Tablet Reviews

What is the best tablet?

Which is the best tablet?  Why do you need one?  Which one should you buy?  All very good questions.  Tablets were supposed to be the death of the laptop computer.  The tablet was the end all solution to your mobile computing needs.  Bigger than your phone and smaller and easier to transport than your laptop.  What’s not to love?  Well, they did miss the mark a little, but they still have their place in the ecosystem.

What is the tablet for?

Tablets are more than just giant phones that don’t make calls.  Tablets are great for consuming media and doing light internet surfing tasks like surfing the web/social media, checking email and reading blogs.  If you need to do a lot of typing or graphics heavy work, then you are better off with a laptop.  No surprise I am a big fan of the Chromebook around here.

I do enjoy using a tablet, though.  Especially in bed or laid back on the couch.  It’s a great one handed form factor for getting some reading done.  I like to use the tablet to check my favorite blogs and save websites for later retrieval as source material for articles here.  The tablet is a nice, lightweight solution to my computing needs.

I also travel a lot so it’s nice to be able to have my media in a smaller form factor.  I like to watch my own movies on the plane and the Chromebook is to larger to fit nicely on the tray table.  Or in the hotel rooms when there isn’t a desk or somewhere else to put the laptop.

Tablets are great travel companions since I hate starting at my phone’s screen for too long.  The phone works for a quick check but for longer browsing sessions, the larger screen is easier on my eyes.

What should you look for in a tablet

First and foremost, for me anyways, is the screen.  No sense in spending the money on something I don’t actually like looking at.  A full HD panel will probably cost you a little more than a non-HD but if you spend a lot of time looking at it, you will want it.  Standard displays work, especially for tablets meant for the kids.  They run a little cheaper and the tablet can easily be replaced with another due to the low cost.

Beyond the screen the next feature is storage.  How much stuff can I load on the tablet and can I add extra storage with an SDCard?  Even 16GB onboard is manageable as long as you can offload your storage heavy files like movies and TV shows to the external storage.

After the screen and storage, you will want to look at the operating system.  Now there are really only two players in this space.  Android (Google) and iOS (Apple).  These two powerhouses bring their own unique take on a mobile platform.  Normally once you start using one, you don’t switch to the other.

Finally, for a tablet, screen size does come into play.  I find 7 inches is good, but 8 is probably the sweet spot between being able to comfortably hold the tablet and still have a resolution that is comfortable.  There are some 10-inch tablets out there, but at that size, I would almost rather have the laptop.

Apple iPads

Apple iPadThere are a lot of tablets on the market.  For iOS(Apple) there is the iPad line.  You can get an iPad in all the major sizes from 7inches like the Apple iPad Mini 2.  All the way up to 10 inches.  They also have Apple’s beautiful Retina displays and some without.  It’s all about the price point here.  If you want an Apple product, you are probably already willing to pay the premium for one of their devices.  If you are already locked into the iTunes ecosystem, then an iPad makes the most sense.  It ties in well with your iPhone and Macbook.  It is easy to sync all your data across all the devices.



Samsung Galaxy TabAndroid Tablets

For Android, well, there are more tablets than I could cover in three blogs.  There are super cheap no-name tablets for under $50 that you can get from Amazon and Ebay.  All the way up to luxury tablets that are truly professional grade from Samsung, HP, and Dell.  The Samsung Galaxy Tab is considered the one the best tablets in the Android family.  You can’t go wrong with one of them.  They can usually be found on sale everywhere.

There are some Windows-based tablets, like the Microsoft Surface.  These tablets run a special version of Windows, close to the same you would find on your computer.



Amazon Fire Tablets

Amazon FireThe tablets I have had the most experience with are the Amazon Fire line of tablets.

Amazon came out with their own tablet a few years ago.  The Amazon Fire is an Android tablet at heart, but the Android system has been customized to Amazon’s own use.  It is a great tablet if you have Amazon Prime, it is even better.  The Fire links perfectly into all the best that Prime has to offer. Try Amazon Prime 30-Day Free Trial

The Fire comes in a couple of form factors, but the two I like the best are these:

Amazon Fire TabletAmazon Fire 7 Inch – This is the one I have been using the most.  It is a good size and a great value.  Normally it runs about $50 with special offers, ads placed on the lock screen, and nowhere else.  It has 8GB of storage on board but you can add an SDCard to expand the storage up to 128GB.  Amazon has their own apps store and a lot of the more popular Android apps are available.  Not all, though, Snapchat and Instagram are missing, mostly since they are phone based apps, not tablet based.

The screen is not HD but still looks good, the single speaker sounds okay, but Bluetooth or wired headphones sound better.  The processor is snappy with little lag while switching apps.  It’s great for surfing the web or checking Facebook.  Reading books on it, is also very nice.  The text is crisp and clear.

The back of the Amazon Fire is also a nice hard plastic that almost feels like rubber.  It is comfortable to hold with one hand while still small enough to toss in a bag.  There are several protective cases you can get for it also.

Amazon Fire HDYou can also get an 8-inch version that comes with a high-def panel. The Amazon Fire HD.  I hope to get a chance to try one out soon, to see how much better it might be than the 7 inch.  Until then you can check out the CNET review of the Amazon Fire HD here.

If you want a good, cheap tablet

Insignia Flex EliteWell, I wouldn’t call it a great tablet, but it looks cool and has the same screen as the iPad.  You can have it for about $30.  On eBay.  It’s an older Best Buy Insignia brand tablet.  Called the Insignia Flex Elite.  You cannot even find any information on Best Buy’s web page anymore.  I don’t even remember how I stumbled across it, I think it was right after I got my Acer Chromebook 14 and was looking to dive more into the Google/Android ecosystem.


I have an Android phone but wanted the tablet to go with it.  My Amazon Fire was not able to do a lot of the more pure Android stuff that a regular tablet can do.

insignia-flex-elite-backThe screen is good the storage is passable.  You cannot store apps on the SDcard but you can put your music and other media.  It’s not the snappiest of processors and it lags a little if you have a couple of applications open.  It works well for reading my email, and for streaming to the Chromecast.  It’s a good tablet for basic tablets, it studders during video streaming playback.  For local media playback, it works great.  I take it on the road all the time and watch movies that are stored on it.  It works well for that.  If you really want some decent video playback, I would say go with the Galaxy or the Fire HD.

Bottom Line

A tablet is a great tool to add to your device line.  It may not be necessary but I do like using a tablet more than the phone for lightweight web surfing.  The phone is good for checking something quickly while out and about.  For consuming media or a more comfortable web browsing experience, I will use the tablet.  Like the laptop, figure out what your budget is and buy as much as you can get.  A tablet won’t change your life but might make it a little more fun.