Good tablets aren’t cheap, and so people want to buy one that’ll last for a long while. We have some tips on how to pick out a future-proof device.
The goal is to find something that can run the latest software and offer decent performance for at least three years.
1. Go High End
There’s an inevitable progression in computers: This year’s high-end flagship will be matched by mid-range models in a year or so, then will be the equivalent of the following year’s entry-level devices, eventually followed by complete obsolescence. The best way to guarantee that a tablet bought today will still be useful in three years is to start high up in that process.
A low-end model can be a real bargain, but that’s only in the short term, as that device will be obsolete far quicker than a high-end model. There’s more money up front in purchasing from the high end, but it will be worth it in the long run. This is an investment, not a quick purchase.
2. Choose a Good Company
Having access to the latest version of the tablet’s operating system is critical to ensuring access to all third-party applications in the future, and this process isn’t as simple as it is with desktops. In many cases, the new versions have to come from device manufacturers instead of the software developer, so it’s important to buy from a company with a good reputation for releasing OS upgrades.
Apple is trustworthy when it comes to making new iOS iterations available to older iPads, and Microsoft has also proved to be very reliable with Windows upgrades. Those who buy something in the Nexus line can count on several years of timely Android upgrades from Google.
Samsung generally introduces new Android versions for its tablets, though there are usually delays. Amazon and Sony are the same. Not all other Android makers can be counted on equally well, however, especially for budget models. It’s very rare for any non-Nexus tablet to receive an Android update after two years.
And keep in mind, even the best companies don’t upgrades and patches in perpetuity, and the countdown clock starts when a product’s released, not when it’s purchased. A tablet that’s already been on the market for a year at the time of purchase is already well on its way toward obsolescence, so newer is better.
3. Do Research
Those thinking about buying a new tablet should check out the latest news and rumors to learn whether a replacement is just over the horizon. Nothing is more frustrating that buying an expensive new device only to have a new-and-improved version debut a few weeks later.
The best way to avoid this is to buy something that was released recently. Technology is always improving, and what was a cutting-edge model last year is almost certainly about to be replaced with something better. If a superior version of the tablet you want is coming out in a few weeks, wait for that one because it’ll have a longer life than the older model.
Best Future-Proof Tablets
There are our suggestions of some current tablets that should be useful for years to come.
Apple iPad Air 2 – The latest flagship iOS tablet debuted just last month, and it boasts faster performance than its already-speedy predecessor, while also being slimmer. This model will surely get OS upgrades for years to come, and it has the power to stay useful well into 2017 and beyond.
But be aware, there are rumors that Apple is prepping next year’s release of the iPad Pro – a 12-inch tablet aimed at the business market.
Microsoft Surface Pro 3 – This 12-inch Windows tablet hit store shelves this summer, but will stay on the cutting edge for at least six more months. Even after its replacement debuts, Microsoft built in enough horsepower it’ll be able to run the upcoming Windows 10. That said, the version with the Core i7 processor is a safer bet than the one with the Core i3 chip.
As with the iPad, there are rumors that Microsoft may introduce 13- and/or 14-inch versions of the Surface Pro 4 next year.
Samsung Galaxy Tab S 10.5 – Our reviewer of this device calls it “the best tablet on the market today,” thanks to its superb display and great performance. Although Samsung doesn’t deliver OS upgrades as quickly as some of it rivals, that won’t significantly detract from how useful this tablet should be for years.