Tuesday, 7 June 2016

Tablet or Phone: Which should you choose?

Tablet or Phone: Which should you choose?

It's never simple, is it?

Tablet or Phone What should you choose

There will be a lot of you out there who are already rocking a smartphone and/or a tablet, but for those of your about to dip your toe into the technological water you may be wondering if you need both or just one.
Luckily TechRadar is on hand to help you make that decision, whether it's picking up your first mobile device or perhaps it's time to upgrade and you're unsure which direction to follow.
Of course you could make things easy and plump for both a shiny new smartphone and a tablet, but they don't come and cheap and for many of us we only realistically need one or the other.
There are numerous things to consider when it comes to choosing between a phone or table, but the key questions you need to ask yourself are; who is it for, what will it be used for, how much are you looking to spend and what screen size do you fancy?
  • Best mobile phones in the world today
The biggest difference in phones and tablets is obviously screen size. This distinction is forever becoming more blurred as supersized smartphones begin to encroach on the 7-inch tablet market.
Looking for the best of both worlds? Then you might want to check out the 6.inch Nexus 6 or the 5.5-inch iPhone 6 Plus.
If plans for your new device centre around watching a lot of movies, reading books and magazines or browsing the web then we'd recommend buying a tablet.
While you can do all these activities on a smartphone, the smaller screen isn't as comfortable from a visual perspective, although phones are much better for music playback thanks to their portable nature.
We'd recommend a phone for those users who spend a lot more time on the go, for those who value portability as much as functionality. Tablets are becoming ever more portable, but nothing will ever replace the ease of being able to just pop something into your pocket.
  • Best tablets in the world today
Phones are the better messaging devices, so if you're going to be sending a lot of texts, constantly checking your email or spending hours on instant messaging services then you'll want to lean towards a smartphone. Tablets are able to manage emails as well as run some instant messaging services, but phones win out overall here.
We love take pictures, so if you want your new mobile device to also double as a point and shoot snapper you'll once again want to be heading to the smartphone side, as they pack better cameras than tablets while also being a lot easier to carry around.
Are tablets taking your fancy? Well there certainly is plenty of choice available these days, from affordable, small size slates to larger tablets which offer you everything under the sun - for a cost.
One of the biggest differences between tablets is the OS, with Android and Windows gracing numerous slates and iOS 8 featuring on iPads.
iOS 8 is the easiest to grasp for first time users with its system built around quickly accessing apps, and everything being on screen.
  • Best tablets in the world today
Android is far more open, with manufacturers putting on their own user interfaces, although these can be changed with third party apps on the Play Store.
Windows 8 is more of a compromise between tablet and laptop, being able to cover those that need something for work, and apps for those that want to sit on the sofa and mess around.

The iPads

If you're looking for the complete package look no further than the iPad Air 2. It certainly has a lot to shout about, from a superb design to a fluid, intuitive operating system, powerful innards and a stunning 9.7-inch display.
Building upon the work done by last year's iPad Air, the Air 2 is perhaps the best tablet available right now. However issues still remain with its price. With the basic 16GB Wi-Fi model costing £399, skyrocketing all the way up to £659 for the full spec version (128GB of internal storage and 4G connectivity) you'll certainly need deeps pockets.

The impressive iPad Air

For those of you who have their heart set on a full size iPad, but simply can't afford the Air 2, Apple still sells the original iPad Air, with the 16GB Wi-Fi only version rocking a slightly more palatable £319 price tag.
Apple also sells three different iPad minis, the latest iPad mini 3 also starts at £319 and comes complete with proprietary TouchID technology. Both the iPad mini 2 and iPad mini are available from £239 and £199 respectively.

Sub £200

At the complete opposite end of the scale to Apple's premium offerings are a range of super cheap slates looking to give you the core tablet experience without the cost.
It's worth being cautious at this end as low price can sometimes mean low quality - we advise you steer clear of the Argos MyTablet, for example, but the £129 Tesco Hudl 2 is excellent value for money with its decent 8.3-inch display and powerful components.
If you can stretch your budget a little further you'll be even more pleased with the basic Amazon Kindle Fire HDX (from £149) or the Windows toting Linx 7 (from under £80).
The moral of the story at the very low end of the tablet market is; do your homework. There are some great deals to be had, just make sure you're not buying something you'll regret almost immediately.
You can sometimes pick up older tablets at relatively low prices, as the technology powering them is a year or two old, like last year's Nexus 7 (from £169). These tablets can provide a good return for your money, although you may have to trade off on an older operating system and the possibility of no support or future updates.

Screen increase

Larger screens tend to cost a little more, but there is generally an added bonus of higher all rounds specs, including faster processors and longer battery life.
If you're planning on doing a lot of web browsing or watching a lot of movies, the added screen real estate can prove invaluable. Screen resolution also becomes increasingly important as screen sizes grow.
Another area that will need a look at is the processor, as there are varying single, dual and quad-core processors, each with different RAM and GPU sizes. We should also mention caution over internal storage, as many tablets don't offer microSD support and cloud storage will require a data connection.
A greater number of cores means a faster speed, perfect if you do a lot of multi-tasking, gaming or movie watching, while the GPU helps with all the graphical processing, which is most prominent in games.
Tablets are generally media consumption devices; their large screens make them ideal for reading and watching movies. That doesn't mean they can't be used for content creation, though.
If you fancy a slightly larger screen, but still want your tablet to be relatively portable, take a look at the 9-inch Nexus 9, 8.4-inch Samsung Galaxy Tab S or 8-inch Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact - all offering direct competition to the iPad mini 3 at slightly lower price points.

