Ever since 2010, when Apple released the world’s first mass-market tablet in the shape of the iPad, tablets have become a familiar part of home, office and educational life.
Today, tablets are one of those devices that anyone even vaguely into technology and computing is likely to own. And, it’s easy to see why. Thanks to their small size and ability to carry out many of the same tasks as full-size desktop PCs and laptops, tablets have become the go-to choice for many consumers and businesses.
Tablet buying guide
Whether you’re buying a tablet for yourself or for a child, family member or friend, it can be challenging combing through the options and figuring which type of tablet is the right one to buy.
To help you, we’ve set out our top buying tips below.
Tablet operating system
One of the most important decisions you’ll have to make when purchasing a tablet, is what operating system you want to use.
It’s worth noting that your choice of operating system may be dictated by the other devices you already own. For example, if you already own an iPhone and/or MacBook, then it makes sense to buy an iPad - that way, you’ll be using a consistent operating system across all of your devices.
With that said, let’s take a look at each of the main tablet operating systems currently available.
Apple iPad OS
Without going into too much detail, Apple’s iPad OS is basically a version of iOS which is adapted specifically for iPads. It offers a bold, easy-to-use and highly visual interface and provides deep integration with other Apple products that you may own.
Aside from iPad iOS, Google’s Android is one of the most common operating systems used in tablets. In fact, Android is used in the vast majority of non-Apple tablets. Samsung tablets are perhaps the most well-known tablets that use the Android operating system.
Like the iPad iOS, Android is easy to navigate and use and thanks to the Google PlayStore, can be customised with a wealth of different apps.
In recent years Microsoft has made a concerted effort to bring Windows to tablets. Microsoft has worked hard to enter the tablet market and its range of Surface tablets is highly-regarded by many industry professionals.
Windows 10 was designed with a specific tablet mode, whilst Windows 11 has been designed from the ground-up to be more easily navigable by touch. And, although the user experience has drastically improved in recent years, Windows lags behind both iOS and Android.
However, Windows does have one major advantage. A tablet with a Windows operating system is able to operate exactly like a desktop OS, being able to open any file and run almost any program. Attach a keyboard and mouse and you basically have a full laptop in your hands.
Tablet battery life
Once you’ve decided which operating system you want, the next thing to consider is battery life.
Many tablets will hold a charge for days if they are only used infrequently. However, if you’re going to be using your tablet in a sustained way, then you’ll want to make sure that the one you buy offers at least eight to 10 hours worth of battery life.
Most premium tablets from manufacturers such as Apple, Samsung and Microsoft will be able to last at least 10 hours on a single charge.
How will you be using your tablet? If you’re simply going to be using it to browse the web and watch media, then you only need to buy a tablet with basic functionality.
However, if you want to use your tablet for work purposes, then you’ll benefit from buying a tablet that can be connected to a keyboard and mouse. Tablets such as the iPad and Microsoft Surface are prime examples of tablets that are highly versatile and which can be adapted for work purposes.
On a similar note, if you’re more inclined to use your tablet for artwork or graphic design, then you’ll want to buy one that is able to use a stylus and run programs such as Adobe Photoshop.
Should you buy a tablet that is WiFi only or one that has cellular connectivity?
When tablets first launched in the 2010s this was a particularly important question.
However, these days, with WiFi being available almost everywhere, and with people being able to quickly and easily use their smartphones as a hotspot, it’s become a bit of a redundant question.
We would suggest sticking to a WiFi-enabled tablet - unless you have a burning desire for cellular connectivity.