Best tablets: 10-6
What’s the best tablet for 2013? Today’s latest tablets compared and rated – constantly updated
Tablets are taking the world by storm. Just a few years ago they were an unknown for many people, but nowadays you’ve got more choice than you can shake a mildly agitated koala at.
And with choice comes decisions – difficult decisions. Do you eschew Apple’s high prices, join the Android brigade and find the best iPad alternative? Or jump on board Apple’s lovetrain, and use one of the most popular tablets on the planet?
Luckily we’ve made it easy for you and pulled together the top 10 tablets of the moment available in Australia. We’ve got the new iPad mini 2 with Retina Display and LG G Pad 8.3 on sale now, so our list is looking a little bit different from our last update.
But we’ll keep this listing constantly updated as new players enter the market and the older ones fizzle out.
- Are you wondering what the iPad rival to the Nexus 7 or Kindle Fire HD is like? Check our hands on: iPad mini review to find out!
For those of you who are still new to the whole tablet game, let us fill you in on what one is:
In general terms, today’s tablet computers sport touchscreens ranging in size from 7- up to 13-inches. These dimensions are by no means static, and boundaries can be blurred as smartphones get larger displays, a la the 5.7-inch Samsung Galaxy Note 3 and huge 6.44-inch Sony Xperia Z Ultra.
Physical keyboards are also a rarity, but there are the exceptions such as the Asus Transformer Pad Infinity and Mircosoft Surface Pro 2 which come with a keyboard dock for the tablets.
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As with today’s best smartphones, applications play a big role on tablets – you can get your fill of Temple Run, update your friends on Facebook and read the latest news, all on a bigger screen.
- Top 200 best Android apps
- Top 230 best iPad apps
If none of the top 10 tablets here take your fancy then head on over to our tablet reviews pages, where you’ll find in-depth reviews for many more models.
Let us know your thoughts on the top 10 and whether you think we’ve got the order wrong, in the comment box below.
10. Asus Transformer Pad Infinity
If it wasn’t for the higher price, the Infinity would be a contender for a higher spot. It’s got everything you could want in a tablet – and a keyboard dock as standard too.
With a simple interface and more ports than you can poke with a stick, the Infinity is the tablet that can handle anything you throw at it.
Add in the Super IPS panel with a tremendous resolution, and you can see why this is a tablet to rate – especially if you’re fond of typing on the go but crave the simplicity of a slate too.
Everything we’d look for in a high-end tablet is present and accounted for with the Transformer Pad Infinity.
While power is always welcome, 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. It needs something of an update in the Android version arena, as it’s still stuck on an older iteration, but it’s still a decent option nonetheless.
The newer Infinity is set to cross our desks soon too – let’s see how that gets on in our in-depth test.
- Asus Transformer Pad Infinity review
9. 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, has expandable memory, and the S-Pen has clearly been enhanced to make this a major selling point, plus we love the IR blaster and its media capabilities.
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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.
- Samsung Galaxy Note 8.0 review
8. Microsoft Surface Pro 2
*Ding, ding* Round 2. Microsoft’s second generation Windows 8 slate is here, building on its predecessor and providing a well rounded tablet-come-laptop experience.
In terms of portability, the Surface Pro 2 won’t be winning any awards – it’s big and it’s heavy, but if you’re looking for a powerful business tablet then the Pro 2 is one of the best (if not the best) around.
Microsoft has improved the Pro 2 in a numbers of ways from the original Surface Pro, with an updated Windows 8.1 OS, beefy Intel processor, improved battery life and two position kick-stand.
The Surface Pro 2 doesn’t offer the best natural tablet experience, but if you’re looking for a device which bridges the gap between laptop and tablet, then this is one of the best on the market.
With a handy QWERTY keyboard, large screen and Microsoft’s Office suite, it’s an obvious business machine, but also offers something rather different to the iPad and Android slates.
It’s expensive though, so be ready to fork out at least $1019 for the basic version – plus you’ll need a keyboard on top of that.
- Microsoft Surface Pro 2 review
7. Google Nexus 10
The 10.1 display is one of the biggest talking points on the Google Nexus 10. At 299 pixels per inch it’s the highest resolution 10-inch tablet display on the planet – take that Apple, and your Retina screens.
If you’re looking for something which is packing even more pixels you’ll need to trade in screen size for the 7-inch, 323ppi Nexus 7.
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.
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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 Air a run for its money.
For the price you’re paying, you won’t be disappointed. Be warned though, a new Nexus 10 is expected to arrive soon.
6. Apple iPad mini
Apple’s former CEO Steve Jobs famously slammed small tablets a few years back, leading many to believe the Cupertino-based firm would never dabble in the budget end of the market, but here we are.
In terms of consistency in the tablet market, Apple cannot be matched as it now lays claim to three places in our top 10. However, the iPad mini is no longer the jewel in an already glistening crown – it’s been usurped by the upgraded Google Nexus 7 and the next-gen iPad mini.
The big downside to the iPad mini is that it misses out on a Retina display, but it still has slick operation and premium build quality, letting you know you still have a top piece of kit in your hand.
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When it landed, we dubbed the iPad mini "the best iPad Apple has ever created", and while the iPad Air may lay claim to that title now, this pint sized slate is still a force to be reckoned with – even with the new mini 2 on the market now.
If the screen puts you off, fear not, for the iPad mini 2 with Retina display is out – but the original mini still deserves it place on this list, with its strong internals now at a cheaper price.
Number 5: LG G Pad 8.3
5. LG G Pad 8.3
What’s this? LG in the top five for tablets? Could the brand be on a rebound?
