By: Quinton Lawman, Product Owner.

Welcome back! Last time, I talked (quite a bit) about eBook readers. Today, it’s tablet-time! This sounds a bit obvious, but the key to buying a tablet and being happy about it is to consider the specific things you’ll use it for most often. Tablets can do a lot of things—heck, the latest Apple commercial implies that the distinction between tablet and computer is gone.

What are your plans for your new tablet?

While I don’t agree with that last bit (the devices traditionally known as “computers” are alive and strong), I can say that the type of tablet you buy should be entirely dependent on how you’re going to use it. I’d advise you to focus less on manufacturer or platform and more on what you’re going to do with it.

Want productivity?

Buy a Surface (or something similar, but less expensive).

Want to play games?

Buy something high-end like a Galaxy tab S3 or iPad Pro. I’m excluding PC games because, for those, you’ll likely want something beastier than a tablet.

Want to watch movies and/or read books?

Buy something with a great screen. The Tab S3 and pretty much any current iPad will fit that bill, and so will a bunch of other devices. If you’re going to read a lot, be careful with lower-res devices like Amazon’s Fire tablets (the new Fire HD 10 is ok). Why? Higher resolution = less eye strain when reading.

Good speakers, even if you’re going to watch lots of movies, are optional, but you might want loud ones. Why? There isn’t a tablet out there that can match a semi-decent pair of headphones or earbuds. Loud speakers are handy as a back-up for when you forget your headphones.

Narrow the field

I have a Huawei tablet (the Mediapad M3). It has a fairly high pixel density of 359ppi (good for reading), surprisingly good speakers, and it came with a set of AKG earbuds (which are wonderful). I’m quite fond of my tablet, but I only bring it up to exemplify how I recommend making your purchase decision. Here’s what I asked myself while shopping:

  1. How’s the screen? It needs to be top-o-the line, because I read a lot.
  2. Can it handle highly demanding games at the time of purchase? I do like games . . .
  3. What’s the aspect ratio? (I prefer 16:10 in a tablet, but 4:3 is more common.)
  4. Is the battery life at least decent? This one is down the list a bit because pretty much always have a charging solution of some kind with me.
  5. Is it available with at least 32 GB of storage? I highly recommend 64. Just don’t buy less than 32.
  6. Does it support the apps I want to use on it?
  7. How are the reviews?

My Huawei answered all of those questions nicely, so I bought it. I use it daily, too!

Favorites-free zone

You may notice I’m side-stepping the whole Android vs. Apple vs. Windows debate. That’s very much on purpose. My advice, in general, is to stay as platform agnostic as you can. Use services like Kobo, Kindle, Google, and any others that work across all of the major platforms and you’re far less likely to end up grumpy about your purchases.

You can apply all of the guidelines I laid out in this post and end up buying from pretty much any manufacturer. It’s more important to know the specs and capabilities that are directly related to the things you want to do with your tablet. For example, I’m never going to use my tablet for photography, so I really don’t care about the cameras. They look nice on a spec sheet, but don’t actually matter for me.

Had I wanted to write my next novel on something tablet-y, I’d have definitely gone with Windows. If I liked the 4:3 aspect ratio, or cared more about custom accessories, I may have gone with an iPad.

Be sure to have some specifics in mind

A lot of people buy tablets with the idea that they’re going to use them all the time for all the things. I think this is why a lot of tablets (like the one my wife has) tend to lay on nightstands, rarely ever getting used.

Before you spend the cash on one of these slabs of glass, sit down and really ask yourself: “is there something I’m going to do on this, regularly, that I can’t do more conveniently on something I already own?”

Once you’ve identified that thing (or things), use it as your guiding light when picking your device. Yup, tablets can do an awful lot, but so can your phone, and your phone is generally more convenient because it’s there, in your pocket, and it’s on. You’ve really got to have a compelling use (like reading) to make a tablet worthwhile. The other stuff you can do with it, well, that’s just icing on the tech cake, my friends.