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How to choose the right tablet computer with five simple questions

by Kennedy • 19th December 2020 2 comment

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Are you looking to buy a tablet computer for yourself or for your loved one this Christmas, but you are not sure which one to get? Here is a practical tablet buying guide to help you make the right choice. (2020 Christmas Edition)

Introduction

No doubt tablet computer is an excellent piece of technology. With its instant access, intuitive user interface, simple touch screen control, nice & convenient size and ability to do pretty much anything that a desktop computer or laptop computer can do, no wonder why it has become such a popular choice for computing, overtaking laptop.

 

Nowadays we can find many tablets on offer from Amazon, Apple, Google, Huawei, Lenovo, Microsoft and Samsung etc… The amount of choices is mind-blowing. With so many tablets on offer and with so many new models being released regularly, no wonder it is so hard to make a choice. Hence we continue to publish a special tablet buying guide every year to help you find the right one. What makes this guide different is that it focuses on you rather than on technology or features. Think of it as a navigation map. The guide is made up of 5 key questions to help you choose the right tablet. And here they are…

 

1) What am I planning to use it for?

Think about what you are planning to use it for? What would you like it to do for you? Are you a book lover, a web surfer, a gamer or are you a workaholic? We have the right tablet to recommend you.

 

For book lovers

If you are planning to use it for reading eBooks, eMagazines or news only, then you might want to check out the Amazon Kindle. It is still the best eReader in the market. It is straightforward and easy to use. When you buy an eBook off Amazon, it will appear on your Internet connected Kindle automatically. The battery lasts for weeks thanks to the e-ink screen. The e-ink screen also makes reading more comfortable for your eyes than on LCD screens. Furthermore, it features Audiobook so you can listen to your favourite celebrities reading out your favourite books for you. Certainly you can do your reading on a multifunction tablet like the Apple iPad, but the Kindle gives you a much better experience. The Amazon Kindle Paperwhite (below) starts at £114.99* from Amazon store. If you want a more budget version, there is the Amazon Kindle for £69.99* and it comes with a built-in front light.

 

Amazon Kindle Paperwhite Amazon Kindle Paperwhite. video link (Image credit: Amazon)

 

If you want a premium model, there is the Amazon Kindle Oasis (£194.99*). It is thinner and lighter and it comes with a leather charging cover which can increase the battery life of the e-reader to months. Now with adjustable warm light.

Amazon Kindle Oasis

Amazon Kindle Oasis (Image credit: Amazon)

 

For casual web surfers

If you are planning to use it to surf the web, check your emails, read news, be nosey (sorry we meant catch up) on social media such as Facebook, play a few casual games such as Solitaire and Sudoku, take a few photos, listen to your music collection and watch some videos, then most tablets are more than adequate. Checking out the Samsung Galaxy Tab A7 (2020) 10.4" and the popular Apple iPad (more information below). Price of a Samsung Galaxy Tab A7 32GB starts from £169.00* (Currys).

 

For video calls

If you are planning to do video calls or conference calls with services such as Skype, Zoom, Google Duo, Facetime, Houseparty etc... most tablets mentioned here (except the Kindle eReader above) will do fine. If you want to use Facetime, you will need to have an Apple device such as the Apple iPad.

 

Samsung Galaxy Tab A7 2020 10.4"

Samsung Galaxy Tab A7 10.4 2020 with a cover (Image credit: Samsung)

 

For photo lovers

If you are planning to use your tablet to take some quality snaps here and there and use it as your digital photo album, then you will need a tablet with a decent camera, a good quality screen and some extra storage space. We would recommend the Apple iPad. There are different versions of the iPad such as the iPad Mini, iPad Air and iPad Pro, but the standard iPad is usually the best option for most people. The latest iPad is the new iPad 2020 10.2". It has good cameras (8-megapixel shooter and 1.2-megapixel selfie camera) and the high quality eye-pleasing 10.2 inch Retina display (means HD in Apple-speak) brings out the quality of the snaps. As for the amount of storage space, there are two choices: 32GB or 128GB. We would recommend getting one with 128GB. This should give you plenty of space to store your personal collection. It is important to note that the storage space on the iPads are not expandable, so you can't add any more storage space once it runs out. So make sure you consider this before you buy. Price of an iPad 32GB model starts from £329.00* (Currys). We would usually recommend getting it from John Lewis as it provides 2 year guarantee instead of the standard 1 however they are out of stock at the moment.

