A good tablet can improve the way you work, but not every tablet is right for every user. Choosing a tablet can be especially tricky if you intend to use it for business. There are dozens of models to choose from, spanning three major operating systems and countless shapes, sizes and feature sets. Picking out a good one means navigating a minefield of mediocre devices. But no matter your budget or hardware preferences, there's a tablet for you. Here are four factors to consider before buying your next business slate.
1. Pick an OS
Your first task is to pick an operating system. Android, iOSand Windows are distinct platforms, and each has its own pros and cons. All three are worthy options, so picking a mobile OS comes down to your individual needs and preferences. But there are a few important factors to consider.
iOS (iPad): Most of the time you spend on your tablet will be spent using apps. And overall, iOS — the operating system that powers both the iPhone and iPad — edges out other platforms with a slightly better selection of touch-optimized apps. Additionally, multiplatform apps tend to show up on the iPad first. Business users will also appreciate that the iOS platform is a bit more secure than Android, but all that comes at the cost of choice; Apple offers just two iPad sizes, and features such as a stylus or a microSD card slot aren't included in either.
Android: Android's app store — dubbed the Google Play store — rivals Apple's App Store, with more than 1 million apps available, including everything a business user needs for taking notes, balancing a budget, and viewing and editing documents. However, it has fewer tablet-optimized apps, so you'll sometimes have to make do with applications designed for small-screen Android phones. On the other hand, the Android platform could be a security risk; it's easy to download and install unapproved apps, and most malware is targeted at Android. On the upside, Android is the platform to turn to if you want a large selection of tablets to choose from, or need a specific feature.
Windows: When it comes to touch-optimized apps, Windows can't quite match up to either Android or iOS, though the Windows Store will meet most of your basic business needs. Where Windows tablets really shine, however, is in their ability to run all the Windows programs that you run on your office computer. That means most Windows tablets will have no problem running the full version of Microsoft Office or other desktop applications such as Photoshop. Windows also offers better multitasking capabilitiescompared with other mobile platforms. Since each program runs inside its own window, you can view multiple apps on screen at once and arrange them any way you like. And if you need to get some serious work done, plug in a mouse and keyboard and use your tablet like a miniature computer for a big productivity boost.
2.Pick a size
When it comes to productivity, size matters. It's simply easier to work on a bigger display. But a large tablet is also less portable and harder to hold for extended periods of time. In other words, picking a tablet size means making some compromises.
7 inches: The smallest tablets boast screens that measure about 7 inches. That includes tablets such as Google's Nexus 7, which is extremely light and compact, and not much of a burden to carry during a daily commute or on business trips. Seven-inch tablets are even small enough to fit into a large jacket pocket. On the other hand, they don't offer much space to work with.
8-9 inches: Midsize tablets strike a good middle ground between portability and productivity. Samsung's Galaxy Note 8.0 is one of the best 8-inch business tablets, packing both a fast processor and a stylus for taking notes and sketching. Apple's 8-inch iPad Mini also falls into this category, offering a sharp display and a great selection of apps.
10+ inches:These big slates are the real workhorses of the tablet world. Ten-inch tablets such as Google's Nexus 10 usually offer more powerful processors and longer battery life than their more portable brethren. And the biggest tablets, such as Samsung's 12.2-inch Galaxy Tab Pro, offer almost as much screen space as the average laptop computer, so they're more like your typical work machine than other tablets.
3. Check the specs
When you buy a tablet, you usually get what you pay for. But that doesn't mean you have to break the bank to get a decent business slate. A fast processor and a high-res display are good perks, but may not be worth the cost if you only need the basics. Here are two specifications to consider.
Processor: Basic business tasks like checking email and browsing the Web don't require top-tier hardware. That's why small business owners on a budget might want to opt for an affordable tablet over a flagship device. On the other hand, a powerful processor is a boon if you want snappy multitasking and fast performance.
Apple's 9.7-inch iPad Air, which packs Apples 64-bit A7 processor, is an especially speedy tablet. Samsung's Galaxy Note 10.1 tablet also earns a place among the most capable business slates, offering a blazingly fast quad-core processor and 3GB of RAM. And Microsoft's Surface Pro 2packs specs that are more comparable to a high-end ultrabook. Meanwhile, the superaffordable Kindle Fire HDX proves you don't have to pay a lot to get a capable tablet.
Storage: Storage capacity is the other key hardware consideration for the average business user. There are two types of storage: onboard storage, which measures how much data your tablet can hold on its internal hard disk, and expandable storage, which refers to storage capacity added via a memory card slot. Business users who need to store and access large files on the go should spend a little extra for additional onboard storage, which can't be upgraded later. For most users, between 8GB and 16GB is enough, but power users should consider splurging for 32GB of storage or more. Many tablets, including all versions of the iPad, lack a memory card slot. What you see is what you get with those devices, so think carefully about how much space you'll need before you buy.
4. Don't overlook battery life
It's hard to stay productive when your mobile device is always running out of juice. That's why good battery life is so important for business users. Speedy hardware and a sharp display won't get you very far without it, especially if you frequently travel or work away from the office.
Regardless of size, the average tablet lasts about 7.5 hours in tests, which involve continuous Web browsing. But many slates last much longer than that. For example, the Nexus 7 offers good battery life for such a small tablet: about 8.5 hours. The iPad Air, meanwhile, will let you work for about 10.5 hours before it requires a recharge. And the Asus Transformer Book T100, a hybrid Windows tablet that features an extended battery in the form of its snap-on keyboard, can last for more than 12 hours at a time.