14 June 2013

15 best Android tablets in the world

If you're looking for a tablet and don't fancy an iPad, then Android is currently the way to go.

There are other options out there; Windows 8 tablets such as the Surface, Ativ Tab and VivoTab Smart are starting to creep out, plus the BlackBerry PlayBook is still somehow on sale - but Android Jelly Bean is currently the main OS rival to the iPad 4 and iPad mini.

We saw the launch of Nvidia's next-generation Tegra 3 chip, which took 2012's quad-core Android tablets to new heights and with the likes of the Google Nexus 7 and Transformer Pad Infinity beckoning in the new era, the iPad is starting to feel the heat.

Some tablets have 10-inch screens, others seven, and there are big differences in battery life, processing power and onboard RAM. So while we wait for the likes of the Samsung Galaxy Tab 3 7.0 and Sony Xperia Tablet Z, let's see what the current best tablets are...

1. Google Nexus 7

Manufactured by Asus to Google's specifications, the Nexus 7 ushers in a new era of affordable, quality Android tablets.

Packing a Tegra 3 quad-core processor, 12 core GPU, 8GB and 16GB internal storage and 7-inch 1280 x 800 screen, the Nexus 7 certainly has the skills to pay the bills, but at a highly attractive price point.

Laughing in the face of its closest rival, the Amazon Kindle Fire, it looks like Google has got the budget end of the tablet market all wrapped up. Until the Kindle Fire 2 and iPad Mini come to the fore, at least.

It's now been shoved up in capacity without a jump in price; this means you can get 16GB of storage for £159 and £199 for the full 32GB version - plus we're getting a 3G version too.

Quick verdict

A quad-core processor, beefy GPU and the first device to run Android 4.1 Jelly Bean, and now it's already been upgraded to Android 4.2 with raft of new fancy features.

The Nexus 7 certainly packs a punch and while it may not tread a lot of new ground, the Nexus 7 is a solid performer and easily the best tablet a couple of hundred pounds can buy.

2. Google Nexus 10

The 10.1 display is one of the biggest talking points on the Google Nexus 10. At 300 pixels per inch it's the highest resolution tablet display on the planet - take that, Apple and your Retina displays.

It's a great performer too. Other than taking a while to process panoramic photos we never felt like it was struggling to keep up. It's fast and smooth whatever you throw at it.

Sure it may not be as stunning to look at, or as well built as an iPad, and the lack of expandable memory will irk some, but overall the Nexus 10 gives you a quality, big-screen Android experience which is not to be sniffed at.

On top of that, the tablet has already been updated to Android 4.2.1, which brings back the month of December in some calendar apps (well done, Google) and adds support for some security issues too, showing this is the tablet to buy if you want a larger screen that Google won't give up on.

Quick verdict

The Google Nexus 10 is easily one of the best Android tablets on the market and while it's not quite as fantastic value for money as the Nexus 7, it certainly gives Apple's high-priced iPad 4 a run for its money. For the price you're paying, you won't be disappointed.

3. Samsung Galaxy Note 8.0

The Samsung Galaxy Note 8.0 arrived on the scene with the iPad mini firmly set in its sights and while it gave a strong showing the Android tablet, complete with S Pen, didn't manage to hit the same heights as its Apple-made rival.

That's not to say the Galaxy Note 8.0 isn't a good tablet as it's a light, highly portable device and there's no denying that its display is far better than that of the iPad Mini.

It's solidly built, with expandable memory - the S-Pen has clearly been enhanced to make this a major selling point, plus we love the IR blaster and its media capabilities.

Quick verdict

The Galaxy Note 8.0 is a good device. There are better out there for the money, and with an arguably better design as well.

However, for those that like the S Pen as a tool, it's a great offering, albeit not really worth the extra cash for most.

4. Asus Transformer Pad Infinity

If it wasn't for the higher price, the Infinity would be a real contender for the top spot. It's got everything you could want in a tablet - and a keyboard dock as standard too.

With the latest version of Android on the way, a simple interface and more ports than you can poke with a stick, the Infinity is the tablet that can handle anything you can throw at it.

Add in the Super IPS panel with a tremendous resolution, and you can see why this is a tablet to rate very highly - especially if you're fond of typing on the go but crave the simplicity of a slate too. New firmware updates in some territories have brought features like Wi-Fi Direct to the Infinity, and Android 4.2 will be landing soon too.

Quick verdict

Everything we'd look for in a high-end tablet is present and accounted for with the Transformer Pad Infinity.

