Introduction

Black Friday is upon us and the holiday season is just around the corner. Without doubt many of you will be shopping around for a new tablet and the latest edition of the GSMArena.com tablet buyer’s guide is here to give a helping hand in choosing the right one for your needs and budget.

Tablets have evolved rapidly and have seen an explosive market growth but have recently settled into a steady routine of gradually becoming better with small, calculated steps as opposed to coming in leaps and bounds. New tablets come and replace the older ones but those old tablets still make a lot of sense, especially with their lower prices.

Since our last tablet buyer's guide in August 2014, there has been a certain movement on the tablet scene with new favorites heading the ranks and older favorites becoming even more enticing with lower prices. What we haven't seen though is any game changing developments revolutionary tablets so to speak.

That isn't for lack of trying, though. Jolla announced their first tablet, which looks promising but ultimately, it still needs to put one on the shelves - something that will take time.

Nokia, for the first time in some years, showed off something that doesn't cling to Redmond's Windows OS - the Nokia N1 runs Android 5.0 Lollipop with Nokia Z launcher, Intel hardware and an iPad mini-esque design. But the N1 will go on sale as early as February 19 (in China!) so by the time it makes it to other countries, the next edition of our tablet buyer’s guide will probably be out. It remains to be seen exactly how deep is Nokia's involvement in the N1 beyond the brand name and the UI launcher.

Back to the matters of concern for this release of our buyer’s guide, Apple released the new iPad Air 2 recently with an even thinner frame, a new laminated display and the 64-bit A8X that's a real graphics-crunching beast. Cupertino also launched the iPad mini 3 but that one turned out to be nothing more than a golden-colored iPad mini 2 with a Touch ID home button for €100 more. On the upside the iPad mini 2 is now cheaper by the same €100.

Google partnered with HTC to make the new Nexus 9, leaving the smaller 7" and larger 10" form factors unattended to for now. The Nexus 9 is bigger than the iPad mini 3 and 2, and slightly smaller than the iPad Air 2 and Air making for a direct rival to both of them. The Nexus 9 also has Google's latest and greatest software on tap and a very solid hardware foundation as well. It also marks a firm step towards a more premium segment and it’s not quite the bang-for-buck deal that the Nexus 7 used to be.

We also saw Amazon release its new front-runner - the Kindle Fire HDX 8.9 that brings along a much better Snapdragon 805 chipset and costs the same as its predecessor. Sony released its Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact - a powerful 8.0" waterproof slate with a complete connectivity set.

Samsung kept quiet during the last three months and didn't release any new tablets. Its older ones have seen some mild pay cuts which puts them in a better position to compete with the affordable and premium compact, mid-sized and full-sized tablets on the market right now. They're due for a larger deduction in price soon, though.

Naturally, many of the older tablets we featured last time are here without replacements but with small or sizeable price reductions. And if you've been considering getting any of them now may be the right time. The smaller tablets are now cheaper to get with their lowest price diving below €100. The midsized slates appear to be stronger than ever with the new offerings from Google, Amazon and Apple. The larger tablet segment looks to have changed the least out of all three but does offer cheaper slates from major manufacturers and the fresh presence of the Apple iPad Air 2 royalty. So overall, the past few months leading to this edition of the tablet buyer’s guide have been nice to us users and we are more than ready to pick the best deals. So pick your size and let’s get it going.


Compact tablets

Starting from the ground up we'll be focusing first on the smallest of tablets and will run through them from the lowest price up. This is the segment that has the cheapest slates out there and in this November issue they are even cheaper than in the August one.

Compact tablets are mostly made to fit a budget bill and not for performance but near the end of the list you'll see a couple that are made for performance and not just affordability.

The first tablet in our list is the Samsung Galaxy Tab 3 Lite 7.0. It's already an aging hardware rig by now but it already has Android 4.2 Jelly Bean and has its positives. Its main advantage is the below €100 price tag which allows it to qualify as the most affordable tablet in our list.

It packs a 7" display of the unimaginative 600 x 1024px resolution but has a microSD card to complement its 8GB of onboard storage, a dual-core processor that will push task along and a 2MP camera should you need one. Sadly, it comes without a front-facing camera.

For a little extra the Samsung Galaxy Tab 3 Lite 7.0 offers 3G connectivity through a SIM slot.


