Tablet Buying Guide 2013: How to Pick the Right Tablet

Before you go shopping for a tablet, you need to have a plan. And we've got the list of features you should consider.

By Florence Ion
Mon, November 18, 2013

IDG News Service —

You might be looking to snag a tablet for yourself or for your loved one. But before you venture out to a brick and mortar store or get lost scouring for websites and looking for deals, take a step back. Like everything else in life, tablet shopping is easier if you have a plan.

There are so many tablet options available, it's easy to be overwhelmed by all the possible criteria. You'll have to consider size and weight, how long the battery lasts, and which platform offers the apps and services you use the most. Let us help you with our guide on what to look for when you're in the market for a tablet, and what to avoid so that you don't needlessly spend money on something that turns out to be a dud.

Be sure to check up our updated list of the best tablets out on the market right now for specific recommendations.

Choose a platform

Most tablets will let you do common tasks like read books, browse the Web, play music and games, or watch movies and videos. But not all of the platform ecosystems are built the same.

One of the easiest ways to consider which platform best suits you is by looking at the devices you already have. For instance, do you have an iPhone that hooks up to a MacBook or a massive iTunes media library? Then you might want consider the iPad to help seal the circle and keep things easily synced across devices. Or, maybe you're platform agnostic and wouldn't mind a tablet with a bit more malleability? Google's Android-powered Nexus 7 is a worthy choice. Alternatively, if you're a member of Amazon Prime and find yourself pooling money into the site on a constant basis, then consider hooking yourself into its vast array of movies and e-books by bringing home a 7- or 8-inch Kindle Fire HDX.

Bear in mind that not all Android tablets are created equal: many of them either run older versions of Android or the manufacturer will offer up their own version with a customized interface that requires its own learning curve. Companies like Samsung and LG are notorious for this, and they package up the devices with their own bundle of applications--many of which you can't remove.

What will you use it for?

Those of you aching to be productive with a tablet that's easier on your back than a laptop might want to pay mind to Microsoft's Surface 2, which uses a touch-friendly version of Windows 8.1. However, you'll have less of an "entertainment tablet" experience with the absence of the some apps and games that are popular on other platforms. The iPad Air is also good for this reason as Apple offers its iWork productivity suite for tablet users, in addition to iCloud, which works with both your Mac and iPhone as well as your browser.

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