While power is always welcomed, it was the improved screen that really caught our attention. Given that we use our tablet mostly for browsing the web and watching video, we couldn't help but marvel at the resolution, either. if you're looking for a top Android tablet (and have the cash to splash), then the Asus Transformer Pad Infinity should be at the top of your list.

5. Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1

What's better than a tablet with a big screen? A tablet with a big screen, a quad core processor and the might of the S Pen... known as a stylus to me and you.

Well, not just a stylus - with many levels of pressure sensitivity and the ability easily sketch and annotate on a wide range of items, the Galaxy Note 10.1 offers so much more than your average tablet.

We're huge fans of the alternative choice here, and it even comes with a microSD slot to boot. Android 4.1 is landing at the moment, and comes with a Premium Suite update, designed to make multi-tasking and general use that much easier.

Quick verdict

Sure, it's a mite expensive, the screen quality is lower than we've seen from Samsung in the past and the build quality somewhat lower than the competition, but this is still a fabulous tablet that many workers constantly forced to use a paper and pen will love to try out.

6. Asus FonePad

It may be almost identical to the Nexus 7 when in comes to looks, but the FonePad has a few trump cards including a great price, microSD slot and 3G connectivity which not only allows you to get online but also send/receive phone calls and text messages.

You'd be forgiven for wondering why the FonePad isn't sitting calmly above its Google branded brother, but the Jelly Bean interface isn't quite as slick (it's packing a dual-core, not quad-core chip), you can pick up a Wi-Fi only Nexus 7 for less dosh and while the call function is cool, it's also a little impractical on a device this size.

That said pair it up with a Bluetooth headset and you might as well turf your smartphone out, as the FonePad can do pretty much everything.

Quick verdict

The Asus FonePad is a very accomplished Android tablet and offers amazing value-for-money.

If you're not planning on spending a fortune, but still want a tablet with a wide choice of apps and features then you could do a lot worse than picking up this one in particular.

7. Amazon Kindle Fire HD

What's better than a modern tablet with a quad core processor? One that costs just £159. That's right: the power of the Kindle brand has mated with an HD screen and won't charge you the earth to own it.

Coming in at 16GB and 32GB flavours, the Kindle Fire HD is sure to be a big hit, bringing the simplicity of the e-book range to the tablet arena, with dedicated space to access your movies, games, apps and music too. A recent update has added a camera app for the front-facing camera and Swype support, so there are even more (admittedly tiny) reasons to shell out.

It's a little simplistic for some, but for others it's the perfect mix of curated content and easy to use interface - and despite the price, it's got a decent build quality too.

Quick verdict

For casual tablet users or those already knee-deep in Amazon's digital media abyss, the Kindle Fire HD is a fantastic option, especially at the low entry price. It offers a simple and uncomplicated experience through and through, and is built to support the digital media it aims to sell you, with an excellent screen (for a seven-incher) and surprisingly ample speakers.

8. Samsung Galaxy Tab 8.9

In at number four is the Samsung Galaxy Tab 8.9 - and it's a funny little thing. It's essentially the same as its older brother, the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1, but with an 8.9-inch screen. It's slightly thinner and lighter, and consequently more convenient for anyone wanting to stuff it in a bag.

Apart from these physical attributes, the internal components are basically the same. So you get the same slick performance and overall tablet experience. We've put this above the 10.1 because of the increased convenience owed to its slightly smaller size, but that shouldn't put you off going for the 10.1 if you're after a bigger screen.

Quick verdict

It's ideal for anyone who thinks 10.1 inches is just slightly too big for a tablet, but also finds 7-inch options a tad too small. A great screen, and premium features across the board make it a superb option.

However, we're a bit disappointed that Samsung doesn't seem as bothered by this device as other tablets in its stable, as it's only just getting Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich, when the next level of Android is landing on other devices.

9. Asus Transformer Pad 300

The Transformer Pad 300 offers up the power of a quad-core Tegra 3 processor, a 10.1-inch display and 12 hour battery life in a device that's cheaper than the Transformer Prime.

A big plus point for the 300 is the fact that it comes running Android Ice Cream Sandwich out of the box – keeping it bang up to date with the Android OS – and it's even better news as Asus is keeping up with its reputation of being one of the bset to support its older devices, with Jelly Bean landing soon.

However, the price difference is noticeable when it comes to the materials used to build the 300, with its plastic body not feeling as premium or solid as the more expensive Prime – that said, the Transformer Pad 300 is still a great tablet.

Quick verdict

Individual needs and budget will determine if the Asus Transformer Pad TF300 is right for you, but we applaud Asus for marrying value and performance, and the TF300 comes highly recommended.

10. Asus Transformer Prime

Asus wowed us when it launched its Eee Pad Transformer TF101, and with the Transformer Prime it managed to go one better.

