Smart tablet-shopping tips

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All this talk about the new iPad 3 has me wondering about the millions of people who were thrilled to receive a brand-new iPad 2 for Christmas a few months ago.

Between iPads, Android tablets and no-name tablets that cost anywhere from $99 to almost $900, how do you know what’s smart spending and what’s not?

Donna Tapellini, senior electronics editor at Consumer Reports, told me, “The decision to splurge on the latest tablet depends on how you want to use it.” The higher price tag affords a bigger screen, more storage capacity, third- or fourth-generation network capability, also known as 3G/4G, longer battery time, a front-facing camera and a webcam and now, the highly-touted retina display.

So whether you’re thinking of upgrading or are contemplating a first-time tablet purchase, ask yourself the following questions to decide which type of device suits you best.

  • Do I need the very latest in graphics?
  • Do I want to pay monthly for 3G/4G service or just rely on Wi-Fi?
  • Do I need the best video function possible?
  • Do I want a front-facing camera and a webcam?
  • Which applications are most important to me?
  • Which type of touch-screen is best for me?
  • Who will use this device?
  • Where will this device be used?
  • What is my budget?

Some more points from Tapellini.

  • Understand touch-screen terms. The capacitive touch-screen is more expensive,  sensitive and intuitive with the highest degree of usability. The resistive touch-screen requires more pressure and is reserved for cheaper models.
  • Try not to buy older models of tablets because an older processing system may not run all the newest apps and software for the best multimedia tablet experience. Simply check the specs of any tablet you are considering on its website and compare operating systems, weight, height, camera, battery life, display and more.
  • Stay away from no-name brands unless you can verify durability and support via reviews online. The very cheapest (think: $99 tablets at drugstores and off-price stores) may not support the apps you want.

So what’s the difference between the iPad 2 and the iPad 3? According to the specs on Apple’s website, the major difference is in the graphics for viewing and video recording. Both models contain the same processor and app store. And, according to Dealnews, buying refurbished is the way to reduce the cost of the pricier tablets for many brands considerably, and April is a great time to buy any tablet as the recent decrease in price for the iPad2 has put pressure on other tablet manufacturers to drop prices, too. I’ve also heard about reselling your tablets to used electronics outlets  to make up for buying the new higher-priced model.

So there you go. Will you upgrade or stick with what you have?

Written by
Naomi Mannino
Contributing writer
Naomi Mannino is a contributing writer at Bankrate. Naomi writes about loans and banking.