4G Tablet Buying Guide 2013: How To Choose The Right Tablet

So you've got your 4G smartphone, but what if you want a 4G tablet, too? Which one is best for your needs? Let us tell you what's out there.


Welcome to Gizmodo's 4G Week: Everything you need to know about 4G in Australia. From the networks that do and don't support it, through to the devices you can use and the best deals out there.
4G In Australia Explained4G Smartphone Buying Guide: The Right Handset For You


First, let's cover the basics one more time.

The Basics

Before you start on your quest to buy a shiny, new 4G tablet, it's worth considering the basics that should underpin all tech purchases:

Know Your Budget

Setting a budget and sticking to it is paramount when it comes to tech buying, and it's especially important when it comes to getting a phone on a contract. 24 months is a long time to be stuck with one device, and if it's beyond your means, you'll either be stuck paying too much for something you don't need or something you can't afford. Do a bit of maths, find a figure you can comfortably afford per month and stick to it. Don't let yourself be duped by slick talking mobile salesfolk. At the end of the day, it's always you left holding the bag.

Decide What You Need Above What You Want

Make a list of features you know you can't live without in your smartphone. Need an ace camera? Make sure there's a note of it. Desperate for customisation options? Android's the one for you. Need a certain amount of battery life? Write that down, too. Don't get sucked into a certain device because it's shiny and neglect everything you need day-to-day.

Check Your Coverage

Having 4G support on your device sure is fun, but you need to check if you're in a 4G coverage area first. No good getting your new phone home and figuring out it can't do the speeds it says on the tin. You can search for your address on Telstra's 4G maps here and Optus' here. MVNOs like Virgin Mobile run on the Optus network, but if you want to be sure, it has coverage maps also. Vodafone is a new entrant into the 4G race, and you can check out its coverage offerings right here.

Research Your Device

Once you have one or two devices in mind, hit your nearest search engine to see what people who own that device think about it. You might just find that it goes bang after a month with the device or it doesn't do something you hoped it actually did. You can read reviews that we and other tech sites write until the phone goes out of style, but we can't tell you what it's like to live with over an extended period of time like others can. Also, make sure you try before you buy. Even if it involves insisting that a salesperson powers up a phone for you to try before you sign on the dotted line.

Know Thy Telco

Here's a bit of information on the telco landscape right now. For more information on 4G in Australia, read our 4G Frequencies explained feature.

Optus

Optus is a solid 12 months behind Telstra in the 4G coverage race, so the handset selection isn't as bountiful as you might think. Still, different networks mean different coverage footprints and price structures. Optus currently has 4G coverage in Sydney, Perth and Melbourne, with Brisbane and the Gold Coast coming early next year and Adelaide to follow in mid-2013.

Telstra

Telstra has a solid head-start on the number-two telco in Australia, meaning that it has managed to iron out more device exclusives. Telstra has pledged that it will have 66 per cent of the population covered by mid-next year, meaning that it will hold onto its number one spot for some time yet. More coverage means more places you can use your 4G coverage before you failover to Next G.

Virgin Mobile While Optus and Virgin Mobile share the same 4G network, Virgin often has cheaper prices on 4G handsets, often the same devices Optus is offering too.

Vodafone

Vodafone has more spectrum available than any of the carriers, meaning its 4G is probably the fastest in a straight race between the big three, but it's about two years behind the game when it comes to cities covered by the LTE coverage standard. Having said, that, it has just revamped its 4G plans to make life a little more competitive.

Armed with that knowledge, let's get started...

Author's Note: any tablet can be made into a 4G device if teamed with a 4G wireless hotspot. Right now we're just taking a look at tablets with integrated 4G radios.

Apple iPad (4th-Generation)

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After all the legal hubbub surrounding the Apple's 3rd-Generation iPad that caught it a $2.25m fine, Cupertino wasn't about the repeat its own history by releasing a non-4G compatible tablet to Australia.