The Transformer Prime packs a mighty 1.3GHz quad-core processor into a super-slim 8.6mm chassis and although it shipped with Android 3.2, the Prime was the first Android tab to receive the upgrade to Ice Cream Sandwich, and it's now been confirmed to be getting an update to Android 4.2 in the near future.

That huge processor means using the Transformer Prime is a breeze, with it able to process Full HD movies and multiple apps with ease.

You also get a super-crisp 10.1-inch IPS display (1280 x 800), a surprisingly good 8MP camera capable of recording 1080p video, and 32GB of internal storage, with a microSD card slot available if you need more space.

Quick verdict

It's a close run battle for the top Android tablet accolade, but the Transformer Prime just pips the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 with its super fast Tegra 3 quad-core processor, slender style and additional keyboard dock.

It's starting to age compared to the newer versions, especially the Transformer Prime Infinity, but it's still one of our favourite tablets around... here's hoping the price drops soon to match that.

11. Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1

Back in the day the Galaxy Tab 10.1 offered a direct alternative to Apple's iPad 2 - however times have moved on since then and this Samsung slate can longer compete at the top.

Sporting the Tegra 2 dual-core CPU, it's both marginally thinner and lighter than the iPad. This was some achievement, especially when you consider the fuss Apple made about how thin and light the iPad 2 was on launch.

It's also had a tasty price drop to less than £300 in some stores, which means that while it might not have the specs of the top-table lot, it's still got a decent amount of grunt and a quality screen, making a strong proposition as a present for someone that 'just wants a tablet'.

Quick verdict

As an out-and-out tablet, the Galaxy Tab 10.1 is still great tablet with decent performance and good portability. This tablet is lighter and thinner than the iPad, so unless that keyboard dock of Asus' Transformers is a serious draw for you, this is one to consider.

12. Asus Eee Pad Slider

The Apple iPad is the daddy. It doesn't matter what the arguments for Android are, the fact is that the iPad is still just about the best out-and-out tablet out there.

And that's why the Slider is such a compelling option - it's not a straight iPad competitor, it offers something different. The slide-out keyboard offers flexibility and functionality not on offer elsewhere.

It's a different prospect to the Transformer Pad Infinity, in that it cannot be disconnected from its keyboard, nor does it pack the Tegra 3 innards.

But what it does do is make it easier to work on the train, type emails and documents with the convenience of not needing a dock or peripheral. What's more, the screen is the best we've seen on a 10-inch Android tablet, and it's also the most responsive.

Quick verdict

It's not for everyone, but it's one of the best tablets for showing off everything that Android can do.

13. Sony Tablet S

As a veritable mega-giant in the consumer tech universe, Sony's landing on Planet Tablet was always going to be interesting. Blasting off alongside the fold-in-half Sony Tablet P, the Sony Tablet S has a unique wedge-shaped design and top-end specs. 

It's no longer top-dog in Sony's stable though with the Xperia Tablet Z about to break onto the market, but it's still worth looking at.

Quick verdict

It's a very decent and refined tablet, and has the unique feature of having access to original PlayStation games. The only issue is that it's not as tidy as the Galaxy Note 10.1 and not as versatile as the Transformer Pad Infinity. Apart from that, it's one of the best Android tablets out there.

14. Acer Iconia A210

The Acer Iconia A210 is a Jelly Bean-toting 10.1-inch tablet with a great set of specs - and a USB 2.0 slot.
We found the A210 solid and much more rugged than most, and with a mottled back that's soft and easy to grip.

Its design is somewhat uninspiring, but the A210 stacks up pretty well against the competition: it's got enough processing power, touchscreen sensitivity and even built-in audio to compete with higher-priced 10-inch tablets.

Quick verdict

The Iconia A210 is a great value 10-inch tablet which will provide you be a great user experience and a decent set of features without costing you an arm and a leg.

15. Toshiba AT200

The AT200 is extremely thin, clocking in at a super slender 7.7mm thin, which means you can slide it into your bag without issue - and at 535g, you probably won't notice it's in there.

You get a 10.1-inch 1280 x 800 TFT display, 1.2GHz dual-core processor, 1GB of RAM, 5MP rear camera, 2MP front camera and a decent array of ports including microSD, USB and HDMI.

Toshiba also dropped the price of the AT200 just a few months after launch to keep it competitive in the market, but it's exclusively at Carphone Warehouse in the UK for the time being.

Quick verdict

The Toshiba AT200 is a good, solid and portable device, delivering everything you'd expect from an unfussy Android slate. If you're looking for a standard tablet experience, the AT200 is certainly worth a look.

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