It’s little wonder that tablets have become so popular in the past couple of years. Not only are they much easier to carry than full-sized laptops, they’re also hugely versatile and easy to use, offering streamlined access to email, the internet and an ever-expanding universe of apps that allow you to do anything from read a book to play a game, or even watch a film.

Looking at it strictly from a photographers’ point of view though, the best thing about owning a tablet is that it allows you to keep all of your favourite images to hand in one easy-to-carry device. And of course, a tablet is also a great way to showcase your portfolio to friends and/or prospective clients.

While many tablets sport front-facing cameras the simple fact is that, as an enthusiast, you’ll almost certainly have a far superior camera – or even cameraphone – in your possession already. For that reason, we’d advise not getting overly hung up on the specs of the cameras found in most tablets. Far better to concentrate on what’s really important – the pros and cons of the various operating systems, screen size and resolution, connectivity options and, of course the range and quality of apps that are available.

Over the page we’ll guide you through all of these main considerations to help ensure you choose the best tablet for your needs. We’ve also hand picked six full-sized and three fun-sized tablets for your consideration.

What to look for…

Operating system

The three biggest players in the world of mobile operating systems are Apple (iOS), Google (Android) and Microsoft (Windows RT/Windows 8 Pro). While iOS is the most stable and offers the most apps, it’s also the most tightly controlled and requires you to use iTunes in order to manage content via a home computer. Android, with its drag-and-drop approach to content management, is much more flexible to use – and thankfully, with the introduction of Ice Cream Sandwich (4.0) and Jelly Bean (4.1) its stability issues have largely been resolved. Microsoft is a relative newcomer to the tablet market so the number of apps for Windows RT mobile devices lags far behind its iOS and Android rivals.

Screen Size and Resolution

The overall screen size is calculated by measuring the diagonal length between opposing corners. The iPad 4 offers a 9.7in screen, while most Android tablets offer 10.1in screens. Microsoft has opted to give its new Surface tablet a 10.6in screen.

Aspect is also worth considering, as it affects the shape and feel of the tablet. Apple’s iPads employ a 4:3 aspect that works well with the 4:3 images produced by most compact cameras. It’s a good shape for reading e-books and websites, though HD movies suffer from large black tramlines across the top and bottom of the screen. In contrast most Android tablets offer a 16:10 aspect – excellent for HD movies but can feel clunky when reading e-books or websites in portrait mode.

Resolution is another important factor. Until recently the new iPad’s Retina screen ruled the roost with the highest pixel density of any mobile device. But Google has fought back and the flagship Nexus 10 surpasses the iPad 4 in terms of its overall ppi count. Other Android tablets such as the Nexus 7 and Asus Transformer Infinity also offer High Definition pixel counts.


If you envisage regularly changing the images on your tablet, it pays to think about how you’re going to get them on and off. A few Android and Windows RT tablets offer full-size SD card slots that allow you to insert a memory card and transfer images to the tablet. Many Android tablets also offer Micro SD card slots; however these aren’t regularly used by cameras any more. Apple’s iPad range – and many Android tablets – offer no card slots, so you’ll either have to use your home computer to transfer image files manage content, or invest in a specialist adaptor.


All apps in Apple’s App Store require approval from Apple before being allowed onto it. Unless you root your iPad (and void your warranty) you can’t get apps onto the tablet any other way. Android is much less regulated, which means apps can also be side-loaded onto tablets from websites or memory cards, as well as purchased though the Google Play Store. Tablets running Microsoft’s Windows RT can only install apps bought through the Windows Store.

Small is beautiful

Smaller tablets pack plenty of power and added portability. First up is the 7in Google Nexus 7 (£159, 16GB). Manufactured by Asus it has a 1280 x 800 HD display (216 ppi) powered by a quad-core NVIDIA Tegra 3 processor and 1GB of RAM. The Apple iPad Mini (£269, 16GB) with its 7.9in, 1024 x 768 pixel screen (163ppi) is another strong contender. Finally, Amazon’s Kindle Fire HD (£159, 16GB), uses a customised version of Android to offer direct access to the Amazon’s vast library.

Over the following pages we’ll have a closer look at tablets that are available…

Essential Guide to Tablets – Apple iPad 4

Apple iPad 4,£479, (32GB)

Now in its fourth generation, the iPad is by far the most popular tablet on the market. The iPad 4’s core strengths are its pin-sharp “Retina” screen – so-called because the pixel count is so dense the human eye is unable to distinguish individual pixels – and Apple’s App store, which offers the largest selection of apps of all the mobile platforms. While there are no additional connectivity options beyond the proprietary 8-pin port, an optional Pad Camera Connection Kit (£30) plugs directly into this. Only image files stored in the DCIM folder can be moved though – for anything else (music, films) you’ll have to use iTunes.


