Tablets have become cheap and plentiful, but with so much choice it can be tough finding the right one. Here’s our guide to choosing the best.
Tablets are fast becoming a staple Christmas gift for tech lovers and tech novices alike. The first Apple iPad lit the fuse on what has exploded into a diverse array of devices with screens ranging from 7 to 383-inches (no, seriously), a plethora of unique feature sets and a broad range of price tags. So which ones will make the best Christmas gifts this winter? Allow us to answer that for you with our top 12 favourite slates of 2013.
This year’s wildcard certainly took us by surprise, but didn’t disappoint. Supermarket chain Tesco introduced the Hudl to put its ever-expanding list of services into the hands of more consumers than ever before. Not only does the Hudl feature a near-stock Android Jelly Bean experience, it boasts a quad-core processor, front and rear cameras, a 7-inch WXGA+ IPS HD display, access to Blinkbox Movies and Blinkbox Music and you can even buy you out-the-box. What’s more it’s just £119, making it the most affordable tablet in our line-up.
Apple iPad Air
From the most affordable to one of the pricier options, don’t expect to spend anything less than £399 on an Apple iPad Air, or £479 for one with a respectable amount of internal storage (32GB), although trust us, it’s worth it. The combination of being the thinnest, lightest, most elegant and most powerful iPad to date, twinned with the distinctive look of iOS 7 and a ton of incredible high-quality apps makes the iPad Air one of the best tablets available today. Whoever you plan on giving one of these to, will be a very, very lucky boy or girl indeed.
Apple iPad Mini 2
If the Air is too much iPad to handle or the base price is still a little too steep, then the iPad Mini shouldn’t really be seen as a step down so much as a step sideways. The smaller 7.9-inch screen now joins its bigger brother in toting that Retina resolution (something the original iPad Mini lacked), as well as the same powerful A7 processor and iOS 7 to boot. Best of all, prices start from £319 for the 16GB WiFi-only model, direct from Apple.
Microsoft Surface Pro 2
Apple revolutionised the way the mobile computing experience was done and iOS brings a lot to the table, but if you’re looking for a powerful tablet capable of running full-fat applications like Adobe Photoshop as well as coming preinstalled with the full Office suite then Microsoft’s newest flagship tablet, the Surface Pro 2 is a great option. It features an impressive metal design, a Full HD touchscreen display which supports stylus input and runs full Windows 8.1. It’s important to remember that despite the tablet looks, this is a powerful laptop alternative which should be able to handle pretty much anything you can throw at it and it’s priced as such too; starting at £719.
Nokia Lumia 2520
Microsoft has a more comparable user experience to Apple’s iOS in the form of Windows RT, and the golden
boy slate of the RT world right now is Nokia’s new Lumia 2520. The first tablet in Nokia’s history, the 2520 borrows heavily from the company’s fantastic Windows Phone family, toting a 6.7-megapixel rear camera with Carl Zeiss optics, free music streaming with Nokia Music, free HERE mapping and navigation, plus throwing Nokia’s Power Keyboard into the mix provides the 2520 an extra 5 hours battery, a full hardware mouse and keyboard and a two additional full-sized USB ports. For the meantime it’s only available from John Lewis for £399.95, but is set to become more widely available in the New Year. Also buy it in gloss red to really turn some heads.
Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 (2014 Edition)
Samsung’s dominance in the Android market is well documented, but it’s not surprising when you look at some of the capable, powerful devices they’re pumping out. Take a look at the (memorably named) Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 (2014 Edition). This 10.1-inch slate boasts the latest Samsung interface running atop Android 4.3 Jelly Bean and a stunning WQXGA Super Clear LCD panel with Wacom digitiser to support the company’s unique S Pen system. Jumping between touch and stylus input means you can use handy features like Air Command and the octa-core processor is perfectly suited to intensive apps and 3D games. For the best Samsung has to offer, it’ll cost you upwards of £400 for the 16GB version.
