What to Consider Before Buying a New Tablet

How to buy a tablet that meets your needs

Things you need to consider before buying a tablet include the size, operating system, and technical specifications. We've put together a comprehensive tablet buying guide to help you pick the best device for your needs.

Information in this article applies broadly to a wide range of devices. Check the specifications of individual products before making a purchase.

A woman and kids on a couch playing with tablets
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Which Tablet Operating System Is Best?

The operating system largely determines what types of software you can use on your tablet. There are three main mobile operating systems: iOS, Android, and Windows.

iOS

The original operating system for the iPad, iOS has paved the way for smart devices. Having been around the longest, iOS is one of the more user-friendly systems out there with a vast selection of apps and compatibility. 

Only Apple products use iOS, but since it's tied to a single ecosystem, the hardware doesn't require quite as many cables or adapters, assuming your devices are newer than the iPad 4. The downside is that apps must be obtained from Apple's App Store and can't be acquired from third-party sources unless you jailbreak your iPad, which voids the warranty and puts your security at risk.

Android

Google Android is the main choice for many brands including Samsung, Lenovo, and Amazon. This open-source OS can be found in some of the more budget-friendly tablets. If pricing is a big concern and you want more control over your tablet, Android is the choice for you. With a more open system, it’s a lot easier for tech-savvy users to customize. Android devices are great for streaming, reading, and light gaming. 

Many tablets, such as Amazon Fire tablets, run a modified version of Android. Such devices might have restrictions. For example, Fire tablets only allow you to purchase apps from the Amazon Store.

Windows

Windows lets you command the full power of a desktop PC right in your hands. Because Windows brings so much flexibility to your tablet, the higher cost of hardware is intimidating at first. However, if you need your tablet for work, it’s ideal to spend the money on a system that gives you everything you need. Tablets equipped with Windows 8 or older are not always optimized for smaller screen, so it’s best to look at the more recent models for an easier-to-navigate interface. 

Tablet Size and Display

Bigger tablets are great for streaming, gaming, and working. On the other hand, a smaller screen is better for reading, casual browsing, and streaming on the go. Larger tablets generally cost more, but smaller ones are easier to travel with. Aside from the physical size of the tablet, you also need to consider other details about the tablet display such as screen resolution, aspect ratio, pixel density, and viewing angles.

Tablet Accessories

Tablet Processors, RAM, and Internal Storage

The amount of RAM and internal storage on your device plays a significant role in which apps your tablet can run. If you plan to play MMO games with 3D graphics, use professional editing software, or develop your own apps, then you'll want as much of both as possible.

Many newer tablet processors support multiple cores, allowing them to do anything a laptop can do. Octacore processors are ideal for online gaming and graphic design, but they're excessive if you just want to watch movies on your tablet.

Don’t Forget the Accessories

The most important thing before you even turn on your device is making sure you have the right accessories. Today, most tablets come with only the charger, so you may need a few more items. Consider these essentials:

  • Screen protectors: Look at screen protectors and device cases to ensure you don’t crack the screen or damage the hardware after an accidental drop or spill.
  • Extra charging cables and ports: You’ll be lugging your tablet everywhere, so it’s helpful to keep extra cords in the office, car, or other places you frequent.
  • External hardware: If you’re looking to do more than swipe and tap, you’ll want to look into keyboards, wireless mice, and styluses.