But what is a tablet? Why should you consider buying one? And which one is the best tablet for you, or for the person you'd like to buy one for as a gift?
Our guide covers everything you need to know about tablets and provides useful tips on what to look for and consider.
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What is a tablet?
Tablets fill the gap between a laptop computer and a smartphone. Though too large to fit in your pocket, a tablet is still small and light enough to carry with you wherever you go.
The beauty of a tablet is that you can use it just as you use your smartphone or laptop. If you need a keyboard for work, many models like the Apple iPad and Samsung Galaxy can be used with their associated keyboard docks, which means you can plug them in and type away.
Regular keyboards can be connected to tablets with full-size USB ports, but these are few and far between.
If you want to make a phone call, plug in a headset or use the built-in microphone and speaker system. If you’re just surfing the net or playing games, the large touchscreen display is easier to use than a smaller smartphone screen.
Buying a tablet
Perhaps the most difficult part is choosing which one is the best tablet for you. There’s a bewildering range of products available at prices ranging from around £50 to £2400, and all manner of online tablet reviews.
The most popular tablets are in the middle range, according to PC Advisor’s Tablet Reviews, and include:
• Apple iPad: various versions ranging in price from £190 to £2,400:
• Samsung Galaxy: models ranging between £170 to around £500:
• Samsung Google Nexus 10:
• Sony Experia Z2:
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But what’s the difference between them?
For most users, the most important difference is in the operating system (OS).
Apple iPads and all other Apple devices run on Apple’s iOS; Samsung, Nexus and many other tablets use the Android OS; and Microsoft, Asus, Panasonic and Acer offer a Windows OS.
The battle between operating systems is fierce. Loyal Apple users won’t even discuss other options, while Android users prefer the greater flexibility of their system, which isn’t locked in to Apple’s proprietary software.
Those who use Word and other Microsoft software prefer the Windows 8.1 OS, which fixed many of the bugs found in earlier versions.
Using the internet
All tablets come with Wi-Fi internet access, which means you can connect to the Wi-Fi network in your home or office, or when you’re out and about at airports, hotels and cafes that offer a Wi-Fi connection.
Some models also come with the option of 3G or 4G broadband access, which will require a SIM card much like your mobile phone. 3G is currently the most widely available, while 4G offers a much faster connection.
Find out more about how to use Wi-Fi
Best apps for your tablet
For most of us, the decision will depend on the apps we want to use.
If you choose an iPad, you will be locked in to what’s available in Apple’s App Store. Android users will be able to find free and paid apps at the Google Play Store, Amazon Appstore and many other smaller app outlets. Windows’ selection is much more limited, but growing all the time.
Not sure where to start? Here’s a list of recommended apps, including games, recipes, medication-reminders and magazines.
The most important thing to remember is not to be swayed by whatever looks trendy or popular.
Do your research, test the different options and choose the best tablet for your needs.
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