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How much storage does your tablet need?

It all depends how you plan to use your tablet.

by Emily Price


If you're shopping for a new tablet, it's important to consider how much storage you're going to need on the device. Think of a tablet's storage space as a suitcase – you need a size that can hold every single thing you want to take on a trip.

Tablets come with a variety of different storage sizes, and while you can expand some of them with a memory card, most require you to commit to a certain amount of space when you purchase the device. How much storage you need on your tablet depends a great deal on what you plan on using your new gadget for.

Bare necessities
While your tablet may come with 8GB of built-in storage, in many cases, around 2GB of that will be used up for system files and basic data your tablet needs to run. If you've got an 8GB tablet, that leaves just 6GB for all your stuff.

Most apps don't take up a ton of storage. What's more, the amount of space needed to do tasks such as checking e-mail or your calendar and carrying a few photos is nominal enough that they can be handled with very little storage.

Library in a bag
Just as apps don't take up a huge amount of space, neither do e-books. Your average text-only book is only a few megabytes in size, so you can literally store thousands of titles on the average tablet with no problem. Amazon says 1,000 books on the Kindle Fire, for instance, only take up a single GB of space. So if you just plan on using your tablet as an e-reader and for light Web surfing, you're probably in the clear with something small like the NOOK Tablet (with different storage capacities starting at 8GB).

Videos are where you're going to start seeing the precious storage space on your tablet quickly get eaten up. The average high-definition clip measures around 1.5GB in size per hour of video. If you've got a 16GB tablet, then you'll be able to hold 10 hours of video at a time. That 10 hours may sound like a lot, but it only boils down to three to four movies. Chances are you'll also want to store apps, music, or books on your tablet, so you may be looking at only enough space for two flicks.

You can cram in a few more titles by downloading the standard-definition version of films, but you're still not going to be able to carry around a ton of video on a tablet with a smaller capacity. While three movies may be enough for your morning commute, three would more than likely not suffice if you're a frequent traveler, especially if you want to use your tablet to watch movies during international flights.

Look to the future
Before making your purchase, think about not only what you're going to do with the tablet right now, but also what you might want to do with it in the future. If you purchase a tablet with built-in storage, there's no turning back if you decide later on you wish you'd opted for the larger version. In general, it's a good idea to purchase as much storage as you can reasonably afford.

If you do find yourself longing for additional space later on, a number of different cloud storage services and video streaming services like Netflix are also available for tablets. These options allow you to store some of your content in the cloud and download them whenever you want to view them, streaming content to your tablet download-free, respectively.