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Tablet Purchasing Guide

Revised November 11, 2015

This tablet purchasing guide includes guidance and specifications from Information Systems & Computing (ISC) for a rapidly changing category of system: tablets. ISC distinguishes between two sharply distinct categories: the relatively mature Windows-based tablet notebooks such as Microsoft's Surface Pro 4 (covered in the Notebook Purchasing Guide) and mobile operating-system-based tablets. Only the seconf category of tablets are covered in this document.


All tablets support touch-based interaction with fingers, often as the primary method of data entry. Currently, ISC is providing guidance but no hardware or software specifications, except a recommendation that any tablet purchased should have at least 32 GB of storage (or the maximum available if that is less than 32 GB).

Tablets tend to weigh between one and two pounds and have 7 to 10-inch screens, though some devices such as Apple's iPad Pro are larger. In the University environment, a tablet is currently suitable only as a complementary device to a more capable desktop or notebook. Though accessories such as keyboards and stands replicate some notebook functionality, it should not be deployed as a user's only computer.

Current examples of tablets are Apple's iOS-based iPad Pro, iPad Air 2, and iPad mini 4, along with a profusion of Android-based tablets from Amazon, Google, Lenovo, Sony, and Samsung.

ISC sees uses for current tablets as specific functions, not general purpose. Examples include mobile data entry, email triage, light web browsing, and kiosk use. Tablets generally do not function well for heavy document, spreadsheet, or photo editing. Tablet users should be cautioned that not all tablets have encrypted hard-drives and thus could leave confidential information vulnerable if the device is lost or stolen. Also, WiFi-only tablets cannot receive remote wipe commands when beyond the range of recognized networks. This is of particular concern as tablets are used for more notebook-like activities.

Support for tablets is substantially different than for Windows-based tablets or other notebook computers and in many ways resembles support for smartphones. Users should be cautioned that applications available from platform stores may not undergo rigorous vetting and could leave sensitive data at risk. Pay close attention to application permissions and reviews, which may contain additional information about application reliability and hazards.

General notes

These specifications and guidance are revised when major changes in tablets from Apple, Google, Samsung and other vendors become generally available.

Tablet manufacturers with which ISC has had good experience with include Apple, Google, and Samsung.

If your school or center is considering a tablet purchase, ISC strongly recommends a consultation to weigh pros and cons in today's rapidly changing environment (contact John Mulhern III in ISC,; 573-3567).

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