At first glance, a tablet might look like a step down from a full-sized laptop or desktop computer. After all, it seems like the missing keyboard would be a potential disadvantage when you compare tablets to other computers. But thanks to their emphasis on portability, tablets offer advantages that their bulkier cousins lack.
One of the biggest factors that distinguishes tablets from other types of computers is their size. The best tablet computers can easily fit into a backpack or a purse without feeling bulky. Generally, tablets feature slim designs and displays under 10 inches.
Increasingly, the performance of the best tablets belies their compact size, thanks to responsive high-resolution screens and fast graphics processors. That allows many tablets to prioritize multimedia content, such as books, games or videos, and to take full advantage of the myriad of apps in their dedicated online stores. Tablets like the Apple iPad Mini with Retina Display, Sony Xperia Z2, and Apple iPad Air fit high-end performance into lightweight cases. If you want to find more information, check out our articles on tablets.
Tablets come in many forms and sizes, but build quality and performance can vary greatly. If you are shopping for a tablet, consider the following areas:
As with any computer, tablet performance is driven heavily by components such as processors, graphics cards and operating systems. Tablets often feature components built for mobile use, but performance can still differ from one tablet to another. In general, the newer the tablet, the more likely it will carry upgraded components that offer faster performance levels. While the benefit of these faster parts may be insignificant if you're primarily using your tablet for low-intensity tasks like web browsing, you'll see noticeably fleeter performance with applications like playing games or watching videos.
With their smaller form factor, tablets are designed for on-the-go use. Whether you're on the couch or the bus, a tablet shouldn't feel heavy or difficult to hold in your hands. When you're on the road, the best tablets also minimize the disruption of working away from home. Lengthy battery run-times and cloud storage options ensure that you can work remotely without being tied to a portable hard drive or power adapter. Many manufacturers even have separate models with 4G support, which allows your tablet to connect to mobile data networks for internet access. However, these models require additional service plans.
As the central part of the tablet, it is vial the display has a quality build. Higher resolutions are generally better, but the strength of a tablet's display can also be seen in other areas. How vibrant do the colors in a photo look? Can you see the individual pixels around the edges of each letter in onscreen text? Factors such as these allow you to see the screen's visual fidelity with additional precision.
Many tablets are outfitted with both front- and rear-facing cameras. Front-facing cameras are typically used for video conferencing and generally have lower resolutions than their rear-facing counterparts, but both cameras can be used to shoot video and photos. As with smartphone cameras, image and video fidelity depends on the quality of the parts and software used within each tablet.
Help & Support
When your tablet has software or hardware issues, you'll want quality customer support with quick turnaround times. Product warranties are a standard feature, along with support via phone, email or company websites. Manufacturers such as Samsung, Apple and Microsoft even have retail locations that can provide support without the hassle of having to ship your tablet away.
Tablets aren't a perfect fit for every computing situation, but they offer a fine compromise between the functional but bulky laptop and the small (and small-screened) smart phone. Whether you're watching a movie on the plane or reading an eBook at the park, the best tablets are built around portability and ease of use.