The Best Tablet for Architects and Contractors (Update 2017)
If you drag around stacks of floorplans and other documents to your worksite…
If you use pen and paper to make notes…
If you have to use a cable to transfer your pictures to a PC in order to place them in the correct file in a Word or Excel document from there…
If making field reports, safety reports or punch lists is a painful, time consuming, administrative chore…
… then you waste a lot of time and peace of mind compared with architects, engineers or contractors who DO make use of modern technology to make their job A TON more efficient. Time that they can put to better use to optimize their company or to enjoy family, friends or hobbies.
Good thing that you can overcome that obstacle fast, because increasing your productivity regarding worksite related activities can be done relatively easy. All it takes is two steps:
- Step 1: purchase a suitable device for use on the worksite, with the necessary accessories. Exactly what that is, we will show you in this article!
- Step 2: use the best apps available to dramatically increase your productivity. Find more info in this article.
Starting at step 1: selecting a suitable device with a number of convenient accessories (protective cover, stylus and keyboard).
That brings us almost straight to the tablet. A tablet is a popular device to use in the construction industry. A phone is usually too small to see floorplans clearly on or to write out comments. A laptop simply is not convenient to lug around on the worksite, is easily damaged and you cannot take pictures with it. The tablet combines the handy aspects of a phone (easy to take pictures with on the worksite) and a PC (to write out comments and notes). On top of that there are many ways to protect a tablet with rugged cases. So, a well-protected tablet is in many cases the better option to use on a worksite.
Tablets are definitely not cheap. But not having one or ending up with the wrong device is probably even more costly:
Time that is wasted with writing out the comments and notes on the worksite with the (too) small keyboard of your phone…
Time that is wasted with searching for the correct zone on your floorplan on the tiny screen of your phone…
Time that is wasted because the battery of your old or less qualitative tablet suddenly quits…
The crashing of applications or of the complete tablet, causing the loss of information!
You get my drift.
How do you select the correct tablet? The enormous choice of tablets doesn’t make it easier to pick the right one.
So, we have done the preparatory work for you!
This guide has been expressly created to help architects, contractors, engineers, safety professionals … in selecting a suitable tablet.
What is maybe even more important than the three tablets that have been selected by us, is handing you a number of important criteria that will help you make the right choice for you, in regard to your personal needs and preferences.
Here are the most important selection criteria!
Size of the screen
This is personal and depends on what exactly you wish to accomplish with your device on the construction jobsite.
If you prefer to keep it brief on the worksite (e.g. mostly taking pictures with here and there some core remarks) then a smartphone could very well suffice. Writing (long) texts or working with floor plans is of course much more inconvenient with a phone.
If you wish to use your device intensively on the worksite (e.g. writing out of texts, looking at documents, etc.), then a regular tablet (such as a Samsung Galaxy Tab or iPad Pro) with a 10 or 13-inch screen is probably more suitable.
There is also a choice for when you cannot make up your mind; the format of the tablets that are not too large (and still can be put in the back pocket or in a coat pocket) but that are more convenient than a smartphone for typing in text and the opening, reading and editing of documents. Such as the iPad mini with a 7.9-inch screen or Android models of the same size. This is a popular format among our users.
Devices without 4G are cheaper. However, most construction sites do not have (good) Wi-Fi. Many applications work without connection, but it can be useful to have 4G at certain times; you may have to download the most recent version of a blueprint, or you may have to send a field report or other document. If you are in dire need of connectivity you can also create a hotspot with your phone and thus make a temporary connection. Tablets without 4G are cheaper, but the question is if that outweighs the convenience of being online at any given moment without hassle…
This is also very personal. If you already own an iPhone, iPad or Mac, it makes sense to stay with iOS: you will understand immediately how the device works and the individual devices can easily be synchronized (such as with iCloud). If you already own an Android device you might as well stay with it. We used to have a slight preference for Apple devices because they were of a better quality. However, the latest Android devices perform very well too and are of a good quality. They are also cheaper than the Apple devices which makes the choice less obvious.
For both iOS and Android there are a lot of useful Apps available for construction professionals. For Windows, the selection of available Apps is still limited.
Having to continuously remove files because the memory is full is not a fun thing to do. Time is money. We advise a storage space of at least 32GB, to save pictures, videos, documents, etc. on your tablet. If you are looking to save a lot of pictures and videos then 32GB is probably not a luxury to have. With most Android devices, you can add an external memory card (SD card) to expand the memory. This is not possible for Apple devices, so keep this in mind when you purchase your device.
The RAM memory decides the speed of your device. 1GB of RAM should suffice for most applications, but for intensive use more RAM may be needed. In case of intensive usage (many projects with associated documents etc.) we advise ArchiSnapper users to go with 2GB of RAM or more.
If you are on the road the entire day, which is quite common when you are a project leader or site manager in construction, a safety coordinator or an architect, it is best that you make use of a tablet that will last through the day without having to be recharged. So, look for devices of which the battery lasts at least 9 hours.
A handy accessory is a charger in the car – this is dirt cheap and can prevent much misery! It will enable you to recharge your tablet while you drive from one appointment to the next, and in the meantime you can even listen to an interesting podcast.
Absolutely crucial for use in construction is a decent protection for your device by means of a protection cover or rugged case. It will protect your device against rain, dust, a bump or a drop on the floor. The Otterbox Defender products are solid and are used much in construction. Here you can find a complete overview of the best rugged cases to protect your tablet at the worksite.
