Tablets are everywhere, but which is the right one for your business? TechRadar Pro chooses the top five tablets for business users; from the tablet with the greatest wow-factor, through to the tablet that will tackle any job you throw at it.
There are three main operating systems to consider when you’re looking to purchase a business tablet, iOS 7, Android Jelly Bean and Windows 8.1, all of which offer their own unique set of features.
In no particular order, here are the top five tablets for business (ed. Windows RT, as much as we love it, is too restricted to be considered as an OS fit for a business tablet).
It’s the best tablet on the market so whatever your reason for picking up the iPad Air, you’ll know it’s going to give you a decent showing, business activities included.
With a new design, compared to the iPad 4 it replaces, the Air is thinner, lighter and just all round more portable than any 9.7-inch iPad that’s gone before it, meaning it’s much easier than a laptop to take into meetings and travel round the world with.
That 9.7-inch display is packing an eye popping 2,048 x 1,536 resolution, making it an absolute joy to use, and Apple’s 64-bit A7 chip sits under hood ensuring everything zips along nicely.
The Air comes running Apple’s latest operating system, iOS 7, which sports a whole new look, more functionality and the strongest app selection of any platform.
Apple even offers its business software for free now, giving you the likes of Pages, Numbers and Keynote at your finger tips without any extra expenditure.
If your office is set up with Macs then the iPad Air will play very nicely with them, syncing documents, data and media to iCloud, allowing you to access it from your tablet and computer.
The big drawback of the iPad Air? The price. As with all of Apple’s products, the Air carries a premium price tag so equipping your whole office will set you back a fair bit – distribute sparingly however and the advantages could be huge.
Microsoft Surface Pro 2
Probably the biggest rival to the iPad Air in the business arena is the Microsoft Surface Pro 2, which sets itself up as a device predominantly for the business market.
While the iPad Air will sing harmoniously with Macs, the Surface Pro 2 has a similar relationship with Windows PCs – allowing you to effortlessly sync your contacts, calendars and work between computer and tablet. (ed: it might even replace a computer completely)
The Surface Pro 2 takes things a step further with the addition of a kickstand and a clip on keyboard, allowing it to bridge the gap between tablet and laptop, allowing you to have just one device instead of two.
Unlike iOS and Android tablets, the Surface Pro 2 runs Windows 8.1, giving you all the same power and functionality of a computer on a tablet.
With the full Windows experience, you also get the full Microsoft Office suite, allowing you to work on all your documents without having to settle for a pared down mobile version (note that you will have to check with your IT department to confirm that you can actually use it for business purposes).
If you thought the iPad Air was expensive though you may want to look away now, the Microsoft Surface Pro 2 is even more expensive. Of course, it could replace your computer or laptop as well as providing a tablet option which goes some way to justify the cost, but it’s still hard to swallow.
- Read: Microsoft Surface Pro 2 review
Sony Xperia Tablet Z
If portability and customisation are high on your priority list for a business tablet then the Sony Xperia Tablet Z needs to be seriously considered.
At just 6.9mm thick and 495g in weight the Xperia Tablet Z is a highly portable 10-inch tablet with an excellent full HD display, 1.5GHz quad-core processor and 2GB of RAM.
You have the option to plump for Wi-Fi only or a 4G-enabled model allowing you to access the internet on the move, and with Android Jelly Bean beating at its heart there’s a lot to love.
Android isn’t quite as clear cut as a business offering as Windows 8 or iOS 7 is, but there are plenty of applications in the Google Play store to ensure your Xperia Tablet Z is ready to tackle a day’s work.
What Android is good for however is customisation and on top of Sony’s clever floating applications – which can be opened on top of anything you’re viewing – you can also tweak the operating system to best suit your company.
An added extra on the Xperia Tablet Z is the fact that it’s both dust- and water-resistant, so you needn’t fear if you’re caught in a downpour during fieldwork, or simply just waiting at the bus stop.
- Read: Sony Xperia Tablet Z review
iPad mini 2 with Retina Display
If the 10-inch tablets are too bulky for your needs then take a look at the iPad mini 2, which sports a smaller 8.9-inch display and the same power as the iPad Air.
A smaller screen also means a smaller price, so if you’re committed to Apple’s ecosystem but your budget won’t stretch to the full size tablet the iPad mini 2 is an excellent alternative.
Other than the screen size and dimensions the iPad mini 2 offers up everything that the Air does, with the accomplished iOS 7 platform at its heart, ensuring everything keeps ticking along nicely.
As we’ve already mentioned, Apple now offers its Keynote, Pages and Numbers office software for free, meaning once you’ve purchased the tablet you can get to work without any additional expense.
The iPad mini with Retina display is perfect for those who spend a lot of their time travelling, or require a tablet which doesn’t impose itself as much in meetings.
Google Nexus 7
Looking for the perfect balance of value for money and great performance? Then the keenly price Google Nexus 7 could very well be right up your street.
Building on the popular tablet of the same name from 2012, the new Nexus 7 is upgraded in pretty much every area, from a slimmer, more professional design to an eye popping full HD display.
For your money you’ll get a 1,200 x 1,920 display, 1.5GHz quad-core processor, 2GB of RAM, 16/32GB of internal storage, plus there’s a 4G enabled version if you fancy internet on the go.
The Android ecosystem is a strong one, even if business isn’t totally at its heart, and the vast array of apps and customisation options means the Nexus 7 is highly versatile.
Just because the Nexus 7 is small doesn’t mean it’s under featured, it can handle emails, work documents, movies, music and other media just as easily as the competition, although the screen size is restrictive in some pursuits.
Clearly though it’s the price of the Nexus 7 which will appeal, and this is a tablet you could seriously consider supplying to all your staff instead of just a select few.
- Read: Google Nexus 7 review