How to find the best tablets for parents and children

Tablets; the important features, the gimmicks, the optional extras and the slightly trickier technical stuff explained.

With the market for tablet PCs and other touchscreens expanding by the day, it can often be a challenge knowing which ones will best meet your needs. As late as 2010, there was only one tablet computer (the iPad) in common usage, making deciding which one to buy a much easier decision! Now, though, there are many alternatives on offer. This article will take a look at some of the things to bear in mind when out shopping for your tablet; the important features, the gimmicks, the optional extras and the slightly trickier technical stuff that might throw you off.

The very first thing you’ll want to consider (and arguably the most important) is what operating system you wish to use. The three main options are Windows, Android (operated by Google) and iOS (operated by Apple). Usually, the choice of operating system will affect the type of tablet you’ll get as not every system will be available on every model. has apps available for all platforms, and most apps will have their equivalents as well across the operating systems. It really is down to personal preference. Although many people find the interface of the Android easier to use, and Android has the largest number of compatible tablet models, iOS is popular because it links in with other Apple software such as iTunes, and also because with 500,000 apps available, the Apple App store is by far the largest at the moment for general apps. Windows 8 is popular for its similarities to a Windows Computer.  Usually, if you prefer the layout of the iPhone or the iPad, you will prefer to use iOS whereas if you prefer the layout of a more traditional computer, you will choose Windows or Android.

Whilst thinking about your choice of operating system, it’s also worth sparing a moment to consider the size of your tablet-both physically and in terms of storage. 16GB will be more than enough for the average user, but if you plan on storing lots of music, images, and videos as well as run your applications then 32 or even 64GB memories are available. Most tablet computers available today come with slots for additional storage cards. Be careful, though, as some popular models such as the iPad do not; however other means of storage such as the on-line cloud are also available. When it comes to size and thickness, this is largely a matter of personal preference although some models weigh in at just over 200g and are barely shy of 9mm thick. Only after periods of extended use (or of carrying them around in a small shoulder bag) will you really feel any difference in weight.

Next, the technical aspects of the tablet itself.
Next, the technical aspects of the tablet itself.

Next, the technical aspects of the tablet itself. The screen size is an important consideration due to issues of comfort and ease of use-although in most cases this will need to be balanced against storage and portability. The most popular screen sizes range from 7 inches (which would be ideal for schoolbound handhelds), to 9.5, for those who enjoy watching movies and reading. Smaller variants do exist but with a 5 inch screen, you may be better off with a smart phone. The processor of the tablet itself may be slightly trickier. All tablets are based on ARM processor technology. This is identical to almost all mobile phones, although different companies have started to produce their own variants and, like PCs, are now dual core.

Does your tablet need 3G? All tablets are now fitted with wireless technologies to make it easy connecting at home or at a hotspot. However some tablets also come in 3G varieties, which means that after putting in a mobile enabled sim card, you will be able to connect to the internet wherever you are at standard Broadband speed. These tablets are of more expensive variety and require you to sign up to a data contract (although some very reasonable rates are available, just like with mobile phone contracts). Be careful not to pay extra for 3G if it isn’t a feature you plan on using. Cameras are another feature on most tablets that may not be essential to everyone. Some more expensive models have cameras going up to a colossal 12 megapixels, with front and back facing cameras to handle video calls as well as standard picture taking. All very nice, but make sure you aren’t paying a premium for a powerful camera unless you’re a dedicated shutterbug – for casual usage, the standard 5 megapixel camera will be sufficient.

Once you have found the right tablet for you it will be worth every penny.
Once you have found the right tablet for you it will be worth every penny.

Let’s say we’re looking for a tablet computer to use in an educational environment; a university campus, for example. Although a ten inch screen is tempting, 7 inches still offers good visibility and quality whilst being portable and easier to fit in a satchel. Being a student at university and possibly doing a lot of travelling, I’m going to opt for a 32GB memory but also choose a model that can fit an SD storage card just in case. For this same reason, I’d choose a model with 3G because, although wireless hotspots are widespread, I still might want to check my emails or quickly research something when using the train or on the road. I’m not a keen photographer so the standard camera size of 5 or 6 megapixels will be just fine.

So there you have your key considerations when deciding which model of tablet will be best suited for you. Tablets usually range in price from £150 to £400, and much like laptops you get what you pay for in terms of specifications, capabilities and special features. It is always worth bearing in mind which features you are happy to pay extra for, and which you are not, but once you have found the right tablet for you it will be worth every penny.

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