Samsung Galaxy Tab 3 Lite 7.0
Pros Cons
  • MicroSD card slot
  • Very cheap
  • Good battery life
  • Compact and light
  • 3G
  • Low-res screen (600 x 1024px)
  • Limited chipset performance
  • No front-facing camera
Review

The next slate on our list is the Asus Memo Pad 7 ME176CX. It commands a higher price but is still quite affordable. The display diagonal is the same 7" but the resolution is increased to 800 x 1280px and the screen is an IPS unit. On the back there's a more serious 5MP shooter and Asus has included a 2MP front-facing camera for video conferencing - neat.

The Memo Pad 7 also has a microSD card, stereo speakers and great battery life - all the makings of a competent small slate for a good price.

It doesn't carry a 3G option, though so if that's a must for you then move along to our next candidate.


Asus Memo Pad 7 ME176CX
Pros Cons
  • Inexpensive
  • microSD card slot
  • Capable chipset (Intel Atom Z3745)
  • High-res camera (5MP)
  • Stereo speakers
  • Great battery life
  • No 3G/LTE model available
Review

The next listing is the Asus Fonepad 7, which has as the name suggests, built in 3G connectivity. It costs around the same as the Memo Pad 7 and matches it spec for spec although it has a dual-core Intel Atom chip and not the quad-core found in the Memo Pad 7.

Mind you, this is the older Fonepad 7 and not the latest one as it has much better specifications. The newer model does offer dual-SIM functionality so if you're in need of a small slate running two SIMs it may be worth to look into.


Asus Fonepad 7
Pros Cons
  • Appealing price
  • microSD card slot
  • Capable chipset (Intel Atom Z2560)
  • High-res camera (5MP)
  • 3G/LTE built-in
  • IPS display
  • Questionable future software update support

The Amazon Kindle Fire HDX is a very tempting offer at this point in time. Currently, its price is reduced and it will probably stay this way until the end of the holiday shopping season. The Kindle Fire HDX packs a 7" 1200 x 1920px FullHD IPS display, a Snapdragon 800 chipset and stereo speakers.

It doesn't have the most amazing camera and the base 16GB non-expandable storage is a little limiting. Amazon's Fire OS is based on Android but sticks closely to the company's ecosystem and has its own app store with no access to the Google Play store.

If you like Amazon services and want a small tablet the Kindle Fire HDX is a superb choice. It also comes with an LTE option.


Amazon Kindle Fire HDX
Pros Cons
  • Great price at the moment
  • Great chipset (Qualcomm Snapdragon 800)
  • FullHD display
  • Stereo speakers
  • LTE option
  • 16/32/64GB variants
  • No microSD card slot
  • Limiting software
  • Low-res camera (1.3MP, 720p)
  • No front-facing camera

Another great choice is the Google Nexus 7 (2013). It's built to showcase the latest Android has to offer and comes with timely updates (currently freshly running 5.0 Lollipop). Its chipset is showing its age but remains good.

The Nexus 7 (2013) has good stereo speakers, a great FullHD 7" display but its storage is limited to either 16GB or 32GB. There is an LTE variant available for an extra charge.

The price of the Google Nexus 7 (2013) has been back and forth - sometimes the slate is a steal and others it's not the best deal around. Currently, the tablet sits in the middle but might be worth waiting a little bit more for.


Asus Google Nexus 7 (2013)
Pros Cons
  • Great FullHD display
  • Stereo speakers
  • Good chipset (Qualcomm Snapdragon S4Pro)
  • Superb software support
  • High-res camera (5MP)
  • LTE option
  • No microSD card slot
  • No 64GB option
  • A little expensive at the moment
Review

The Huawei MediaPad X1 makes it once more into our tablet buyer's guide. That's because it has a good hardware foundation of a large battery, metal body, expandable storage, high-res camera and LTE built right in.

The Huawei MediaPad X1 comes with the company's own HiSilicon Kirin 910 chipset, which performance-wise matches what the Snapdragon 600 can do. The 7" FullHD display was a joy to gaze at when we encountered the MediaPad X1 at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona this past February. The bezels around the display are very slim and the metal-clad body follows suit.

It is a little expensive but might be worth it if you're looking for a device that can make and receive calls and take advantage of LTE connectivity.


