Taking the tablets...
A tablet is the best tool for the job when it comes to a whole host of tasks, rivalling a laptop's capabilities with its touch screen, instant availability and long battery life. There's a wide range of sizes, screen resolutions, features, speeds, and sound and video quality.
Our independent expert tests and reviews aim to tell you just what you'll get for your money.
To test as many tablets as possible to the extent required, we share costs and expertise with our sister consumer organisations around the world, using professional labs in Europe. Each year they test hundreds of tablets and we pick out the models you can buy in Australia for our reports.
Our testers have a huge range of experience, which gives us consistency not only in the quantifiable measures like speed and function, but the more subjective area of sound and video quality and ease of use. For all the qualitative tests, our test labs use a panel of people, and compare results against standard benchmarks (good, average and poor results) to minimise any bias.
How we choose what we test
Just like CHOICE, our partners in Europe buy the tablets they test from retailers to make sure they're assessing the same product the consumer buys. From the tested models, we select those that are widely available here.
You may get other models from overseas, but there's no guarantee of support, or that all the advertised function will actually work in Australia. The same applies to very cheap 'no name' brands you'll sometimes find in supermarkets. We concentrate on the main brands and models suitable for serious use.
Test criteria explained
The overall score for each tablet is made up of:
- function (25%)
- ease of use (20%)
- screen quality (20%)
- battery life (15%)
- performance (10%)
- overall device assessment (10%)
Each score is derived in turn from subsidiary scores, explained in more detail in the next section.
How we test
- Web surfing (20%) - How easy is it and how does the tablet perform? Does it support HTML5 and Flash Player?
- Watching videos (15%) - The performance of locally stored and YouTube videos, and the ease of managing videos.
- eBook function (10%) - What's the quality in various lighting conditions? Does it support Kindle?
- Email function (10%) - How well does the tablet handle common email functions: creating and using an account, synchronising contacts, push email, uploading attachments?
- Making videos (10%) - Video and sound quality, resolution, ease of use (testing both cameras).
- Music (10%) - Quality of sound (both music and speech) without headset.
- Photos (10%) - Quality of both cameras, and ease of photo management.
- Video calls (10%) - Quality and ease of use of any built-in system and Skype.
- Multimedia versatility (5%) - Number of webcams, autofocus, flash, support foot.
Ease of use
Our ease of use measurement includes general use (35%), the keyboard (25%), any other buttons (15%), installation (10%), file transfer (10%) and
whether two applications can be displayed at the same time (5%).
General use testing includes using the tablet on your lap, on a table and standing (holding it in one hand while using the other), as well as automatic screen rotation.
The keyboard score covers both the on-screen and any supplied physical keyboard.
The other buttons assessment covers switching on, controlling volume, whether the positioning of both soft and hard buttons seems logical, and ease of using connectors.
File transfer measures copying videos, music and documents between the tablet and a computer (60%) and storage options like USB key and Cloud solutions.
The screen quality is a combination of performance (50%), ease of use (40%) and function (10%).
Performance looks at the quality in various lights, from a medium-lit room to bright daylight, the viewing angle (landscape and portrait) and the screen resolution. Ease of use of the screen measures the accuracy and speed (80%), the feel of the surface, auto-rotation, any supplied stylus and ease of cleaning.
The battery score measures time from full charge to a complete shut-down, in two scenarios: while using Wi-Fi for web-browsing and while
playing videos. If the tablet comes with a keyboard, the tests are run both with and without the keyboard, weighted equally. These measurements add up to 70% of the score.
Another 20% is allocated to the time to a complete shutdown after a quick 30-minute charge.
The last 10% is assigned based on whether a spare battery can be used; ease of switching to a low-consumption mode; whether the charger slot is standard (micro USB); whether the tablet can be recharged from a computer USB port and whether the battery can be replaced by the user.
To test general performance, we run a series of industry-standard benchmark tests, first when connected to the mains, then with battery only, which together account for 40% of the score.
The remaining 60% is divided between measuring the start-up time (both warm and cold starts), file transfer performance and switching between apps. File transfers are measured by copying 500MB of data, both as a single file and as several separate files, and how well the device synchronises data through a host.
Overall device assessment
We look at overall device quality (30%); portability (20%), such as weight and size; storage (20%), both available and types of external storage card supported; and connections (30%), including phone capability (3G or 4G LTE) and the range of other connections such as Bluetooth, NFS, HDMI, GPS, USB and micro-USB, and whether a keyboard and monitor can be connected.