Google Nexus 7 (2013) by Asus
Just as the first-generation Nexus 7 was an incredible package at an incredible price, the 2013 refresh ups the ante even further. The 7-inch display now boasts a Full HD resolution; the Fraunhofer stereo speakers improve the audio experience and the new quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon processor ensures great performance in gaming and throughout general usability. This small tab also totes NFC, wireless charging and the latest version of Android on the market, all for just £199 (16GB, WiFi-only model).
LG G Pad 8.3
The Korean manufacturer isn’t really known for its tablets, but the recently released LG G Pad 8.3 is a worthy alternative to Apple’s iPad Mini. The 8.3-inch Full HD display is incredibly vibrant and bright, even outdoors, the body of the G Pad is a mix of polycarbonate and metal, so it looks and feels pretty solid and the inclusion of a microSD card is welcome, especially considering it’s a feature that seems to be dying out for the most part. The best part is that premium, quad-core tablet is on the market for around £250.
Amazon Kindle Fire HDX 8.9
Amazon’s Kindle Fire whipped up a storm in the US last year, but its late arrival to the UK meant that its impact was far less noticeable to the shoppers of Blighty, however, the 2013 follow up; the Kindle Fire HDX improves on every facet of the original tablet and receives a simultaneous launch on both sides of the Atlantic. The screen is a heavy hitter with an 8.9-inch 2560×1600 resolution panel, it boasts 4G LTE with no monthly contract and access to Amazon’s vast library of books, magazines, TV shows and movies. The base model goes for £329, but the 64GB, 4G connected, ad-free version will set you back £489.00, worth considering though.
Sony Xperia Tablet Z
Sony’s biggest tablet touched down in the first half of 2013 and as such runs a slightly older Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 processor. It might not be quite as snappy as some of the newer offerings, but it’s no slouch and what’s more it boasts a killer WUXGA display, NFC and IP5X/55/57 certification, which promises dust and water resistance beyond that of pretty much any other slate on the scene. Sony has also squeezed some strong mobile camera tech in the form of an 8-megapixel rear-facing snapper with an Exmor R CMOS sensor for improved low-light performances. New, the 16GB WiFi-only model costs £379, but add £100 more and you get 4G connectivity too, for superfast mobile browsing.
Sony Xperia Z Ultra
From one of Sony’s largest, to its smallest tablet; blurring the lines between phone and tab is the Sony Xperia Z Ultra, which won the Recombu award for Best Tablet of 2013, just last month. Why is it so worthy of this title? Well, it takes the Tablet Z’s water resistance up a gear by promising to survive full submersion in water without issue in depths of up to 1.5 meters. It also features the best display Sony has ever put onto a mobile device; a 6.44-inch Triluminos OptiContrast Full HD screen with a pixel density of 342ppi (which is awe-inspiringly sharp). The touchscreen also allows registers anything as a stylus so you aren’t limited to just fingers and the Sony user experience running on top of Android 4.2 Jelly Bean is one of the most elegant around. Just remember, this is a big, £450, 4G phone, so taking calls using a Bluetooth headset is recommended (we would suggest the Sony SBH52 as a fitting companion.)
Full Windows has only recently made the jump to smaller tablets and the new Toshiba Encore is a shining example of how good the small-screen, Windows 8.1 experience can be. The Encore promises a sleep-to-wake time of just 0.3 second thanks to its quad-core Bay Trail Intel Atom processor. It also has front and rear HD cameras and dual mics for stereo recording, engineered in partnership with Skype. Speaking of Skype, new Encore owners will get 30 days of unlimited Skype credit to call family and friends the world over. Back on the hardware front there’s also a miniHDMI-out , 2GB of LPDDR3 RAM, 10 hours of battery life (based on general use) and 64GB of internal storage for a more than reasonable £300.
Image credit: Joe Buckingham/Flickr