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Apple may have made tablets mainstream again, but the iPad has little variety to speak of. Either you get the 10-inch iPad Air or the 8-inch iPad Mini, and the only difference between the two is size. There are a lot more options if you’re buying an Android tablet, so let’s make it easier to choose.

The Google Nexus series of tablets is as close as you’ll get to what the makers of Android imagine an Android tablet should be like. However, plenty of manufacturers do as good or a better job of making Android tablets. It all depends on what you are looking for What You Need To Know Before Buying A Tablet What You Need To Know Before Buying A Tablet Tablets are starting to mature. Android’s new 4.1 release includes tweaks that dramatically improve the user experience. Apple’s iPad is now on its third iteration and continues to dominate the market. And Microsoft is about... Read More .

Know What You Want to Do

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Tablets will generally cost $200 or more, so you want to make sure you buy something that’s worth your money. And to do that, you first need to know what you want to do with the tablet and how you are going to use it. For example, your Android tablet can boost your desktop computer at work Use Your Android Tablet To Boost Your Desktop Computer at Work Use Your Android Tablet To Boost Your Desktop Computer at Work Android tablets have a ton of potential, with the ability to use bluetooth, wi-fi, awesome cameras on the front and back, a keyboard and mouse, and a small form-factor that make it highly portable. In... Read More , but is that what you really want?

Most people who regret buying a tablet don’t have a clear idea of how they will use it, and so they end up purchasing a device that doesn’t fit their needs. Ask yourself these questions before you start looking:

  • Do I want a tablet for entertainment or work?
  • Will it be mainly for watching movies, or is it more for browsing the web, social networking, and reading articles and books? What about gaming?
  • How much work am I actually going to do on it? Do I need a keyboard for my work?
  • Will I carry the tablet everywhere with me or is it only a device for home usage and long trips? Do I already have a bag that I take around with me?
  • What is the biggest reason to buy a tablet?

Answer these questions truthfully and have them ready for reference. It’ll help you make a good decision.

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Hardware and Software

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The answer “What is the biggest reason to buy a tablet?” is what dictates the hardware and software you need to go for. For example, if your primary reason is to play games on a bigger screen, then you need a tablet with a good GPU. If you are an Android fanboy, then you need a popular device with an unlocked bootloader and plenty of community support — not to mention a guarantee of getting the latest Android updates.

The safe option is to buy a Nexus device. The hardware is solid, you will get Android updates before most other devices, and overall it offers value for money. And there are some great apps optimized for the Nexus 7 Get Your Tablet On: 11+ Epic Android Apps Optimized For The Nexus 7 Get Your Tablet On: 11+ Epic Android Apps Optimized For The Nexus 7 When Apple released the iPad Mini – jumping on board the 7" tablet trend pioneered by Amazon and Google – they said Google’s Nexus 7 lacked good tablet apps. While Android may not have the... Read More .

However, certain requirements might change what you need to buy.

Size and Aspect Ratio

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The most important part of a tablet is the screen, so you need to pick one that is best for you. Android tablets come in various screen sizes, typically 7-inch, 8-inch, 10-inch, 11-inch, and 13-inch. You will also find them in two aspect ratios: 4:3 and 16:9. A 4:3 aspect ratio is slightly square and mimics what an iPad screen looks like. A 16:9 aspect ratio is widescreen and looks like your laptop’s monitor.

There is no “ideal” size to apply as a generalized rule here. You probably have friends with tablets — ask to try out their devices and see what’s most comfortable for you. Similarly, you can go to a store and check all the different sizes and aspect ratios. This is also the point to hold the device and check its weight.

Don’t skip this step and don’t rely on online data alone. Like we said, the screen is the most important part of your tablet experience; you don’t want to regret your decision because you were too lazy to take a walk to Best Buy.

For what it’s worth, our preference would be 8-inch devices, and we loved the LG G Pad 8.3 LG G Pad 8.3 Review and Giveaway LG G Pad 8.3 Review and Giveaway The LG G Pad 8.3 tablet includes great build quality, specs and software, rivaling some of the best tablets in the market. Read More in that class.

Connectivity Options

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Where you plan on using your tablet largely defines the connectivity options you need. Here, look up what you wrote as an answer to “Will I carry the tablet everywhere with me or is it only a device for home usage and long trips?”

