Guide to purchasing tablets

If you’re thinking about using tablets as part of your service delivery, there are a few things you should consider.
Choosing the right tablet

What tablet is right for me?

What sets tablets apart is the operating system (OS). There are pros and cons to all of them, so make sure you know how you want to use your tablet before choosing. Here’s a quick overview at the main operating systems.

Microsoft Windows

Windows tablets are made by a variety of manufacturers and will come in at various price points depending on what features you’re looking for. For example, different models will be faster, have more storage, be lighter or come with different accessories (e.g. keyboards).

The real strength of Windows tablets is that you have a working version of Windows. For staff, they’re great because you can access full desktop applications that need to be installed on computers. USB ports and a familiar file management system can also make it easier to get work done. For IT support, they operate just like a regular computer, allowing greater control of policies and deployment of applications.

However, generally speaking, Windows tablets lack the same variety of mobile-style apps that you would find on iPads or Android tablets. If there are specific apps that you want to use, they may not be available. Some tablets have cut-down versions of Windows – if you are consider one of these be very careful that it can do what you require, and be easily supported.

Apple iPads

Apple’s iPads are manufactured by Apple who control both the hardware and software of their devices. This means that there is a limited variety of products available (at a premium price). On the upside, there is consistency across their products which can be easier to manage. They also have good after-sales support.

Originally released as media-consumption devices that complemented laptops and desktop computers, Apple has been pushing towards more powerful devices that offer a fuller suite of productivity features in their iPad Pro line.

Thanks to Microsoft’s focus on software and cloud computing, mobile versions of many of their productivity tools (e.g. Word, Excel, PowerPoint) are available on iPads and Android tablets. There are also IOS versions of popular tools such as Adobe Photoshop.

On top of this, iPads are simple and straightforward to use and come with the full library of mobile apps in the Apple Store designed for touch interfaces. While their simplicity and lack of customisation may not appeal to power-users, it makes them easy to learn and use.

Google/Android

Like Windows tablets, Android tablets are made by a variety of manufacturers and in different sizes. Google offer their own branded Google-branded tablets while Samsung is one of the most well-known Android tablet manufacturers.

Like Apple’s iPads, Android tablets have a great catalogue of apps including productivity tools from Microsoft and Adobe. With the variety of manufacturers, there are models that will meet most price points, but be aware that cheaper products may not have support or processing power for some users.

Android tablets can also be quite different to each other as each manufacturer will generally add extra features to differentiate their product from others. This may include useful features such as the ability to add extra storage or a stylus.

Android tablets can also be heavily integrated with Google’s other services such as Google Assistant which can be helpful for power users.

Tablet purchase considerations

Apps

The tablet purpose and types of apps should guide your decision. If you want a full desktop experience in a portable tablet format, a Windows option may be best. If you want interactive apps in a compact, lightweight format, an iPad or Android tablet may be best.

Price

When considering price, don’t just look at the purchase price of the device. Also consider:

  • longevity of the device (is it built well and regularly updated?)
  • technical support
  • warranty
  • cost of accessories (e.g. cases, keyboards)
  • additional applications to integrate with your existing network.

Size

Tablets come in different sizes – anywhere between 7 and 13 inches. For regular use, the 9 and 10 inch options are good middle-ground between size and portability. 

Storage

If you plan on using a lot of applications, storing video and photos, you will need to make sure you have plenty of storage. For Windows tablets, applications can be larger so a 256GB minimum would be recommended. For iPads and Android Tablets, 32-64GB would be a good starting point. Remember, some Android tablets can also accept SD cards to expand their storage.

Wireless connectivity (mobile vs wifi-only)

Will your staff be using their tablet outside of the office? If they are, you may want to consider a mobile model. However, this will increase the price of the tablet. An alternative may be to use a mobile broadband hotspot device connects to the tablet via wifi. This could then be used with other devices such as other tablets, phones or laptops.

Mobile device management

Finally, make sure you consider how you will manage your devices. Will you try and manage them centrally using software such as Microsoft Intune or will you manage each device individually? How will you manage updates and security?

Conclusion

Choosing the right tablet for the right purpose requires forethought. Generally speaking, you get what you pay for with tablets so don’t rush out and buy the cheapest option – but you probably won’t need the most expensive option either. Work with your staff to talk about their requirements and then research the best solution for them.

Check out the range of refurbished tablets offered at our partner site Connecting Up, at discounted prices for member not-for-profit organisations.

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