The Best Tablets to Buy In 2017
The boom in global tablet sales is over, with shipments slipping again last year, but there are still plenty of great tablets out there if you are after your first model or looking for an upgrade.
Why Do You Need a Tablet?
Tablets remain a handy companion if you want something larger than your phone for watching video, reading news or eBooks, or even keeping the children occupied.
They have also become more powerful and we are seeing a continued blurring of the line between tablets, smartphones and laptops.
Choosing something works for you for a great price is time consuming, so here is The Telegraph’s breakdown of what to look for in a tablet and some of the best tablets you can buy today.
What Do I Want My Tablet for?
There is plenty of versatility in tablets, whether you want a rugged device you can let your kids loose on or a powerful model for advanced photo and video editing.
All tablets offer a touch screen where you can run applications similar to those on a laptop. Unlike a phone, you cannot make calls on your tablet and many do not come with 4G connectivity, meaning you can’t use them without a Wi-Fi connection. However, you can use a tablet to make internet calls using Skype or FaceTime.
Several tablet brands now cater for younger children (even if they are more tech savvy than their parents), with safe apps and features built-in to limit inappropriate content.
If you want a standard tablet for viewing videos on Netflix or YouTube or reading eBooks, cheaper models such as the Amazon Fire series should work well.
Apple’s iPads remain a staple mid-range model, offering all the versatility and smoothness of Apple’s macOS operating system, and the new cheaper iPad released this year undercuts many budget Windows laptops.
If you need to use your tablet for more advanced tasks, or want the added flexibility of a keyboard, plenty of models are now equipped to perform functions that would have once been limited to laptops. These two-in-one devices are often powerful, but are more expensive than more simple tablets.
Do I Want an Apple, Amazon, Windows or Android Tablet?
There are four main operating systems for the four main varieties of tablet, all of which offer slightly different levels of complexity and different apps, so this can be a key choice to make when picking up a new tablet.
Here is a rundown of the main tablet operating systems and what you should expect from each:
Apple: iPads were the trendsetters for tablet design and are still the benchmark for many features. They are expensive for the more advanced models, but run on the smooth iOS operating system.
Amazon: FireOS is the operating system developed for Amazon's Fire tablets. It is based on Google's Android so most popular Android apps are available. A popular choice on a budget, it is perfectly capable of running entertainment apps such as Netflix, Spotify and Amazon Prime Video, but has inbuilt adverts and pushes Amazon's own services. Recent updates have seen Amazon add its Alexa voice control system to its tablets.
Android: Google’s Android operating system is the system most non-Apple smartphones use, offering access to the PlayStore and a wide range of apps and Google features. Most are less expensive than Windows tablets and iPads, but users often feel Android apps are not as well developed as those for the iPad.
Windows: Most Windows tablets are a hybrid between tablet and laptop and run a version of Windows 10 that offers access to some Windows tablet only apps. These tablets often come with keyboards you can clip on to use them more like laptops.
What Should I Look for When Buying a Tablet?
Screen size: Tablets range in screen size from around 7 inches to 13 inches. If you want something portable for to take to work or class, a smaller tablet may suffice. If you want something for watching films around the home then you may prefer a larger screen size.
Battery life: Always get an idea of the battery life of the tablet you are buying from reviews or the seller. Many tablets have battery life in the region of six hours, but better models should last around 10 hours.
Storage: Most tablets will have between 1 or 2GB of RAM, the memory which helps them run faster. In terms of storage, many tablets will have 8GB and up of storage, although much of this may already be taken up by built-in programs. While you can add microSD cards for extra internal memory, higher performing tablets will already come with storage of 32GB or better.
Wi-Fi connectivity: Most of the online work you do on tablets will be using a Wi-Fi connection. iPads and some other devices allow you to use a SIM card to access the internet on the move.
Cameras, cables and keyboards: Lots of tablets come with front and back mounted cameras, however these are really best used for making video calls as many lack the powerful cameras seen on some smartphones. A number of tablets have compatibility for magnetic keyboards and type covers for working on word documents on your tablet. Other connections can be through Bluetooth, USB or Apple’s lightning connector.
How Much Should I Pay?
The best cheap tablets you can buy will only set you back around £50 to provide basic functionality if you just want a Netflix machine. However, over time you may find them slow for advanced tasks and storage is limited.
More powerful tablets with storage of 16GB and up will cost you anywhere from £70 to £150, depending on screen size and operating system.
Expensive tablets of £300 or more should have similar power to mini laptops, with larger screens, at least 4GB of RAM and a large amount of hard drive storage.
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