Huawei MediaPad X1
Pros Cons
  • Metal body
  • FullHD display
  • Very high-res camera (13MP)
  • GPS
  • LTE option
  • Questionable future update support
  • Expensive
  • Limited availability

Mid-sized tablets

Now that we covered the smallest tablets out there it’s time to move onto the bigger, more capable slates. The list retains many of the devices featured in our last buyer's guide but there are also some new faces.

The market has changed with new additions to the mid-sized tablet segment through the likes of the HTC-made Google Nexus 9 and the Apple iPad mini 3. The latter though has put the iPad mini 2 into a much better position than before, which is a rarity in the smartphone world.

Of course, all the tablets, which were around last time, have received pay cuts making them a much better buy than before. Currently, this is the most crowded tablet segment on the market.

We start you off with the Lenovo Yoga 8, which has been replaced in Lenovo's eyes but not in our buyer's guide. The Lenovo Yoga 8 has an 8-inch IPS display of 1280 x 800 resolution, a microSD card slot, 16GB or 32GB of storage, a 5MP shooter on the back, and a powerful 6,000mAh battery pack.

What's most appealing about the Lenovo Yoga 8 is the form factor. The tablet stands on a 3-stage kickstand (hence the name Yoga) allowing you to prop it up without any cases or accessories.

It lacks an LTE variant but has a 3G one - albeit a fairly limited one in frequencies (it supports only the 900/2100MHz networks). It is competitive in its pricing and is one of the best deals at the moment.

The newer Lenovo Yoga 8 2 has the same-sized display but of FullHD resolution and has a better chipset as well. But its price doesn't make it as competitive despite the interesting form factor.


Lenovo Yoga 8
Pros Cons
  • IPS display (1280 x 800px)
  • 5MP camera
  • Innovative form-factor
  • Optional 3G
  • GPS
  • MicroSD card slot
  • Stereo speakers
  • Low price
  • Questionable update support
  • No LTE support
  • Heavy

The Asus Memo Pad 8 ME181CX isn't the obvious choice here because of its price - a little exaggerated at the moment. It does have some redeeming qualities though, including an adequate 8" IPS display of 800 x 1280px resolution, a 5MP camera, 16GB of onboard storage expandable via a microSD card, a quad-core Intel Atom Z3745 chipset, and stereo speakers.

It lacks 3G and LTE variants but has a GPS built right in.


Asus Memo Pad 8 ME181CX
Pros Cons
  • IPS display (1280 x 800px)
  • 5MP camera
  • Good chipset
  • GPS
  • MicroSD card slot
  • Stereo speakers
  • A little pricey for its specs sheet
  • No 3G/LTE support

The Acer Iconia A1-840FHD is among the best you can find on this page. Its highlights include an 8" IPS LCD of 1200 x 1920px resolution, a quad-core Intel Atom Z3745, 2GB of RAM, 16GB or 32GB of storage and a microSD card slot.

Imaging is handled by either a 5MP camera on the back or the 2MP one on the front. The Acer Iconia Tab 8 A1-840FHD is using a skinned Android 4.4.2 KitKat but it is very close to stock Android. There's no official word on Android 5.0 Lollipop in the works however but that is subject to change.

There is no 3G or LTE option for the slate but that's about the only serious gripe you could have with a Full HD tablet that's priced less than €200.


Acer Iconia A1-840FHD
Pros Cons
  • Hih-res IPS display (FullHD)
  • 5MP camera
  • Capable chipset (Intel Atom Z3745)
  • GPS
  • MicroSD card slot
  • HDMI port
  • No 3G/LTE support

The Lenovo Tab S8 is quite the hardware package. The tablet has an 8" 1200 x 1920px IPS LCD on tap, stereo speakers, 8MP camera on the back, 1.6MP 720p-capable front-facing shooter, 16 gigs of storage expandable through the microSD card slot, a quad-core Intel Atom Z3745 chip, a GPS, the lot.

What's more impressive is the petite stature of the slate - it's very lightweight at just 299g and very thin at 7.9mm. The tablet comes in just under €200 but has an LTE-capable doppelganger for some 25% more.

We're not sure about how far reaching the Lenovo Tab S8 availability is, but if you can find it around, it looks like a better purchase over the Acer Iconia A1-840FHD.


