Tablets: a buying guide

  • Written by 
  • Tuesday, 22 January 2013 10:41
(2 votes)

With app-based software and operating systems all the rage, tablets are taking over as the computing method of choice for those on the go.

And, their light and portable nature make them ideal for FIFO workers too – whether it’s checking emails and social networking, playing games on flights or video chatting with loved ones at home.

Minetalk has sussed out five of the best tablets going around and constructed the following buying guide for those of you keen to get your hands on one!

Apple iPad

Where else do we start? The device that effectively gave birth to the tablet market a few years ago remains the market leader – and is also home to Apple’s App Store, which is home to over 700,000 applications available for download. If you can’t live without your iPhone or iPod and want more of Apple’s services on a bigger screen (9.7 inches), you’ll lap this up. Being the market leader also means there’s a truckload of accessories available for your iPad too, which can be harder to find for other devices. You can still pick up a 16GB iPad2 (wi-fi only) for just under $400 at most outlets. At the other end of the scale, the latest fourth edition iPad with 64GB of storage and 3G connectivity will set you back around $890. The new iPad mini is also an option for those of you wanting something smaller at 7.9 inches wide, however, the device has received mixed reviews, and there are more powerful and cheaper options available (see the Google Nexus 7 below).


Pros: Great syncing with other iOS devices, fantastic performance, biggest collection of apps on offer
Cons: High price tag, no SD or USB ports, lack of playback support for non-Apple files.

Google Nexus 7

If you are ‘anti-Apple’, want something that’ll fit in your handbag or jacket pocket comfortably and don’t want to pay through the roof for a tablet – Google’s Nexus 7 tablet is the way to go. The device packs impressive specs, has a textured back cover making it easy to hold in one hand, and lightening quick performance. Plus, because it’s made by Google, the device will always be ready to receive the latest software updates, so the Nexus 7 is a good future-proofing purchase as well. You can pick up a 16GB Wi-Fi version for around $250, or, splash out a little bit more and get a 3G-enabled 32GB version for $369.


Pros: Budget friendly, compact, ideal for those who regularly use Google’s products and services.
Cons: No expansion slots for additional storage, no back-facing camera.

Asus Transformer

One of the minor downers about tablets is they can be hard to type on to compose documents, lengthy emails and other text-based content. But if you want the portability of a tablet and the convenience of a laptop – the Asus Transformer range is right down your alley. The 10-inch tablet is great for watching movies and playing games, and is also connectable up to a special keyboard dock, meaning you can type relatively easily instead of swiping and punching your fingers all over the screen. Between the tablet and the dock, there is also a full sized USB and SD Card slot, making it ideal to transfer pictures, videos and documents to the device. When fully charged, the dock also adds on an extra 8 hours of battery life, taking the total to up around 16 hours. The cheapest model in the range is the 32GB Wi-Fi-only 300T, which sells for about $520 (surf around though and you might find it cheaper) – while the beefed up Transformer Infinity T700 hovers at $889.


Pros: Great for those who want to do work on the go, extra storage and data transfer options, fantastic battery life.
Cons: Dock makes the tablet heavier and bulkier than other devices

Microsoft Surface

After conquering the computing world over the last decade and a half with Windows, Software giant Microsoft came to the tablet party in late 2012 with their Surface device. Similar to the Transformer tablet, it is designed for use with a unique snap-on cover that acts as a keyboard on one side and a cover for the tablet on the other. And although it may be handy for doing work on the road and has basic versions of Word, Excel and other Office programs installed, the Windows app store has barely anything in it and is effectively a poor cousin of Apple’s app store and the Google Play store. After it failed to sell directly online, Surface is now in most major retailers, starting from $670 with a cover for a 32GB Windows RT device, and $789 for the 64GB version. More-expensive models with Windows 8 Pro pre-loaded will go on sale soon.


Pros: Inventive cover with a fold out kickstand, supports ‘lite’ versions of familiar Windows programs.
Cons: Barely any apps available, Windows software takes up lots of internal memory.

Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1

Like Apple’s iPhone, Samsung was not far behind their rival when taking on the iPad and entering the tablet market through their popular Galaxy range. Using the Android operating system, they’ve since rolled out a diverse range of tablets in many different sizes – 7-inch, 7.7, 8.9 and 10.1. But the most inventive of these has been the large screen version of their Galaxy Note smartphone, which comes with a stylus (or S-Pen as Samsung calls it) and is designed for creative use. Like the Asus and Microsoft devices, it’s also optimised for use with a keyboard dock at an additional cost. You can pick up a 16GB Wi-Fi version of the tablet for just under $550.


Pros: Fast performance, lots of interactivity options
Cons: Average battery life, screen isn’t as good as some comparible models.


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