How to compare tablet PCs: A Crowdstorm buyer’s guide
For many people the tablet PC has replaced the laptop or even home computer; becoming the second screen in the home alongside their phone. But they're also super useful for everything from work presentations to watching your favourite TV shows on the bus!
But there's a lot of choice out there: every phone and laptop manufacturer worth its salt has tried its hand at tablets and you can buy them everywhere from Tesco to Currys or 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.
Before you read on, here are a few more guides you may be interested in:
The operating system (OS): Android, iPad or Windows?
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 ranges. But you can also find cheap tablet PCs running on Android for less than £100. If you have an Android phone, you’ll know exactly where you are s the user experience is almost identical.
- iOS, by Apple: On a par with Android in terms of quality and usability, the one downside of iOS is that it is only available on Apple devices – iPads – which aren’t cheap. However, Apple users will tell you this is a good thing; and the quality of its design speaks for itself. If you're used to the Apple ecosystem (iTunes etc), and have some budget, you should probably look no further.
- Fire, by Amazon: This is Amazon's own OS, based heavily on the Android system but with a lot of restrictions. It's used on the Amazon Fire range of tablets, which are cheap entry level devices used as much for eBooks as they are for apps. But if you're looking to save, and want to read with extras, this is a great budget option.
- 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 - but you won't be finding cheap models. Most have PC level specs, meaning you're usually paying laptop prices - but for a very powerful product.
Tablet PC manufacturers
If everyone is making tablets these days, who do you go for? We’d advice you to play around with some friends' devices first to see which OS you get on with. If its iOS, 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 (with the Fire OS), 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.
Tablet size: screen width, power and memory
While manufacturer and software are hugely important, there are more things to consider – such as portability and practicality. Think about what 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 devices (around 1GB of RAM) will struggle with anything but basic tasks – top range iPads and Galaxy devices will boast 3+GB. More is always better, and you get what you pay for. But for web browsing or e-reading you don’t need something top-end. Also look out for single, double and quad-core. Again, the more 'cores' the better, as a quad-core tablet will process your input much quicker than a single-core device.
- Memory (storage): Memory is how much storage your device has – for everything from music and movies to your apps and files. Budget tablet PCs tend to have 8GB of memory. Pretty good if you think an MP3 song is about 5MB (there are about 1,000MB to a GB) - but not if you think a movie is 1-3GB. And when you take into considering the OS alone can take up 5+GB of that space, you're soon nearing capacity - which can affect your tablet's performance. High end tablets have 32/64GB of internal memory. and you may want to choose a device that has a memory card slot, giving you added flexibility (microSD cards now go up to a massive 512GB of storage).
- Tablet battery life: This isn't a strong point of tablets, with around 10 hours being the average life expectancy. But again, you can expect shorter battery life from budget devices. This won't be a problem for many, who will simply use them at home anyway. But do pay attention if you're going to be travelling a lot, or relying on one for presentations etc.
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 Apple and Android have millions of apps available, leaving Windows trailing behind; but the truth is you won’t be trawling through millions – all the big names (Facebook, Skype, Candy Crush, Word etc) are available across 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!