So you want a new tablet? Maybe you're looking to upgrade from that old device you snapped up when the gadgets were new and shiny, but now looks about as up-to-date as a steam engine. Or maybe you've just returned to planet Earth from a long holiday on Mars and want to know what all the fuss is surrounding these bizarre stretched-out phones. But either way, with so many options out there, you'll need to look carefully to make sure you end up with the best gadget and not something that's only useful as an expensive paperweight.
And the first choice you need to make is what size device is right for you. While there's a little variation, most tablets now fall into one of two categories – devices around ten inches across and smaller seven-inch options. And while it's easy to fall into the trap of 'bigger equals better', the smaller options have a lot going for them.
Firstly, if portability is your key concern, seven-inch tablets aren't only easier to slip into a bag, they're also slimmer and much lighter. This might not be something you give much thought to at first – after all, the larger choices aren't exactly made from lead and dark matter – but after a couple of hours of being held up to your face on the train or the beach, your arms will really start to notice the difference.
And as well as smaller often being more beautiful, your bank account will also be a lot happier, as these gadgets are perfect if you're on a budget. So if you've decided that a seven-inch device is the right choice for you, where next? Choosing the right gadget can often be a minefield, which is why we've put together a list of some of our favourites.
The strong all-rounder – Google Nexus 7
If you want a good tablet that'll do anything you ask of it and not break the bank, Google's latest Nexus 7 should be one of your top considerations. With a combination of some great specs, a gorgeous high-definition screen and stock Android – which means you get a stripped-down system with no clutter, as well as being first in the queue for Google's updates, it's hard to go wrong with this piece of kit.
The premium option – iPad mini 2
If you want a stylish option, the latest Apple iPad mini offers top-of-the-line specs and that trademark Apple look that nothing else can match. The key feature of the mini 2 is its Retina display that puts almost everything else to shame. It's among the most expensive seven-inchers you can buy, but you can feel the quality in everything it does. Plus you get Apple's tried and tested iOS operating system and there are a great range of iPad mini 2 covers available to give your tablet the personal touch.
The media viewer – Amazon Kindle Fire HDX
For film and music fans wanting to watch or listen to their favourites wherever they are, Amazon's Kindle Fire HDX should be well up to the job. It's slimmer, lighter and more powerful than previous versions and comes with unique features such as Mayday, which drops into a live chat with an Amazon adviser whenever you're not sure of how to do something. Amazon Prime subscribers are also well catered for with easy access to the firm's huge range of films, TV shows, music and ebooks.
The cheerful underdog – Tesco Hudl
One of the surprising success stories of the budget tablet market, the Tesco Hudl stands out from the wealth of plasticky, underpowered rivals in its price range by actually paying attention to quality. One of the biggest compliments for a machine at this end of the market is it never feels cheap, with good build quality and performance that won't leave you tearing your hair out in frustration. And you'll have money left over to really make it look cool with a Tesco Hudl case.
The gamer's choice – Advent Vega Tegra Note 7
If you're on a budget, but don't want to scrimp on performance, the Advent Vega Tegra Note 7 could be the ideal choice. Yes, it's a bit of a mouthful and doesn't have the brand recognition of Apple or Samsung, but if you're more interested on what you can do with it rather than the name on the back, this tiny powerhouse deserves some serious consideration. It's based around Nvidia's latest processor – and this is a firm that knows a thing or two about performance, so it's no surprise that if you want to enjoy the latest games and apps at blisteringly fast speeds, this is among the best options out there.