OS: iOS 6.1
Screen Size/Aspect: 9.7in, 4:3
Resolution: 2048 x 1536 pixels (264ppi)
Pros: Retina screen, Lots of apps, Stability
Cons: Poor connectivity, UI is looking a bit dated

Essential Guide to Tablets – Microsoft Surface RT

Microsoft Surface RT, £399, (32GB)


Microsoft may be late to the party, but at least it’s turned up with something a bit different. Constructed from “VaporMg” magnesium alloy the Surface is a solid looking tablet that comes with a retractable kickstand and optional protective covers (£65-£99) that double up as keyboards. Running Windows RT – the mobile-specific version of Windows 8 – the Surface is unable to run regular Windows desktop software, though you do get the Microsoft Office suite pre-installed. Connectivity extends to Micro USB and Micro HDMI inputs, although sadly there’s no direct SD card input. Screen resolution is a rather low 148ppi too.


OS: Windows RT
Screen Size/Aspect: 10.6in, 16:9
Resolution: 1366 x 768 pixels (148ppi)
Pros: Good for productivity
Cons: Screen resolution is not the highest

Essential Guide to Tablets – Google Nexus 10

Google Nexus 10, £319, (16GB)

Long aware that third-party manufacturers were dragging Android’s reputation down with poor quality hardware, Google has teamed up with several leading manufacturers to produce a series of flagship Nexus tablets. The Samsung-made Nexus 10 is the largest of the range and comes with the latest Jelly Bean 4.2 firmware, a dual-core ARM processor and 2GB of RAM. More importantly for photographers, its 10.1in screen currently offers the highest resolution of any tablet, with a 2560 x 1600 pixel (300ppi) display. Connectivity options include a Micro USB input and a Micro HDMI output, however there’s no SD card slot.


OS: Android 4.2
Screen Size/Aspect: 10.1in, 16:10
Resolution: 2560 x 1600 pixels (300ppi)
Pros: Has a class-leading resolution
Cons: Its connectivity options could be better

Essential Guide to Tablets – Asus Transformer Pad Infinity

Asus Transformer Pad Infinity, £599, (64GB, with dock)

Thanks to its click-in keyboard dock the Transformer Pad Infinity is part tablet and part netbook. In addition to typing duties the dock doubles as an additional battery, extending overall battery life to around 15 hours. With the dock attached the TF700T also offers class-leading connectivity with the full complement of SD, Micro SD, USB and HDMI inputs. And, at 1920 x 1200 pixels, screen resolution equates to Full HD. If the slightly eye-watering price of the TF700T puts you off, then Asus also makes a cheaper TF300T Infinity Pad. This comes with a 1280 x 800 pixel (149ppi) display and costs around £350, dock included.


OS: Android 4.1
Screen Size/Aspect: 10.1in, 16:10
Resolution: 1920 x 1200 pixels (224ppi)
Pros: Class-leading connectivity, Full HD display
Cons: Expensive

Essential Guide to Tablets – Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1

Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1, £320, (16GB)

The big selling point of the Galaxy 10.1 is that it comes with an “S Pen” stylus that uses Wacom technology and can sense a claimed 1,024 pressure levels. The S Pen can be used with photo editing apps such as Adobe’s Photoshop Touch and slots neatly into the back of the tablet when not required. Elsewhere the Note 10.1 sports a 1280 x 800 display, that while not quite class-leading, is still pretty good for viewing images and text on. Connectivity does suffer a bit though, with the only external connection offered being the proprietary docking port at the bottom. Thankfully you can buy USB, HDMI and SD card adaptors though.


OS: Android 4.0
Screen Size/Aspect: 10.1in, 16:10
Resolution: 1280 x 800 pixels (149ppi)
Pros: The S Pen stylus functionality
Cons: Screen resolution is not the highest

Essential Guide to Tablets – Asus Padfone 2

Asus Padfone 2, £650, (32GB)

For those looking for something different, the Padfone 2 comes in two distinct parts: a 4.7in Android smartphone (complete with a 13MP Sony-made camera), and a 10.1in display that the phone slots directly into the back of, effectively turning the two separate elements into a single tablet. While the phone itself gets a 720p HD display, the resolution of the tablet screen is pegged at 1280 x 800. Connectivity is also limited to the dock’s proprietary 13-pin connector, and while it’s possible to attach a standard Micro-USB cable to this in order to charge the tablet and manage data, the connection is reportedly a bit loose.


OS: Android 4.0
Screen Size/Aspect: 10.1in, 16:10
Resolution: 1280 x 800 pixels (149ppi)
Pros: Innovative, Good quality cameraphone
Cons: Connectivity isn’t great, tablet display

  1. 1. What to look for...
  2. 2. Essential Guide to Tablets - Apple iPad 4
  3. 3. Essential Guide to Tablets - Microsoft Surface RT
  4. 4. Essential Guide to Tablets - Google Nexus 10
  5. 5. Essential Guide to Tablets - Asus Transformer Pad Infinity
  6. 6. Essential Guide to Tablets - Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1
  7. 7. Essential Guide to Tablets - Asus Padfone 2
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