When choosing a tablet, deciding on the right screen size is critical. The decision to go small, medium, or large depends on what you want to use the tablet for, where it will be used, and your budget.
But before picking the right display, the first step is choosing what operating system you prefer. Once that decision has been made, then it’s time to think about how large a device to get.
There are some basic tasks that every tablet is good for, including light web surfing, social networking, email, and casual gaming. There are others, though, that only become practical with larger screens.
Devices in this size are the most portable; they’re small and lightweight enough to fit easily into a purse or bag. They are also the most affordable, as there is a range of budget models under $100, such as the Amazon Fire 7 (2017) or the Barnes & Noble NOOK Tablet 7″.
In addition to the collection of tasks all tablets are good for, a 7-inch display is especially convenient for ebooks, as tablets with this size screen are generally quite lightweight. On the other hand, they is not ideal for high-end gaming, watching long videos, or running productivity software like word processors and spreadsheets, partly because the screen is small but also because these inexpensive tablets typically have slow processors. They are for the most part “lean back” devices, used to consume content rather than create it.
Using the on-screen keyboard on models in this category is similar to typing on a smartphone: it’s done with the thumbs while holding the device between the hands. This is easier in landscape mode, as the keys are larger.
Given their size, small tablets are often carried everywhere. They can even fit in a jacket pocket, a pair of cargo pants, and even some back pockets.
Just about all tablets with 7-inch screens run Google’s Android OS, or an OS based on it, as is the case with the Amazon Fire tablets. Those thinking about a Windows or iOS device will need to choose something larger.
The rise of the large smartphones often called phablets has cut into the demand for small tablets. Those who have — or are considering buying — devices like the 5.9-inch Google Pixel XL or the 5.5-inch Apple iPhone 7 Plus might consider if they have a need for a small tablet too.
Mid-size tablets are trying to offer the best of both worlds: they are close to the portability of smaller models but with screens large enough to be productive. Prices for these range widely, from $80 to $300.
An 8-inch screen is a bit better than a 7-inch one for the standard list of tasks, and still makes a good ebook reader. It’s also a somewhat better option for game playing or watching video, although this isn’t recommended for people who have issues seeing small objects. While mid-size tablets can be used for productivity tasks like word processing or spreadsheets, few would enjoy doing so for long periods on an 8-inch display.
Because the screen is much larger than the ones generally found in phones entering text with the thumbs so in portrait mode is easy, but the width of the screen in landscape mode makes this process a bit challenging.
Their 8-inch screens make these devices easy to carry around, but it’s starting to require a bit more commitment. People who are already carrying a purse or backpack might find their easier.
The only iOS model in this category is the iPad mini 4, but it and its predecessors have been very popular. There are more Android tablets with displays this size, including the Amazon Fire HD 8 and the Huawei MediaPad M3. Windows users aren’t left out with the Dell Venue 8 Pro 5855.
For years, a 10-inch screen was considered the sweet spot for full size tablets. With the growing popularity of 12-inch tablets, however, these are now considered mid-size. These displays were smaller than the ones in most laptops but still large enough to do just about all the same jobs laptops do.
In addition to being outstanding at the standard tablet tasks, models in this category are quite good at video, and most of them can handle high-end games. They are also right for productivity and corporate applications and are carried by millions of business travelers. Some consider these devices too heavy to make ideal ebook readers, though.
Thumb typing remains practical with 10-inch tablets in portrait mode, but would be out of the question in landscape if it weren’t for a clever trick: both iOS and Windows have a split keyboard built in. This divides the keyboard into two parts which are positioned on either side of the screen so that all the keys can be easily reached. Other popular options are to lay the tablet down and type with the forefingers, or purchase an external keyboard.
Although devices with screens this size are more much more portable than laptops, carrying one around is something of a commitment, and generally only done when by people who know they are going to need their tablet. These aren’t devices that will go into a purse, but still ride well in a backpack or briefcase. Those traveling with a 10-inch model should consider investing in a gadget bag.
Apple offers two devices in this size range, the 9.7-inch Apple iPad (2017) and the 10.5-inch iPad Pro. Standouts among Windows models are Lenovo Yoga Book, and the version of the Samsung Galaxy Book with a 10.6-inch screen. Android users have many to choose from; some of the best are the inexpensive Samsung Galaxy Tab A 10.1 and the version of the Lenovo Yoga Book that runs Google’s OS.
The average price for a 10-inch tablet is $500, though some are much less.
Tablets with screens larger than 10 inches are built to be laptop alternatives; they target business users and have a focus on productivity. Many of the people who use their computer for a full work day demand a large display because they want to be able to work with multiple applications at the same time. A 2-in-1 laptop/tablet is a popular option.
Not surprisingly, full-size tablets easily handle the full range of tasks anyone would want a computer to do, from the basics of internet and email to the most demanding business software. Although games aren’t their focus they can handle these as well, but are probably too large for lengthy ebook reading.
Thumb typing in portrait mode is possible, though the size and weight of a 12-inch tablet can make this a bit cumbersome. Thumb typing in landscape mode is also possible thanks to the split screen keyboards mentioned earlier, but putting the device down and typing with the forefingers is probably more popular, and some models in this category come with an external keyboard. If not, adding one is highly recommended to take advantage the full capabilities of the computer.
Tablets of this size aren’t carried around casually; they go to meetings business trips, and classrooms. A small laptop bag is often a good option for transporting them, though backpacks and briefcases are also good options.
Windows devices dominate this size, with outstanding options like the 12-inch Samsung Galaxy Book and new Microsoft Surface Pro (2017). There are no recent Android models in this category, but Apple has the popular 12.9-inch iPad Pro (2017).
As the largest and most powerful tablets on the market, these are also the most expensive. Prices generally start at $800 and go up from there.