The iPad 4th-Generation was quietly shuffled out as Apple released the iPad mini, and it stocks a beefed up processor and the all important 4G antenna.

This is a tablet for someone who wants a smooth, uncomplicated tablet experience that comes complete with some of the most polished apps around.

Specs • Carriers: Optus, Telstra, Virgin • OS: iOS 6 • CPU: 1.4Ghz dual-core A6X • Screen: 9.7-inch Retina display (2048x1536, 264ppi) • RAM: 1GB RAM • Storage: 16GB, 32GB, 64GB • Camera: 5MP rear, 1.2MP front


Huawei MediaPad 10 Link 4G

Vodafone outed its 4G network with a bang at the start of the month, and with it, the fastest tablet in the country. The Huawei MediaPad 10 earns this honour by its abilities as a Category 4 device.

Category 4 refers to a specific speed profile on an LTE network that allows devices to pull down a theoretical maximum speed of 150Mbps. Category 3 devices are only capable of 4G speeds up to 100Mbps, but a Category 4 device charges that right up to 150Mbps down. Compare that to previous wireless generations and you find that DC-HSPA is only capable of 42Mbps, while HSPA+ can only muster 21Mbps.

Specs • Carriers: Vodafone • OS: Android 4.0 • CPU: 1.2GHz dual-core • Screen: 10.1-inch 1280x800 pixels (149 ppi) • RAM: 1GB RAM • Storage: 8GB, 16GB, 32GB • Camera: 3.15MP rear


Samsung Galaxy Tab 8.9

Samsung Galaxy Tab 8.9 4G Australian Review: Does Speed Matter?

The Galaxy Tab is Samsung's all-purpose tablet. Much like you'd order a drive-thru meal from a take-away joint, the Tab comes in a variety of sizes, depending on how hungry you are for screen real-estate.

It ranges from 7-inches right up to 10.1, and right in the middle we have the Tab 8.9: the first 4G tablet to go on sale in Australia.

The Tab 8.9's benefits come from portability, network speed and raw power. This is a tablet for the inner road warrior who always needs to be connected.

Be warned, though, the Tab 8.9 isn't exactly new, which means you'll likely find a better deal on something slightly more modern.

Specs • Carriers: Telstra • OS: Android 3.2 • CPU: 1GHz dual-core Cortex A9 • Screen: 8.9-inch PLS TFT (1280x800, 170ppi) • RAM: 1GB RAM • Storage: 16GB, 32GB • Camera: 3.15MP rear, 2MP front


Telstra 4G Tablet

Telstra 4G Tablet Unveiled: 10.1-Inch, Ice Cream Sandwich, And Yep, 4G

It's not got a creative name, but the Telstra 4G Tablet isn't a bad little piece of hardware.

It's a 10.1-inch device that fits neatly into the "my first tablet" category.

This device is one for a family looking to share a device around or even a young one just looking to get started with a tablet of their own. It's sturdy while still being light and it runs Android 4.0, so you can get all the latest apps.

Specs • Carriers: Telstra • OS: Android 4.0 • CPU: 1.5 GHz dual-core • Screen: 10.1-inch (1280x800) • RAM: 1GB RAM • Storage: 16GB • Camera: 5MP rear, 2MP front


Toshiba Portégé Z10t

The Toshiba Portégé Z10t ultrabook/laptop is a hybrid running Windows 8.

The Toshiba Portégé Z10t boasts an 11.6 inch HD touchscreen running the Pro version of Windows 8. Its main claim to fame is its 4G LTE functionality and detachable backlit keyboard which allows it to transform into a Windows 8 tablet. It also comes with an Intel Celeron CPU, 4GB of RAM and a 128GB solid state drive.

Specs • Carriers: Telstra • OS: Windows 8 • CPU: 1.5 GHz dual-core Intel Core i5 • Screen: 11.6-inch IPS 1920x1080 • RAM: 4GB DDR3 RAM • Storage: 128GB SSD