Getting the most value from your electronics purchases is all about timing in the end, especially when it comes to tablets. Every other month, a rash of new models hits the streets, making buying decisions tougher than ever.
Ultimately, you’ll need to decide between tried and true performance with dated hardware or the latest and greatest unproven specs and software. It’s a tricky tightrope to walk. If you can’t afford to take a risk on edgier designs or cutting-edge gear, the following models are guaranteed to please even the most discriminating of customers.
As tablet makers compete to have the newest, fastest, best tablet offering there are plenty of choices so you can find exactly the one that suits you best.
Take the excellent default software from the Galaxy Tab 2 10.1, upgrade the hardware and you’ve got the Galaxy Note 10.1, Samsung’s incredibly flexible multi-input powerhouse. It’s got a 1.4GHz dual-core CPU, 2GB of RAM, 16GB or 32GB of on-board storage and a slick 1280 x 800 pixel display. Of course, the main draw is the included Wacom S Pen stylus, which makes note-taking a breeze via the S Memo and S Planner apps from Samsung. Bonus programs include Peel Smart Remote, Adobe Photoshop Touch, Polaris Office and Samsung’s various Hubs as well as 50GB of free Dropbox space. Our complete review of the Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 here.
Tablet buyers who want the iPad experience without the added heft should seriously consider the iPad Mini. Its 7.9mm-thick aluminum body houses a dual-core 1.0GHz Apple A5 processor, up to 64GB of internal storage and 512MB worth of RAM. Additionally, you’ll also get a 1024 x 768 pixel, 7.9-inch IPS LCD display good for roughly 162ppi. There’s even a 5.0MP rear AF camera and the option of either stock Wi-Fi or 4G LTE cellular for connectivity. The major selling point here is iOS 6, which means that the iPad Mini boasts Siri, iCloud and Apple Maps. See our complete review of the Apple iPad Mini here.
If you’re looking for the best ICS-equipped Android available, the Asus Transformer Pad Infinity fits the bill. It’s got a 1.6GHz Nvidia Tegra 3, 1GB of RAM and up to 64GB of internal NAND. The included 10.1-inch IPS display is nothing shorting of amazing, boasting 1920 x 1200 pixel resolution and a tough as nails coating of Corning Gorilla Glass 2. It’s also blessed with 8.0MP rear and 2.0MP forward cameras, a microSD slot, Micro HDMI and compatibility with Asus’ spectacular optional keyboard dock that boosts battery life by up to 14 hours. See our complete review of the ASUS Transformer Pad Infinity here.
The exemplary Asus-manufactured Nexus 7 is a true Android tablet revelation. It features a 7-inch, 1280 x 800 IPS LCD with a respectable 216ppi resolution, 16GB or 32GB of storage, 1GB of RAM and a zippy Nvidia Tegra 3 CPU. At 10.45mm thick and less than 350 grams, it’s also compact to boot. It also boasts Android 4.2 Jelly Bean, a 1.2MP front-facing lens, Bluetooth, NFC and the option of HSPA+ 3G cellular connectivity. The 4,325 mAh battery is good for up to 10 hours of web-browsing time. Starting at $199, it’s a budget standout that just can’t be ignored. See our complete review of the Nexus 7 here.
Unlike competing iOS and Android tablets, the Surface RT from Microsoft is all about blending tablet functionality with desktop productivity. It includes a robust quad-core Nvidia Tegra 3, 2GB of RAM, up to 64GB of storage, a full-size USB 2.0 port and a microSDXC slot for starters. In addition, it has a 10.6-inch ClearType HD screen with 1366 x 768 pixel resolution. The 9.4mm-thick Surface RT weighs only 1.5 pounds and is ensconced in a VaporMg magnesium alloy casing. Finally, this Wi-Fi dynamo has two 720p HD LifeCams as well as Microsoft Office Home and Student 2013 RT Preview. See our complete review of the Microsoft Surface here.
While not a pure Android machine, the Kindle Fire HD 8.9″ is nevertheless one of the best non-iPad tablets around. Starting at $299, it’s also one of the most affordable. To begin with, the Fire HD 8.9″ has a remarkably clear 1920 x 1200 anti-glare display, a 1.5GHz CPU, Imagination PowerVR 3D graphics, 1GB of RAM and up to 32GB of persistent storage. There’s no microSD, though you’ll get free, unlimited cloud storage for all content purchased through Amazon. Buyers also get a nifty bonus in the form of a free month of Amazon Prime. See our complete review of the Kindle Fire HD 8.9″ here.
You don’t have to choose between Samsung or Asus to find a great Android tablet nowadays. The Lenovo IdeaPad A2109 presents an enticing alternative to the Galaxy Tabs and Transformers. It boasts a 9-inch, 1280 x 800 pixel LCD, a 1.2GHz Tegra 3, 1GB of RAM and a 16GB SSD. At 0.46 inches thick, it’s a bit heftier than your average slate. However, its $260 price point more than compensates for the extra girth. Aside from the Android 4.0 ICS OS and the 3.0MP rear camera that comes with it, the A2109 also boasts microUSB, a MicroSD slot and Micro HDMI. See our complete review of the Lenovo IdeaPad A2109 here.
Until the official debut of the Microsoft Surface Pro, the Iconia Tab W700 is indisputably the best touch-capable Windows 8 tablet you can get. Equipped with an 11.6-inch, 1920 x 1080 pixel LCD housed within a relatively slim 11.9mm-thick chassis, it’s a surprisingly lightweight machine considering its power. On the inside you’ll find a 1.8GHz Core i3-3217U processor, 4GB of RAM and a 64GB SSD. Basically, it’s a laptop without a keyboard. Amazingly, it’s still capable of 9 hours of continuous life on a single charge. It also has a full USB 3.0 port, a 5.0MP rear lens and Micro-HDMI. See our complete review of the Acer Iconia Tab W700 here.
If the iPad Mini isn’t your style, why not go for the full meal deal? The latest 4th generation iPad has the new dual-core A6X CPU, quad-core graphics, up to 64GB of internal Flash storage and 1GB of RAM. The dazzling Retina Display is a 9.7-inch, 2048 x 1536 pixel unit that outputs 264ppi. It’s as lean as always, measuring just 9.4mm thick and weighing only 652 grams. It also fields a 5.0MP rear autofocus camera with ƒ/2.4 aperture and a forward-facing 1.2MP lens. Lastly, it runs the same stellar iOS 6 as the iPad Mini. See our complete review of the Apple iPad 4 here.
The VivoTab will no doubt be a leader of the Windows RT pack in the coming months. With a 10.1-inch, 1366 x 768 pixel Super IPS+ display, a 1.3GHz Tegra 3 CPU, 2GB of RAM and 32GB of on-board Flash, it’s a force to be reckoned with. Just 0.33 inches in depth, it also happens to be pretty lean at the same time. Its front 2.0MP and rear 8.0MP cameras are nice additions, as are the included microSD and Micro HDMI slots. Like its Android-enabled Transformer Pad brethren, it can be augmented with an inexpensive optional keyboard dock for greater versatility on the go. See our complete review of the ASUS VivoTab RT here.
Picking the Perfect Tablet
Choosing the right tablet is much like buying a car. You typically wouldn’t purchase a full-size pickup truck if you’re an office worker who just needs a fuel-efficient compact for commuting. Likewise, a media-focused tablet probably won’t work out well for a power user who needs enterprise-grade productivity software. Not all tablets are created equal, so be sure to get the right tool for the job no matter what your needs may be. Fortunately for you, the tablet market is so mature and diverse at this point that it’s easy to find the perfect machine if you know what you’re looking for.