There are three things you need to consider before buying your child a tablet: price, platform and durability.
Yes, tablets are an expensive purchase, but do NOT be tempted to buy a R999 Android tablet. You know the kind: made by some manufacturer you have never heard of, selling at an unbelievable price.
Why? They are flimsy. My other gripe with these no-name brands is that the touchscreens are often not as responsive as you need them to be: leaving frustrated parents and kids jabbing fingertips at app icons that just won’t open.
When it comes to platforms, your best bets are still either iOS (Apple) or Android. In my experience younger children (under 5) do better with iOS because it has a simpler, more intuitive interface, while older children eventually develop the skills to easily navigate Android. Also, if you do have your eye on a tablet that runs Windows, don’t be put off by tales that there are no apps. Microsoft is catching up VERY quickly in terms of app development for tablets and smartphones.
It is worth mentioning that the iPad is the biggest-selling tablet in South Africa in terms of volume, and as you can see – the price – when compared to other tablets, is actually pretty reasonable.
iPad Mini (1st gen)
It’s true what they say: “Once you go Mini, you’ll wonder why you ever needed a full-size iPad”. And with iStore selling the previous generation of iPad Minis (i.e. the ones without the Retina display) at such a low price, it’s a no-brainer. Get a basic model with Wi-Fi only – don’t bother with data packages if you have Wi-Fi at home or the office. Once apps are downloaded, 95% of the time they can be played offline. Another tip: don’t take the iPad out of its packaging until you have bought a protective casing for it. This particular brand’s screen shatters easily! We gave the Gripcase five stars.
Vital stats: 7.9-inch display, dual-core A5 chip, 5MP camera, 16GB, Wi-Fi only
Price: R2999 at the iStore
Sony Xperia Z (also 1st gen)
One word: waterproof. The Xperia Z tablet is also one of the best Android tablets on the market. You don’t need the latest one (the Z2), just get the original Z Tab at a cheaper price. The display is larger than the iPad Mini, and all in all it has much higher specs. Definitely one for older children, and despite being lightweight and only 6.9mm thick (the Z2 is even thinner at 6.5mm!), it is one helluva durable tablet.
Platform: Android (Jelly Bean)
Vital stats: 10.1-inch display, quad-core 1.5GHz, 8MP camera, 16GB, LTE+WiFi
Lenovo Yoga Tablet 8
Bet you thought we’d finish this roundup with a Samsung Galaxy Tab, right? The Lenovo Yoga is seriously underrated. Not only is the price fantastic but its design is unlike anything you’ve seen, and we’re still not sure why other manufacturers haven’t caught on. The Yoga has the best battery life of these three tablets, by a country mile. It also comes in a 10-inch version that selling for just over R4 000 on Loot.coza.
Platform: Android (Jelly Bean)
Vital stats: 8-inch display, 1.2GHz chip, 5MP camera, 16GB, 3G+Wi-Fi
Price: R2949 from Loot
We’ll be doing a round-up of budget tablets soon, including the Alcatel Pop 7 tablet, the HP Slate 7, the Huawei Mediapad, and a few more wallet-friendly buys.