 

Apple iPad 10.2

Apple iPad 10.2 (Image credit: Apple)

 

Apple iPad 2020

 Apple iPad 10.2 (Image credit: Apple)

 

Apple iPad 10.2 in 3 colours

Apple iPad 10.2 comes in three colours: space grey, silver, gold (Image credit: Apple)

 

If you want more storage, a better camera and to have your photos look exceptionally good, then you might want to pay a bit more and get the new iPad Air 2020 with a 10.9" Retina display with True Tone (display that automatically adjust its color temperature based on the light of its current surroundings). It comes with more powerful cameras. The main camera is 12-megapixel instead of 8-megapixel and the selfie camera is at a eye-watering 7-megapixel instead of 1.2-megapixel. In terms of storage space, there are two choices: 64GB or 256GB. The 256GB version should give you ample of space to store your personal collection. Price of the new iPad Air 64GB starts from £579* (John Lewis).

new iPad Air

New iPad Air 2020 (Image credit: Apple)

 

Certainly there are many tablets out there that come with expandable storage such as the Samsung Galaxy Tab A7 as mentioned above and the Samsung Galaxy Tab S. So that you can add extra storage by installing a microSD card.

Samsung Galaxy Tab S7+ 12.4" with keyboard and S pen

Samsung Galaxy Tab S7+ 12.4" with keyboard book cover and S Pen. (Image credit: Samsung)

 

For those who are interested in the Samsung Galaxy Tab S, the latest model is the Galaxy Tab S7 (11 inch) and Galaxy Tab S7+ (12.4 inch) with Octa Core processor, sAMOLED display, surround sound and with S Pen included. In terms storage space, it comes in 128GB. The new S7 comes with dual shooting cameras Ultra Wide and wide Camera 13-megapixel and 5-megapixel, and an 8-megapixel selfie camera (£619* from Argos). You can add up to 1TB of extra storage with a MicroSD memory card.

 

To give you an idea of the number of photos you can store given the storage size of the tablet, we have done some estimates. Certainly it depends on many factors such as picture size, quality, format and what else is stored on the tablet, but here are some rough estimates:

 

8GB                 1.5 thousand quality photos

16GB               4 thousand quality photos

32GB               9,5 thousand quality photos

64GB               20 thousand quality photos

128GB             42 thousand quality photos

256GB             86 thousand quality photos

1TB                344 thousand quality photos

 

For movie lovers

If you are planning to use it as your movie station, then a wide screen tablet with a 16:10 or 16:9 screen will give you a better viewing experience, otherwise you can get the annoying letter box effect (top and bottom black border) or cropped picture (with sides missing). Check out the Samsung Galaxy Tab A7 and the Amazon Fire offerings (see below).

 

For creative work

Many new tablets now work with a special stylus pen. The new generation of iPads are compatible with the Apple Pencil. The special stylus (now at its second generation) makes it easier to do artistic work and to touch up photos as it can sense the pressure you assert on the tablet (something that your £5 tablet stylus won't do). It is not something many people need, but for those who likes to get creative, it is a nice gadget to have if you won't mind paying £119* for it (Apple Store) but it does offer a free engraving service.

Apple iPad 2018 drawing with Apple Pencil

Apple Pencil in action (Image credit: Apple)

 

For workaholics

If you are planning to use it for work, then it really depends on what the work is. For general work use, most of the tablets will come with some free or paid office apps that you can use for emails, writing documents, preparing presentations and making spreadsheets. For example, the Apple iPad comes with Pages (word processing), Numbers (spreadsheet) and Keynote (presentation) for free. For the Google Android side (such as the Samsung Galaxy Tablets), you can use OfficeSuiteKingsoft Office or Google docs. But if you must have Microsoft Office, you can get the Microsoft Office mobile version that will run on both Apple iOS and Google Android.

