Buying a tablet for someone this Christmas need help choosing? Check out our SOS guide

Big or small, Apple or Android, 3G or Wi-Fi and other questions answered for people buying a tablet this Christmas...

24 Oct 2013


This Christmas will be all about turkey, TV, tinsel and… tablets.  

A tablet is a slender touchscreen computer that can sit in your lap or the palm of your hand. The most well-known example is the iPad. Great for the sofa or on the go, you can watch videos, update Facebook and browse the web with a few simple swipes of the screen.  

There are plenty of options to choose from, but picking the wrong one could lead to a seriously frosty Christmas morning.

But with our  tablet buyers' guide, you'll be safe in the knowledge you're on the money.


1) What do they need it for?  

The first question you should ask yourself is why are you buying a tablet for this person and for what will they be using it? Are they wanting something to keep them entertained while they're on the train into work? Or is it more about having some entertainment while lounging on the sofa or when planning dinner in the kitchen?


2) Full-size tablet or small tablet?

This will depend on how the person you're buying the tablet will use it the most.

  • Full-size tablet (around 10 in) - great for sofa-surfing telly addicts and home cooks

Samsung Pro

(Samsung Galaxy TabPro 10.1")

Full-size tablets such as the Apple iPad with Retina display (9.7inch) and Samsung Galaxy Tab 3 (10inch) are perfect if you're buying for a self-confessed sofa surfer or someone who loves to cook.

With the tablet on their lap they'll be able to catch up on EastEnders via iPlayer or indulge in some online shopping, while home cooks can prop it on the kitchen worktop and cook along with Jamie Oliver on his YouTube channel or Nigel Slater on catch-up.  

And if you go for the new iPad Air - 28% lighter than iPad 4 and the lightest full-size tablet in the world - carrying it from room to room will be like walking on - well - air.

  • Small tablet (around 7 inches) - great for the train and work lunch breaks

Nexus 7 New 1

(Google Nexus 7)

Looking for a present for someone with a train commute every day and not much to do on their lunch? A small tablet should see them right.

Buy a Google Nexus 7, iPad mini or Asus MeMo Pad and they'll be more than happy, whether they want to read an e-book, browse apps and online shops, or watch videos.  

Ranging between 7 and 7.9 inches, each of these tablets is small and light enough to hold in one hand when standing on the tube, and can be whipped back out of their pocket in a flash when lunchtime rolls around.

Take the Nexus 7, at just 290g it's fit for a life on the road and is even small enough to be slipped in the back pocket in a pair of jeans.


3) Operating system: Apple, Android or Windows?

An operating system or OS is the software that your tablet runs on, just like your laptop or work computer may run on Windows. iPads use Apple's own mobile OS, while tablets from Google, Samsung and Amazon use versions of Google's Android, and Microsoft and some other tablets use Windows. When choosing a tablet, the main question you should ask is "what smartphone does he/she have". Having the same OS on both your tablet and smartphone gives the user many advantages, from the same user experience, to being able to sync content.

Watch our operating system guide video and we go into more detail below...

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  • Apple - sync content between your iPhone and iPad

If you're buying for someone who already has an Apple phone or computer, you're probably going to want to buy them an iPad. That's because you can sync the devices so they all show the same calendar, iTunes, photos and notes - and when you update on one, it updates them all.

Apple's latest mobile operating system is iOS7. It's nice to look at and really easy to use; spend a few minutes with an iPad and you'll see. If they want to download an album or watch a movie, there are tons to choose from at the iTunes store.

When it comes to apps, the iPad has plenty. Apple recently revealed there are more than one million apps to choose from in its App Store - 475,000 of which are specific to iPads.

In iOS 7 you'll be able to keep tabs on all your activity for the day with the Notification Centre giving you the lowdown on your events, appointments and special occasions

Modern life is mad busy, but iOS 7 helps save you time by remembering when you like to check Facebook or the football news and updating the feed before you launch the app.


  • Android - customise to your heart's content!

If you're buying for someone who really likes to put their stamp on things, Google's Android operating system is the way to go.

It is found on Google's Nexus tablets, while slightly tweaked versions are used on tablets from Samsung and Amazon among others.

The operating system equivalent to a tailor made Savile Row suit, it's easily the most customisable option.
Each edition of Android is named after sweets and puddings, and with the latest Jelly Bean 4.3 version they'll be able to shift around apps, create shortcuts to emails and pretty much redesign the look of their home screen.
If you're buying for your kids you can actually set parental controls to keep tabs on what they're looking at and how much they're spending on apps.

What about if you want the tablet to be shared across the family? No problem - you can set up individual profiles giving everyone their own homescreen, settings and apps.

When it comes to music, movies and books, they can all be found alongside apps at the Google Play store.


  • Windows - work hard, play hard

Win 8.1 Preview

If you're shopping for someone who often has to work at home, a tablet with the Windows 8 operating system is a good shout. The operating system runs on tablets such as Microsoft's Surface Pro 2.

Apps and programmes sit behind pretty, colourful tiles, and you'll find stacks of them in the Windows Store.
But beneath all the cuteness there's an absolute workaholic.   

It's compatible with Microsoft Office software and can also be synced with SkyDrive. This means documents saved online while in the office be accessed at home on their Surface Pro 2 tablet; planning a PowerPoint presentation from the sofa, anyone? While staying on top of work emails is a cinch no matter where they are.


4) Screen - if they're watching movies all the time, go for a higher resolution

Buying for someone who will be mainly using it for watching TV programmes and films on Netflix and suchlike? Then it's worth getting a tablet with a super-sharp screen.

For larger tablets, look at the iPad with Retina or the new iPad Air. Both have a 9.7inch screen with Retina, with Which? saying the Retina display makes the picture supposedly "as good a display as the human eye can comprehend".
When it comes to smaller tablets, a couple of options stand out.

Google's Nexus 7 offers what it called "the world's highest resolution 7inch tablet" upon launch. The more pixels you have, the better picture you can expect, and the Nexus 7 has more than 2.3 million of them.

Google says you can "read text that's sharper than the printed page, see images more vivid than the highest quality photo magazine, and watch videos come to life in vibrant 1080p HD".

Meanwhile Apple's newly launched iPad mini with Retina display has more than 3.1 million pixels - one million more than a HDTV. It also boasts a slighter larger 7.9 inch screen.

Either option will be perfect if you're buying for someone who'll love to while away their commute with YouTube videos and the goals from the weekend's football.


5) Will they need a tablet with 3G, or just with Wi-Fi?

Using A Tablet In Cafe

This is an easy one really, and it's answered with one simple question. Will they be using the tablet at home and in the office or out and about in town?

If they're mainly going to be using it at home and other places with broadband, they'll be fine with a regular - and cheaper - WiFi model.

If they're using it on the train to work, or out and about in town, then they may want a 3G or 4G option. This means that even when they're not connected to someone's broadband or in a Wi-Fi hotspot they'll be able to get online through the mobile broadband networks (3G and 4G).