/ Technology

When it comes to tablets, size definitely matters

Dog using a tablet

Steve Jobs famously said that 7-inch tablets were ‘dead on arrival’. Yet Apple has now launched the 7.9-inch iPad Mini. The question is, which is the best tablet size; 10-inch or 7-inch?

I was lucky enough to get my hands on the iPad 4, along with its little brother, on the day they were released. I wanted to see what all the fuss was about, so took them home to have a play.

We happened to be having a fireworks party that weekend, so the house was full with family and friends. Surprisingly, the tablet that got the most attention over the course of the weekend was the iPad Mini. Everyone, including my nine-year-old cousin, wanted to play with the Mini, leaving its larger counterpart gathering dust. Some might say it’s because this is the first miniature iPad, but I like to believe it’s because smaller tablets have more charm.

7-inch vs 10-inch tablets

The iPad Mini has fast become my favourite member of the Apple family. It’s small enough to slip into a bag (or large pocket!) and it’s comfortable to hold in one hand. So if you’re crammed into a commuter train, as I am every morning, you can comfortably hold it in one hand while gripping the rail with the other. And at 307g it won’t make your wrists ache either, which is something I find happens quite quickly when I’m clutching on to the full-sized iPad.

However, I do see the case for larger tablets. At the moment they tend to have better screens. Both the iPad 4 and the Google Nexus 10 have the sharpest displays around – and their bigger screens are also better for watching films and playing games.

So if you’re thinking about splashing out on a tablet, you’ll need to decide on the size that fits you best. Here are some pointers that might help:

Buy a 7-inch tablet if…

You want to save some money: the iPad Mini comes in at £270 making tablets more affordable for more people. And if you’re not an Apple fan, you can buy a great Android tablet for under £200.

You’re a commuter: if you’re often out and about and travel on crowded public transport, smaller tablets are super portable and might suit you better.

You want an ebook reader with a bit more oomph: 7-inch tablets are more comparable in cost and size to e-readers, so you could read your books on something that has a bit more flexibility and is arguably of more use.

Buy a 10-inch tablet if…

You want to work on your device: the bigger screen makes typing emails and documents easier. Plus, if you pick Microsoft’s Surface tablet, you’ll have an office on the go, with apps such as Word, Excel and Powerpoint pre-installed.

You’re a movie fan: films always look better on bigger screens, so the larger tablets win hands down here.

You mainly want to use it at home: if you’re not going to lug the device around, you won’t find the unwieldy size such an issue.

For my needs, a smaller tablet is definitely best – portability is what counts for me and you certainly get that with a little 7-inch device. But maybe a 10-inch tablet suits you better?


I’m very happy with the size of my iPad2. I don’t need anything more portable.

How we have moved on. In 1992, I bought my first Mac computer, a Classic II with a 9 inch black & white screen. It was an all-in-one design with the screen and processor in the same box. That was regarded as portable at the time, but tablets are truly amazing.

It’s not just the power, it’s how (relatively) cheap it all is now. What did your Classic II cost? Thousands? I once worked out what my old BBC micro plus all the bits and pieces I got for it would have cost in today’s money, and that was in the thousands too. I have just discovered an old 128 MB SD card in my drawer from about 10 years ago, I remember paying £49.99 for it from Argos and thinking it was a bargain. Sorry this is drifting way off topic …

I can’t remember, Colin, but it was a lot more than I paid for my BBC B, even with an educational discount. I paid £80 for a ‘high capacity’ flash drive and I’m still using it.

To get back on topic, I would not mind trying a small tablet Which? woulld like to lend me one. 🙂

I bought Mrs R an IPad5 and am very impressed with its ease of use, screen clarity and build. It is portable enough for her use, good battery life, and I would think a better option than a 7″ for readability – but no experience to back that up. It is also good for TV – either direct or using an Apple TV box which displays anything on screen.
I’d still have a laptop as first choice – maybe that coupled with a 7″ would be a good combination though.

You bought Mrs R an iPad5?? I suppose that makes her an ‘early adopter’. 🙂

Finger trouble, wavechange, on my old laptop. iPad3 – please don’t tell her it’s out of date.

You talk a lot of sense, Malcolm, so I could not resist making the comment. Actually, there is no such thing as an iPad 3 according to Apple.

Wavechange – I’d never noticed that. Bought it through Amazon who variously refer to it as iPad 3, 3rd Generation, whereas Apple seem to call it Retinal Display (but iPad3, 3rd and 4th generation, are listed on their forum). Am I missing something here? Why is life so complicated? Whatever, it’s still a great device and pleases Mrs R.

I used to own an iPad 3 – I liked it very much, but I always found its bulkiness a bit off putting. It’s shiny back meant it was always slipping off my lap, and I couldn’t hold it comfortably in one hand. Eventually I got fed up and sold it, replacing it with a Google Nexus 7 (and pocketed the change!).

I am definitely a convert. The rubber back of the Nexus 7 is much more practical for me, and it’s light and easy to hold in one hand. It’s as portable as a Kindle but is much more flexible (I can read PDFs on it brilliantly) and, considering it’s much lower price, I think it’s a bargain. I won’t be looking back!

There is a lot to be said for the Nexus 7 that allows you to do as you want, whereas the Apple lets you do no more than switch it on or off. I think this is the single biggest reason that the incredible Galaxy is now outselling the iPhone (itself not a mean performer I might add!) by the truckload. If I was in the market, I’d Nexus it without hesitation, although it does worry me that Google is a bigger massager of it tax responsibilities than Apple and I really don’t like paying over the odds for stuff made cheaply in China.