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A Quick Guide to Buying a Tablet

Ginny Mies


Thinking about purchasing a tablet for your nonprofit or library? Shopping around for the right tablet can be a bit overwhelming sometimes. Is there a difference between a tablet with a 10-inch display versus a tablet with a 12-inch display? Which operating system do you choose? Does processing speed matter? I put together a quick cheat sheet for the features and specs to look for when shopping around for a tablet.



The display makes or breaks the tablet and in my opinion, it should be the first spec you consider. First, consider the size of the display. The larger the display, the more space you'll have for working on documents or multimedia projects. The size of the display, of course, affects the overall size of the tablet. If you're looking for something you can slip into a purse or small bag, you might go with something around 7 inches. If you don't mind carrying around something larger, 10-inch tablets will suit you just fine.

Resolution and pixels per inch (PPI) determines how sharp text will look and how crisp images will be on your tablet.  The Dell Venue 8 Pro tablet has a display resolution of 1,280-by-800 pixels. That's the number of along the long side by the number of pixels along the short side of the Venue 8 Pro.

The PPI counts how many pixels are in a square inch. The higher the number, the sharper the resolution.  Sometimes, vendors don't list the PPI number, but you can use this handy online Pixel Density Calculator to figure it out.


Operating System

Just like your smartphone, tablets come in the three major operating systems: Android, iOS, and Windows. If you're used to using a certain operating system on your phone or personal computer, you might consider choosing a tablet from that same family. For a breakdown of the different mobile operating systems, check out our Choosing a Mobile Device: What to Look For article.




Do you plan to use your tablet with WiFi or do you need constant connectivity? You can opt for tablets with both cellular and WiFi connectivity. This also means you'll have to pay for a wireless plan, much like you do with a phone. If you want to go WiFi only, you might consider a mobile hotspot, such as the devices from Mobile Beacon. We cover plans and networks for mobile devices in our Choosing a Mobile Device: What to Look For.


Processor Speed

The processor (also known as the chip, chipset, or CPU) is what powers your tablet to run multiple applications at once, play video, open websites, and more. The most important processor specs to consider are speed and number of cores.

For example, the Dell Latitude 10 tablet has a 1.8 GHz dual-core tablet. This means that it can execute 1.8 billion cycles, or instructions, per second. The higher the clock speed, the faster the processor. The "core" part refers to how a processor handles work. A multi-core processor is a single component with two or more independent CPUs that read and execute program instructions. Having multiple cores allows for faster speed and better multitasking (having more than one app or program open at a time).

Dual-core has become the bottom line standard for tablets, but we're seeing more quad-core tablets on the market as well. But unless you're planning on doing some heavy gaming or video editing on your tablet, dual-core will be powerful enough. I also recommend choosing a tablet with a processing speed of 1GHz and faster.


Other Specs to Consider:

  • Storage: If you plan to keep a lot of documents or files on your tablet, you'll want a tablet with a plenty of internal storage. The Latitude 10 has 64GB of internal storage.
  • Weight: Don't break your back with a heavy tablet!
  • Camera: Many tablets have front-facing cameras for video chat and back-facing cameras for taking pictures.
  • Accessories: Can't live without a physical keyboard? Make sure your tablet has the compatible accessories you need.

Got tablet tips or questions? Log in and share with us in the comments. 

Ginny Mies is a Content Curator at TechSoup

*Image: Tablet Pc Tablet Pc Handheld-Console Portable, Pixabay