How to compare tablet PCs: A Crowdstorm buyer’s guide
Tablets have been the biggest technological phenomenon of the last decade. For many people the tablet PC has replaced their old laptop or even home computer; becoming the second screen in the home, or the go-to device for presentations or checking information on the go.
But with such popularity comes choice: every electronics manufacturer worth its salt is now making a range of tablets and you can buy them everywhere from supermarkets such as Asda and Tesco to stores such as Argos and John Lewis. But with so much choice, where do you start? Here at Crowdstorm we’ve put this guide together to get you on the right path.
But before you read on, here are a few more of our guides you may be interested in:
The operating system – or 'OS'
The operating system is what runs under the hood of your tablet PC, putting the data into a simple visual form (called a UI, or ‘user interface’) we can all understand. It also governs what applications you can download, as each OS has a series of apps available through its own store.
- Android, by Google: The world’s most popular tablet OS, it powers popular devices such as the Samsung Galaxy and Kindle Fire ranges, with cheap tablet PCs ranging from less than £100. If you have an Android phone, you’ll know exactly where you are.
- iOS, by Apple: On a par with Android in terms of quality and usability, the one down side of iOS is that it is only available on Apple devices – an iPad – which aren’t cheap. However Apple users will tell you this is a good thing, not a bad on, and their quality of design speaks for itself.
- Windows, by Microsoft: After several false starts it looks like Microsoft’s OS is finally getting some traction. Its big advantage is it will sync perfectly with Windows 10, so PC users should see the benefit. And like Android, it has multiple manufacturers making devices for it. You could almost call them a PC tablet, rather than a tablet PC...
Tablet PC manufacturers
As we mentioned above, everyone is making tablets these days – so who do you go for? We’d usually advice you to play around with some friend’s devices first to see which OS you get on with. If its iOS, then your choice is simple – it’s an Apple device for you. All Apple iPads are high quality devices; just be ready to pay a price tag to match.
Android devices have a much greater range of choice available. Traditional mobile phone manufacturers such as Samsung, Sony and LG have been joined by laptop makers Acer, Lenovo and ASUS, as well as budget devices from the likes of Amazon, Alcatel and Google themselves. A high-end Samsung tablet will give you just as much oomph as an iPad; it just comes down to personal taste.
Windows devices are available from many of the same makers as Android. The big difference is price: Windows devices tend to start a little more expensive (but not much) and go to £1,000+ - way beyond Apple’s prices. These tend to be hybrid devices such as the Microsoft Surface: as powerful as a laptop, but with a removable keyboard that means you can use them as a tablet PC too.
Size: screen width, power and memory
While manufacturer and software are hugely important, there are more things to consider – such as portability and practicality. This is where we need to think about you’ll actually be using your tablet PC for, no matter what it may look like or cost!
- Screen size: You’ll find tablet PCs as small as 7-8 inches (diagonal, corner to corner), which is little more than your average smartphone – while at the other end of the scale there are 12-inch devices comparable to a laptop. Ask yourself when you will need to use your tablet: on the bus, on the sofa, to give demonstrations? Is portability or clarity more important?
- Power (RAM): Like any computer, a tablet PC will only be as fast as its processor and RAM will allow. Budget device may have less than 1GB of RAM, which will struggle with anything but the most basic tasks – while seeing top end devices with 3+GB of RAM is not uncommon. Here more is always better and you get what you pay for. But for simple browsing, getting on Facebook or playing light games you really don’t need a high-end device.
- Memory: Memory is how much storage your device has – for everything from music and movies to your apps and files. Even budget tablet PCS tend to have 4GB of memory – pretty good when you think an MP3 song is about 5MB (there are about 1,000MB to a GB) and a movie about 1GB. But if you want your film and music collections on your device, you’ll be pleased to hear high end tablets have 100+GB of storage. You may also want to look out for devices that allow you to swap in memory cards, giving you added flexibility.
Apps, downloads and connectivity
When thinking about the apps you can download, there is very little to choose between the big three operating systems.
The facts tell you that Apple and Android have millions available, leaving Windows trailing behind; but the truth is that you won’t be trawling through millions of apps – and that all the big names (Facebook, Skype, Candy Crush, Word etc) are available on all three OSs.
Downloading is also very simple from all three app stores, both for free and purchasable applications. A bigger issue is connectivity. All tablet PCS are made to get online, of course, but there is a big difference between how they do so:
- Wi-Fi only: Many tablets can only get online where you can find Wi-Fi. This is fine in most circumstances and for most users – you can do all your downloading and updating at home, while also getting online in cafes etc. You can often also piggyback your tablet on your smartphone’s Wi-Fi, but you’ll need to check this with your mobile provider.
- SIM card tablets: Better still some tablet PCs also have a SIM car slot, essentially turning them into overgrown smartphones. This means you’ll be able to get online anywhere you can get a signal – both improving performance and adding security (public Wi-Fi isn’t really the place to be typing in passwords or sensitive information if you can help it).
Think about what you need – not what you want!
Finally, there are some beautiful and powerful devices out there – but they’re also expensive. Set yourself a budget and make a list of what you need your tablet PC to do: make sure all of those boxes are ticked and take anything else you can get as a bonus! What’s the point of having the world’s greatest tablet PC if it won’t fit in your bag!?
At Crowdstorm we make this easy for you: you can search by manufacturer, screen size and operating system, for example – or order our comparison tables by price or popularity. And we’ll only send you off to the UK’s leading retailers, where you can shop with confidence. Happy browsing!
Another consideration is how you intend to mostly use your tablet. If it's for giving presentations then an iPad will look cool; but simply for reading a super budget tablet such as an Amazon Kindle Fire might suffice – or will you be using it out at work, where only a rugged tablet PC with extra protection will do the job?
I've found the best tablet PC: What next?
Now comes the easy part - completing your purchase! At Crowdstorm we gather all the best deals and offers from the market-leading manufacturers, available from your most trusted online and high street retailers. Then we put them in a simple comparison table for you.
All you need to do is find the deal you want, and click through. You'll be taken directly to the right page on the official website of the retailer of your choice. And you don't have to worry about added costs from our end: we make our money from advertising, so don't have to charge you commissions – so it's win-win!