The Perfect Touch: The 10 Best Tablets
Moses was the first lauded tablet user, though Ramses and some other pharaohs also made tremendous inroads when it came to putting information in tablet form. Since those ancient times these things have come a long way, each successive one pushing the limits of power and the abilities of what a person can accomplish with these simple, hand-held computers. To help you buy the right one, we’ve selected the current 10 best tablets. While none of them come directly from God, they still offer impressive power and features.
Apple iPad Mini with Retina Display
Steve Jobs hated small tablets as much as he hated large phones, but sadly he was mistaken on both counts. The new iteration of the Mini isn’t just good enough to be the best of the tiny devices, but it can punch well above its weight class. It has a 2,048 x 1,526 resolution display that is more dazzling than many televisions and computer monitors and has a true 64-bit A7 processor coupled with an M7 co-processor for stunning speed.
The one big drawback to the Mini is that the newest version comes in at almost $400, which puts it way above the cost of mini competitors. For a tablet computer that was originally touted as a “budget” option to the notoriously pricey iPad standard, it is disappointing to have the cost suddenly climb. On the other hand, since the only real difference in specs between the mini and the iPad Air is size, the increased cost is understandable. [Purchase: $386+]
Asus / Google Nexus 7
You might not have heard of this “Goo-gle” company, but if their little Nexus 7 tablet is any indication, they are going to go on to do great things. It doesn’t have quite the same display capabilities as the Mini, though at a 1920 x 1200 resolution with 323 PPI, it is more still very easy on the eyes and affordable enough to go easy on the pocketbook. The Nexus 7 is also thinner and lighter than the Mini, so if you suffer from severe muscle wasting or bird bone syndrome, it won’t hurt you to lift it.
For processing speed on a tablet, the Nexus 7 is fairly unexciting. It uses a 1.5GHz Snapdragon S4 Pro processor, with 2 full gigs of RAM. All that is backed up by a 400-MHz Adreno 320 graphics processor that makes media and games come alive. Add in the 5 MP camera on the back and the 1.2 MP camera on the front, as well as two speakers and the Nexus proves itself to be well endowed enough for multimedia as well as reasonably fast and easy to use. It also sports great parental controls so that you can hand it off to your kids without fear, though expect it to come back sticky. [Purchase: $204+]
Kindle Fire HDX 8.9
When the first Fire came onto the market, many users screamed that it was terrible. Mostly that is because the original fire wasn’t meant as a true tablet, merely a digital e-reader. Even so, Amazon decided to slap their detractors and critics around a little bit by turning their Fire into a tablet, and a damn fine one at that. Inside it has a lightning fast quad-core Snapdragon 800 that runs at 2.2GHz with 2 whole gigabytes of RAM, making it faster than the Nexus and the Mini.
While the specs have been upgraded admirably – with a price bump to match – media is still the clear intent of the Fire. The screen has a 2,560 x 1,600 resolution with a 339 PPI that makes everything look magnificent. The downfall of the Fire HDX shall always be software. It just doesn’t have the catalog that comes with full Google Play access for Android or the millions of options available in the Apple store. The only way to get the best software you demand is to (shhhh!) jailbreak your Fire; an act we in no way recommend. [Purchase: $379+]
LG G Pad 8.3
Every day at the LG offices someone must be screaming to the tech gods for inspiration, since their products ordinarily can’t seem to break out of the “fine” or “tolerable” category. The G Pad is the solitary holdout on this front. It is actually a smaller tablet that offers good specs, a solid design, and an overall pleasant experience. The one problem is the name. Tell anyone you have a “G Pad” and they’re almost certainly going to giggle.
The processor on the G Pad is a Snapdragon 600 with 2GB of RAM, which is a little lighter than other small options, but the trade-off is longer battery life and fewer heat issues, so it is a nod to comfort. All of the interface slots for SD cards, headphones, and USB plugs are easy to access without interfering with basic use. The slim design makes it good for one-handed operation, which is rare on a tablet. The 1,920 x 1,200 display isn’t going to turn heads, but still gives a high-quality display on par with its contemporaries. For simple, affordable, uncluttered quality that is easy to use, you won’t regret buying the G Pad. [Purchase: $274+]
Barnes & Noble Nook HD+
Even as B&N stores are closing their doors around the country and dying a slow death a la Blockbuster, the Nook is increasing in size and in sales. This is the only tablet worth having for under $200, but as far as affordable, entry-level options go, the Nook proves to be a diamond in the bargain bin. With a 9 inch display, you won’t find a comparable large tablet for the price.
You wouldn’t use the Nook for anything intensive, since it only employs a dual-core processor with only 1.5GHz and 1GB of RAM, but for basic apps and tablet functions, it will serve you well. The display is very nice since it, like the Kindle, comes from e-reader roots. At 1,920 x 1,280 you’ll be able to enjoy movies with ease, see websites in full clarity, and games will be rendered beautifully. [Purchase: $180+]
Leonovo ThinkPad 2
Are you one of the people that recalls the original ThinkPad? Ok, picture it in your mind…now forget everything about it because the ThinkPad 2 has almost nothing in common with the original. Minus a few outlying exceptions, the ThinkPad 2 is the Windows tablet of note. The 1.8GHz Intel Atom Z2760 with 2GB of RAM is shockingly fast and allows you to flip through windows and screens as quickly as your little fingers can move. While this tablet is speedy, it is clearly meant for business, not fun and games. The display is modest at a resolution of only 1,366 x 768.
