Tablet Buyer’s Checklist: What To Ask Before You Buy

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Sleek, light, more versatile than a laptop and better for watching movies than a phone. Buying a tablet is a no brainer, but it pays to be prepared when picking the one you want...

Which Operating System?

iPad Air 2

iPad Air 2

Apple – creator of the first widely used tablet, the iPad – uses software called iOS which is superbly intuitive and easy to use. If you have an iPhone already, it works just the same. But the Android operating software is also available in tablet form, as it is on smartphones from Samsung, Sony, HTC, LG, Nokia and more. Or maybe you like the way your Windows computer works, in which case a Windows tablet will be most familiar.

The truth is it’s easy to switch from one operating system to the next, but it’s even easier to stick with what you know. Only Apple makes iPads and the iPad Air 2 is an excellent performer. Standout Android tablets include the Google Pixel C and Sony Tablet Z4, while the best Windows tablets are Microsoft’s own, such as the Surface Pro 4.

How Much Storage?

Samsung Tab A

Samsung Tab A

If you’re planning to take your tablet on holiday and watch movies on it every night, you’ll need a decent amount of storage. For Apple, that means buying the right capacity from day one as there’s no way to expand the memory, so a good balance between storage and cost is the iPad Air with 64GB of capacity. Many Android tablets, like the Samsung Tab A, have a microSD card slot that means you can add extra storage in a simple and inexpensive way whenever you need it.

What Size Screen Do You Fancy?

Sony Xperia Z4 Tablet

Sony Xperia Z4 Tablet

This may come down to what you plan to use the tablet for. If you mainly read ebooks, a smaller screen is clearly more portable. The iPad Mini 4's with smaller display is great for reading.

Movie buffs may prefer more screen ‘real estate’. The Sony Xperia Z4 Tablet is remarkably slim and light, but still squeezes in a 10.1-inch display that makes video look great. If this machine is principally for work, an even bigger screen may be best, like the Surface Pro 4 with its 12.3-inch display or the Apple iPad Pro which is available with a 12.9-inch display (with a smaller 9.7-inch version also available).

How Portable Does It Need To Be?

Apple iPad Air 2

Apple iPad Air 2

Some keep their tablet permanently at home, so the weight and size doesn’t matter as much if you’re planning to use it as a second screen. If you have Sky Q, you can even watch the programmes directly on many Apple or Android tablets (though not Windows).

If you plan to take the tablet everywhere you go, something lighter is clearly better – like the Apple iPad Mini 3. If you do plan to travel with it, consider spending a bit more to get the cellular version with a slot for a SIM card so you’re not solely dependent on Wi-Fi.

How Many Apps Do You Need?

Samsung Tab S2

Samsung Tab S2

All the main tablet systems – Apple, Android and Windows – have more apps than you could ever use. Numbers range from over 600,000 on Windows, to more than two million for Android and Apple. Nearly all the systems have apps for the leading names like Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn and British Airways.

If you’re mad on games, then the biggest titles like Angry Birds, Cut the Rope, Crossy Road and Super Mario Run can be found on both Apple and Android tablets. Windows often comes later, or sometimes not at all.

If you have a lot of apps on your phone, sticking with the same OS is easiest as otherwise you have to buy them all over again for a different system. The Apple iPad Air 2 is a great all-round choice here, as is the Samsung Tab S2.

What Port Options Are There?

Apple iPad Mini 4

Apple iPad Mini 4

The Apple iPad Mini 4, and other iPads, are designed for the ultimate simplicity, so you can’t plug a USB stick into it unless you buy an adaptor. The Sony Xperia Z4 Tablet is similarly way too thin for a USB connection. But the Microsoft Surface 3 has a full range of connections, including USB, a microSD card slot and Mini DisplayPort.

How About a Keyboard?

Google Pixel C

Google Pixel C

If you’d like to give up on a laptop altogether and make your tablet your work machine, the Apple iPad Pro (9.7-inch) has an optional keyboard case which connects magnetically. The Sony Xperia Z4 Tablet has a clip-on keyboard which uses Bluetooth to connect. One of Microsoft’s machines, the Surface Book, comes with a full-size keyboard that also contains processing power and a battery. Alternatively, you can try the Google Pixel C which is compatible with a highly user-friendly keyboard, available separately, that connects via very strong magnets.

Does This Answer Your Questions?

Microsoft Surface Pro 4

Microsoft Surface Pro 4

While there are certainly plenty of reasons to go for a full-on Windows 10 tablet like the Microsoft Surface Pro 4, the best all-rounder is a likely decision between the Apple iPad Air 2 and the Samsung Tab S2. For pure value, meanwhile, the Apple iPad Mini 2 is a great choice.