What is the best tablet available in 2015? Good question. Take a look at this chart of the 39 best tablets you can buy right now in the UK and you will find out.
We review the best tablets available to buy in 2015 in the UK. Scroll down for our best tablets reviews, or read on for our general buying advice. (Also see: Best SIM-only deals: Best SIM-only and Data SIM deals for smartphone and tablet users. )
Best tablets buying advice
Best tablets: Platform
The most obvious difference between tablets is what platform they run on. There are exceptions, but the majority are either iOS (Apple iPad), (Google) Android, or Windows. iOS and Android are broadly similar: think of them as large, powerful smartphones. They are great for consuming movies and TV, for playing games, reading eBooks, and browsing the web. Sharing photos and catching up via Facebook, Instagram or Pintrest are all great on iPads and Android tabs. And you can catch up on email, too.
Third-party software programs are known as apps, and are available via the relevant app stores: Apple's iTunes or Google Play. The same is true of music- and other media. The good thing about this is that you know the software will work well with your device, the bad side is that you are locked into the developer's world. This is especially true of iPads: without jailbreaking you are locked into iTunes for everything. Google devices are a little more open, but that does mean that in principle at least there is more risk of what looks like a legitimate app being malware.
Android also comes in many versions, whereas a new iPad will always have the latest version of iOS. Manufacturers will reskin Android to make their devices unique. And in some cases they add in their own app- and media stores. Then there are devices from the likes of Amazon, whose Kindle Fire tablets offer a heavily customised version of Android. Such devices are cheaper to buy because they offer access only to Amazon's store for digital media and apps. Kids tablets are similarly locked down - but in this case for your child's safety, as well as commercial needs.
If Android- and iPad tablets are generally great for consumption and communication, they cannot compete with your laptop when it comes to creativity and productivity. That is where Windows tablets such as the Surface Pro 3 from Microsoft come in. (Confusingly, there is a 'mobile' version of Windows known as Windows RT, that is similar to iPad and Android software. But this is being fazed out.)
Where other tablets are supersized smartphones, Windows tablets are shrunk down laptops. With the right spec they offer all of the power and software support of your normal Windows PC, but in a tablet form. This can be great if you need truly portable productivity, but it will typically cost you more than would a good Android tablet or iPad. And there may be a cost in terms of battery life. Finally, although you can install every Windows software program, app- and media support in the Windows world tends to be more patchy.
Basically: for fun, you need an iPad- or Android tablet. For work, go Windows. But only if you can afford the best. For more on this, see our articles: The 28 best Android tablets of 2015 UK and Best kids' tablets and tech toys for Christmas 2014. Also, check out Best Windows tablets.
Best tablets: Display
There are two, or three, main tranches of tablet display. The 7in devices such has the Nexus 7 and iPad mini are roughly the size of a paperback book. Great for reading, playing and watching when on the move, and unlikely to hurt your wrists when you are partaking in any of these activities lying or sitting at home.
If you want more screen size the 10in tabs are for you. The original iPad and Samsung Galaxy Tab devices are roughly 9-10 inches in size. These offer a better TV- and movie watching experience, but are bigger to carry about with you.
The third display category is that of the 6in or smaller 'phablet', the combination of phone and tablet. These devices such as the Galaxy Note and iPhone 6 Plus are becoming increasingly popular. Arguably they aren't tablets at all, but it may be that a big phone will satisfy all of your tablet needs (and save you some cash and bag space). See also: Best phablets of 2015: the 14 best big-screen phones you can buy.
Key things to look out for are screen resolution, and aspect ratio. In terms of the former you want the highest number possible, with a pixel density of at least the iPad mini's 163ppi (higher is better). In terms of aspect ratio, it depends on what you want to do with your tablet. Just be aware that movies will display in widescreen when you hold your tablet horizontally, so if you wish mainly to watch them you want a thin tablet. But for web browsing a squarer screen will be better.
Best tablets: Connectivity
There are two major factors to consider here: Wi-Fi, and cellular. All tablets will have Wi-Fi connectivity. Ideally, at this point you want 802.11ac connectivity, and you want it to be dual band. But single-band 802.11n will be fine too.
Cellular connectivity is a more acquired taste. Typically tablets that can take a SIM cost more. And then you have to pay for the SIM, either on contract or PAYG. Ask yourself if you will be using the tablet to connect to the web when you are away from Wi-Fi: if so, it may be worth the additional cost. (Remember that you can probably share your smartphone's cellular connection, if required.) If you do want a cellular tablet, look for 4G connectivity.
Other important features will be Bluetooth and - potentially - NFC. Wireless charging is starting to become important, too.
iPads have their own proprietary charging cable, with its 'Lightning' connector. This means that you need Apple-only peripherals. Android- and Windows tablets typically connect via all brand Micro USB chargers, with some Windows tablets offering full-sized USB connectors.
Best tablets: Storage
Get as much as you can, and don't be fobbed off with the idea of additional cloud storage. For most tablet use 16GB is the absolute minimum, but more is always better. It's also worth knowing in advance how much storage is taken up by the OS, and how much is available to you as an end user. A 16GB tablet never has 16 gigabytes of storage for the end user to access.
Expandable storage is a good thing, but not the panacea some manufacturers would have you believe. Being able to add in an SD card will quickly increase your tablet's storage capabilities, but this may come at a cost, both in terms of device performance and cold hard cash. Apple refuses to use expandable storage, as it believes it may affect your experience of your iPad. (It may also be so that it can sell you a more expensive, more capacious iPad.)
Best tablets: Processor and memory
There is too much complexity here to go into, but suffice to say that you almost always get what you pay for in terms of performance. A dual- or even quad-core processor will improve performance, and more RAM is always a good thing. Most Android tablets, and all iPads, use ARM processors from the likes of Qualcomm. But Intel is making a strong comeback in this space, providing chips for Samsung's Android line, among others.
When it comes to Windows tablets you will see almost exclusively Intel processors. As with the rest of the X86 PC world, right now Intel is best. But not all Intel CPUs are equal, and generally speaking an Intel Atom chip will provide weaker performance than an Intel Core CPU.
Best tablets: Camera
Don't expect the best quality camera on your tablet, and don't be fooled by megapixel ratings. Most tablets come with at least one camera, and two cameras is good for video calling. But manufacturers typically assume that tablet owners will have a better smartphone camera to hand and don't waste valuable space and cash on high-end optics. We include test shots in our reviews, for you to see examples. Anything below 5Mp is to be avoided.
Best tablets: Size and weight
In the world of tablets you can never be too thin, or too light. But remember that with great portability comes better components, and greater cost. Ideally you should try out a tablet before you buy - at the very least read our reviews. As mentioned above even the lightest 10in tablet is harder to hold for a long time than is a 7in mini tablet. And that may suit your needs better.
Best tablets: Battery life
Finally, there's battery life. You don't want your tablet to last less than around six hours, and the recharge time is worth knowing, too. Some tablets take almost as long to charge as they do to discharge.
To find out more about what to look out for take a look at this feature: which tablet should I buy?