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…
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.