How to choose the right tablet PC

Tablet computers have become the latest must-have item for technophiles. Since the launch of Apple's iPad in 2010, this burgeoning industry has become saturated with dozens of different tablets, each offering its own distinct specifications and functions. With such a wide variety, choosing the right tablet for your needs can become somewhat confusing. Here's a quick guide to help:

Screen size
Tablet computers come in various sizes that balance between functionality and portability. Screen sizes typically range between 8 inches and 10 inches, though some tablets, like the Samsung Galaxy Note, can come as small as 5.3 inches. When choosing a tablet computer, it's important to remember that bigger isn't always better -- while a larger screen might be easier on the eyes, it may not be as practical while you're on-the-go.

Operating system
Determining the best operating system can be divisive, with many consumers having their own preferences and loyalties.

"Most people know that the Apple iOS and Android are the two major operating systems being used today, so it's a good idea to try them both out before purchasing a mobile device and a contract," explains Scott McCormick, partner at Float Mobile Learning. "Consumers should consider several factors when choosing an operating system, including ease of use, availability of updates, security and stability, and number and variety of apps available."

For most consumers, price will be the No. 1 factor affecting their choice of tablet computers. The more features the tablet computer has, the more it will ultimately cost, so casual users may only need a basic model to match their needs, while those intending on using high-demand apps and programs should consider splurging on a more expensive device. You should also consider when you plan on using your new tablet; data plans can be convenient but costly, so choosing to forgo this feature may reduce the price significantly.

Battery power
Tablet computers are specifically designed to be used on-the-go. This means that, more often than not, they are used without a main power source. As a result, choosing a device with a dependable and long-lasting battery life is vital. For a good indicator of the device's power, check the quoted battery life of each device. However, it's important to remember that these are just indicators, and battery longevity can vary depending on how frequently and for what your device is being used.

Processor power
Processor power is a highly important, yet often-overlooked feature of a tablet computer. The processing speed will determine how quickly and efficiently your tablet will perform tasks and run applications.

"More and more consumers are using tablets for energy-consuming tasks, such as watching video, listening to music, and playing games with high-end graphics. Web browsing, as well, can be a processor hog, and if the device's processor is not up to the challenge, it can have a significant effect on the user experience," explains McCormick. "A good rule of thumb is to always buy as much processing power as you can afford. You will never regret having too much power."