Spending

When to replace your tablet, according to experts

"A good tablet should last you around five years."

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With the new iPad Pro being released later this month, you might be wondering if your tablet needs an upgrade.

"Tablets are something people don't tend to replace all that often," says Nicholas De Leon, a technology reporter at Consumer Reports. In fact, more than 90% of tablets purchased in 2014 or later are still in use, according to an unpublished survey of Consumer Reports members from last year.

Financially, it makes sense, as tablets are pricey. Apple's latest iPad starts at $329, and the iPad Mini starts at $399. The Samsung Galaxy Tab S7 is $149 if you have a trade-in and $649 if you don't.

"Personally, I'm still using an iPad that I bought in 2013," De Leon says. "It's slower than dirt. Web browsing is nearly impossible. But I only use it to read comic books, so it's not worth it to me to buy a new one." 

If your tablet is getting old and slow, here's how to know when you need to shell out for a new one — and which models to consider.

How long should a tablet last?

"A good tablet should last you around five years," says Sascha Segan, a tablet analyst at PCMag. Apple tends to support its iPads with software upgrades for six years, while Android tablets will receive security updates for a minimum of four years.

There are three signs that you may need to replace yours, he says:

  • If you're interested in new features or apps that your tablet is too old to support
  • If your charger port no longer functions
  • If your software experience gets slow or "gummy" — "like the user interface is sticking or not responding to your touch quickly," Segan says.

When the problem is your charging port, De Leon suggests you weigh the cost of a repair versus an upgrade. "If repairing your out-of-warranty product costs more than half the price of a new one, you're better off upgrading," he notes.

For example, a repair for an out-of-warranty eighth-generation iPad (the current model) runs $249. That's not much less than the starting price of a new one, at $349.

Tablets are something people don't tend to replace all that often.
Nicholas De Leon
technology reporter, Consumer Reports

Do Apple tablets last longer?

Both Apple and Android tablets get "excellent scores on reliability from Consumer Reports members," De Leon says. "They're the two best brands."

However, there are other solid tablets out there that aren't Apple or Android. Amazon and Barnes & Noble are the "next best in terms of reliability," De Leon says.

The Amazon Fire HD 10 tablet, which will be released May 26, is $149, less than half the price of an entry-level iPad. Barnes & Noble's Nook 10", designed by Lenovo, is $129.

Is there a best time of year to go tablet shopping?

Yes — and it's coming up, says Lisa Davis, shopping expert at Offers.com. If you don't need to have the latest iPad, discounts are coming soon, she says: "With Apple releasing their new iPad Pro later this month, expect to see discounts on previous generations."

You might see deeper discounts on tablets if you hold off until the summer. "For those needing a tablet sooner rather than later, you're in luck with [Amazon's] Prime Day most likely coming in June," Davis says.

If repairing your out-of-warranty product costs more than half the price of a new one, you're better off upgrading.
Nicholas De Leon
technology reporter, Consumer Reports

Typically, Best Buy, Target, and Walmart will compete with the online retail giant by offering equally good, or sometimes better, deals on similar products. Back-to-school sales in August and September also feature some good tablet deals.

If you can handle a six-month wait, consider holding out for even bigger pre-holiday discounts. "If you aren't in dire need of a tablet right now, we suggest holding off until Black Friday, when you'll be rewarded for your patience with hundreds more in your pocket," Davis says. "This is when retailers will offer doorbusters and extra discounts on tech gear and tablets."

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