Picking a Tablet

By Rob Enderle November 25, 2014

As we continue our march to Black Friday and Cyber Monday I thought it would be timely to take a look at the tablets in market and suggest a series of paths and a few products to consider.  But first let’s talk about the categories.

Choosing a Type

Basically, you have four key choices to make (and you thought this was simple): Platform, size, memory, and connectivity.  Your platforms are iOS (Apple), Android (Google), and Windows (Microsoft).   For folks hooked at the hip to Apple, only that platform will likely do. One pays a pretty steep premium to be locked in. So if they aren’t, there are better buys in market—particularly in the small size.  Apple and Android are generally better for entertainment and Windows is better for folks that really want to leave the laptop behind and get some work done. 

This takes us to size, the more you want to work on these, the bigger you’ll want the tablet. If you just want to read and watch movies, smaller is far better in both price and portability.  I started in the 10” range myself, but now find I’d much rather carry an 8” class tablet. It is simply easier and doing email, shopping, and browsing the Web it really doesn’t give up much to the larger sizes.  Having said that, if you can tolerate one of the new 6” phones, they’ll do most of what a tablet in this small class will do well.  The Nokia 1520 (what I carry), the iPhone 6+, and the Nexus 6 all make great small tablet alternatives. 

Memory typically starts around 32GB and can go up to 128GB (I expect we’ll find some that will even go higher).  Generally you live off the cloud for extended memory but you want enough to hold your apps and enough movies for a long trip.  Like Goldie Locks and the Three Bears, 32GB is too small (you are likely to run out. Particularly if you store pictures and videos on it) but 128GB and higher is overkill because you really don’t need to carry that much stuff.  This means that for most 64GB should be more than adequate unless you have a unique need.

Connectivity is becoming a bigger choice because data plan costs for tablets have been dropping.  I use Straight Talk on my Tablet (it is one of a number of inexpensive “Pay as you Go” monthly programs.  I have to admit it is very nice to be able to check mail and browse the Web. Given you are likely going to keep a larger tablet longer, I’d suggest at least getting the capability in the large tablet.

Large Tablets

As I’ve noted, folks are clearly keeping these longer because they run in the $400 to $800 range, you might as well get a good one.  A Stand out product is the market leading iPad Air 2, it isn’t cheap, but if it is what is wanted I doubt anything else will due.   For the non-Apple types, there is the new Amazon Fire HDX 8.9”, which is pretty stunning. And has both amazing Dolby Atmos sound and an impressive screen. The Nexus 9, which is an Android showcase, and the Microsoft Surface 3 tablet, which converts into an impressive little notebook.  All four products are flagship offerings from their respective vendors and represent the best in their respective classes.  

Small Tablets

Choices here are all over the map, and there are some rather impressive products and bargains in this segment.  Prices here are typically far lower, running between $100 and $400—so changing one of these out isn’t as painful. While the iPad Air 2 clearly sets the bar for the larger tablets I just don’t feel the iPad Mini is competitive, and the price difference between the two doesn’t reflect this.  Unfortunately, the tablet that I think sets the bar for this class right now isn’t out yet. That is the Dell Venue 8 7000 with an OLED screen and the Intel Real Sense infinite focal length camera—there is nothing like it in market. The Kindle Fire HDX provides a lot of technology for a relatively low price and tied to Fire TV it can do some impressive things. For either Windows or iOS users the bigger size is better (you’ll likely find the new iPhone 6+ works very well as a tablet surrogate) but the iPad Mini 3 isn’t a bad offering .I just think an iPhone 6+ is likely a better choice and it’ll do dual duty.  I expect there will be a lot of good buys here and many close to $100. 

Wrapping Up

With phones getting larger and laptops more and more being configured to do dual duty I imagine a lot of people will increasingly decide Tablets have become redundant over the next few years. This year there are some good choices if you first define what you want and realize, at least for the larger class, that you may have it for a while.  Good luck shopping and, if you are in the States (or are a U.S. ex-pat) have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

 

President and Principal Analyst, Enderle Group

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