A stylus is a handy tool to draw or sketch with on plans, pictures or on a white background.
Also a tablet keyboard that you can connect to your tablet comes in handy to continue working when you’re on the road or in the construction barrack and you do not need to switch continuously to the laptop in order to type more easily.
Last, but not least, the price will play a role too. Try to find the maximum quality and value that your budget will allow.
Keep in mind that you will use a tablet for an average of 2 to 3 years…
And, of course, don’t forget that a tablet that you buy for your work is deductible from your taxes as a professional expense!
Here are the tablets that we selected
How did we go about testing them?
We have tested on our ArchiSnapper App: taking pictures, loading large floorplans, sketching on floorplans and pictures, reviewing huge inspection checklists, synchronizing large volumes of reports and pictures to the cloud, working offline… And all of this with a bunch of different tablets. Using the above-mentioned criteria, we have selected three of them for you:
Best Budget Tablet – Samsung Galaxy Tab A (starting at $247)
This Samsung Galaxy tablet has a pretty handy dimension (10 inch = 25.4 cm), is often bought together with the S Pen and offers you the certainty of a reliable brand. The battery is better than with other similar devices and easily stays charged for 12 to 15 hours, which is a huge advantage for use at construction. If you are used to Android then this Samsung Galaxy Tab A is a winner!
Access to all Android Apps via Google Play.
Wi-Fi and Bluetooth.
High performing 1.6 GHz processor.
16 GB storage space. Micro-SD slot available to add up to 128 GB storage space. Bought separately e.g. here.
10.1 inch = 27 cm.
Up to 15 hours.
Keyboard: The Fintie Keyboard case is a good option for this device.
Stylus: the S Pen very often is bought together with this model, see here for the combo.
Protection: the Moko Rugged cover is available for this model. The Otterbox case is only available for the 9.7 inch model, e.g. this one.
$247 via Amazon for the Wi-Fi model (without 4G) when writing this. Check for the current price here.
Best Quality Tablet – iPad Pro (starting at $849)
The reputation of the Apple devices is based on the speed (powerful processors) and ease of use, and the iPad Pro certainly meets both criteria. If you already own Apple products (such as MacBook or iPhone) and you are searching for a larger tablet (10 inch or more) of high quality then the iPad Pro is a good choice. It is a very fast tablet that was designed to emulate a MacBook in tablet form. It is also the best iOS device so far. The App Store also contains more Apps for the construction sector than Google Play (for Android Apps), which is a slight advantage compared to Android devices. This device is very reliable, will work fast in normal circumstances and will seldom falter, plus it gives you access to the Apps that you need to do your job efficiently.
Access to the App Store with practically all Apps available for construction.
Several connection types are possible – Wi-Fi, GSM, CDMA, LTE (4G). The version with cellular (for 4G) is a little more expensive than usual and can only be bought in combination with 128 GB storage space.
All Apple devices contain Apple CPU hardware that is known to better perform than the devices of the competition. The iPad Pro is even faster than some MacBook devices.
For the version with 4G the only option is 128 GB, which of course is more than sufficient. We think that 32 GB suffices too, so it is an option if you do not need 4G.
Size of the screen
A large 12.9 inch screen.
This battery lasts a long time – about 10 hours for use with Wi-Fi, and about 9 hours for use with 4G, for browsing and watching videos.
Keyboard: the Logitech keyboard is a very solid option.
Stylus: Every stylus works with the iPad Pro. The Adonit Jot Pro is one of the best on the market.
Protection: The Griffin Black Survivor or the Otterbox Defender are two solid options.
The current price starts at $849 for the standard device (with 32 GB and without 4G). For the device with 128 GB and 4G the current price is $999.
Best Smaller Tablet – iPad Mini 4 (starting at $367)
Apple devices offer, as mentioned before, security. The latest iPad Mini 4 offers almost all the characteristics of the iPad (such as the fast processor) in a smaller size. If you think the iPad Pro is too expensive or if you prefer a smaller device for use at the construction site, then this is the ideal choice. This device combines the advantage of the tablet (larger screen for writing texts or looking at or editing documents) with the convenience of a smaller device (making it possible to put it in your back pocket or your coat pocket at the worksite or you can hold it in just one hand).
Access to the App Store with practically all Apps available for construction.
Wi-Fi and Cellular (4G) are possible.
Apple A8 (pretty fast, like all Apple devices that are up to date)
16GB/64GB/128GB are the 3 options.
Size of the screen
Approximately 10 hours for use with Wi-Fi, and approximately 9 hours for use with 4G, for browsing and watching video’s.
Keyboard: this Alpatronix keyboard is an option.
Stylus: every stylus works with the iPad Mini. The Adonit Jot Pro is one of the best known brands.
Protection: also for this device, the Griffin Case and Otterbox Defender are solid options.
Starting at $367,99 for the base model (16GB storage space and no 4G/cellular).
We hope to have been able to help you somewhat in selecting your next tablet. Considering that a tablet is a means to significantly increase your productivity as a construction professional by simplifying a lot of tasks related to the construction site, it doesn’t hurt to perform a brief analysis before buying your next tablet.
If you have any questions or suggestions, we would like to hear from you. You may always mail me at “jerry at archisnapper dot com” .