What to Consider Before Buying a New Tablet

Make sure your next tablet is the right fit

Tablets from different companies

melenita2012 / Flickr

There's never been a better time to evaluate your tablet needs. Whether you're shopping for yourself, your friends, or your family, it's important to see if the choice you're about to make is the right one. After all, with all the latest versions out there, it's easy to get overwhelmed. It may seem like only the technologically advanced can figure it out, but don't worry, we've put together a handy, digestible guide to help you stay focused and get the tablet that's right for you. From brand to screen size, we're breaking down the essential knowledge you need.

Where to Start

Before you start combing through endless search results, you need to think about what you want your tablet to do for you. What is your purpose for owning it? Do you plan to use it solely for entertainment purposes, and even then, do you want to play games or just watch TV? Maybe you want to be able to take care of your work and business while you're on the go. Overall, you should have a general idea of how you want your tablet to serve you. After all, while some tablets are jacks of all trades, most are tailored to specific features.

What to Consider Before Buying a New Tablet

OS Breakdown: Which Operating System Is Best?

Once you have an idea of what purpose your tablet will serve you, it’s time to see what operating system and brand can meet those needs. Back when tablets were first launched with the original iPad, there was a sudden flood of OS options. Thankfully, as technology has advanced and simplified, your choice can be narrowed down to three main systems: iOS (Apple), Android, and Windows. While the brands can still vary, especially when looking at Android options, it’s certainly a lot less overwhelming than it once was.

iOS

The original tablet and smart device operating system, iOS has paved the way for smart devices. A simple but efficient system, iOS is one of the best choices out there for those who don’t want to fuss with complicated menus and settings. It’s ideal for anyone who is interested in playing apps, streaming content, and browsing the internet. Having been around the longest, iOS is one of the more user-friendly systems out there with a vast selection of apps and compatibility. 

You’ll find the iOS in Apple products only. 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 own App Store and can't be acquired from third-party sources unless your iPhone is jailbroken, which voids the warranty and puts your security at risk.

iOS vs Android

Android

Google's OS and the main choice for many brands (Samsung, Lenovo, Amazon, etc), Android is a flexible, open-source system ideal for those who enjoy making sweeping customizations to improve their user experience.

Not only that, this OS can be found in some of the more budget-friendly models out there. 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 the more tech-savvy to customize but still a user-friendly system for those looking for an iOS alternative. Android devices are great for streaming, reading, and light gaming. 

You can find Android installed on tablets from brands such as Samsung, Amazon, Lenovo, and even less familiar names. Though we appreciate the wide variety of hardware options, especially considering the affordable price range, you do have to be conscious of adapter, cable, and compatibility differences.

Be aware, when considering tablets that use a skinned version of Android, like Amazon Kindle, the OS is going to be locked down.

Surface Pro

Windows

Windows lets you command the full power of a desktop PC right in your hands. Although not every Windows-based tablet runs Windows 10 proper, they still feel exactly like your home computer. User-friendly and open to customization, a Windows tablet will satisfy the tech experts and the tech-curious. Plus, it’s perfect if you’re looking to complete projects, work, or even create with. Definitely a plus for the traveling professional.

Because Windows brings so much flexibility to your tablet, the higher cost of hardware is intimidating at first. But if you need your tablet to go to work, it’s ideal to spend the money on a system and device that gives you everything you need. When considering tablets equipped with Windows 8 or older, you might find it less optimized for smaller screens. It’s best to look at the more recent models for an easier-to-navigate interface. 

The operating system you choose can make all the difference in how your tablet functions. Keep in mind, however, that If you’re too focused on price, you could wind up with a tablet capable of only the basics.

Size

While knowing the OS you want could make your final decision, another factor to consider is the size. Tablet size varies from just bigger than a phone to nearly the size of a laptop and everything in between. 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 cost more, but for a lot of models, bigger means more storage and more power whereas smaller tablets last longer and are easier to travel with. It’s also a good idea to stick within the standard tablet sizes of 7-12 inches. This ensures you won’t have any display issues or weirdness that could really put a damper on your tablet experience.

Tablet Accessories

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 the charger and ... that's about it. But, depending on your usage, you may need a few more items. Consider these essentials.

Protection

Whether you’re going the budget-conscious route or splurging for the most capable and powerful tablet out there, you still want to make sure it stays in one piece. Remember to 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.

Must-Have Accessories

If you’re looking to do more than swipe and tap, you’ll want to look into keyboards, wireless mice, and styluses. Seeing as many tablets can easily replace your laptop, you can practically transform your tablet into a laptop and keep working. Or, if you plan on using it for more artistic pursuits, you'll want a stylus to hone your skills.

And don’t forget about extra charging cables and ports. You’ll be lugging this tablet everywhere, so it’s helpful to keep extra cords in the office, car, or other places you frequent.

Travel

The whole point of owning a tablet is for its portability. But carrying your tablet in the open can be a hassle. Consider a case or bag for your laptop. There are plenty of options out there, from simple, protective sleeves to bags sized just for tablets. Either way, don’t forget to bring one along so you can make traveling with your tablet worry-free.