Well, when you make an Android tablet with a design language like this one, perhaps it’s time to quietly worry at Samsung. In place of plastic, it’s got a lovely aluminium shell, and connectivity with other Android phones makes it a viable option for a wider range of users.
Some might question whether the Snapdragon 600 chip is too low-power for a tablet that costs nearly $398, but it allows for a sleeker design according to the Korean brand.
We really liked the G Pad 8.3, and it was only lower down in our list thanks to a slightly higher battery drain than we were expecting – plus the overlay can take some getting used to.
But in terms of design, it’s a tablet we’re not ashamed to pull out of a stylishly slim bag.
Number 4: Google Nexus 7
4. Google Nexus 7
The new Nexus 7 takes over from the original 7-inch effort from Google in 2012, and packs a 1.5Ghz quad-core processor, 2GB of RAM and comes with either 16GB or 32GB of storage
Offered up at just 260g, it’s the perfect tablet for slinging in a bag and hurtling down to the local supermarket, or is equally adept at being a long-haul saviour, with reams of apps, a decent slug of battery life and that all-new high-res 7-inch IPS display with a resolution of 1920 x 1200 display with 323 ppi.
It’s a little more expensive than the previous model was at launch, with prices beginning at $299 for the 16GB option and $339 for the 32GB variant – and it’s worth remembering that the OS takes a portion of that storage too, to allow for Android 4.3 to thrive.
It’s also about to get the 4.4 KitKat update in the very near future soon, so you know you’ll be getting the latest version of Android with this all-new tablet.
Plus there’s a 4G option from the outset, offering 32GB of storage for $439.
Overall, this has some top end features, a low-risk update policy and is built in a way that makes it feel both premium and robust enough to chuck around the house. That’s a good mix in our eyes.
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If you’re considering a tablet now and are already dabbling in the Android ecosystem, we see no reason why shouldn’t take the plunge with a Nexus 7.
The new iPad mini 2 however has jumped back to second spot by beating everything the new Nexus 7 has, bar the price, but this new Nexus is a worthy competitor.
Number 3: Sony Xperia Tablet Z
3. Sony Xperia Tablet Z
Sleek, powerful, iconic – these are all words used to describe the impressive tablet from Sony,
The brand has been plugging away in the mobile space for a few years, but now the combination of the Sony Xperia Z and Tablet Z show that the Japanese brand is bringing us devices that the public can finally really lust after.
And that’s one of the things we liked about the Tablet Z: it’s light, really light, yet looks premium too. Sony has surpassed expectation with this and delivered a tablet that wouldn’t look out of place in a business class lounge or at the centre of a home entertainment network.
It’s waterproof too – sure, you might not use that feature a whole lot, but it gives it an air of ruggedness that puts your mind at ease when manhandling something that costs so much.
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With a super slim chassis, impressive screen and whole glut of Sony extras on board, the Xperia Tablet Z is one of the finest pieces of kit we’ve seen in 2013.
Its quality abounds the moment you take it out your bag, and the speedy internals and impressive weight are enough for us to recommend it wholeheartedly.
- Sony Xperia Tablet Z review
Number 2: Apple iPad mini 2 with Retina Display
2. Apple iPad mini 2 with Retina Display
With the release of the new iPad mini 2, this time finally touting a Retina Display, Apple’s taken the top two spots. You’ll either love or hate this ranking, but we can’t deny that Apple has the best slates on the market right now.
The iPad Air is just ahead of the mini 2, sporting a more competitive price – though still rather high for both slates – and having a larger screen for all those iPad-friendly apps.
But this is far from a poorer device. It’s got a very stylish look with its aluminium back, a superfast A7 chip and that Retina screen… though it’s what we should have had last year, it catapults the new mini to our Number 2 spot.
The iPad mini 2 doesn’t actually seem that much smaller than it’s big brother because of the change to the Air’s design – and the larger tablet is now encroaching on the ‘portable tablet’ space.
But with the new display, the Mini 2 has as many pixels in a smaller space, leading to greater sharpness for text and pics – plus there’s no loss in power or battery life, which is a marvel in itself.
But with the price only just cheaper than the Air, the mini 2 doesn’t get the five star label that the Air does. Still, if you’re looking for a brilliant tablet in the smaller category (and aren’t too worried about cost, you wealthy little so-and-so) then the mini 2 is without compare.
- iPad mini 2 with Retina review
Number 1: Apple iPad Air
1. Apple iPad Air
We have a new player at number one! If you’ve already read our iPad Air review this will come as no surprise, as Apple’s latest slate is the first tablet ever to gain a five star rating on TechRadar.
People scoffed when Apple launched the first iPad, but the sector has grown exponentially since the first generation device landed and with the Air the Cupertino firm has finally nailed the formula.
Impressive design coupled with a thinner, lighter chassis makes for a premium and quite frankly beautiful tablet, and Apple’s powerful A7 and M7 chips under the hood means it chews through even the toughest tasks in next to no time.
Of course the price tag is still high, but it’s comparable to the likes of the Sony Xperia Tablet Z, making it more than reasonable in a competitive marketplace.
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"It’s not just Apple’s best tablet, it’s the only tablet you should be considering if you’re keen on a larger screen." That’s what we said in the verdict of our in-depth iPad Air review. While the Xperia Tablet Z is a brilliant tablet, the Air just takes things to the next level.
If you want the best tablet on the market then look no further. The iPad Air has reclaimed top spot for Apple and it’s going to take some beating.