When it comes to choosing a tablet, depending on what you're looking to use it for, you can splurge on a top of the line model, choose a mid-range model, or even settle for a reasonably priced device. Whether it's for work or casual use, the specs and design of the tablet will factor heavily into the price, but rest assured there are plenty of configurations available to please everyone. There’s one brand that we couldn’t fit onto our review, but they’ve got plenty of high-quality, functional tablets. One of their awesome tablets is the Asus ZenPad 8 Android Tablet
which features a QuadCore 1.3GHz processor and a front and rear camera.
A tablet is a wireless, portable PC device with a touch screen interface. In terms of size, a tablet is usually smaller than a notebook style computer and of course, bigger than a smart phone
. One of the first things you will need to do before making this purchase is to determine whether a tablet is REALLY what you need. If the sole purpose of the device is reading, then you may decide that a less expensive, simple e-reader such as a Kindle or Amazon Fire
(which does have many tablet features), might be enough for you. Or, if your expectation is to have a device that will serve you as well as your laptop in terms of work productivity, you will definitely need to get a high end one that has the ability to attach a keyboard (yes, there are ones designed just for tablets).
If you are a fan of reading and you want to enjoy multiple features and connectivity options, these smartphones can also do the trick. Although they are a little bit more expensive than tablets, they come with more bells and whistles and at the moment of this writing, they are the most popular phones on the market. Don’t hesitate to check them out!
Now back to tablets, for the purpose of this review, we took a look at some really great tablets, from 5 of the leading brands – each with different features and different price points. Regardless of what tablet you get, these are some factors that you want to consider when making your decision.
When it comes to the price of tablets, it varies significantly based specs, features and performance. Knowing your requirements will keep you within budget as well as help you make a perfect choice. Generally small screen tablets starting at 7 inches are cheaper compared to 10 inch tablets. And iPads being the leader in this maze are often more expensive than their Android and Microsoft counterparts, but these are also premium devices that well justify their price tag.
The iPad does however lacks certain features such as native HDMI and storage expansion support, but the flagship model we’ve reviewed boasts a comprehensive software catalogue, blistering performance, a robust ecosystem that offers great support to a wide range of games, apps, music and video and refined interface. Contrarily, not all cheap tablets are worthless devices that deliver a daunting user experience, but many simply don’t offer all the bells and whistles such as a high amount of onboard storage or a full HD display. For example, the Fire tablet by Amazon can be had at an affordable price, but the tradeoff is an unappealing design and a limited number of features (and this is why is doesn’t make it to our top 5 list, but as a runner-up, depending upon your needs, it might be the right one for you).
All the tablets starting from our top of the line model to our budget pick can be ordered in several different variants, further giving you the flexibility to suit your needs and of course wallet. Prices for the best tablets range from $200 to up to $1500 for a top notch model. However, the 5 products we’ve reviewed come in at under $200 and up to $899 for an all purpose tablet.
Everyone wants a tablet with a bright screen and superb viewing angles. These qualities are a combination of the panel type and screen resolution, with the highest being 2,560 x 1,600-pixels. Panel type will dictate whether the images maintain their quality when viewed from different angles or how bright the screen can get. It also will determine how accurate and vibrant the colors are. The best panels are plane-line switching (PLS) and in-plane switching (IPS), and these are featured in the Nvidia K1 and Asus ZenPad S 8.0 tablets among others.
Content is a crucial part of the whole tablet experience, and includes moves, music, games and books. Content storing capacities start at 8 GB, but this, to be honest, is extremely low. If you’re going to settle for a device with low native memory, ensure it can be expanded with a MicroSD card. All the devices we’ve reviewed except the Apple iPad Pro offer some level of memory expansion through a dedicated Micro SD card slot.
Another thing worth pointing out is that the OS of a tablet does consume some of this native storage so 8 GB is not really 8 GB of storage for you to use. If you’re going to be using your tablet on the go, it’s best to invest in a device that offers both Wi-Fi and cellular connectivity to insert a SIM and use on a GSM mobile network. It’s similar to using your tablet like your phone, and tablets that offer the best of both worlds are a little expensive compared to Wi-Fi only tablets, but are so worth it!
Construction and Design
The first thing you’ll want to make sure of is that the tablet feels good in your hands given these are extremely tactile devices. Dimensions and weight play a crucial role towards this, but balance as well. Also, it is important to make sure the tablet has no sharp corners or jagged edges, which might dig into your palm when holding the device. Since portability is the key selling point of tablets, the size of the device is an important aspect to consider.
