V3.co.uk - 8th November 2013
The calendar may show November, but this means that Christmas is officially (almost) here. Well, tech vendors certainly think so, with giants including Apple, Google and Microsoft showing off new tablets that they hope will fly off the shelves and under the Christmas tree.
With so many devices out there, each with an array of different specifications and capabilities it can be confusing knowing which is best to purchase – especially if you’re having to buy for someone else rather than just yourself.
With this in mind, V3 has put together a handy guide to the top tablets competing for your attention, in order to give you plenty of time to get clued up before the Christmas madness really starts – after all, there are 46 days or fewer until the big day.
10. Amazon Kindle Fire HDX
Amazon now boasts quite the range of Kindle Fire tablets, with two 7in devices on offer alongside two 8.9in ones. The latest in this range are the HDX tablets, which feature bolstered specifications along with higher-resolution displays.
Size-wise, the differences between 7in and 8.9in form factors is relatively minor, so it really just depends on whether you have £199 or £329 to spend. Both offer high definition displays powered by quad-core 2.2GHz processors and come in 16GB, 32GB or 64GB variants.
The only problem you may face is that Amazon blocks access to Google’s Play store, limiting your choice of Android-based apps and games to those on offer in Amazon’s own store. Conversely, Amazon’s book, TV and movie range is great, so if you’re more of a consumer than a workaholic, these tablets should be fine.
9. Asus Transformer Book T100
Another addition to Asus’s Transformer range, the T100 is a hybird device, meaning that the screen separates from its keyboard base and becomes a tablet that's ready for media consumption from the sofa.
The device has relatively low-key specifications, but they shouldn’t be sniffed at considering the £349 price tag. A latest-generation Intel quad-core Bay Trail Atom processor coupled with a 1366x768 pixel screen should be ample enough for a mix of work and play.
Rounded off with a high-speed USB 3.0 port and 32GB of SSD storage, plus a larger 64GB option, the T100 is a great all rounder for those on a budget.
8. Google Nexus 10
Despite being close to a year old, the Samsung-built Google Nexus 10 is still a very nice tablet. Boasting a wonderfully crisp 10in 2560x1600 resolution touchscreen and powerful 1.7GHz Cortex A15 processor, the Nexus 10 still offers performance traditionally beyond its affordable £319 price tag.
Even better, thanks to its Nexus branding the tablet is guaranteed to receive upgrades to all the latest versions of Android. While new tablets will inevitably be released, this means as well as being affordable and powerful, the Nexus 10 is about as future proof as a tablet can be.
So until Google decides to release an upgraded version of the Nexus 10, the original remains one of the best options for tablet buyers who don't want an iPad.
7. Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 (2014 Edition)
Samsung’s latest Galaxy Note 10.1 offers huge improvements on last year’s note-taking tablet device, arriving with Samsung’s eight-core Octa CPU, measuring in at just 7.9mm and boasting a 2560x1600 screen – a higher resolution than the Retina display found on Apple’s iPad Air.
Samsung is eyeing up business users with its latest Galaxy Note 10.1 tablet too. The device ships with a stylus for note-taking (and doodling) on the 10in screen, while Samsung’s built-in Multi Window mode allows you to use two apps at once.
Priced at £449, the Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 (2014) also features Google’s Android 4.3 Jelly Bean software, 3GB RAM, 16GB internal storage (expandable up to 64GB), and 8MP and 2MP dual cameras.
6. Sony Xperia Tablet Z
Sony’s Xperia Tablet Z aims to bring something different to the tablet market. Like the Sony Xperia Z smartphone, the device is waterproof, allowing users to submerge it in water for up to 30 minutes. It’s also resistant against both dust and scratches, ideal if you’re buying a gift for someone clumsy this Christmas.
That’s not all. At 6.9mm thick it is thinner than the 7.5mm iPad Air, and it has a 10.1in 1920x1200 Sony Bravia Engine 2 display, which the firm claims is on par with those found on its TVs.
