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Our Best Tablet Buying Guide 2019

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If you are shopping for a new device that can boost your productivity at work and help you unwind during summer travels, start by looking for the best tablets that fit your needs.

A tablet is a harmonious marriage between smartphones and laptops—combining the smartphone’s elements of flexibility with a laptop’s productivity. In order to fully unlock the many benefits of tablets, start by defining your use case: pinpoint the tasks you want to accomplish with the device and set a clear budget.

TYPES OF TABLETS

The tablet industry has come a long way; from simple devices to more complicated convertible laptops, tablets cover a wide variety of uses. Some tablets are 2-in-1, while others come with detachable or non-detachable keyboards so that users can enjoy the productivity of laptops while retaining the portability of traditional tablets. A great example of a durable 2-in-1 with high-end specs is the Lenovo Flex. These laptops come with tablet modes where you can fully bend the screen to enjoy a movie or draw, while retaining the look and feel of a laptop.

Another example is the Microsoft Surface Pro, a popular tablet with a detachable keyboard, which conveniently acts as a protective case too. If you want to take notes in class or type important business documents, opting for tablets with keyboards can be beneficial.

SCREEN SIZE

tablet

Screen size is a one-time choice, as you can’t downgrade or upgrade. Bigger screen size will obviously cost you more, but if you value size in electronics for watching movies or drawing professionally, size will go a long way. Tablet size can range anywhere from 6 inches all the way to 18.4 inches, but the most popular tablets are sized between 7 and 11 inches which will provide an optimal balance for most.

7 inches and under

Small tablets offer portability and value. You won’t see many tablets under $100, but if you do it’s a good chance that they’re around this size. These tablets can fit into purses, bags, or even large jacket pockets, so using the tablet often while on the go is easy. Tablets in this size range won’t pack on too many high-end specifications like powerful processors or sizeable storage, but they will still able to handle light web surfing, reading, social media, and casual entertainment. Popular small-size tablets include the Samsung Galaxy Tab A or Lenovo Tab 7.

7.1 to 10.9 inches

The definition of mid-range tablets has changed over the years with consumer tastes constantly changing. Tablets between 7 and 10 inches can be considered mid-ranged because they offer the best of both worlds: small enough to emphasize portability, but large enough space for comfortable long-term usage. Thus, this screen range caters to both casual users who enjoy entertainment and business users who are constantly on to go. Tablets in this size group can either range from single tablets (Apple iPad 9.7”) to 2-in-1 mini-laptops (Lenovo Yoga Book). Fractions of inches could make a difference, but it all comes down to personal preference of pricing and viewing pleasure.

11 inches and greater

The biggest tablets are also usually laptops too, as we can see in 2-in-1 laptops. These are the best fit for business users, creative professionals, or students who want to work with several applications with other peripherals (mouse, keyboard, and pen). Although sizes maybe similar, tablets are still much lighter, thinner, and thus more portable than their traditional laptop counterparts. Prices can go upwards of $1,000, but better hardware, such as larger memory, SSD, and processor will be worth it in the long run. These popular large-size models include Apple’s iPad Pro, Acer Iconia Tab, Microsoft Surface Pro, and HP Elite.

STORAGE AND EXPANDABILITY

Another feature to consider about is device storage. Some tablets may not have expandable storage options, such as Apple iPads. In those cases, it’s even more important to make sure that you are buying enough storage to future-proof your tablet. There are also other storage options, like the cloud, which is great for storing media files that you don’t need to access on a daily basis. Just remember—similar to size, more storage means more money you’ll end up spending

16GB to 32GB

16GB tablets are generally found in refurbished devices or extremely small tablets (comparable to smart phones). Newer tablets tend to have at least 32GB, which would be good enough for various applications, media files, and games. If you really only stream content or lightly browse the internet, you can easily get away with only 16GB. Also, some tablets may have expandable storage, such as this Samsung Galaxy Tab A which can be upgraded from 16GB to 256GB with a microSD card.