If the tablet is going to be mainly at your home and occasionally used on long trips, you don’t need a tablet with 3G/4G connectivity. As long as it has WiFi, you’re good to go.

If you plan on carrying the tablet with you everywhere, then definitely buy one with 3G/4G connectivity. It dramatically boosts the utility of a tablet.

Keyboards and Stylii

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“How much work am I actually going to do on it? Do I need a keyboard for my work?” If your answer is that you’re going to use it as your primary work device, then yes, you need a keyboard for your tablet. If you’re going to carry your laptop with you because you can’t ditch a desktop OS like Windows or Mac yet, then no, your tablet does not need a keyboard. It’s that simple.

Where things get interesting is the stylus. It’s an element which you don’t think you really need until you start using it more and more. Only the Samsung Galaxy Note series and the Nvidia Tegra Note come with a built-in stylus in the tablet, which is also pressure-sensitive. This not only makes it great for drawing (and hence a cool device for artists), but also note-taking. Samsung, in particular, has done a great job with apps for digitizing handwritten notes and using the stylus in unique and useful ways.

Unique Features to Look Out For

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To differentiate themselves from the competition, Android tablet manufacturers keep trying out new things. Some are great, some are ridiculous, but most of them do cater to some niche or another.

Mini HDMI port: If you’re a gamer and want a tablet for gaming, get one with a Mini HDMI out. This way, you can connect your tablet to your TV with a regular HDMI cable and use a Bluetooth controller to start playing games. It actually works well and is surprisingly fun.

Projector: The Lenovo Yoga Pro 2 tablet comes with a built-in projector to cast your display onto any flat surface. It seems like a silly thing till you go into a meeting, prop your tablet on the conference room table, and start your presentation on the whiteboard. And it’s pretty cool to show off those vacation photos too. Of course, you could always buy a pico projector like the AAXA P4X that we reviewed AAXA P4X Pico Pocket Projector Review and Giveaway AAXA P4X Pico Pocket Projector Review and Giveaway What if you could bring a projector with you, wherever you go, and easily display presentations, movies, and more with it? This $299 AAXA P4X Pico Pocket Projector attempts to make this possible. Read More .

Calling: If the tablet is going to be your main computing device, then apart from 3G/4G connectivity, get one which also offers voice calling. This way, you can use apps like WhatsApp which require an active phone connection, and it can double up as a phone in case of an emergency.

The Price Is Right

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Of course, the biggest thing you need to consider is getting a device for the right price. In most cases, your choice is going to boil down to whether you should buy a known big brand, like Samsung or Sony, or a little-known Chinese brand.

Our previous test showed that you shouldn’t spend money on cheap Chinese imports Tablets Compared: Why You Shouldn't Spend Money on Cheap Chinese Android Imports Tablets Compared: Why You Shouldn't Spend Money on Cheap Chinese Android Imports To answer the question regarding the quality of cheap, Chinese-designed tablets, I purchased an ASUS Nexus 7 and a Hyundai T7. Ultimately, I determine whether Chinese tablets are worth importing. Read More , but there are a few exceptions to this rule. Some Chinese manufacturers make tablets that are as good or better than the big-name brands, for a fraction of the price. For example, both Huawei and Xiaomi make brilliant tablets that are much cheaper. Asus is another big name brand that has managed to come up with value-for-money tablets, especially since it uses Intel processors.

You can generally rely on reviews from reputable websites to figure out whether a device is worth it or not. Whatever you do decide to buy, we’d advise you look at warranty and security issues before you make your purchase.

Once you do buy your tablet, here’s what to do first! Got A New Android Phone Or Tablet For Christmas? Here's What To Do First! Got A New Android Phone Or Tablet For Christmas? Here's What To Do First! So you got a new Android phone or tablet for Christmas, but now what? Learn how to get it set up and take care of it! Read More

Which Android Tablet Would You Recommend?

Android tablet owners, we want to hear from you. Which tablet do you have, what do you love about it, and what is your recommendation to someone who wants to buy a new tablet right now?

Also, if you’re in the market for a new tablet and need help narrowing down your options, drop a line in the comments and we’ll try to help!

Image credits: Roobcio / Shutterstock.com, Unsplash / Pixabay

  1. Keon
    January 3, 2016 at 8:37 pm

    I personally prefer the Nvidia Shield Tablet because it is great for gaming and it has a perfectly sized screen at 8 inches.

