As we start to rely increasingly on portable technology, tablets have become a must-have gadget. Whether you opt for an iPad, a Microsoft Windows Surface, an Amazon Kindle Fire or a budget option, a tablet will allow you to access the internet, read a book, listen to music, watch a video, play a game, take and store photos, create documents and use social media, although not necessarily all at the same time!
The difficulty can lie in choosing which tablet to buy and which operating system (OS) to go with. Do you stick with one of the major computer and electronics brands such as Apple, Samsung or Microsoft and pay the associated higher price or do you opt for a lesser known brand which may still offer the same features but at a fraction of the price?
Once you have decided on the brand, the next choice is the screen size. Generally the smaller the screen size the lower the price so a 7 inch or 8 inch screen will be cheaper than a 10 inch screen. The best screen size for you will depend on what you are likely to use the tablet for most. 10 inch screens are better if you plan to do a lot of work on them and many can be linked to a Bluetooth keyboard. An 8 or 7 inch screen should be adequate if you plan to read, browse the internet or play games and has the added bonus of fitting easily into a handbag or pocket.
Apple’s iPad has almost become the generic tablet. It uses the Apple operating system iOS which will be familiar to iPhone and iPod Touch users and has access to the enormous Apple App Store. The iPad Air has a 10 inch screen and the iPad Mini has an 8 inch screen.
Microsoft’s Surface tablet is available with a 10 inch or 12 inch screen. It has a Windows operating system which will be familiar to most PC users. The Surface is portrayed as being the ideal compromise between a laptop and a tablet. It has access to the Windows app store, which is more limited than the Apple and Android equivalents.
The Android tablet market is a bit more crowded with major players. Samsung, Amazon and Google have all proved extremely successful with sales of their Galaxy Tab, Kindle Fire HD and Nexus respectively. All use the Android operating system which will be familiar to anyone who uses an Android phone and gives access to the extensive Google Play store. The Amazon app store is also available to Kindle Fire users and to other Android tablets via the Amazon app.
These big names all command higher prices. If you shop around you may find some stores offering discounted deals but the price difference is unlikely to be large.
You could investigate reconditioned models which will be cheaper ie tablets which have been returned to the manufacturer with a fault which has been repaired. Alternatively, if you’re not worried about your tablet being bang up to date, wait until an updated model hits the shelves and you will find the price of the older model drops.
Finally, look out for phone plus tablet deals. Many phone shops will offer a free tablet with a specific smartphone model. The tablet is likely to be a smaller screen and an older model but as it comes free of charge, it’s worth considering.
Technology is updated constantly and the tablet world is no different. Most of the major players have new tablet models in the pipeline, meaning that the price should drop on the currently available models.
Microsoft developed its latest Surface Pro 7 which was released in October 2019. It has 12.3 inch screen and the Microsoft Windows 10 Home operating system.
The Samsung Galaxy Tab S7 coming onto the market in summer 2020 as a direct competitor to the iPad with an iPad equivalent price tag. This should mean the price of the Galaxy Tab S will drop slightly.
Apple launched the iPad Air 6th Generation in March 2019 and rumours persist about an iPad Pro or Plus model with a larger screen, targeting the Microsoft Surface Pro market. Again, it may mean that prices of older iPad models start to fall.
Big electronics names such as Sony and Nokia are starting to make a name for themselves in the tablet market but are commanding similarly high prices to the major established brands. Nokia has been making Windows tablets with its Lumia branding but has launched an 8 inch Nokia N1 tablet on the Android platform. Not a huge market succes for Nokia but still a competitor in the tablets market.
The Sony Xperia Z7 Tablet has received rave reviews and better performance grades than the Z6.
ASUS may be better known as a computer manufacturer but it was the manufacturer behind the Google Nexus so is a reliable brand to look out for. The ASUS ZenPad comes with a 7, 8 and 10 inch screen and an impressively budget price.
Tesco entered the tablet market with its Hudl and the current Hudl 2 model has an 8 inch display. It’s been extremely successful which is no surprise bearing in mind it retails for £99. The Hudl 3 is due imminently with a rumoured 9.7 inch screen.
The Lenovo Tab 2 is another successful and well-reviewed budget tablet. It comes with an 8 inch or 10 inch display and is similarly priced to the Tesco Hudl.
As well as shopping around it’s worth checking out some of the PC and tablet review websites. You may be surprised to find that some less familiar brand names crop up on the best buys of the year lists and these are likely to be much cheaper than their big name equivalents. If they are well reviewed and seem to offer what you want, compare prices at stores such as Amazon, Curry’s, Tesco and Argos.
If you do your research properly, you shouldn’t get caught out. However, you can’t compare tablets on screen size or operating systems alone. You will need to consider other technical details such as storage (eg, 8GB will be cheaper than 16GB or 32GB but may not be enough memory for your requirements); screen resolution (try to get HD resolution if possible); camera (front and back facing; number of pixels) and battery life. All of this information should be readily available at the point of sale.