64GB to 256GB

If 32GB is a bare minimum when it comes to fitting in some of your favorite apps, movies, and photos, 64GB should provide the average user more than enough wiggle room for storage. For instance, a person downloading multiple, high-end games on an iPad will struggle with finding space for other apps and files. The average application storage size for iOS is actually more than twice the size of Android apps, so downloading large files can drain your storage faster. Upgrading to 128GB or 256GB is comparable to buying an average laptop with an SSD, so you’ll have more than enough storage for your tablet.  If you see yourself as an active tablet user for business, travel, or for home, going for these storage options will future-proof your device.

512GB to 1TB

These days, we’re seeing more and more options for 512GB all the way to 1TB tablets. A lot of these options are for premium tablets or 2-in-1 laptops that pack on other high-end specifications for processors, memory, and graphics. These options are definitely aimed toward the creative professionals using file-heavy apps and tasks, such as Photoshop or Procreate or business professionals wanting a more laptop-like experience.

OPERATING SYSTEM

The biggest factor in determining user experience is the operating system (OS). From the general interface to application support, each OS provides vastly different experience and ecosystem from one another. The three major OS are Google Android, Apple iOS, and Microsoft Windows from largest to smallest. Buying a tablet that uses the same OS as your phone can make file transfer and account sharing seamless and simple.

Android

Google continues to lead the tablet OS market, largely because of the system’s inherent flexibility and openness. Many mobile device manufacturers like Samsung, Lenovo, Dell, and Huawei are able to collaborate with Android because of its hardware adaptability and functionality. The large number of manufacturers using Android stirs more competition with both tablets and applications themselves. Also, Android’s application stores are often more diverse and cheaper because many developers are vying for consumer loyalty. Thus, if you are professional in the business, healthcare, or educational fields, you’ll have plenty of applications to choose from.

Android’s open-source nature and adaptability also presents downsides: lack of security and standardization. The large number of applications available in the Android market also means less secure and lower-quality apps. If the app is really cheap or even free, there’s a good chance that it’s riddled with advertisements or bugs.

iOS                                                                                                                         

Apple iOS has many popular features; the smooth, seamless interface and strong ecosystem made up of other Apple products promote device connectivity. If you already use an Apple device, such as a laptop or a watch, going with an iPad will be convenient. The minimalist interface, intuitive controls, and secure platform are the main selling points of iPads and iOS. A lot of schools and hospitals can leverage this to teach students or healthcare workers without intensive training. Also, since the iOS is tightly monitored by Apple, the0re’s very little instances of malware or security concerns. To top it off, the Apple App store has been around the longest, meaning that there are many established, fine-tuned apps for various purposes.

As great as it can get, the iOS has very limited customizability as you’re locked into Apple’s functionalities. Thus, people that want access to other cool features like widgets or app designs, will have to jailbreak the iOS in order to bypass software restrictions. Also, app development is much easier on Android because Apple can reject anyone’s app on their own specific discretion. Thus, if you’re a software developer, it would make sense to opt for Android as it caters to a wider audience with less stringent rules on development.

Windows

The soaring popularity of Surface Laptops placed Microsoft in the pedestal of tablet leaders. Because Windows is the undisputed leader when it comes to most popular PC operating system, it’s no wonder that people welcomed the Windows OS for tablets with open arms. Windows tablets are the happy medium between a laptop and a tablet. While the Windows Store isn’t as developed as others, there are legacy Windows apps that mirror all the programs and software that you’ve used on PC. Business professionals and students are perfect for this OS because most of the popular productivity software are seamlessly integrated into the tablets. Furthermore, multitasking and collaboration features give Windows a considerable advantage when it comes to business productivity.

In Conclusion

In the end, all that matters when it comes to buying a tablet is the user. A child using a tablet for exciting games or movies will want different specifications versus someone who wants to take class notes or use for business meetings. Take your time, make a checklist, and go through multiple guides, and you will be confident in purchasing your first (or next) tablet.

Albert Cho

Albert Cho

A big tech and gaming/esports enthusiast from California and Korea.

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