Will you use your tablet for business
or pleasure? Though you can find scads of productivity apps
for tablets, regardless of the platform most people wind up using tablets for
gaming, media consumption, and light-duty tasks such as web browsing and email.
If you'll be doing a lot of typing, consider investing in a Bluetooth keyboard
as using a tablet's virtual keyboard is rarely very much fun -- at least for
extended sessions. Windows RT slates offer a version of Microsoft Office, so if
you do want a work tablet, it becomes worth considering. We don't cover slates
and convertible tablets that run the full Windows 8.1 operating system in this
report, but those have the advantage of letting you run any software that runs
under that OS (the Microsoft Surface 2 can only run apps from the Windows
Store). See our reports on
What screen size do you need? Screen size is given as a diagonal measurement and not the size of the tablet itself. Smaller tablets, in the 7- to 8-inch range, can be used one-handed and are great companions for a crowded commute. Larger tablets can get tiring to hold but offer more screen real estate for better visibility and easier use; they are also terrific for gaming and watching movies and video.
Will my tablet run the apps I need or want? The iTunes and Google Play app stores are both massive, but that doesn't mean that a specific app you want or need is available for both platforms so check before you buy. That's even more important for tablets that have access to smaller app stores, such as the Windows Surface 2 and the Amazon Kindle Fire HDX 7.
How much control do you want over the operating system? Apple's iPad doesn't have many customization options, but it does offer a highly polished interface. Google Android lets users create a highly customized experience full of widgets, alterable keyboards and multiple home screens, but it can be confusing for casual users. Windows tablets feature a happy medium, offering a polished and colorful experience that allows users to move, resize and group Live Tiles as they see fit.
Can I save money by buying a subsidized tablet from a cellphone carrier? The short answer is not really. Major carriers have moved away from selling subsidized tablets, instead offering no-commitment plans that let you pay on a month-to-month basis for access as needed, or allowing users to add their slates to shared subscription data plans for a fee.