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Buying Your First Tablet

Updated on May 23, 2012

Just a few years ago I would not be writing this article, because there were so few tablets to choose from it hardly took any consideration. Now finding the perfect tablet to fit your needs and lifestyle can seem like a real chore. I am going to break down the main features to look for in a new tablet and hopefully make your choice a bit easier.

Before we get down to what to look for in your new tablet, take a moment to think about what you will be using it for. Are you going to be playing a lot of games? Will your new tablet be used primarily for checking emails on the go? Tablets are great for entertainment, like watching movies or reading books. You will probably use your new tablet for all of these activities at some point. Consider whether another gadget will serve your needs better before spending your hard earned money. Tablets do look sleek and stylish next to a bulkier notebook, but if the notebook will fit your needs better maybe that is what you should look into. Game lovers will probably find a better fit with a hand held gaming device. Newer smartphones can handle many of the same things as a tablet, so that's another avenue to explore.

What To Consider Before You Buy A Tablet

Price

The first thing to consider when tablet shopping is price. You know the old saying you get what you pay for, it applies to tablets as well. Obviously you want to find something that will fit within your budget, but choosing the cheapest tablet may lead to regret down the road. Not to say that all of the cheaper tablets are bad, but price shouldn't be your only consideration.

The great news is there are many companies and manufacturers competing in the tablet market today. The price of tablets has dropped considerably in the last year or so. Before you set out on your journey to find the perfect tablet come up with a price range that works for you, and use it to narrow down the tablets available.

Battery Life

The small compact design of most tablets make them perfect to take along on the go. This also makes battery life a top concern. Unlike laptops you can't bring along a spare battery. Tablet manufacturers do provide an estimate for battery life between charges, but remember it is just an estimate. Your tablets battery life can vary a lot depending on what you use it for. Also look at how you tablet battery is charged. Will it require a proprietary charging cable? Some of the tablets out today do.

Storage Capacity

Estimating how much storage capacity you will need in your tablet can be tricky. Maybe you are buying a tablet with the intention of using it mostly as an e-reader, but after your purchase you fall in love with it's gaming potential. If you are buying your first tablet its hard to predict all the many ways you will use it. I suggest opting for a larger storage capacity if possible. Some tablets offer extra storage, like a micro SD card slot.

Platform

Probably the most confusing, but important, aspect when choosing your new tablet is deciding between platforms. If you are unfamiliar with the term platform means the mobile operating system the tablet is running on.

The most common mobile operating systems available today are:

Windows Phone from Microsoft (closed source, proprietary)

iOS from Apple Inc (closed source, proprietary)

Android from Google Inc. (free and open source)

The platform you choose determines the apps available to your tablet. That's why it is important to think ahead to what you will be using your tablet for. Then you can browse the available apps for each mobile operating system and find what works best for you.

Screen Size

The standard way tablet screens are measured is diagonally. Currently the most popular sizes for tablets are 10-inch and 7-inch. What you plan to do on your tablet should go a long way into determining which screen size you go with. Larger screens are great for viewing webpages because they require less resizing and scrolling. They do lack portability. Some tablet that measure in at 5-inches or less are as convenient and portable as a smartphone. Something in the middle works well for all around tablet use.

Available Accessories

If you choose one of the most popular tablets it's usually easier to find accessories and carrying cases. Saving money with a no name brand sounds great, but how will you feel when you can't find stands, cases, removable keyboards or screen protectors to fit your new gadget? Even if you don't buy any accessories along with your new tablet do a quick search for ones you might need in the future.

Overall Feel

Is the tablet too heavy to hold in one hand for a long time? Does it's size make it seem clunky and unnatural when in use? How intuitive are the buttons and controls, and what about touch screen responsiveness? Dimensions and weight are usually listed in the description of tablets online, but it's hard to guess how the gadget will feel when you pick it up. Even if you plan on buying your tablet online to save money, a quick trip to a local electronics store can give you a better idea on what you're looking for.




Hopefully you have a few more things to consider when choosing your first tablet. If you've narrowed down your choice to one or two models, why not take moment to read some reviews. Sometimes experienced users can point out flaws, or added features that aren't apparent. Information from first hand users can prove invaluable.

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