Tablet computers have come a long way since their introduction. Modern tablet computers are powerful devices that can handle many computing needs, and may even replace your old laptop or desktop completely. Tablets, such as the iPad and Amazon Fire, may offer some budget savings compared to a full computer. If you’re just looking to handle email, web browsing, social media, and videos, a tablet can likely handle all you need.
Here’s a guide to choosing your own tablet computer focusing on the most important features, specifications, and of course price, to help you make the right choice.
What is a tablet computer?
A tablet computer is a small device typically smaller than a laptop and larger than a smartphone. Many people think of them as big smartphones, though some hardware and performance differences make a tablet more useful for some situations.
Popular tablet computer brands include Apple’s iPad, Amazon’s Fire Tablet, and many other computer brands, including Samsung, Dell, Lenovo, Acer, and others.
Tablets give you a much larger screen than you would get from a phone, but they’re much more portable than a traditional computer. That makes them a good choice for many households.
Key factors when choosing a tablet
When choosing a tablet computer, the first big decision is the operating system and tablet type. There are four main families of tablet computers that make the most sense for typical users:
|Apple iPad||Android & Chromebook||Amazon Fire||Windows|
|Cost and Performance||High performance, high cost||Varying price points and performance||Low performance, low cost||Varying price points and performance|
If you already love your iPhone or Android, sticking with the same family for tablet computers makes getting started easy, as you already know how it works, and there are good integrations with existing devices during setup. On the other hand, if you’re looking to save money, Amazon’s Fire tablets offer a lower cost. You may also prefer your current Windows computer and want to pair it with a similar Windows tablet.
For many people, it’s wise to stick with what you know to avoid future frustrations.
Other important details to consider
Within each operating system, you have multiple options. These will typically give you different screen sizes, storage, memory and processors. As you pay more, you’ll find higher-quality components with faster performance. Lower cost tablets typically have less storage and run slower. Other features come down to your preferences.
- Screen size: Screen size is a personal preference. Larger screens are fun but take up more space in your bag and weigh more. They may also cost more, depending on the device.
- Available storage: Storage space allows you to download and keep apps, videos, photos and other information. Similar to a hard drive in a computer, more storage enables you to store more and larger files.
- Memory/RAM: RAM, short for Random Access Memory, allows you to do more at once. Devices with little RAM are usually sluggish and can’t handle high-performance games and apps. I personally don’t mind spending more on upgraded RAM on a device I’ll use regularly.
- Processor: A processor is the brain of your tablet computer. Newer processors are faster and can do more at once. Pairing a good processor with enough RAM is the best way to get good performance from your device from the start.
- Camera: Tablets often carry one or more cameras these days. Similar to your smartphone, newer cameras offer higher-quality photos and videos. The quality of digital photos and videos is measured in megapixels. More megapixels are better for quality.
- Network connections: Tablets generally connect to the internet using wireless internet at home, a coffee shop, on a plane, or similar. Some tablets also include a cellular data chip, where you can sign up for a service like Verizon, AT&T, or T-Mobile so your tablet is always connected, just like your phone.
- Price: Last but certainly not least is price. You can find the cheapest Amazon Fire tablets for less than $100, while the highest-end iPad Pro costs $2,300. That’s clearly a huge range, and you have many options. For most people, pick a brand or operating system you’re comfortable with, then compare prices and features to find the best device for your unique needs.
The bottom line
In my house, the kids have Amazon Fire tablets, I have an iPad, and my wife doesn’t have a dedicated tablet of her own. Even within my own family, our needs are different. That means what you want and need may be different than your friends and family.
Don’t feel pressured to buy a high-priced iPad if it’s out of your budget, as many other tablets can do the job just fine. But you may want to spend a little more than the lowest-cost $40 Fire tablets if you want good performance and the best list of available apps.
If you’re shopping around for a tablet right now, be sure to check prices and compare at Amazon, Walmart, Target, Best Buy, and Newegg, and potential additional stores, to find the right tablet at the right price. Once you’ve picked the right tablet, you can get to work (or fun) with videos, games, emails, websites, podcasts, and anything else your tablet can do. Have fun and stay safe online with your new tablet!
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Danisa Flowers says
This is a very timely article, Jeff. I am currently trying to decide whether to buy an iPad mini or a Samsung Galaxy tab 2. Based on this, I think iPad will work best for me. Great work, Jeff!