Lenovo Tab S8
Pros Cons
  • Hi-res IPS display (1200 x 1920px)
  • 8MP camera
  • Capable chipset (Intel Atom Z3745)
  • GPS
  • MicroSD card slot
  • LTE option
  • Thin and light
  • Competitive pricing
  • Questionable availability

Speaking of slim and well-packaged next up is the Samsung Galaxy Tab Pro 8.4. It costs some 10% more than the Lenovo Tab S8 but adds 0.4" of display size and it’s much more generous in resolution – it’s got an 8.4" 1600 x 2560px display with an impressive 259 ppi.

The Samsung Galaxy Tab Pro 8.4 isn't all talk and no do - it packs just about everything you’d dream to see in a mid-sized tablet - stereo speakers, 8MP camera on the back plus a 2MP 1080p-capable one on the front, 16GB or 32GB of storage, both expandable through a microSD card slot, good battery life and an LTE-enabled versions as well.

The Samsung Galaxy Tab Pro 8.4 packs a potent Snapdragon 800 chipset as well.

The Samsung Galaxy Tab Pro 8.4 was featured in our last tablet buyer’s guide as well, but Samsung’s offer in this segment has since been augmented by the Samsung Galaxy Tab S 8.4. It has almost the same specs but features an AMOLED display (as opposed to the Super clear LCD of the Pro series) and a slimmer, lighter body. However the Tab S costs much more and its Wi-Fi only option comes with an Exynos 5 Octa 5420 chipset, which isn't as powerful as the Snapdragon 800 inside the Tab Pro.

We can't really say anything bad about the Samsung Galaxy Tab Pro 8.4 - it doesn't have an NFC chip and its built-in audio and video codecs have trouble with DivX and AC3 but that’s nitpicking.


Samsung Galaxy Tab Pro 8.4
Pros Cons
  • Super clear LCD screen with an impressively high resolution (1600 x 2560px)
  • 8MP camera
  • GPS
  • MicroSD card slot
  • LTE
  • Thin and light
  • Stereo speakers
  • Competitive price
  • No NFC (for what it’s worth on a tablet)
  • Relatively poor audio and video codec support (no DivX and AC3 audio)
Review

The Nvidia Shield made quite a bit of stir in the tablet world. Outside of its high-value brand, it turned heads thanks to its clean design, potent hardware package and stock Android build. It's built around an 8" 1920 x 1200 display, two 5MP cameras, front-facing stereo speakers, 16GB of storage and microSD card expansion.

The Nvidia tablet runs on the non-64-bit Tegra K1 chipset which is praised for great CPU performance and superb GPU performance. We found as much in our Xiaomi Mi Pad 7.9 review .

The Nvidia Shield also has access to the DirectStylus 2, which costs around $40 and works well with the drawing software the company provides on the slate.

Thanks to using an almost stock version of Android, the Nvidia Shield is already receiving Android 5.0 Lollipop.

Nvidia's Shield costs around the same as an Apple iPad mini 2 for the Wi-Fi only version and is a little cheaper for its LTE-capable one, making it quite a bargain as far as mid-sized slates go.


nVidia SHIELD
Pros Cons
  • High-res display (FullHD)
  • 5MP main camera
  • 5MP front-facing camera
  • Great chipset with superb graphics performance
  • MicroSD card slot
  • LTE
  • Stereo speakers
  • Competitive price
  • Android Lollipop
  • Stylus accessory and drawing software
  • No NFC (for what that’s worth on a tablet)

The Amazon Kindle Fire HDX 8.9 is the bigger high-end tablet in the Amazon lineup. It has the bigger display canvas to show for its higher price tag and also a higher resolution - 2560 x 1600px and 339 ppi. It packs the same chipset as the 7-incher and has the same 16/32/64GB choice with 2GB of RAM. The camera has a much higher resolution – there is an 8MP back-facing shooter and a front-facing 720p one. There are stereo speakers on the Kindle Fire HDX 8.9 as well.

The tablet uses the same Android-based Fire OS and it lacks the Google Play Store access, being tied to Amazon's ecosystem. This would probably keep off users who are used to relying on Google’s services.

While the Kindle Fire HDX 8.9 does offer an LTE variant, it is a little expensive at the moment.


