Architect: 9 things to consider before buying your tablet
Tablets make an architect’s job easier, especially when it involves travelling to visit a site at the beginning of a project or to monitor the work throughout the project.
Indeed, thanks to a screen larger than that of a smartphone and its format which makes it more practical to use on the move compared to a computer, the tablet has become an essential tool for the architect and has contributed to the digitisation of the construction sector.
Lightweight and powerful, it can display floor plans and sketches in their entirety without the user having to scroll and zoom. Most tablets can also take photos.
Here are 9 criteria to consider when choosing the tablet that will best suit your work and your preferences.
The size of a screen, whether it's a smartphone, a computer or a TV, is measured diagonally. For example, a tablet with a size of 25.4 cm, measured across the screen, is referred to as a 10-inch tablet.
The size of the screen will depend not only on your preferences but also on the way you plan to use it.
The size of a small screen falls somewhere between 5 and 6 inches, or 13 and 15 cm. This is the size of the screens of fairly large smartphones. A large screen smartphone allows you to take photos and make brief notes.
However, writing detailed reports or viewing maps and navigating to and from each functionality is not practical with a small screen, even one that’s on the larger end of the small scale.
These are the conventional tablets. Their screen size typically ranges from 10 to 13 inches (approximately 24 to 33 cm) depending on the model and brand.
A large tablet is ideal for intensive use. You can easily consult detailed documents and plans without having to zoom in and out constantly. They can even be coupled with keyboards, allowing you to type long texts easily and smoothly.
An intermediate size
A compromise between a small and large screen can be a mini-tablet. It fits in a coat pocket but is more convenient than a smartphone for opening documents, reading reports, editing, or typing.
The Apple model for a mini-tablet would be the iPad mini, which comes with a 7.9-inch screen (about 20 cm). There are equivalent Android models for the mini-tablet, such as the Lenovo Tab M7.
Connectivity: Wifi or 4G
Tablets, much like smartphones, offer access to the available WiFi connections as well as access to 4G at an additional subscription fee when no WiFi connection is available.
A tablet without a 4G subscription is cheaper; however, you should keep in mind that you will likely not have access to Wi-Fi on most sites. So you need to determine what your Internet access needs are while you are on the move. Do you use applications that require a connection? Do you need to send or download documents when you are on-site or can you wait until you get back to your office? Is your phone's mobile network connection enough for you or do you need a speedier, more efficient alternative?
Depending on your needs, you may choose to invest in a model adapted to a 4G or even 5G connection. If your need for Internet access is moderate, you could also consider the possibility of sharing your smartphone’s connection.
iOS, Android OS and Windows are the three main operating systems for tablets.
Apple is the pioneer in the field of tablets with the iPad. Easy to use and secure, Apple devices form an entirely interconnected ecosystem. Most importantly, there are many applications in the App Store designed specifically for architects, including CAD drawing and 3D modelling.
Nowadays, however, the latest Android devices are just as powerful as iPads and offer great flexibility. Therefore, the choice of the operating system has become an entirely personal choice, based on preferences and perceived convenience.
Plans and photos make relatively heavy files.
To avoid spending time deleting files to free up space on your tablet, we advise you to choose a tablet model that has a minimum of 32 GB of storage. Note that most Android tablets allow you to add an SD card to increase the storage capacity of the device. However, iPads do not offer this possibility.
RAM (random access memory)
The RAM will determine the speed of your tablet.
An architect needs to be able to quickly reproduce floor plans and 3D drawings. It is therefore advisable to choose a top-of-the-range model with 6 GB of RAM, which can offer you the performance your profession requires, at the right speed.
The advantage of a tablet for an architect is its ability to be used on the move, especially when visiting construction sites. A tablet’s autonomy refers to how long it can last without having to be plugged in.
It all depends on your specific schedule and role. If you are regularly away from your office, it is advisable to opt for a tablet whose battery lasts all day, however after a certain amount of time, no matter the brand, a tablet's battery life will decrease.
Accessories for optimal performance
A car charger
There are USB car chargers that allow you to charge your tablet and smartphone in your car between appointments. This type of charger allows for faster charging than using the USB A port that most vehicles are now equipped with.
A solid case
An architect will typically use their tablet outdoors, on construction sites, at different stages of the project. An architect's tablet is therefore routinely exposed to not only rain and dust but also shocks and falls.
It is therefore essential to protect your tablet with a suitable case when you are visiting construction sites. There are many protective cases and accessories available today that will prevent your screen from breaking or your tablet from being damaged.
A digital pen or stylus
A stylus is particularly useful for an architect. It improves the accuracy of motions and drawing on a touch screen.
For drawing or correcting a plan or making annotations on a photo, a digital pen results in better visuals than a finger. It also prevents you from touching your screen with dirty and dusty hands, which is a common occurrence on a construction site.
Also, in winter, you can use your tablet with your gloves on. The Apple Pencil for the iPad and the S Pen for Samsung tablets will give you very good performance and allow you to draw fine, clean lines.
There are tablets for all budgets, as their cost ranges from £150 to over £1000. Therefore, depending on your budget, you should choose the model that offers the best value for money and all the essential features you need.
On average, a tablet has a lifespan of 2 to 3 years.
The question to always keep in mind when comparing tablet models is "what is the end-use of my tablet?"
Don't be distracted by the gimmicky features and focus instead on the strictly professional uses you want to get out of the tablet. For example, if you are going to use it for drawing, sketching or 3D modelling you will need a model with high RAM but also a LiDAR scanner and a high-end processor.
Conversely, if you only want to view plans and drawings on the move and make notes for your site reports, you won't need 6 GB of RAM but you still shouldn’t go below 3 GB otherwise your tablet will be too slow to use.
If however you only plan to use your tablet for basic tasks but you become more fond of it with time and start expanding your range of use for it, consider getting a tablet that’s a little more advanced than you think you’ll need. If your budget allows it, it is always better to choose a model that has more capacity than you think you need, especially if it is your first tablet.