Black Friday and the holiday shopping season is only days away. Tablets are a hot item these days and there is no doubt they will be on many people’s shopping lists. But the market is very saturated with tablets and there are literally dozens of tablets to choose from in many different models and types. It can be a real headache if you are not familiar with the market and trust me the sales people are usually no help. In this article we’ll try to help you navigate the tablet buying experience whether you want to pickup a tablet for yourself or get as a gift. We’ll focus on what are considered the best tablets in the market and skip off-brands. Hopefully this can lead to a great decision and a happy holiday.
7 vs. 10 inch tablet
The first and big major decision to make when buying a tablet is whether you want to go small with the 7 inch or full size with a 10 inch tablet. That decision will obviously depend on the use of the tablet. A 7 inch tablet is much more portable and you can fit it in your jacket or pocket jeans and take it anywhere with you. It’s much better for reading and even playing games as it nicely fits in your hand and it’s not too heavy. It’s also great for kids to use since the smaller size is much better suited to them.
A 10 inch tablet will be better for watching movies and videos on a larger screen. It’s also is large enough to double as a laptop replacement when traveling specially when paired with a bluetooth keyboard. A 10 inch tablet can be much more of a productivity tablet while a 7 inch is mostly for pure entertainment. The cost is also a major issue as the larger tablets tend to go for double the price as compared to smaller size.
WiFi vs. 3G/4G Mobile
One consideration when buying any tablet is whether to get a WiFi only tablet or one that has 3G/4G mobile data. Most consumer will only need WiFi only as their tablets are used at home or work where there is a network available. If you tend to travel a lot and know that you will need to use your tablet on the road then a 3G/4G tablet might be a necessity. Keep in mind that these mobile data versions of tablets cost more not only for the tablet but you have to consider data plans. Some wireless carriers will let you bundle the tablet on top of your phone plan but that ties you into a contract. Some of the new tablets like Kindle Fire, iPad, and Google Nexus do provide reasonable monthly data coverage without a contract. You’ll need to look at each tablets and it’s plan to decide what’s right for you.
Amazon vs. Google vs. Apple vs. Microsoft
When it comes to buying a tablet the major players with the best tablets are Amazon, Google (Android), Apple (iPad) and Microsoft as the newest addition. In each case you are buying not only a hardware tablet but also the ecosystem that will provide the apps and content. This can be very important since the ecosystems of each is very different and have their advantages along with their disadvantages. We’ll cover each manufacturer and talk about what they provide to help you with buying the best tablet.
Amazon – The original Kindle Fire became a bit hit and most people at this point have heard of the tablet. It runs a highly customized version of Android that looks very different from any other Android tablet. Officially you have access to apps from Amazon’s own Appstore which is in the range of 50,000 or more. That’s a lot of apps but pretty low when compared to Google’s Play Store of 700,000 and Apple’s close to 1 billion. You can install apps from Google Play Store but these have to be sideloaded and do require a small bit of tinkering on the device. But you do get access to all of Amazon’s books, movies, magazines, and music. If you are heavy user of Amazon’s services including Amazon Prime Membership then the Kindle Fire is a good match. It’s also a great tablet for kids as it’s easy to use and navigate. The Kindle Fire HD is a well-built tablet with the latest hardware and it’s only negative is the locked Amazon services but that can be a plus depending on the user. You can buy the tablet in both 7 inch and 8.9 inch with WiFi or 3G/4G data.
Google – In referring to Google, we are talking about all Android tablets from various manufactures including Google’s own Nexus 7 and Nexus 10 tablets. The positive or negative, depending on your perspective, of Android is that you have an open system which means lots of choice. Many manufactures make Android tablets in various sizes adding their own software tweaks to make them standout. Google has also entered the market with their own brand of tablets called the Nexus 7 and 10. The advantage of buying a Google Nexus tablet is that it will be the first to be updated with the latest Android software while other tablets from other manufacturers takes months to update. Using any Android tablet will give you access to apps, books, movies & TV shows, music, and magazines from the Google Play Store but you can also officially get apps from the Amazon Appstore. This doesn’t work in reverse as mentioned earlier and is a major advantage. Android tablets are also very easily customized by the user on how it looks with widgets, icons, folders, and much more. You can pretty much do anything with an Android tablet and can be used as a near laptop replacement. One disadvantage is that the number of apps optimized to work for larger 10″ tablets is low compared to the iPad but is improving daily. If you are going to buy an Android tablet, my first choice would be a Google Nexus tablet followed by Samsung and Asus in that order.
Apple – There is not much to be said with Apple’s iPad as it is the king of tablets and continues to perform strong in sales and user feedback. Apple created the tablet market with the iPad and has been out in front of everyone else even though that gap is closing. The major advantage of the iPad is the number of good quality tablet apps that are available . This is not matched by any other ecosystem currently and continues to drive Apple sales. Also the entire Apple ecosystem with iOS makes it easy to transition to an iPad if you use iTunes and have an iPhone. The only major disadvantage is that the whole iOS ecosystem is closed and you have relatively few customization options. This may not be a major issue for most, specially if you are comfortable with iOS, but in certain cases this can become an issue. Recently Apple released the iPad Mini in both WiFi and 3G/4G model so there is even more choices. The iPad mini does cost over $130 more (base model) then it’s competitor’s for lower spec hardware, specially the screen resolution. Nevertheless, the whole iPad line of tablets come with great hardware and are considered the best tablets.
Microsoft – Just Recently Microsoft entered the tablet market with the Surface tablet. Everyone has praised the hardware with a vapor magnesium back finish and magnetic clip keyboard. The Surface is definitely the hot and highly talked about tablet. The tablet runs Windows RT and has access to the Windows Store. The software can only run apps from the Windows Store and legacy Windows applications will not work. Currently the number of apps in the Windows Store is very small but is sure to grow rapidly. I think Microsoft has made both a great hardware and software tablet but I would probably hold off until more apps are available. Until then the tablet will be very limited even though it has high potential.
Below is our recommendation for tablets in both 7 and 10 inch models not in any order. Again this is based on the top of the line tablets and what is considered the best purchase taking into count software, hardware, and price. The prices ranges from $200 and up for 7 inch models while the 10 inch tablets start out at $400 and higher. The tablets are inked to Amazon or Google Play Store for easy purchase. Specs for devices can be found on our tablet page. Let us know what you think about our choices in the comment sections or if you have any questions.
7 inch tablets
10 inch tablets
- Google Nexus 10
- Kindle Fire HD 8.9″
- Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1
- Samsung Galaxy Tab 2
- ASUS TF700T
- Apple iPad