Amazon Kindle Fire HDX 8.9
Pros Cons
  • Larger than average 8.9-inch display with very high resolution (2560 x 1600px)
  • Good chipset (Qualcomm Snapdragon 800)
  • 64GB storage option
  • LTE option
  • 8MP camera
  • Stereo speakers
  • Amazon’s content at your fingertips, great if you are a Prime subscriber
  • A little expensive
  • Fire OS can be limiting
  • Low-res front-facing camera
  • Not on the latest Android version

Now moving onto to the Apple iPad mini 2. It has been replaced by the Apple iPad mini 3 but that has done mini 2 more good than bad. The Apple iPad mini 3 is the same tablet but with a finger-scanning Touch ID home button and a golden color option. Since the iPad mini 3 arrived and assumed the price of its predecessor the latter is now €100/$100 cheaper and just as good.

The rest is the same excellent 64-bit A7 chipset, the immaculate app ecosystem and performance, and superb build quality. The highlight is a 7.9-inch 2048 x 1536px display, an all-metal build with stereo speakers, a 5 MP camera and a choice of either 16GB, 32GB, 64GB, and even 128GB storage. Keep in mind that Apple only sells the 16GB and 32GB models at the moment but the other two are still up for grabs from third party retailers.

If you want data connectivity you could opt for the LTE iPad mini 2 but it commands a higher price tag. But as with both iPad mini 2 models you have to get the storage option for you right from the get go as Apple doesn't offer expandable storage.


Apple iPad mini 2
Pros Cons
  • High resolution display (1536 x 2048px)
  • Great chipset (Apple A7, 64-bit)
  • LTE option
  • 5MP camera
  • Stereo speakers
  • Unsurpassed variety of the app ecosystem, especially for tablets
  • Thin and light
  • Great battery performance
  • Reasonable priced for Apple gear
  • No storage expansion
  • Software isn't customizable
  • Low-res front-facing camera
Review

Back at IFA 2014 Sony showcased its Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact proving it can go toe to toe with the best and even move it underwater to finish the job.

The display is only 8" (not 8.9" or 9" or 8.4") but packs a lot of punch thanks to its 1200 x 1920px resolution, and very high contrast and brightness (though viewing angles could have been better). It offers good contrast, a capable 8.1MP camera, stereo front-facing speakers and a handsome Snapdragon 801 chipset.

The Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact has another edge thanks to its 3GB of RAM promising great task management. It has only 16GB of storage but that can be expanded with a microSD card. The body is quite impressive thanks to its 6.4mm thin profile and 270g weight making its screen-to-body ratio superior to the two latest iPad minis.

The tablet’s elements resistance is rated at IP68, meaning it's dust tight and can resists water immersion of up to 1 meter for up to 30 minutes. The slate has Android 4.4.2 KitKat on tap but is slated to get Android 5.0 Lollipop soon.

The Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet compact offers an outstanding battery performance despite what its thin profile might suggest.


Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact
Pros Cons
  • High resolution display (FullHD)
  • Great chipset (Qualcomm Snapdragon 801), 3GB of RAM
  • MicroSD card slot
  • LTE option
  • FM Radio is a rarity on tablets
  • 8MP camera
  • Stereo speakers
  • Waterproof
  • Very thin and light
  • Superb battery performance
  • No Android 5.0 Lollipop update announced yet, but chances are it’s coming
Review

The biggest contender in our mid-sized category is the HTC Nexus 9. The name says it all - it has an 8.9" IPS LCD of the iPad-esque 4:3 aspect and 1536 x 2048 resolution.

This is Google's pureblood tablet meant to showcase the best of Android 5.0 Lollipop on a big screen. At its core the Nexus 9 utilizes the 64-bit variant of Nvidia's Tegra K1 chipset with a dual-core 2.3GHz processor and the Kepler DX1 GPU, which is only outperformed by the A8X chip inside the Apple iPad Air 2.

The HTC Nexus 9 has stereo speakers on the front, 16GB (Wi-Fi only) and 32GB (LTE) storage, 8MP camera and a 720p front-facing camera.

It's also priced the same as its direct competitor from Apple - the iPad mini 3 but the LTE-enabled Nexus 9 is quite steep in price.

We would've liked to see expandable storage but since this is a Nexus device we didn’t really expect it. That doesn’t stop us from wishing for more ample base storage.


HTC Nexus 9
Pros Cons
  • Larger than average 8.9-inch display with high resolution (1536 x 2048px)
  • Great chipset with some stellar graphics performance (Nvidia Tegra K1, 64-bit)
  • LTE
  • 8MP camera
  • Stereo speakers
  • Latest Android 5.0 Lollipop and fast-track update schedule
  • LTE model is too expensive
Review

Full-sized tablets

For those interested in only the biggest tablets out there we finally come to your segment - the full-sized tablet buyer's guide. Here will focus on the biggest and the best, but also the biggest and most affordable slates with a size above 9".