The ThinkPad has a 2 megapixel front camera and an 8 megapixel shooter, but the quality is less than stellar. This is meant to be a workhorse, not the tablet you want for updating your Instagram account. Unlike Apple products, everything about the ThinkPad feels like it is totally flexible and upgradeable, right down to the BlueTooth keyboard (not included) that looks exactly like the old ThinkPads. It even has a little red nub in the center. If you need professional grade wherever you go, think ThinkPad. [Purchase: $330+]
Microsoft Surface Pro 3
The original Surface Pro was released as an attempt by Microsoft to end the tyrannical reign of the iPad back when Apple’s tablets ruled the seven kingdoms. Now they have decided to stop attacking other tablets and set their sights on another competitor: laptops. The new Surface Pro with its 12-inch 2160 x 1440 display and 3:2 visual ratio, complete with options of an Intel Core i3, i5, or i7-4300U processor is certainly proving that it is still trying to bridge the gap between tablet and laptop. Where the Surface Pro 3 really shines when put up against other tablets is in the wide range of options.
Most tablet competitors will give you more storage for more money, but they don’t actually improve the specs. The Surface Pro gives you the option of choosing from a range of storage options between 64 and 512 GB (no namby-pamby 16 GB for this laptop wanna-be). You can also select between 4 to 8 GB of RAM. The machine itself is a little uncomfortable if you actually plan on using it on your lap, and the keyboard doesn’t feel as crisp as it could, but those complaints are very minor when you’re getting such a beefy hybrid. The trackpad and kickstand issues from previous models have all been addressed, so if you are in the market for a laptop tablet PC, it is worth a look. [Purchase: $799+]
Samsung Galaxy Note Pro 12.2
If you don’t want to go the fully hybrid route with your tablet, but still want something man-sized, then you’ll need to look to Samsung’s Note Pro line. While most of the tablet market is aiming to go smaller and more delicate so that they can be used by the Queen as she sips afternoon tea, Samsung is once again trying to prove that bigger is better. The latest Pro is more than a foot in size, making it slightly unwieldy, but it uses that extra real estate to maximum effect.
The huge Note Pro attempts to improve productivity by giving you the option of running four apps at once on the 2560 x 1600-pixel display. That is a benchmark for business users that prefer a tablet. Inside it uses an octa-core (yep, that means 8 cores) Exynos 5 SoC clocked at 1.9GHz to keep all the plates spinning. It has variable storage sizes, but part of the unique offering made by the Note Pro is its ability to sync up with your home PC. It bears some of Samsung’s standard bloatware, but many of the programs are ones you would have had anyway. The only true downside to the Pro is that it can be a little cumbersome, so if you don’t mind the heft, or the hefty price, it’s a very good purchase. [Purchase: $650+]
Apple iPad Air
Since Apple basically invented the tablet market with the original iPad, it is something of a surprise that they have managed to ride the crest of that wave for years. The newest Air model is a vision of lightweight performance and stunning visual displays that simply aren’t matched on any other large tablet. Inside, the Air uses the same A7 processor as the iPhone 5S, which was an initial concern, but they managed to leverage it to move at a full 1.39 gigahertz. When only using 1GB of RAM, that’s straight up incredible.
The first time you pick up the 1lb Air, you’ll be amazed at how light and sleek it is. The first time you try to twist it in half like a phone book, you’ll be astounded at how sturdy it feels. The screen has a 2,048 x 1,536 resolution and a 4:3 aspect ratio, so it is easier on the eyes than those tablets that are still using a 16:9 or 16:10 ratio. The PPI is fairly high for larger tablets at 264, so media consumption, gaming, and Facetiming all go off without a hitch. The price starts high and only climbs as you increase the storage space, but if it is a true tablet you want, not a mini or a hybrid, then it is hard to get higher than Air. [Purchase: $480+]
Sony Xperia Z2
If the tablet world were a circus, Sony’s contributions would have been the carnival sideshow where oddities abounded and freaks flew their flags. Well, they have finally shed the weirdos and upgraded their main event, the Xperia Z2. They have created an excellent Android tablet that doesn’t come loaded with much of the bloatware that you’ll find on some competitors (yes, Samsung, that means YOU!). It has a classy 1920 x 1200 pixel resolution, which makes videos and Facetime look good, though glare is a serious problem with the Xperia Z2.
Where the Z2 shines is under the hood. Beneath its minimalist exterior beats the heart of a Viking. It carries a Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 processor that clocks in at 2.3GHz. It also has 3GB of RAM, making it superior to industry leaders like the iPad Air in every performance test that can be thrown at it. The cameras are also some of the best ever seen on a tablet with a 2MP on the front and an 8.1MP shooter. If you like to take video with your tablet, this will ensure intensely clean picture quality. The Xperia is under a pound in weight, meaning it is actually lighter than Air, and is also waterproof. While the cost is higher than some, the Xperia is a marvel of modern engineering. [Purchase: $530+]
Honorable Mention: ASUS Transformer T100
Optumus Prime it ain’t, but the Transformer from ASUS is ideal for the professional or laptop lover that needs the portability of a tablet without sacrificing the utility of a laptop. It is also one of the cheapest offerings available that also performs like a champ whether competing in the tablet, laptop, or hybrid arenas. Its quad-core Z3740 processor, which pushes 1.33GHz won’t break any speed records, but when backed up with 2GB of RAM, it gets the job done fast enough that you won’t notice any lag.
The reason we couldn’t help but give a nod to the Transformer is that it carries a very low price and works exceptionally well for the money. It’s a scrappy underdog for anyone that is looking for a quality hybrid. There is nothing easier or simpler for a young professional that needs to work on the go or a student that needs flexibility in their tablet / laptop. [Purchase: $365+]