 

If you need to to a lot of typing and you would prefer to type on a physical keyboard rather than on the screen, you can buy the Apple Smart Keyboard for the new iPad 10.2 (similar to the iPad Pro) for £159*.

Apple Smart Keyboard

Apple iPad 10.2" with Apple Smart Keyboard (Image credit: Apple)

 

Alternatively, you can use wireless keyboards made by different brands as long as they are compatible to the iPad (via bluetooth) such as the Logitech keys-to-go (£54.99*). Many of our clients prefer this foldable wireless keyboard by Arteck. You can get one for £26.99* from Amazon. It will work with most smartphones e.g. iPhone and Samsung Galaxy too!  

Arteck foldable wireless keyboard

Arteck foldable wireless keyboard (Image credit: Amazon)

 

iPad with Logitech keys-to-goiPad with Logitech keys-to-go (Image credit: Logitech)

 

For serious workaholics

If you need to use certain applications, then you must check the availability of the applications on the tablet of your choice. If you really need to run Windows based applications, then you might want to consider getting a Microsoft Surface Pro 7 tablet or similar with a keyboard. The Surface Pro is basically a full-blown Windows PC stuffed into a tablet form package.

Microsoft Surface Pro 7

Microsoft Surface Pro 7, starting from £789* (Image credit: Microsoft)

 

If you want the productivity of a laptop and the convenience of a tablet, then you should consider a hybrid computer from Microsoft, Lenovo and others. The hybrid device gives you the best of both worlds. That’s pretty cool! Check out the Microsoft Surface Book 3. It comes in two screen sizes - a portable 13.5" display and a productive 15" display. If you want a premium hybrid computer, look no further than the Microsoft Surface Book 3. For cheaper alternatives, the Lenovo Yoga and the Microsoft Surface Pro 7 are very good choices.

 

Microsoft Surface Book 3

Microsoft Surface Book 3 (Image credit: Microsoft)

 

For those who want something more business oriented and would prefer a solid performer like the Thinkpads, you might want to take a look at the Lenovo Thinkpad X1 Yoga (5th Generation) hybrid laptop. Price starting at £1495.99*. If your budget won't stretch it, there is a more affordable version, the Lenovo Yoga 7i. Price starting at £799.99*.

 

Did you know NASA chose Thinkpads as the laptop of choice for the International Space Station?

ThinkPad X1 Yoga (4th Gen)

Lenovo Thinkpad X1 Yoga (Image credit: Lenovo)

 

For those who would like to have the most cutting edge and if money is no objection, then you might want to take a look at the recently released Lenovo Thinkpad X1 FOLD. It comes with a foldable screen, yes a foldable screen, so you get a big screen yet very compact when closed.

 

Lenovo Thinkpad X1 FOLD

Lenovo Thinkpad X1 FOLD (Image credit: Lenovo)

 

 Lenovo Thinkpad X1 FOLD (Video credit: Lenovo)

 

For gamers

If you are planning to use it for casual gaming, the good news is most of the tablets are pretty good. Just make sure the games you want to play are available on the tablet you choose and your tablet is powerful enough to provide you a good gameplay experience. Nvidia and Google used to make special gaming tablets (such as the Nvidia Shield and the Google Nexus 9) with a special Nvidia mobile graphic processor to achieve the ultimate gaming experience. Unfortunately it's been several years since the last release. So perhaps it is better to get a more recent iPad or Samsung Galaxy tablet instead. According to reviews, the flagship tablets such as the Apple iPad Pro and Samsung Galaxy Tab S are the choices for the ultimate gaming experience for now. But for amount of money you pay for these flagship tablets, would it be better to spend it on a large and impressive 4K TV and the latest game console?

Nvidia Shield Tablet (updated)Nvidia Shield Tablet (Image credit: Nvidia)

 

For notetakers and doodlers

Most of the tablets mentioned, for instance, the Samsung Galaxy Tab, Microsoft Surface and the Apple iPad enable you to take notes or doodle with a stylus or a specialised pen such as the Apple Pencil. However, if you want an electronic device that is designed purely for notetaking only, there is a remarkable product called reMarkable that do just that. It is like an Amazon Kindle but for notetaking. It is now on version 2. The price is still a remarkable £449*. You can get it from their website directly.

reMarkable tablet

reMarkable 2 tablet (Image credit: reMarkable)

 

Do I need wide screen?