Since our August of 2014 tablet buyer's guide we've a lot changed. Most of the tablets featured last time are gone this one. Another important event was the announcement of the Apple iPad Air 2 which marked a big move to make the tablet smaller but even more powerful.

So let's get started - as usual, we'll run the slates down starting with the most affordable.

The Asus Memo Pad FHD10 tips off our list with a good set of skills and an even better price. It's the cheapest featured here but doesn’t falter in specs. It has a 10" IPS panel of 1920 x 1200px resolution. The exterior also has two cameras - a 5MP one on the back and a 1.2MP one on the front. Stereo speakers are also a highlight and the 16/32GB of storage can be expanded through the microSD card slot.

The Asus Memo Pad FHD10 has an LTE option as well and at its base 16GB storage is priced adequately.

What we don't like is the large price gap between the 16GB and 32GB models – you have to pay through the nose for that. Further on, it's unclear when and if Asus will roll out Android 5.0 Lollipop to the Memo Pad FHD10. Also, the tab is a little cumbersome at 580g.


Asus Memo Pad FHD10
Pros Cons
  • High resolution display (1920 x 1200px)
  • MicroSD card slot
  • Stereo speakers
  • Adequate chipset (Intel Atom Z2560)
  • 5MP camera, 1080p video
  • LTE option
  • May not receive Android 5.0 Lollipop soon
  • Big and heavy

For a little more money (around 25% more) you could opt for the excellent Samsung Galaxy Tab Pro 10.1, which is featured on our list yet again and for good reason, too. Its 10.1 inches of screen canvas are populated with the ample 2560 x 1600px resolution, there's expandable storage, stereo speakers, good Exynos 5 Octa 5420 chipset and an 8MP camera on the back, capable of 1080p video.

More importantly the front-facing 2MP camera can do 1080p video as well, great for video chats through the tablet.

For a pretty penny more you could go for the LTE variant of the Samsung Galaxy Tab Pro 10.1 if you need the extra connectivity.

If you're buying into the 10.1" Galaxy Tab Pro there's very little you need to watch out for. One thing is that Android 5.0 Lollipop is yet to be seeded but should come eventually. Otherwise the tablet is well equipped in both hardware and software - Samsung's TouchWiz UI facilitates great multitasking with support for 4 apps running simultaneously on-screen.


Samsung Galaxy Tab Pro 10.1
Pros Cons
  • Very high-res display (2560 x 1600px)
  • MicroSD card slot
  • Stereo speakers
  • Capable chipset (Exynos 5 Octa 5420 or Qualcomm Snapdragon 800)
  • 8MP camera, 1080p video
  • LTE
  • GPS
  • Heavily-customizable UI
  • Great battery life, superb call times
  • Is on the wait list for Android 5.0 Lollipop
Review

The Asus Transformer Pad TF701T is once again listed in our buyer’s guide and we're getting the sense this is the last time. It's very good tablet on its own and even better coupled with its keyboard dock and still makes perfect sense for the price you'd pay. Asus is yet to name a direct successor although it has released a Transformer Pad TF303CL this year with an Intel processor that could make a claim against the year-old Transofrmer Pad TF701T.

Still, the Transformer Pad TF701T is adequately priced and could make a good point for itself as a portable Android tablet slash mini laptop. Its battery life is very good and so is the Tegra 4 performance. We also liked the display and the relatively clean Android experience.

There are things you need to pay attention to here. For starters, we don't know if the Transformer Pad TF701T will receive Android 5.0 Lollipop. There's no LTE or 3G option and without the keyboard dock the tablet itself is heavy and not as practical.


Asus Transformer Pad TF701T
Pros Cons
  • High resolution display (2560 x 1600px)
  • MicroSD card slot
  • 5MP camera, 1080p video
  • Keyboard, trackpad and extra battery thanks to the dock
  • Adequate chipset (Nvidia Tegra 4 T40X)
  • May not receive Android 5.0 Lollipop soon
  • Big and heavy
  • Uninspiring without the dock
  • No LTE option
Review

Apple has long ruled the tablet space and its year-old Apple iPad Air is the perfect example why. Freshly replaced by the iPad Air, it is still a very good tablet to buy even now. It has gotten cheaper thanks to the iPad Air 2 and the 64-bit A7 chipset is quite capable, the 9.7" 1536 x 2048px display is superb still and the sheer number of tablet optimized apps is great for iPad users.

