube or Netflix in bed before you go to sleep, it might be worth getting a tablet just for that. The argument for getting a tablet is stronger if you’re also an avid reader and don’t have a dedicated e-reader.

If you already have devices that can do everything a tablet can, such as a powerful smartphone with a big display, a lightweight laptop, and an e-reader, it may not be worth getting a tablet. 

Do You Need a Tablet to Increase Your Productivity?

Tablets are versatile devices that duplicate some of the functionality of phones and laptops while being less portable than one and more portable than the other. Some people's needs are met by a phone and a laptop (or just a phone), while others get a lot of use from a tablet. Tablets are also useful for tasks like acting as a point of sale terminal, gathering signatures, and even augmented reality applications where a phone or laptop wouldn't work.

If your goal is to increase productivity, you may want to think about instances where you felt like you could have gotten something done, but your phone was all you had. Or, when you had to leave your laptop behind because it was too big and bulky, you found yourself scrambling for pen and paper to jot down notes. Carrying a tablet could quickly increase your productivity if you often find yourself in situations like those.

Viewing products with a tablet AR app.

Oscar Wong / Moment / Getty Images

Is It Worth Getting a Tablet if You Have a Phone?

While it’s true that tablets duplicate a lot of the functionality of phones, and modern smartphones are essentially just small tablets that can make phone calls, that doesn’t make them completely interchangeable. Tablet screens are better suited to media consumption. Even if you use your phone to stream video and don’t mind the small screen, you’ll find that the bigger screen on a tablet will provide a superior experience for tasks like writing emails and word processing.

  • What is the difference between an iPad and a tablet?

    Apple's iPad is that company's line of tablets, which come in a variety of sizes. The main difference between an iPad and a different kind of tablet is that Apple's devices run on iPadOS, an operating system based on the one that runs iPhones; Apple's closed ecosystem means that an iPad will work seamlessly with your iPhone and Mac. Most other tablets will typically run Android or Windows, depending on the manufacturer.

  • What is tablet mode?

    Tablet mode is a feature of Windows 10 two-in-one PCs that lets you control the device with its touchscreen instead of a mouse and keyboard. Windows 11 basically eliminated tablet mode, but you can still use something similar by disconnecting the computer's keyboard and rotating the screen.

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