Tablet storage space – how much do you really get?

Tablet storage space - how much do you really get

Buy a tablet boasting 64GB of storage, and you might expect to get just that. But our tests have found you could only be getting just one third of this storage for your money.

Every tablet runs off an operating system (OS) that requires an amount of storage space itself. Add on the built-in apps that come ready-installed on the tablet (many of which can’t be removed), and you could lose even more storage space.

Read our expert Which? tablet buyers guide.

True tablet storage space

While this is true of any tablet, our tests found that there are vast differences in the amount of space you’re left with due to the demands of different tablet operating systems.

For instance, a 16GB fourth generation Apple iPad leaves you with 13GB of usable storage space once the OS and built-in apps are taken into account. A 16GB Amazon Kindle Fire HD leaves you with 11GB to use for storing your own files and apps.

This means that to get a decent amount of storage space on your Kindle Fire HD, you’ll have to pay more for a 32GB model.

In the infographic below, we show how much storage space is actually left on a tablet once the operating system and built-in apps have been taken into account:


Tablet storage space - how much do you really get

Memory-hungry Microsoft Surface tablets

The most space-hungry operating system by far is Microsoft’s Windows 8. The lighter, tablet-only version, Windows RT, takes up just under 10GB of storage space for the OS together and its built-in apps, and you lose further storage space needed by Windows RT’s recovery tools (around 5GB is reserved for this).

However, this loss is dwarfed by the shocking amount of space taken up by the full version of Windows 8 that runs on the Surface Pro tablet.

Buy the 64GB version of the Surface Pro, and you’ll only get 21GB of remaining storage space once the OS, built-in apps and space for recovery tools are taken into account. That’s just a third of the total storage space left for storing your own content.

Some compensation comes from being able to add a microSD memory card to the Surface tablets to boost their storage space. You can attach an external hard drive to the USB ports, or use Microsoft’s SkyDrive online cloud storage to store files.

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Categories: Tablets

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8 replies

  1. your data is super wrong. maybe ask someone who owns an iPad how much space they have before you look like an idiot posing as a tech writer

    1. Hi Chris

      Thanks for the post – and you are right. We originally published a table and story that contained an error in our data regarding the amount of free space on the iPad. That was entirely our error in publishing this, and we have since published the correct graphic and data. Thank you for alerting us to that, and please accept our apologies.

      Matt Bath
      Head of Technology Content

  2. I have the iPad4. With iOS 6.1.3 and about 40 or 50 Apps installed i still have 25Gb space left. Plenty, and your data seems about right to me.

  3. My wife has a 32GB iPad 2 and, with iOS 6.1.3 and about 40 apps installed, the free memory reported is about 25GB so I agree with Michael McIlwraith that your findings are not far off the mark.

  4. “True tablet storage”? I don’t think so. If the 16GB iPad that Which? used in its test had only 9GB available on it, there must have been a lot of extra apps installed, or something seriously wrong with it. Straight from the factory, with operating system and pre-installed apps on board, mine had 13.4GB available, which puts it ahead of the other three contenders, assuming that those figures are correct!

  5. According to Microsoft their 64GB Surface Pro reports 29GB free and the software provided by Microsoft includes recovery software and Microsoft Office. They also state “The advertised local disk size is shown using the decimal system, while Windows displays the disk size using the binary system. As a result, 1 GB (in decimal) appears as about 0.93 GB (in binary). The storage capacity is the same, it’s just shown differently depending on the how you measure a GB (decimal or binary)”, and the 29GB is the available storage reported in binary, so it would be higher in decimal.

  6. Of course the manufacturers give the overall memory size before the operating systems and needed data is put on to the device. It’s the same with everything with a hard drive in. Even some external hard drives and memory cards are already part used with user manuals, the wii u 8gb only leaves you with 3gb usable. Same with the playstations, xboxs, sky boxes, DVD hdds. Although thinking about it now, gives retailers reason to sell the main extras like memory cards…

  7. Whilst phones and tablets aren’t the same my daughters 8GB Sony M4 Aqua is struggling for space with very few apps installed and is constantly asking her to offload apps and content to the SD card. With that in mind I’d steer clear of any 8GB android tablet or phone nowadays and consider 16GB the minimum. Some apps work well from an SD card, others are more reluctant to move their code across…

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