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. (2021 Christmas Edition)
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. And sadly, with the COVID19 pandemic, we rely on technology more and more to help us keep in touch with friends and family, buy food and supplies, study, work or even run our business online. Tablet computer has become a life safer for many.
Nowadays we can find many tablets on offer from Amazon, Apple, 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…
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, a workaholic or simply just want to keep in touch with friends and family on Zoom or via email? We have the right tablet to recommend you.
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 all new Amazon Kindle Paperwhite (below) starts at £139.99* (without Ads) from Amazon store. If you want a more budget version, there is the Amazon Kindle for £64.99* (without Ads) and it comes with a built-in front light. If you want to pay less and don't mind the ads, you can opt for the "With Ads" version for £109.99* and £54.99*.
Amazon Kindle Paperwhite (Image credit: Amazon)
If you want a premium model, there is the Amazon Kindle Oasis ( *). It comes with adjustable warm light and it is waterproof.
Amazon Kindle Oasis (Image credit: Amazon)
If you are planning to use it to surf the web, check your emails, keeping in touch with friends and family, 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 or watch some videos, then most tablets are more than adequate. Checking out the new Samsung Galaxy Tab A8 (2022) 10.5" and the popular Apple iPad (more information below). Price of a Samsung Galaxy Tab A8 10.5" starts from £219.00* for pre-order. If you can't wait that long, you can go for the older model, the Samsung Galaxy Tab A7 10.4" for £219.99* (Samsung store).
Samsung Galaxy Tab A8 (Image credit: Samsung)
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 10.4 2020 with a cover (Image credit: Samsung)
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 iPad 2021 10.2". It has good cameras (8-megapixel shooter and 12-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: 64GB or 256GB. 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. The starting model with 64GB is ample for many, but if you would like a bit more space, go for the 256GB version. Price of an iPad 64GB model starts from £319.00* (from Apple directly). It comes in silver and space grey (black). 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 (Image credit: Apple)
Apple iPad 10.2 with Apple pencil (Image credit: Apple)
If you want the most premium Apple iPad and don't mind paying more for a better camera and better screen, then you might want to take a look at the iPad Pro 2021 with M1 chip. It comes in 2 sizes, 11" and 12.9". Both are Liquid 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 wide camera and 10-megapixel ultra wide camera with 2x optical zoom. The selfie camera is 12-megapixel similar to the new iPad. It comes with more powerful 4-speaker surround sound. So you can immerse yourself in your favourite TV shows and movies. In terms of storage space, there 5 choices, from 128GB to 2TB. The 128GB version should give ample of space for most people to store their personal collection. Price of the iPad Pro 2021 128GB starts from £749* (Apple).
iPad Pro 2021 (Image credit: Apple)
iPad Pro 2021 with Apple Pencil and keyboard (Image credit: Apple)
Certainly there are many tablets out there that come with expandable storage such as the Samsung Galaxy Tab A7 and A8 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 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.
For those who would like a more premium product to the Tab A, but don't want to pay the full Tab S price, take a look at the Samsung Galaxy Tab S6 Lite. Price starting from £329*, similar to the Apple iPad.
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
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).
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 £89* to £119* for it (Apple Store) but it does offer a free engraving service. Make sure you get the right model, please check the compatibility list in the page.
Apple Pencil in action (Image credit: Apple)
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 OfficeSuite, Kingsoft 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 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 (£49.99*). Many of our clients prefer this foldable wireless keyboard by Arteck. You can get one for £30.99* from Amazon. It will work with most smartphones e.g. iPhone and Samsung Galaxy too!
Arteck foldable wireless keyboard (Image credit: Amazon)
iPad with Logitech keys-to-go (Image credit: Logitech)
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 tablet or similar with a keyboard. The Surface Pro is basically a full-blown Windows PC stuffed into a tablet form package. The latest version is the recently released Surface Pro 8.
Microsoft Surface Pro 8, starting from £939* (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 with 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 8 are very good choices.
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 (6th Generation) hybrid laptop. Price starting at £1898.16*. If your budget won't stretch it, there is a more affordable version, the Lenovo Yoga 7i 15". Price starting at £649.99*.
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 cutting edge 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 (Image credit: Lenovo)
Lenovo Thinkpad X1 FOLD (Video credit: Lenovo)
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 (Image credit: Nvidia)
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 has been lowered to £299* with a Connect Plan. You can get it from their website directly.
reMarkable 2 tablet (Image credit: reMarkable)
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.
The high-resolution screen has many advantages:
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.
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 new Samsung Galaxy Tab A7 Lite 8.7". 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.
New Apple iPad mini (Image credit: Apple)
Samsung Galaxy Tab Active 3 (Image credit: Samsung)
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.
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.
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 £39.99* for the Fire, £79.99* for the HD8 to £129.99* for the HD10 (no Ads version). 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.
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)
Huawei Matepad T10s (Image credit: Amazon)
If you are thinking of spending no more than £230. The Samsung Galaxy Tab A7 (2020) 10.4" or the forthcoming Tab A8 are good candidates to consider (price from £219.99* at Samsung Store). Sometimes they are on offer for under £200.
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 £689*, you can get the cheaper Samsung Galaxy Tab S6 Lite for £329*. We would usually recommend the Apple iPad (from £319* RRP).
If money is no objection, then you might want to take a look at the new Apple iPad Pro with M1 (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 13 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 8 is the most powerful tablet in practical terms.
New Apple iPad Pro 11" and iPad Pro 12.9" (Image credit: Apple)
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 (ear pods), 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.
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 £40-120 more expensive than the WiFi only equivalent, for example, an Apple iPad with WiFi only costs £319* where as an Apple iPad with WiFi + mobile Internet (WiFi+Cellular) costs £439*, a Samsung Galaxy Tab A8 with WiFi only costs £219* where as the same tablet with WiFi + mobile Internet (WiFi+LTE) costs £259*. 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 (or 5G) portable WiFi router 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 (Image credit: EE)
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 (2021) and 64GB version starts from £479* (Apple Store). If you prefer Samsung’s tablets, then there is the Samsung Galaxy Tab A7 Lite 8.7". 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!
New Apple iPad mini (2021) (Image credit: Apple)
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.
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.
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.
So when choosing a tablet, please remember to ask yourself these 5 questions:
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!
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
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