How to choose the perfect tablet – part one: size matters

Buying a tablet is much like shopping for jeans, when you find the perfect one it´ll just feel right - help get it spot on with part one of our guide

03 May 2013


Buying a tablet is much like shopping for jeans, when you find the perfect type it'll just feel right.

Suzy Perry Ipad

So we've put together this guide to give you a few pointers from the comfort of your chair.

We'll sort the minis from the maxis and the Apple from the Android without you having to suffer the shame of sheepishly requesting the 'next size up' from behind the fitting room door.

In part one we'll focus on size: after all, if they don't fit, they don't fit.

Tablet nation isn't one size fits all

Everyone has a tablet these days. Recent figures from analysts IDC show tablet sales are soaring, with more sold from January to March 2013 than in the entire first half of 2012.

Whether it's a teenager tapping away on Twitter on the train, or a married couple sitting down to Scrabble in the local pub - the iPad and suchlike have become as ubiquitous as an Ikea bookcase. Even our toddler has commandeered ours for watching Peppa Pig - when she can wrestle it off her shoe-shopping-obsessed mother, that is.

What is a tablet, anyway?

It's a perfectly reasonable question. Until a few years back a tablet was something you swallowed when you had a headache.

They went really well with water, which the tech tablets of today don't (apart from one we'll talk about later).

A tablet is a slender, lightweight internet-enabled computer. Instead of using a keyboard, it has a glass screen which you control through touch - a bit like your smartphone. They're great for browsing, shopping and entertainment rather than work projects and homework.

Choosing your perfect tablet: 7inch or 10inch

Much like jeans, different tablets suit different people.

As with Levi's, there are tablets to fit all shapes, sizes and salaries but first you need to know your measurements. The most important question - and the one we're tackling in part one of this guide - is do you want your tablet to be big or small?

The argument for a 10inch tablet

Mini tablets are all about mobility, but when it comes to a full-size one home is where the heart is.

For example, since my wife bought a full-size iPad our laptops have been gathering serious dust.

As important to our living room as our sofa or TV, we use it to do everything: Catching up with Broadchurch via iPlayer with the iPad propped up on the pouf; reading the news headlines at breakfast on the BBC app; snuggling up with a movie streamed from LoveFilm.

Shopping on it is a breeze, almost too simple. Browse the virtual high street and snap-up what you want with a simple flick of the finger - I'm thinking of getting a wife-lock put on ours.   

Speaking of the other half, she does a lot of writing on forums, and tells me the iPad is pretty good for typing too, while 32 and 64GB storage options means there's plenty of room for music and photos.

You can also use your tablet for taking pictures. I did it once and earned some pretty funny looks. Is it a bird, is it a plane, no it's a man taking a picture with an iPad. But still I lived, and cameras on 10inch tablets are often better than those on smaller ones.

10-inch tablets - the key points

:: Better screens - larger, higher resolution

:: Heaps of storage for films and music

:: Smoother for web browsing - bigger screen for better typing and easier to interact with larger webpage

:: Better cameras - if you're brave enough to hold an iPad in front of your face

The example - Sony Xperia Tablet Z   

When it comes to talking tablets, Apple is never far from our minds.  However, we're going to look in-depth at Apple offerings in part two of this guide, so our example of a 10-incher is the imminent Sony Xperia Tablet Z.

And it really is a beauty.

Launched at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona in February, the Tablet Z has been gathering admirers at an alarming rate.

We told you full-size tablets were all about the home, and the Tablet Z is totally down with that.

It's waterproof and dustproof, making it perfect for propping up in the kitchen while doing the washing up. In fact, the tablet is fully dunkable in up to 3 feet of water for up to 30 minutes so would even be safe for using in the bath.

19) Sony 's Xperia Tablet Z Being Splashed With Water - Good Job It 's Waterproof

The tablet is super light and ultra-thin, measuring just 6.9mm - slightly thinner than the iPad mini. But even though it's thin it still packs plenty of punch, with a Snapdragon quadcore processor meaning browsing the web from the sofa is pretty damn nippy - regardless of how lazy you're feeling.

If you are feeling tired and sluggish after work, the ultra sharp screen will likely perk you up.

It packs in 1,920x1,200 pixels and uses Sony's Mobile BRAVIA Engine 2 technology, to deliver the kind of picture seen on only the best tablets. To give you a better idea, Sony says on its website we can expect "bluer blues, greener greens and seriously killer sunsets".

The only thing that's missing is a cocktail and a pair of shades. Seriously, it's so sleek you could imagine Bond ordering one - particularly when you see it use NFC to hook up with your phone or TV and throw photos and music between the two.

The argument for a 7inch slate

Seven-inch tablets such as the iPad mini and Google Nexus 7 are smaller and cheaper than full-size slates. A mini is a great shout if you want to join the tablet revolution without breaking the bank. Also, if you're a commuter looking for something to brighten up your drab train ride into work, a mini tablet is a totally on the money.

Small enough to be slipped inside your pocket and light enough to hold in one hand, use a mini tablet to laugh like a drain toYouTube videos on your way into the office. It certainly takes the sting out of the inevitable greyness of Monday morning (as well as getting up the nose of that stuffy bloke who always sits opposite).

If you prefer not to incur the wrath of fellow passengers you may opt to use your tablet to read a book. Seven-inch tablets are a similar size to e-readers such as the Kindle, making them perfect to hold in your hand as you disappear from reality and the cramped, chugging cabin into the world of your favourite author.

Seven-inch tablets - the key features

:: Cheap to buy

:: Great for browsing the web on your commute - portable and lightweight

:: Easy to read e-books on

The example - Google Nexus 7

Everyone bangs on about the iPad mini - and yes, it is amazing - but we thought we'd introduce you to the lesser-known but equally impressive Google Nexus 7.

Asus Nexus 7

We said price was a major selling point with a seven-inch tablet, and a reviewer at Cnet said the Nexus 7 is "the cheapest way to experience the best the Android operating system has to offer".

The guys at Cnet liked it so much they slapped an Editor's Choice sticker on it.

Here's why. It gives you top specs without having to break the bank. A great screen and bumper battery mean the Nexus 7 is built for watching movies on the train. With a rubbery back it's nice and comfy to hold in one hand, while its lightweight 334g allows it to fit in your pocket without your jacket sagging ungainly to one side.  

Nexus 7 Display

With 16GB storage you should have enough room for plenty of albums, or a couple of movies.

Having the Nexus 7 and not watching films or TV shows on it is a bit like having a Porsche convertible and only driving with the roof up. If the strained analogy has left you scathing, we just mean the screen is its best feature, packing in 1280x800 pixels for a sharp hi-res display. Another Brucie bonus with the Nexus is the battery, which is capable of nine hours continuous video play - that's nearly enough time for the Lord Of The Rings trilogy.

Now you know the size you need to know the type - part two preview

So, we've helped you decide whether you want a full-size or mini tablet. In part two we'll tell you the difference between Apple and Android, and talk about how 4G is set to change your tablet life.

Recently bought a new tablet? Struggling to decide which is right for you? Add comments below...