Full size

Are there any tablets which can take on the iPad Air 2 at the top of market, or are you just stuck with Apple's expensive, yet stunning slate? The good news is that there are, and one of the best examples is the Sony Xperia Z2 Tablet.
Its full HD, 10.1-inch Triluminos display is fantastic and at just 6.4mm thick it's the slimmest 10-inch tablet on the market, as well as being rather lightweight too (only 439g). It also has a microSD slot to expand your storage options by a further 64GB - a rare option
This makes the Xperia Z2 Tablet very easy to hold for long periods of time - perfect for a movie marathon - while also making it surprisingly portable for such a larger tablet - it does, however, cost upwards of £359.
Let's not forget the South Korean giant too, with Samsung's Galaxy Tab S providing both Sony and Apple with some stiff competition. It comes with a 10.5-inch Super AMOLED screen and superb battery life and still comes in cheaper than the iPad.

Microsoft Surface Pro 3

Tablets are slowly replacing laptops, but there are some activities that demand a keyboard, which is where the Microsoft Surface Pro 3 or the cheaper Asus Transformer Pad TF103 come into play.
Both come with detachable keyboards to allow for easier text input, ideal if you're likely to be tapping away a lot of emails, with the Surface Pro 3 sporting the added benefit of full Windows 8.1 - the same version in laptops and desktop pcs.
If you thought there are a lot of choices when it comes to tablets then prepare yourself, the world of smartphones is overflowing with options, big to small, expensive to dirt cheap. You name it, it probably exists.
The biggest topic that surrounds mobile phones is price, and the compromises you have to make if you opt for a more wallet friendly device.

Low and mid-range

Cheaper handsets are becoming increasingly more competent, with the mid range and budget markets being populated with both new devices, as well as last year's flagships and a raft of new Chinese options available.
There are some decent cheaper mobiles on the market. The Moto G (2014), Sony Xperia M2 and EE Kestrel all provide a decent return for a smaller outlay. Nokia's Lumia 530 and Lumia 630 also present decent value for money.
If you fancy a little more power and functionality then the likes of the HTC One Mini 2 and the Galaxy S5 Mini are a good shout, with the Nokia Lumia 830 also providing competition for Microsoft's mobile OS.

The phablets

Screen size is just as hot a topic on phones as it is on tablets, as most manufacturers are pushing flagship screens beyond 5-inches. Phablets have emerged intending to further blur the lines between tablets and phones.
As a compromise device, a phablet might be just what you're after, although they tend to command higher price tags. This year a trend has emerged for QHD screens with the LG G3, Samsung Galaxy Note 4 and Google Nexus 6 all offering pixel packed screens.
Perhaps highlighting just how far these devices have come, even Apple has gotten in on the phablet game with the 5.5-inch iPhone 6 Plus.
You should look for a compromise between the power of the processor, the GPU and RAM. Higher screen resolutions will need more power (and thus bigger batteries) to ensure everything chugs along nicely.

The flagships

The latest flagship devices come with oodles of power, but they still command a certain level of financial investment. The reward for this speaks for itself, just take a look at our HTC One M8, Sony Xperia Z3 and Samsung Galaxy S5 reviews.
Storage is also very important on smartphones, especially if you plan on filling one up with apps and/or media. This is highlighted by the lack of expandable storage on the iPhone 6, although Apple do offer 64GB and 128GB variants.
Cameras are more important (and therefore also better) on smartphones than on tablets, as their smaller statures make them easier to carry. The best camera is the one that you have with you, and you're almost always going to have your phone with you.
The trick with smartphone cameras is not to be drawn into the pixel race, although that is still very prevalent. You'll get decent shots from a high-end 8MP or 13MP snapper. This year's flagships seem to have peaked at around 20MP, with the Nokia Lumia 930 and Sony Xperia Z3 both offering these goliath sensors, with both also offering expandable camera apps.
OS choice is also rather important. iOS 8 is only available on iPhones, coming with its bright, simple to learn and use interface. It is also heavily locked down, meaning less customisation in a trade off for better security.
Android is far more open, and each manufacturer places their own UI over the top. These can be replaced via the Play Store however, along with features like the SMS app or even the keyboard. Most handsets available at the moment are shipping with Android 4.4 KitKat, although 5.0 Lollipop is filtering through.
Windows Phone 8.1 and BB10 are both locked down systems, and are both a lot newer than the Google and Apple equivalents. As such, they don't have the same vast app offerings on their app stores, but this is changing all the time.
Finally, you should consider just how important 4G is to you. In the UK, the 4G roll out is still in progress although has come on in leaps and bounds in the last year, although it is far more prevalent in other territories. 4G is now available on a wider range of devices, with the cheaper Galaxy Ace 3 and Lumia 635 both offering 4G.
This technology is only really important when it comes to serious web browsing (think video and music streaming), as the 3G structure is still very capable of loading web pages smoothly.

Related product: Sony Xperia Z3

Our Verdict:

An improvement over the Z2, but not a huge one. It does pack a great, bright screen but needs to be better packaged to fight the best on the market.


  • Brilliant battery
  • PS4 Remote Play is brilliant
  • Premium build


  • Bugs in the operating system
  • 4K still doesn't work properly



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