Things to Know Before Buying a Tablet – A Smart Buyer’s Guide

The one device that seems to be on everybody’s mind right now is a tablet. Pretty much every mobile phone or PC manufacturer has a range of tablets up for sale and everything sells like hot cakes, specially our own desi tablets. But for most of us, it gets difficult to choose between the host of tablets available. At some price points, there are just way too many tablets available. So how do you choose the best tablet? Here’s the things to know before buying a tablet so that you make a smart choice!

Things to know before buying a tablet – How to choose the best tablet for you:

Need and budget

First and foremost, why are you buying a tablet? If it’s just to browse the internet or read ebooks, even basic tablets should do. Then again, if you’re looking for a full multimedia and gaming experience, you will have to spend more money. You can get a pretty decent basic tablet at around 120$ (roughly Rs.6500), but don’t expect cutting edge performance from it. For double the price, there’s a lot more options from reputed brands as well. Indian manufacturers have priced their offerings very well and at some price points there are no other alternatives anyway. So make sure you know exactly what you want from your purchase before you do it.

Operating System

There are three operating systems you can get on a tablet. iOS from Apple is a great choice for basic users or those who don’t like too much fuss since it is clean, easy to use and offers relatively less customization options. The huge App selection works in its favor too. However, tablets with iOS, iPads, are rather expensive and can be considered premium devices.

Windows 8 RT, available on a couple of tablets both from Microsoft and other manufacturers is the newest kid on the block and is a a good choice for users who want the most desktop like experience. It comes with a full fledged Office 2013 suite built in, but suffers from a low number of apps in the marketplace and even though it looks like the real thing, you won’t be able to run legacy programs.  Windows 8 RT tablets aren’t too cheap either, but if you really want full desktop like functionality, this should be your choice. There are also tablets available with the full version of Windows 8 running on desktops, but they’re priced equal to Ultrabooks. It all boils down to necessity, and you can’t argue against the fact that desktop functionality in a tablet form factor, although an expensive choice, is very useful.

Last but definitely not the least is Android, the most used tablet OS. You will find that the least expensive tablets run Android, but that’s not much of an advantage since cheaper Android tablets tend to be unrefined and unusable for some. However, spend a little bit more and there’s some fantastic tablets with the newest Android 4.1 Jelly Bean built in or upgradeable. The unprecedented customization, huge number of apps and excellent features make Android a great choice.  Go for an Android if you’re all for customization and have invested in Google services. Be warned though, if you buy a cheaper Android tablet, there’s a fair chance that the OS version it comes with is the last one it can use.

Things to know before buying a tablet - Nexus 7

Screen size and resolution

The two main categories of tablets are 7 inch and 10 inch, dictated by their screen size. There might be slight variations in the actual screen size, but for the most part, these are the main two types. A 7 inch tablet is good for daily use and multimedia/gaming, but 10 inch tablets are much better for watching movies and such. Plus, from the productivity point of view, the more screen real estate, the better. A 7 inch tablet is the most common type since it’s less expensive and more portable. While some 7 inch and 10 inch tablets come with the ability to use a SIM for cellular data, mostly there’s only 7 inch tablets that are capable of making and receiving calls.

Larger 10 inch tablets are not only more expensive, but also require more powerful internals to keep everything running smoothly because more often than not, they have higher screen resolutions than their 7 inch counterparts. Speaking of which, you should make sure that the screen resolution on any tablet you get is reasonable. A resolution that looks okay on a 7 inch tablet might look horrendous on a 10 inch tablet. As a rule of thumb, a 7 inch tablet should have a resolution of 1024 x 600 to look good, and even 800 x 480 is acceptable on budget models. A 10 inch tablet, on the other hand should have a resolution of 1280 x 800 to look good.

Processor and RAM

As mentioned above, larger screen tablets will require more horsepower to run smoothly. A 7 inch tablet can make do with a single core ARM Cortex A9 or A8 processor, but it’s obviously better to get a dual or even quad core processor like in the Google Nexus 7. A 10 inch tablet won’t perform all that well with a single core processor, so make sure it’s at least a dual core, like the Karbonn Cosmic Smart Tab 10. Similarly, it’s recommended to get a 7 inch tablet with at least 512 MB of RAM or a 10 inch tablet with 1 GB of RAM. While there are tablets available in both sizes that have half these RAM values respectively, you won’t be too happy with the performance since even little multitasking will slow them down to a crawl.

Things to know before buying a tablet - iPad 4

Storage and battery

No matter what type of tablet you’re buying, storage is one of the most important criteria, specially for multimedia users. Here’s where Apple’s iPads have a distinct disadvantage. While you can argue that 16, 32 or 64 GB might be enough, the truth is that you can’t have enough of storage space. Even budget Android tablets come with the ability to expand storage space via MicroSD card so that’s a huge advantage. The same goes for Windows 8 and Windows 8 RT tablets, they include expandable storage capabilities. Plus, larger storage space variants of the iPad are very expensive, so it’s much more cost effective to get an Android tablet if storage is your main focus.

Battery life is another important criteria since it’s no point having a portable device that can’t last long enough to serve its purpose. Here, unfortunately there isn’t a particular value that can be looked for, but as long as the tablet lasts for around 4-5 hours with moderate to heavy usage, it’s good to go. A battery rating of  something around 4000 mAh for a 7 inch tablet and 6000 mAh for a 10 inch tablet should be adequate.

Brand value and network capabilities

Cheap Android tablets are available from manufacturers you’ve probably never heard of, and for good reason. At a certain price point, if something sounds too good to be true, it almost always is. So consider spending a little bit more and getting a better known brand tablet, not only for quality and satisfaction, but also for service and support. It’s more likely that branded tablets will get software updates too.

There are 2 types of tablets available based on network capabilities. One is WiFi, and one is WiFi+Cellular, which allows you to insert a SIM and on some devices, also make calls. If you’re planning on using the tablet as a primary communication device, you’re better of with the WiFi+Cellular model, and if you’re using the tablet just as a multimedia device and for occasionally browsing the internet, go for a WiFi only model. Keep in mind that WiFi+Cellular models are more expensive and this applies specially to iPads.

Things to know before buying a tablet - Surface RTMiscellaneous

Addon features like front and back facing cameras and additional connectivity options like an HDMI out depend entirely on your use. Of course, it doesn’t make sense having an HDMI out on a really low specced tablet or a low MP camera in any tablet, so make sure that features are proportional to the tablet’s capability as a whole. Bluetooth is included on every tablet these days, but NFC is a rarity. It’s not used that widely, but if you have a couple of NFC devices in the household, it won’t hurt to get a tablet capable of it as well.

Those were a few things to know before buying a tablet, it’s by no means the only few things you should look out for. So if you’re still confused on what tablet to buy, drop us a line below so we can help you out!

  1. Priyangshu March 8, 2013

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