Tablets generally come in 3 screen size ranges – 6 inches to 8 inches, 9 inches to 10 inches and over 10 inches. The first screen category measure 6 to 8 inches across the screen, and while 6 inches is rather small, 8 inches like our budget choice is a good fit for several tasks. They are much more portable than their bigger counterparts, and fit easily into purses and small bags. Reading eBooks on 7” to 8” tablets is a sheer pleasure since they are a joy to hold even with one hand.
Next up, 9” to 10” tablets are the range most mainstream tablets fall into. These showcase larger screens and top notch resolutions, and our top pick the iPad Pro 9.7 inch makes this quite evident. Large screens are great for several tasks, most notably watching movies, and certain games can even benefit from the extra screen real estate. Adding to this, higher screen size and resolution requires faster processors, and this is one area where this range of tablets doesn’t disappoint. Tablets such as the Samsung S2 9.7 inch make games feel more interactive and TV shows and movies more immersive.
Lastly, the biggest and somewhat best tablets that measure over 10 inches are sort of a rare breed in this arena, and there is just a handful available such as from Microsoft, Apple and Samsung. As you might have guessed, they don’t come cheap, but on a brighter note they take home the gold in terms of design, operating system, performance and features. Tablets such as the Microsoft Surface Pro 4 we’ve reviewed can even be ordered with a backlit keyboard, which offers a laptop-like experience only in a much smaller package.
Apart from the size of the screen, it is important to check out the screen resolution of tablets, which dictates how clear it is. Even small tablets of sizes 8 inches, such as the Asus ZenPad S 8.0, are fitted with dazzling HD displays, which are a pleasure to view on bright sunny days as well. Next up is screen ratio, which refers to the shape of the screen, aka aspect ratio. To explain briefly, most TV’s and laptops sport a 16:9 or 16:10 aspect ratio aka widescreen, while old CRT monitors and TV’s were 4:3. Most Android tablets feature a 16:9 aspect ratio resulting in slim devices and less black bars along the sides when watching widescreen movies.
The 16:9 ratio makes it easier to read books when in portrait mode, but can lead to a tall and unwieldy experience on 10 inch tablets because it is not the ideal shape for newspapers, web pages and magazines. Recently, some iPads and Android tablets feature a 4:3 aspect ratio and the big black bars are offset by a squarer screen. One great example of a device with a 4:3 aspect ratio is the Samsung S2 – a device that makes reading as well as watching movies a joy thanks to its squarer screen and AMOLED display.
Performance and Ease of Use
When it comes to performance, the two crucial elements that come into play are the Processor and Operating system (OS). Starting with processors, Apple uses its class leading “A” range of processors with the latest A9X and M9 co-processor fitted with the iPad Air Pro. This processor is one of the fastest mobile chips available, and is the reason why the iPad still remains the Holy Grail of tablets. Nvidia – a respected name in the gaming industry uses its very own Tegra K1 192-core Kepler GPU processor to deliver an outstanding gaming experience.
Exynos processors by Samsung don’t disappoint either, but this range of tablets does take a hit when it comes to battery life. But needless to say, mostly all Samsung tablets offers bucket loads of features and top notch displays so a little less juice is not much of a compromise. Operating systems are the backbone of tablets and the most common ones are iOS, Android and Windows. IOS boasts a deep media ecosystem, a massive app catalog and a user friendly interface. The latest iteration of iOS also brings in several new features such as multitasking and superior battery life, and you can experience this first hand on the iPad Pro 9.7 inch device.
Although most developers tend to roll out new apps to iOS first, Android devices are generally next in line. When speaking on a media ecosystem, Android wins hands down in terms of quality of selections such as TV shows, movies, magazines and games. Also, Androids latest version – Marshmallow is now more customizable than ever, and can be found on Google’s flagship devices right out of the box, or easily upgradeable on the two we’ve reviewed – the Nvidia Shield K1 and Samsung S2.
When it comes to operating systems, no one does it better than Microsoft and its newest Windows 10 is a perfect example. It combines the best features of the old and new versions of Windows, and fits them into one nice user friendly, cohesive package. However, the Windows apps store severely falls short compared to iOS and Android, but the OS excels in terms of touchscreen functionality.
When shopping for the best tablet, there are several factors to consider including performance, specs, portability and price. The tablet market is not the same that it was when dominated 5 years ago by Apple, but today there are several brands available that offer great tablets to meet varying needs and budgets. Let’s take a look at our 5 recommendations and see how they stack up!
Wow! We can surely say that the latest model tablets from these top brands have a lot to offer. Now it’s just a matter of deciding which one has the features that you need, and meets your budget.