Generally speaking, the 4:3 screen (more square) like the Apple iPads is better for everyday use, whereas 16:10/16:9 (wide screen) like the Samsung Galaxy Tablet is better for movies. But it doesn't mean you won't have a good video watching experience with the iPad and vice versa.

 

Do I need an HD, Ultra HD or Retina screen?

The high-resolution screen has many advantages:

  • It makes the visual experience more real-life than digitally pixelated (blocky).
  • It brings out the detail of nice photos, so photos look really sharp.
  • It makes texts and graphics more appealing to the eye.
  • It makes good HD movies viewing experience.

 

Many of the high-end tablets such as the Apple iPads and the Samsung Galaxy Tablet come with the high-resolution screen. Many of the mainstream tablets now also come with an HD or high-resolution screen, only the low-end ones don’t. We would recommend avoiding the low-end tablets if possible as you likely need to replace it with a better one soon.

 

Should I choose a bigger or smaller screen?

If you are not planning to travel with it a lot, then we would recommend getting one with a 10 inch or larger screen. The bigger screen makes it a nicer experience, whereas the smaller screen (e.g. 7-8 inch) makes it easier and lighter to carry around. Check out the new iPad mini (with all the new iPad features such as Apple Pencil and retina display with true tone), and the Samsung Galaxy Tab A 8". If you need something a bit more rugged, the Samsung Galaxy Tab Active 3 is a good choice. It comes with WiFi and 4G mobile Internet connectivity.

 

Apple iPad mini 2019

New Apple iPad mini (Image credit: Apple)

 

Samsung Galaxy Tab Active 3

Samsung Galaxy Tab Active 3 (Image credit: Samsung)

 

How long before I need to charge it?

As for battery performance, most tablets will give you around 8-10 hours of use. So you can use it all day and get it charged up overnight. Certainly how long the battery can last depends on what you use it for and the age of the tablet. If you really need to use it intensively for long hours with no access to a power source then you might want to consider getting a portable battery pack such as the Anker Power Banks.

 

I have no computing experience

If you haven’t used a computer before or have minimum computing experience, then a tablet is an excellent starting point. Many of our clients and students found them easier to learn to use. Many prefer their tablets to their laptops for everyday casual use. However, it is proven that tablet is not a magic solution. You would still need some help to set it up and to learn to use it. Our friendly local IT experts and tutors are more than happy to provide such help. You can find out about our service offerings here.

 

2) What is my budget?

So how much are you planning to spend?

 

If you have a very tight budget and are looking for bargins. Amazon offers several multimedia tablets of different sizes, colours and shapes to suit your wallet. From Amazon Fire 7 tablet to Amazon Fire HD 8 and Amazon Fire HD 10. There is even a special version for kids e.g. Amazon Fire HD 8 Kids edition! The price is definitely set to "value for money" - from £34.99* for the Fire, £69.99* for the HD8 to £109.99* for the HD10. They come with expandable memory storage, run an Amazon version of Android and now comes with Amazon’s own digital assistant “Alexa”. The only downside is the standard resolution screen (except for HD10 with the a high resolution screen at full HD 1920x1200). There are now a choice of "with Ads" or "without Ads" where you have to pay a little bit more ~£10 for the ones "without Ads". I think most people would go for those. Other than Amazon, there are some good offers from Huawei too.

Amazon Fire 7 Tablet with Alexa, 7" Display, 8 GB, BlackFire HD 8 Tablet, 8" HD display, 32 GB, Black - with Ads, designed for portable entertainment

Fire HD 10 Tablet | 10.1" 1080p Full HD display, 32 GB, BlackFire HD 8 Kids Edition tablet | 8" HD display, 32 GB, Blue Kid-Proof Case

Amazon Fire 7 tablet (top left), Amazon Fire HD 8 Tablet (top right), Amazon Fire HD 10 Tablet (bottom left) and Amazon Fire HD 8 Kids Edition (bottom right) (Image credit: Amazon)

 

If you are thinking of spending no more than £170, then the Samsung Galaxy Tab A7 (2020) 10.4" is a good candidate to consider (price from £169.99* at Currys). It’s a bit of a bargain for such a good tablet.

