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Tablets: 7 things to look for

With more tablets arriving on the market each month, it can be difficult to decide which one to plump for. So here’s our essential guide to tablet tech.

Tablets are great companion devices to go alongside laptops and desktop PCs. If you don’t have another PC and are buying a tablet as your main device, then do think twice about it.

Tablets are amazingly capable devices, but they’re not workhorses. Want to spend a decent amount of time photo editing or working in documents? If the answer is yes, then consider a laptop instead.

Operating system

There are various operating systems available for tablets. The most well-known is iOS – the operating system inside the iPad. There’s also Google’s Android too, found inside various tablets including those made by Samsung, Motorola and Acer. In the future, there will be more tablets running Windows, but at the moment it’s iOS and Android that you should look for. Android is more complicated, but it’s more flexible too. iOS is simple to use and is a very popular choice.

Screen size

Always consider screen size. Smaller screens – some are 7 inches – may be more portable, but they are also more limited in scope too. 10.1-inch screens are popular and provide a good amount of screen for watching video and browsing websites. The iPad 2 has a 9.7-inch display.
Weight and thickness of tablets is more for aesthetics than bulk – many tablets weigh around the 600g mark so they’re considerably lighter than a small laptop.

Processor

Tablets use the same type of processor as mobile phones do – these are produced by different manufacturers but are all based on the same ARM processor technology. Many tablets now have dual-core processors, like a lot of PCs.

All tablets are based on ARM processor technology – the same as virtually all mobile phones. Different companies have produced their own versions of the ARM chip design and Apple’s iPad 2 runs the Apple A5 chip, while Android 3.0 tablets generally use Nvidia’s Tegra 2 processor.

Is it 3G?

All tablets have Wi-Fi so you can use them online. However, many tablets such as the Apple iPad 2 and Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 are also available in 3G versions. That means you can use them on mobile broadband networks as well as on Wi-Fi. All you need to do is put a mobile internet-enabled SIM card into it so you can use it online wherever you are!

Cameras

Like many Android tablets, the iPad 2 has two cameras. The purpose of the front-facing camera is for video-calling so you can use Skype (iPad 2 and selected Android tablets only) or a Google Talk. The rear-camera can be used to take pictures or, as on mobile phones, video.

How many apps?

There are now over 300,000 apps available from the Apple App Store and around 65,000 of these are specially adapted for the iPad. However, the Android Market is catching up – thousands of Android tablet apps are now available including big names such as Google, Twitter and BBC iPlayer.

Storage

Finally, you should look how much storage space your tablet has. Many tablets are either 16 or 32GB – plenty for apps, photos, music and more. However, if you want your tablet to store all your digital photos or music, you’ll need to consider this when you buy.

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