Nov 22 2012 - Tablets are the latest trend in mobile computing offering long battery life, excellent media support and extreme portability. While Apple may currently dominate the market, are they the best? What about all the various Android tablets on the market? Find out which tablets I feel are the best for a variety of different uses as well as budgets based upon my research and experience.
When it comes right down to it, Apple's latest revision of the iPad still retains the title as the best overall tablet. Sure, there may be ones with higher resolution now, thinner profiles or slightly better performance. The thing is that Apple does the best at balancing all of the various attributes to give the best tablet experience to date. Pricing starts at $499 for the 16GB Wi-Fi version. If you would rather not go with an Apple branded tablet, then the ASUS Transformer Pad Infinity offers a quad core processor, Android 4.0 operating system, 32GB of storage, 1920x1200 display and just as long battery life with the potential for more from its optional keyboard dock at the same $500 price tag.
There are a number of tablets priced at $200 but Amazon's edges out the group for the best overall value. The tablet offers a solid media experience which is one of the primary functions that many use their tablets for. The screen is one of the best in this price range and the tablet is easy to hold and carry. The Amazon skinned version of Android even features a FreeTime mode to make it kid friendly. Battery life is good but it lacks rear facing cameras found in some of its competitors. Probably the biggest drawback is that it is so tied into Amazon's digital services but many probably don't see this as a big issue. For those looking at a broader experience focused more on games or apps, then the Google Nexus 7 offers faster performance from its quad core Tegra 3 processor at the same price.
If you want a tablet that is going to run for all day and then some or want to watch movies on a very long flight, than the iPad Mini is surprisingly the tablet with the best battery life. With video playback of over twelve hours, it provides more than enough time for the typical user. Now part of the reason that it has a longer running time is that it uses a lower resolution screen compared to most of the market but it still works well for reading books, watching videos or apps. It just doesn't qualify as being 720p high definition capable. The best part, the $329 price tag for the 16GB Wi-Fi version is also very affordable. Now, if you want something a bit bigger that can run longer, than the ASUS Transformer Pad Infinity with its optional keyboard/battery dock can provide more than twelve hours but it does end up being more like a small laptop than a tablet.
If you are looking for the smallest overall tablet on the market, the Google Nexus 7 has the most compact dimension. The 7-inch display helps keep it on the small side but ASUS (the actual manufacturer) was able to keep the bezel a bit slimmer than the competition. It is a bit thicker than some others but it has one of the lightest profiles as well at three quarter of a pound. The tablet is also quite capable thanks to the quad core Tegra 3 processor and the latest Android operating system. Prices start around $200 for the 16GB Wi-Fi version. A capable alternative to the Nexus is the Amazon Kindle Fire HD 7-inch that is a bit larger and heavier but offers a bit more compelling media experience and has a sturdier build quality at roughly the same price.
At just .28 inches thick, the iPad Mini just seems almost too thin for a tablet just as the company's iPhone 5 seems too light for a smartphone. The iPad Mini is also very light as less than seven tenths of a pound in weight. Even with this thin profile and light weight, the tablet feels very sturdy. It is very easy to hold in a single hand for just about any task. This makes it a superb choice for anyone looks for a smaller tablet. The pricing is a bit higher than other tablets in its size range at $329. If you want a larger 10-inch class tablet but still want it to be thin, then the ASUS Transformer Pad Infinity at just a third of an inch thick and one and a third pound in weight is one of the best overall choices for being compact while not sacrificing the screen space.