Most tablets might look similar, but each brand and model has its own strengths and weaknesses. Before buying one, take time to figure out the functionality you need, the features you’d like, and see which tablets fit your budget.
To get you started, here’s a quick look at how a few of today’s most popular tablets stack up.
Image via Gear Diary
From a $269 Wi-Fi only 16GB iPad mini 2 to the top-of-the line 128GB Wi-Fi/cellular iPad Pro ($1079), you can choose the features that are right for you. All Apple tablets now have Retina displays with 2048×1536 resolution at 326 ppi, except the iPad Pro, which is 2732×2048. Screen sizes range from 7.9” for iPad mini 2 and 4, 9.7” for iPad Air and iPad Air 2, to 12.9” for iPad Pro. Battery life averages 10 hours with Wi-Fi, 9 hours on a cellular data network.
Image via Goodereader
ASUS’s affordable 32GB VivoTab 8 Signature Edition Tablet weighs less than one pound and has an 8” LED backlit 800×1280 display, but it’s ASUS’s premium Transformer Books that are really drawing consumer attention. Transformer Book Chi T100 and Chi T300 Signature Editions are actually 2-in-1 devices including mobile docks with full QWERTY keyboards to easily convert them from tablets to laptops. The 64GB T100 has a 10.1” full-HD screen, and weighs 1.25 pounds (2.43 pounds when docked). With 128GB and a 12.5” full-HD screen, the T300 weighs in at 1.60 pounds (3.19 pounds, docked). All run Windows OS.
Image via Geek-Gadgets
Some Dell Venue models are Androids, while others run Windows 8.1 OS. Display sizes vary from Venue 8 Pro 3000 Series’ 8” screen with 1280×800 resolution and Venue 11 Pro’s (both 5000 and 7000 Series) 10.8” screens at 1920×1080, to Venue 10 7000 Series’ 10.5” screen with 2560×1600 dpi. While the Venue 10 Pro 5000 Series battery life can last up to 11 hours, most models average about 8 hours, with Venue 10 7000 Series coming in a little short at around 7 hours.
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Whether you prefer Android or Windows, you can probably find exactly what you’re looking for in one of Lenovo’s many tablets. For the budget conscious, Android Tab 2 A7-10 and Tab 2 A7-30 with 7” displays and 8GB hard drives can be had for under $100. Travelers might opt for one of the mid-priced Yoga tablets—available in either OS—that boast battery lives of up to 20 hours for models with 8” displays, slightly less for the larger sizes. Meanwhile, the Windows-based ThinkPad 10 and ThinkPad 10 2nd Gen with 64GB hard drives and mobile broadband hover around $600.
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Microsoft’s Surface 3 and Surface Pro 3—starting around $500 and $800, respectively—both use Windows OS and both come with integrated kickstands. With full HD resolution and 1920×1280 ppi, the 10.8” and 1.37-pound Surface 3 is a good everyday option for families and students. The slightly heavier 12” Surface Pro 3 comes with 64GB, 128GB, 256GB, or 256GB plus a whopping 512GB version (SRP $1949) that’s built for professionals who need the power of a laptop in tablet form.
Image via Rootz Wiki
There’s a reason Samsung Galaxy tablets are so ubiquitous. The Android devices come in nearly every size, feature, and performance level you could need. Screen sizes range from 7” to 12.2”, and you can opt for Wi-Fi or 4G LTE connectivity with your carrier of choice (AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile, etc…). Models with 8GB of storage are available for under $200 while the 64GB, HD 12.2” Galaxy Note Pro sells for about $850. With so many available configurations to choose from, it’s almost as if you’re buying a customized tablet with the features you need most.
Whether you’re shopping for a tablet for yourself, or planning to give one as a holiday gift, now is a good time to start comparison shopping. Don’t forget to check for special FatWallet deals at retailers like Walmart, Best Buy, Amazon and MacMall. Also check out the tablets category for deals from multiple stores. You might even find some good deals through eBay.
Paula Hendrickson is a full-time freelance writer who covers everything from television and marketing to business and education. She loves interviewing fascinating people and learning something new with each assignment. In her spare time, Paula can usually be found baking, knitting, hitting up local flea markets or surrounded by dogs. Sometimes all in the same day. Follow her on Twitter at @P_Hendrickson.