Once upon a time, the iPad was the only real tablet option. Now, there’s a model for practically every need and budget. To help you find the perfect match, we test drove some of newest on the market -- here’s how they fared.
Apple iPad Air
Features: 9.7-inch display with HD Retina display; weighs 1 lb.; 7.5mm thin; stereo speakers; 64-bit processor; 10 hour battery life; 5 megapixel back-facing camera and 1.2 megapixel front-facing Facetime HD camera
What we love: Significantly lighter, thinner and faster than the last iteration of iPad, the iPad Air comes with a suite of helpful free apps like iMovie and the user-friendly iPhoto. Best of all, it’s one classy tablet. Made of anodized aluminum, not plastic, this is high-end design from start to finish.
What’s missing: If you're an iPhone 5S user, you’ll definitely miss the Touch ID fingerprint scanner, which not only makes unlocking it simple, but also allows you to purchase from iTunes without punching in your ID over and over.
Price: Starts at $499 for 16GB, but if you’re storing music, apps or videos, we suggest spending the $599 on the 32GB.
Amazon Kindle Fire HDX7
Features: 7-inch HD display; weighs 0.66 lb. and is 8.9mm thin; stereo speakers with Dolby audio; quad-core Snapdragon 800 processor; 11 hour battery life; 720p front-facing camera
What we love: The latest Kindle Fire has super speedy web browsing and the display allows for extra sharp images and video. We love the “Mayday” built-in tech support, which lets you video chat live with an Amazon employee. And though it may be an extra $79 a year, an Amazon Prime membership is well worth the money, since you’ll get an overload of free content to watch any time. Great value for the hardware.
What’s missing: If you’re not an Amazon Prime member, you’ll be sorely missing out on content. Plus, no access to the Google Play store means fewer available apps.
Price: 16GB for $229 but we suggest bumping up to 32GB for $269.
Microsoft Surface 2
Features: 10.8-inch HD display; 8.9mm thin; weighs 1.5 lb.; stereo speakers; quad-core NVIDIA Tegra 4 processor; 10 hour battery life; 5 megapixel back-facing camera and 3.5 megapixel front-facing camera
What we love: Office 2013 comes free with the tablet and includes Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote. Also included is a microSD port to add up to 64GB of extra storage space and a USB port to connect all types of accessories. A very helpful, well-placed kickstand on the back cover makes it feel more like a laptop and, sold separately, covers come with built-in, backlit keyboards for typing.
What’s missing: The Windows app store is woefully understocked compared to iTunes and Google Play. Though you do get Office 2013 bundled with the tablet, it won’t work with any older software versions or desktop apps.
Features: 10.1-inch HD display; 8.9mm thin; weighs 1.35 lb.; stereo speakers; quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 processor; 6.7 megapixel Carl Zeiss back-facing camera and 2 megapixel front-facing camera
What we love: With a choice of red, blue, white or black polycarbonate hardware, this solid tablet is a stylish choice. It offers high-speed LTE out of the box, charges up to 80 percent in one hour and comes loaded with Microsoft Office. An extra-bright screen makes for super sharp, edge-to-edge viewing, and the suite of free Nokia apps like Story Teller and Video Director add extra value.
What’s missing: Though we loved the general look, rounded edges would make this tablet more comfortable to hold. Smaller complaints: It’s missing a kickstand, like the Surface 2 has.
Samsung Galaxy Tab 3 7.0 Kids
Features: 7-inch display; 9.9 mm thin; weighs 0.66 lb.; stereo speakers; dual-core 1.2 GHz Marvell processor; 6 hour battery life; 3 megapixel rear-facing camera and 1.3 megapixel front-facing camera
What we love: This smaller, lighter tablet comes bracketed with a rugged cover for little hands. Though it only has 8 GB of storage, a microSD slot will easily upgrade you to 64 GB for saving all kinds of child-friendly media. A totally separate Kids Mode has firm parental controls and a simple yet appealing interface with card-style apps that are colorful and, for the most part, educational. A Time Manager also sets limits on usage and an Adult Mode can be switched on for parents.
What’s missing: It only comes with Wi-Fi and has a lower resolution screen. The higher price point may make you think twice before buying for the kids.
White Google Nexus 7
Features: 7-inch HD display; 8.6mm thin; weighs 0.64 lb.; virtual surround sound stereo speakers; quad-core Qualcomm S4 Pro processor; 9 hour battery life; 5 megapixel rear-facing camera and 1 megapixel front-facing camera
What we love: This tablet is super speedy and comfortable to hold, plus the pretty white casing adds a touch of class. An extra-sharp, bright screen with wide viewing angle allows for easy reading of eBooks and web pages.
What’s missing: Only the back of the tablet is white, plus some apps in the Google Play store may not be upgraded to Android 4.3
Features: 8-inch display; 0.3 inches thin; weighs 0.88 lb.; Dolby Digital Plus stereo speakers; quad-core MTK ARM Cortex-A7; 11 hour battery life; 5 megapixel rear-facing camera and 1.6 megapixel front-facing camera
What we love: The built-in kickstand allows for multiple viewing angles, its epic battery life can be enhanced with a simple to use Power Management tool, and the lower price point makes for a respectable family tablet.
What’s missing: A low resolution screen doesn’t make the grade and the operating system is clunky and difficult to browse.
Asus Transformer Book T100
What we love: This convertible tablet cum laptop comes with a detachable keyboard, Microsoft Office and an amazingly long battery life. It’s great for business travelers.
What’s missing: The keyboard, which doubles the weight of the tablet when attached, is helpful yet cramped. Also, it’s not as speedy as most larger tablets.