Buyers of the Sony Tablet Xperia Z, which is available from £399 in the UK, will also find a 1.5GHz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 processor, 2GB RAM, Google’s Android 4.1.2 Jelly Bean operating system, up to 64GB storage and an 8MP HD rear-facing camera, complete with Sony’s Exmor R technology for photo-taking in low light.
5. Microsoft Surface 2 and Surface Pro 2
Microsoft is hoping to see greater success with its second generation of tablet devices than last year's models, introducing upgraded hardware plus the latest Windows 8.1 operating system (on the Surface Pro 2) and its Windows RT derivative (the Surface 2).
The Surface 2 is the rival for Apple's iPad and Android tablets, as it also features an ARM processor. This means that it can't run traditional Windows applications, but to offset this it comes with built-in versions of Microsoft's Office 2013 applications and boasts a long battery life, making it attractive to students and mobile users who work mainly with documents. Surface 2 pricing starts from £359.
The Surface Pro 2 is essentially a PC in tablet format, with a full Intel Core i5 processor and capable of running existing Windows software alongside the Windows Store apps that run in the Metro environment. As such, it may appeal more to existing PC users than a tablet such as Apple's iPad, which is more of a media consumption device. The Surface Pro 2 costs from £719.
4.Apple iPad Mini 2
The first iPad Mini was a huge hit. It proved a far more convenient form factor in terms of size and weight than the original iPads, which immediately looked large and unwieldy in its presence.
Apple has now updated the line with improved specs, including the same A7 processor seen on Apple's flagship smartphone the iPhone 5S and Retina display technology in order to appeal to both new buyers and those seeking an upgrade.
Cost could prove a sticking point for some, with prices starting from £319 and going all the way up to £659, but no doubt many will see this as a small price to pay for Apple's latest mini marvel.
3. Nokia Lumia 2520
For years, Nokia chief executive officer Stephen Elop adamantly maintained that the Finnish firm would not release a tablet. But just months after the announcement that Microsoft will purchase Nokia's phone division, Elop took the stage at the company's World event in Dubai and unveiled the Lumia 2520 Windows RT tablet.
Putting aside the fact the 2520 has a colourful design that makes the Microsoft Surface look dated, the Lumia RT tablet also has some impressive specs. Chief among these are its 6.7MP rear camera with Zeiss optics, 10.1in Full HD Clearblack display and quad-core 2.2GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 processor.
This, combined with its mid-range £309 price and the inherent productivity benefits of Windows RT, such as Microsoft Office, Lync and Exchange server support, makes the Nokia Lumia 2520 a serious competitor for business users.
2. New Google Nexus 7
The original Nexus 7 launched in 2012 and is often seen as a game changer in the tablet industry. Being the first ever own-brand Google tablet, the 2012 Nexus 7 offered users top-end tablet performance at an affordable sub-£300 price.
Rather than reinvent the wheel, Google chose to pull the exact same trick ayear on, releasing another affordable £199, small form factor tablet featuring top-end internal components. Chief among these is the 7in 1920x1200 1080p HD 323ppi display of the 2013 Nexus 7 .
The Nexus 7's display made it the first ever tablet to break the 300ppi threshold and it is one of the best we've ever had the pleasure to use – it can even outperform some of the Retina displays seen on Apple tablets.
1. Apple iPad Air
Light, fast and thin – the iPad Air is Apple’s new flagship tablet and is likely to prove hugely popular with all buyers thanks to the usual hype that surrounds the firm’s goods.
But this hype is not without merit, as the specifications are impressive: the faster A7 processor should make for excellent performance, while the smaller form factor around the 9.7in screen will make the device even more portable.
Of course, the price is a bit of an issue, with the cheapest version of the device setting you back £399 and the top-end 4G and WiFi model with 128GB of storage costing a whopping £739. Then again, Apple has shown again and again that people will pay top dollar for its devices, so there's little doubt that it will fly off the shelves.