New real estate agents have many startup costs and often can ill afford expensive gadgetry and technology. But because a tablet is an indispensable tool in the field, there are a number of cheap options worth looking at. You don’t need the latest model to show photos and videos to potential customers, pull up lists and sheets in the blink of an eye, compare market prices, jot down notes as you interview potential buyers—all the tasks that make your business run smoothly.
The problem is sorting through the noise. There are a lot of tablets on the market, and it can be a pain to find the right one that gets the job done without costing more than it needs to. This quick guide will help you better set your priorities when it comes to choosing a low-cost but efficient tablet.
Is It Capable Enough in the Field?
Your tablet needs to strike a balance between economy and capability. This is why the very first thing you need to check are the specifications on the tablet.
An 8- to 9-inch tablet offers just enough screen space without being too heavy or unwieldy to carry. You can survive with 1GB of RAM, but apps will load and operate sluggishly. You’ll get more speed with 2GB of RAM for a more comfortable experience—but it comes with a slightly higher price tag. It also helps to pick up tablets that have at least 32GB of internal memory, as the extra space helps when you want to install a ton of files.
Expanded memory slots can help boost that available space, up to 64GB on most models and up to 128GB on higher-end models. And finally, check how many milliampere hours (mAh) the battery has. Bigger screens eat up more energy; smaller screens eat up less. Just to give you an idea, an 8-inch tablet with a 4,200mAh battery will average three hours of heavy use, while a 10-inch tablet with a 6,000mAh battery will average five hours of heavy use.
Screen size, RAM, memory, and mAh capacity—these four specifications are the most important ones you need to review as you shop around for tablets. You can skim over the others without much concern, but there is one branch of the specs that deserves a longer, more in-depth explanation.
Does It Connect With a Wide Array of Services and Devices?
You want a tablet that will serve multiple roles, which is why they need to be as connected as possible—not just to other devices, but to the cloud as well.
Bluetooth and Wi-Fi/WLAN support is found in virtually all tablets, but not USB or micro USB ports. Likewise, not all tablets have SIM slots that let you access 3G/LTE/4G mobile internet networks, meaning you have to pack a Wi-Fi modem or a smartphone that can share its connection if you want to access the internet on tablets without SIM card slots. Then you have devices that use older Bluetooth protocols, which may not work as reliably or as conveniently as more modern versions like Bluetooth 3 or 4. Some low-end tablets don’t even support On-The-Go (OTG) technology, meaning they won’t work with USB devices such as a keyboard or a mouse. Then there are tablets that only work with 2.4GHz Wi-Fi networks, meaning they might get spotty reception if there are too many wireless devices connecting to that particular frequency. Picking up tablets that work on 5GHz frequencies lets you sidestep the busy 2.4GHz channel for a more reliable signal.
These get special attention on this list because connectivity plays such a huge role in the core functions of a tablet. Keep an eye out for these, and it’ll be much easier to pick a tablet that’ll work in the way you intend it to.
Does It Support the Apps You Need?
A tablet is only as good as the apps it can work with, and there are three major operating systems that serve as platforms for those apps: Apple iOS, Google Android, and Microsoft Windows.
This dilemma poses a catch-22 for real estate professionals who are both new to the business and not yet familiar with the apps at their disposal. You won’t know what apps will be useful if you don’t try them out first, but you can’t try out new apps because you haven’t bought your tablet yet. Android and iOS are the most popular platforms for most apps—including those geared toward real estate. Windows has access to some apps, but its store app just isn’t as well-stocked as the aforementioned two. Apple’s iOS, on the other hand, is exclusively installed on the company’s more expensive tablet, the iPad. Not exactly budget-friendly when you’re trying to minimize costs.
That leaves Android as an ideal starting point for new agents. It is worth noting, however, that some tablets let you switch between the Android and Windows operating systems. You’ll have to pay a bit more while sacrificing storage space that could be used for apps and files, but the versatility of being able to boot up one or the other can be useful for widening the apps you can work with.
Does It Hold Up In the Environment You’re In?
Virtually all economy tablets use cheaper materials and easier fabrication methods to cut down costs. However, these tablets may not be the best options for practitioners who need computing power out on the field.
For those who regularly go out to meet with clients, it’s worth investing in a slightly more expensive tablet with extra safeguards built in. No, you don’t need to go for the military-spec models that can survive a sandstorm, a few bullets, and a drop from twenty stories high. You just need to pick out a tablet that comes with IP67 or IP68 protection. The Ingress Protection rating is a mark of a device’s resistance to dust and water. The first number marks its resistance to dust, with 6 being total immunity. The second number marks its resistance to water, with 7 being resistant to complete immersion up to 1 meter and 8 being resistant to prolonged immersion exceeding 1 meter.
An IP67- or IP68-rated tablet will ensure your tablet survives against dirt, dust, rain, and snow. Wrap it all up in a cushioned plastic case, and you’ll have a tablet durable enough to handle fieldwork.