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A guide to Android tablets: What to look for

In the market for a tablet but don’t want to join the Apple crowd? Don’t worry – an Android tablet is a fine investment!

In many ways Google’s portable operating system is even more suited to a tablet-sized display than it is for a phone. Indeed, there are times when Android can seem a trifle complicated for a small screen, but on a tablet it really flies.

Although the new Android 4.0 is now creeping into the tablet market, Android 3.2 is still the main rival to the iPad’s iOS operating system. It offers you a great level of control, thousands of apps through the Google Play store and looks terrific to use. It also supports flash so you can get streaming video (for example BBC live streams) that are unavailable on the iPad. Other video, such as Sky Go, ITV Player and BBC iPlayer, are available through apps.

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Android also supports a terrific level of multitasking so you can run multiple apps at the same time; Android 3.x introduced a multitasking panel so you could easily switch between apps – do make sure you choose a device that has Android 3.0 or later installed; older versions are quite different.

The operating system will also sync with your Google Account for a complete backup of your device including all your settings (you can fine tune this in the Settings).

So what do you need to look for in an Android tablet?

The first thing to decide is what screen size you want to go for. 10.1-inches is the most popular, as seen on the Samsung Galaxy Tab, Sony Tablet S and Motorola Xoom 2. 7-inch models are also popular. By contrast, the iPad has a 9.7-inch display.

The 10-inch displays are a terrific size, while many Android tablets are breathtakingly thin – the Samsung Galaxy Tab is a great example – and feel even more desirable than the iPad.

There are also big differences between battery life, processor and memory, so you’ll need to check out the specifications of the particular tablet you’re thinking of buying. Because there are several contenders in terms of Android tablets, we’d recommend you go and take a look at some in a store. Many high street retailers and phone shops stock them and you can buy them with data contracts for mobile broadband use in many cases.

More power to your Android tablet

In terms of processors, many tablets now have quad-core chips that are as powerful as the very latest smartphones and even more powerful than the new iPad. One of these is Nvidia’s Tegra 3, which means you can play intensive 3D games on your Android tablet (providing they’re available through the Google Play store, of course).

It’s also worth looking at the camera on any Android tablet; most have a front-facing and rear camera. It’s quality you need to worry about with the rear camera, but a front-facing camera is a must if you want to use Skype or similar for video calling.

Whichever Android tablet you choose, be prepared to spend around the £300-£400 mark. Although cheaper models are available, they tend to be a far inferior user experience.

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