Samsung Galaxy Tab A

Samsung Galaxy Tab A (Image credit: Samsung)

 

If you are thinking of spending more than £250, there are plenty more choices on offer. From the popular Apple iPad to the more premium Samsung Galaxy Tab S and Microsoft Surface Pro etc. Although the latest Samsung Galaxy Tab S7 costs £619*, you can get the cheaper Samsung Galaxy Tab S6 Lite for £349* or the Samsung Galaxy Tab S5e for £379*. We would usually recommend the Apple iPad (from £329* RRP).

 

If money is no objection, then you might want to take a look at the new Apple iPad Pro (in 12.9" and 11"), which some say it’s "the most powerful mobile device ever made". Similar to the last generation of the iPad Pro, it comes with a more powerful processor and better sound. It has a similar camera system as the iPhone 12 Pro i.e. 12-megapixel wide angle, 10-megapixel ultra wide angle with 125° field of view and 2x optical zoom. It is designed to work with the Apple Pencil and a special case with keyboard. This new generation comes with a bigger screen, rounded corners including the screen and it features Face ID instead of Touch ID to unlock the device. It has a USB type C connector instead of the lightning port. With all these changes, it is likely that you will have to get a new set of accessories or an adapter and hope everything will work. Certainly, it is a nice piece of kit and very desirable too. If you want the best iPad, this is the one to go for. However we believe the Microsoft Surface Pro 7 is the most powerful tablet in practical terms.

 

Apple iPad Pro 11" and 12.9

New Apple iPad Pro 11" and iPad Pro 12.9" (Image credit: Apple)

 

What about accessories?

The "must have" for any tablets is a good case or cover. Since you are planning to keep it for long, you would like to look after it well. A good case or cover will protect it from damage. Some covers give you the option to stand your tablet upright or slightly tilted which is great for watching movies or browsing. How much you want to spend on a cover or case is a personal choice. Our advice is to get something that is well built, functional and nice looking. Some people even get a screen protector (a strong plastic firm that protects the screen from scratch or damage). Since most modern tablets have screens that are made of very strong material e.g. gorilla glass and sapphire glass, a screen protector is optional.

In terms of pricing, generally speaking, the accessories for Apple products (e.g. iPads) are more expensive than others. If you want to get a cover/case, a new set of matching ear phones, a new charger or just a cable for your tablet, you are going to pay a bit more. Luckily there are plenty of cheaper, non-Apple branding accessories on the Internet as alternatives but you do need to check the quality. In terms of choices, well known brands tend to have more choice of accessories from the same brands or from other accessories manufacturers.

 

3) Where am I planning to use it?

Are you planning to use it indoor or out-and-about?

 

If you are planning to use it when you are out-and-about and you want to stay connected, then you have three choices:

 

Option 1) You might want to get one with built in mobile Internet (4G/5G). The price of the tablet is usually around £50-130 more expensive than the WiFi only equivalent, for example, an Apple iPad with WiFi only costs £329* where as an Apple iPad with WiFi + mobile Internet (WiFi+Cellular) costs £459*, a Samsung Galaxy Tab A7 with WiFi only costs £179* where as the same tablet with WiFi + mobile Internet (WiFi+LTE) costs £229*. Don't forget you will also need to get a mobile data subscription or pay-as-you-go for it to work.

 

Option 2) If you have a smartphone with a decent data plan, a cheaper alternative is to share the mobile data connection from your smartphone to your non-mobile Internet enabled tablet over WiFi or Bluetooth (called Tethering or Personal Hotspot). The downside is that you will be asking your smartphone to do a bit more work and it will run out of juice (battery power) sooner, actually much sooner.

 

Option 3) You can get a 4G portable WiFi router (with 5G on the horizon) from many of the mobile network providers. With this gadget, you can connect all your devices to it via WiFi. Similar to option 1, you will need to get a mobile data subscription or pay-as-you-go for it to work.

