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Tablets Buying Guides

As portable electronics become more and more integrated into today's society, you may find yourself in need of an upgraded gadget - namely, a tablet. Tablets are the evolution of multimedia on the move, and come in a variety of flavours, which makes finding the perfect tablet to fit your lifestyle harder than you may think. Have a look at our run-down of the main features you should look for when buying your new tablet.

Android vs iOS.

Arguably the most important decision to make when buying a tablet is which OS, or Operating System, to go for. There are two major competitors in the market at the moment - Android and iOS.

Android is Googles' titan, and it's rampaging through the tablet market as well as the cellphone world. Most tablets on the market run on one version or other of Android, and choosing the right flavour of the OS first time is important, as most Android offering aren't updateable. Android has a lot of things going for it, the main being the variety of tablets that support it. Samsung, Asus, and Acer all have some fantastic examples of powerful, relatively low-cost tablets, in the form of the Galaxy, EEEpad Transformer, and Iconia respectively. And that's not where the plus sides stop - Android is open-source, meaning any tech-minded Joe Blog can edit the code to their hearts content, modifying the core aspects of the tablet. Applications downloaded from the Google play store can therefore change and enhance features that come on your tablet, instead of just giving you access to a separate, openable "App".

iOS, Google play store main competitor and currently the most popular operating system, is Apple's weapon of choice. In many peoples' opinion, iOS has a cleaner, faster, more user-friendly interface. The unfortunate sacrifice that is made to get this usability is a lack of customisability. In the iOS tablets, you can change the background picture, change a few of the sounds, and that's it. All applications that are accessible on Apple's App Store are run through stringent checks, which means that applications that have the potential to modify your hardware are not allowed to be released, let alone downloaded. The plus side of this policing system is more high-quality apps, although a few of the budget ones manage to slip through Apple's proverbial sieve. But that's not to say that Apple tablets are a complete failure - As a matter of fact, iOS and it's iPad children are still the most popular tablets around, and because of that the iOS App Store is a giant petri dish of fantastic, extremely well-polished applications and games, with only the odd bit of mould showing here and there. Accessories for iOS are nigh-on limitless, with fantastic options for cases as well as charging and music docks.The other major feature is that all iOS tablets are fully updateable with every new release from Apple's software centre.

Screen

I won't bother going in to too much detail when it comes to screen size - it really comes down to personal preference and what suits you best.

What I will mention, however, is to look for the highest resolution screen you can find. The resolution of the screen is, in a nutshell, the amount of colour dots, commonly known as Pixels, on the screen. The more pixels, the smoother everything looks. To give you an example, a resolution of 1920 X 1080, one of the highest resolutions for computer monitors, means that there are 1,920 pixels from left to right, and 1,080 pixels from top to bottom. Do some math, and you'll find that you have a grand total of 2,073,600 pixels all up. While there are no tablet screens with that kind of resolution at the moment, the amount of pixels necessary for a smooth picture decreases with the size of the screen.

Inputs

One of the other things to look for, particularly if you're looking at replacing your PC with a tablet, is inputs. USB, to be specific. Most don't, but more and more are coming out with them. A fantastic, current example of the perfect replacement to your laptop is the Asus EEEpad Transformer - Looks like a netbook, and yet you an pull the screen off and use it as a tablet. The keyboard acts as a charging dock, and gives the tablet USB inputs. Other useful inputs to look out for are SD card slots, or even MicroSD card slots.

Camera

Cameras come as stock standard, although the quality does vary wildly from tablet to tablet. Check the megapixels, and the video quality. Just remember - although it may have HD video, that is in no way confirmation of a high-quality photo camera. Be sure to check all the specs, and see our buying guide on cameras for more info regarding megapixels and other fancy camera terms.

Other considerations

What else should you look for in a tablet? Well, a good thing to check would be whether or not it supports SIM cards. If it has SIM card support, you can stick either a prepaid or postpaid SIM in and use the data that you place on the card's account, giving it access to the internet just about anywhere.

Another good feature to check would be how many accessories are currently available for the tablet in question - as a rule of thumb, the lower-end, cheaper tablets will have far less accessory support than their newer, faster, more expensive cousins.

Battery life is also worth checking out, although it's usually around the 7-10 hour mark, depending on what you plan on doing on it. Games and movies suck the juice out of a battery, while reading an e-book is a lot more eco-friendly.