  2. Deepali Parakh
    January 3, 2016 at 2:44 pm

    My sister and her husband in India both use Android phones, we want to buy them a tablet as a gift and are debating what will be a good option to buy an android tablet or an iPad?Please help.

  3. Carol Elkins
    May 28, 2015 at 5:04 pm

    I have four tablets--a Nexus 7, a Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.5, the original Kindle Fire 2012 and a newer Kindle Fire HD. The Nexus has been and will always be my general-purpose tablet that goes everywhere with me. The other tablets have very specific uses: the old Kindle Fire has been relegated to bedside use as an ebook reader and digital clock because it is now too slow for much of anything else. I bought the newer Fire Kindle specifically to use for Amazon Prime Instant Video but wish it had a larger screen. But I also justified its purchase as a replacement for the 2012 model and for reading the beautifully formatted Wired ezine for Kindle. Last week, Wired announced that they are having trouble with their publisher (Amazon, I assume) and are not providing the ezine in a format specifically designed for Kindle. That means that there is no interactivity and that I have to zoom and scroll to read page content (that was not the case with the Kindle-formatted version.) I am hot happy with this. Finally I purchased the Samsung for only one reason: watching TV shows and movies on its larger screen. It is a beautiful thing to watch. If I had to choose only one tablet, however, I would select the Nexus 7. I can do everything on it (except download Amazon Prime Instant video, which despite Amazon saying otherwise, I can't get to work on Android) but not with the same satisfaction that I get from the individual strengths of the other devices.

  4. Rob Hindle
    May 27, 2015 at 3:27 pm

    To state the obvious there's no "best" just the best match with your criteria. I've just been through this process with my wife. Her criteria were: Small (having handled a few we eventually decided that meant 7 inch) Slim Light (under 300 grams) NOT black (that's non-negotiable). Preferably white, possibly red, off-white or silver "Can look at my photos anywhere and transfer easily between camera & PC, also needs Skype and a built in camera" Cost - immaterial (it's me, not her, paying...). That's it - except that she was suffering from iPad envy. As a geek anything Apple is obviously unthinkable to me. Also as the budget holder I know I can get comparable levels of technology much cheaper than ipad. I had to prove that Android could do everything ipad could (and ideally more and better). I concluded that her unarticulated requirements implied a need to use SIM card (for communication away from WiFi zones), SD card, camera front and back with flash, USB charging & data. Add to that that she's not good with technology. Now one view on that subject is "Apple kit is easy to use" but (assuming that's true) the other side of that issue is that she asks me or our son for PC help at least once a day (both being Android & PC users). Would Apple's alleged ease of use negate that or would I need to become familiar with Apple? (uugh) As she's on the PC a lot and will want to copy photos and probably other stuff back and forth, Apple makes that harder (no USB or SD slot). The availability of in-house technical support is probably what swung her decision toward Android. We travel a lot so Apple implies a dedicated charger whereas most of our other kit (e.g. mobile phones, cameras) can share the same USB charger and if left behind in an hotel room it's a commodity item easy and cheap to replace. In our search a few things surprised me like that Apple charge £100 premium for Cellular capability - that sounds a lot when I can but a complete, if basic, cellular phone for under £100. On the other hand there is a relative scarcity of Android tablets with cellular. The final problem is that the best match we found was from Huawei (I'm not 100% sure about Chinese imports but Huawei seems to have above average reputation) but it's last year's model (with Android 4.x) and the 2015 (Android 5) version is not yet available in UK (but has been for a couple of months in Germany and Italy) - it's improved and not much of a price hike so should we wait...

  5. Rokas Jankunas
    May 27, 2015 at 12:13 pm

    Samsung Galaxy Note Pro 12.2 is the answer for all questions. Trust me - I own it for almost a year and it's still much way better than average tablet.

    • Rokas Jankunas
      May 27, 2015 at 12:15 pm

      ... And it's on picture in this post.

  6. Amir Alavi
    May 27, 2015 at 10:03 am

    Almost a year ago I got a Samsung Note 8. I believe that an 8 inch tablet is the best compromise between portability and a large screen. it's not as chunky as a 10 inch tablet and the screen is still large enough to enjoy films and tv series. In addition the stylus comes in handy when you need to take notes as quickly as possible as writing notes using styli is much faster than typing using a touchscreen.

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