 

4GEE Home Router

4GEE Home Router (Image credit: EE)

 

Smaller tablets

If you want to carry a smaller and lighter tablet with you, then you might want to consider the 7" or 8" equivalent. For example, if you like the Apple iPad, you can get the smaller iPad mini. It does the same thing, but in a smaller screen and a lighter package. The latest model is the iPad mini (2019) and 64GB version starts from £399* (Apple Store). If you prefer Samsung’s premium tablets, then there is the Samsung Galaxy Tab Active 3. Certainly many other brands offer a similar choice too such as the Amazon Fire HD 8.

If you're not planning to travel with it a lot, then we would recommend getting one with a 10 inch or larger screen. The larger screen makes it a nicer experience. And all our customers agree too!

 

Apple ipad Mini 2019New Apple iPad mini (2019) (Image credit: Apple)

 

4) Have I got any preference to any brands or operating systems?

If you have already got a tablet and is planning to get a new one, unless you have a specific reason to switch, we would recommend you to stick with the same brand. Especially if you have bought some apps and want to have the same when you switch, it is highly likely that you will have to pay for them again.

 

If you really need to run Windows based applications, then you might want to consider getting a Microsoft Surface Pro tablet with a keyboard as mentioned previously.

 

Do I need an Apple Mac to use my iPad?

The quick answer is no. If you are thinking of getting an Apple iPad, you don't need to get an Apple Mac to use it. You can use it as standalone or you can sync your photos, music, movies and contacts etc with your PC or Mac. The same goes for any Google Android based tablet such as Samsung Galaxy Tab.

 

5) Have I got any preference on the look and feel of the tablet?

With so many tablets on offer in the market, some of them might feel very plasticky; some might feel more luxury with nice design details and nicely crafted metal; some come with multitude of colours and accessories; and some have screen that looks great and some looks a bit dull and dim.

 

Aesthetics, look and feel are very personal things. As the saying goes “One man's meat is another man's poison”. So we would strongly recommend you to go and see the tablets yourself. Go and visit any electronic stores, check out the tablets on offer, touch them, feel them, look at the screen and play with them, don't be shy! Don’t rush into getting one because it is a bargain. Remember, you are going to spend many hours with it. It makes sense to spend some time to get to know them. A good tablet will last you many years.

 

Finally, there is one thing we always tell our customers to do is to hold the tablet and check the weight and balance. Since you are going to spend a lot of time on it, holding a tablet that is too heavy for you is just not ideal. For example, the weight of the old iPad Air was great, where as the weight of the older iPad 3 or 4 were a bit on the heavy side.

 

In summary

So when choosing a tablet, please remember to ask yourself these 5 questions:

  1. What you are planning to use it for?
  2. What is your budget?
  3. Where are you planning to use it?
  4. Have you got any preference to any brands or operating systems?
  5. Have you got any preference on the look and feel of the tablet?

 

We hope this guide will help you choose the right tablet for yourself and your loved one. If you found the guide useful, please feel free to Like and Share. Comments are welcome too. Certainly, if you still need some help, our friendly local experts are more than happy to help you. Check out our special tablet advice service offer. If you need some help to setup your tablet and to learn to use it well, our experts are happy to help you too. Check out our special tablet setup and learn service offer.

 

Good Luck! Have a wonderful Christmas! Take care. Stay safe. Happy computing!

 

References

 

 

Photo by Anna Demianenko: https://unsplash.com/photos/CPWhnIkL4Lk

Photos of tablets and devices are sourced from manufacturers' website.


*Prices might vary

 

#tablet #ipad #ipadpro #surface #GalaxyTab #kindle #Amazon #Fire #Microsoft #Huawei #Lenovo #iOS #Android #Windows

 

  • florida portrait

    florida 23 November 2018 at 7:17am Reply

    I am planning to buy a new tablet and this post is really helpful to me. some good tips mentioned in this post.

  • Chritstiana portrait

    Chritstiana 09 October 2019 at 11:45am Reply

    Great post, you have pointed out some excellent points, I as well believe this is a very superb website.I guess I am not only one having all the enjoyment right here! thanks for posting these wonderful knowledge.

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