The iPad Air has a great all-metal body, good battery life and the full set of connectivity features, including LTE. Currently, Apple sells the iPad Air as a 16/32GB-only affair but you might be able to get your hands on a discounted 64GB or 128GB model easily.

What we're not in love with here is the steep price of storage options and the tightly-locked UI that doesn't allow for many of the simple customizations users might want - like deciding where the empty spaces on the homescreen should be.


Apple iPad Air
Pros Cons
  • High resolution display (1536 x 2048px)
  • Thin and light
  • Stereo speakers
  • Very good chipset (Apple A7, 64-bit)
  • 5MP camera, 1080p video
  • LTE option
  • Good battery life
  • Unsurpassed variety of the app ecosystem, especially for tablets
  • Non-expandable storage and pricey storage upgrade
  • Non-customizable UI
Review

The Apple iPad Air 2 brings a lot of physical improvements over its predecessor. For one, it's noticeably thinner and lighter. Touch ID users on the iPhone will appreciate the feature on Apple's latest big tablet and some will cheer for the golden color option.

There's a higher resolution 8MP camera and a much powerful 64-bit A8X chipset that proved unbeatable on graphics. The screen lamination process has brought the screen image even closer to the surface and there is less glare.

Currently, the iPad Air 2 is not a steal compared to its predecessor and users would have to pay the full premium for Apple's latest slate. But the high price hasn't stopped Apple faithful before so it might not prove to be a deal breaker this time around. After all, the iPad Air 2 is Apple’s best iPad to date.


Apple iPad Air 2
Pros Cons
  • High resolution display (1536 x 2048px)
  • Incredibly thin and light
  • Stereo speakers
  • Superb chipset, unbeaten graphics performance (Apple A8X, 64-bit)
  • LTE option
  • 8MP camera, 1080p video
  • Good battery life
  • Unsurpassed variety of the app ecosystem, especially for tablets
  • Non-expandable storage and pricey storage upgrade
  • Non-customizable UI
  • Expensive
Review

What didn't make the cut

There were a lot of tablets that didn't make it into our tablet buyer's guide and we believe we have all the good reasons to exclude them. Still, we thought it's important enough to share why we excluded some of the popular picks out there.

We start off with the LG G Pad 8.3 (Wi-Fi and LTE). It's a solid tablet offer with a great metal body, a superb 8.3" 1200 x 1920px display and good Snapdragon 600 chipset. It's also en route to receive Android 5.0 Lollipop.

This 2013 premium tablet however didn't make the cut, because a few other manufacturers already have 2014 tablets with a similar hardware build and lower price - like the Lenovo Tab S8 or the Acer Iconia A1-840. Still, the LG G Pad 8.3 remains one of our favorites and is a great buy even though its price hasn't seen a further reduction in more than six months.

LG G Pad 8.3
LG G Pad 8.3 LTE

LG G Pad 8.3 • LG G Pad 8.3 LTE

Samsung's Galaxy Tab S 8.4 (Wi-Fi and LTE) is a great slate on its own but paying the serious premium it commands over the Samsung Galaxy Tab Pro 8.4 is simply not worth it. The newer model has a slimmer and lighter body and a Super AMOLED display but the Wi-Fi-only Galaxy Tab Pro 8.4 has the upper hand in performance with its Snapdragon 800. For some a Super AMOLED display may be worth the trade-off but with double the retail price, we would disagree.

Samsung Galaxy Tab S 8.4
Samsung Galaxy Tab S 8.4 LTE

Samsung Galaxy Tab S 8.4 • Samsung Galaxy Tab S 8.4 LTE

The Apple iPad mini 3 is the easiest exclusion we made. It's a good tablet as we found out in our review but it just isn't as big of an improvement as its €100/$100 premium over the iPad mini 2 would suggest. Perhaps Apple took a year off on the iPad mini or didn't want to share the splendor of the iPad Air 2 with its smaller counterpart but all we got was a Touch ID home button, a gold paintjob and nothing more. Both tablets share the excellent A7 chipset, the great screen and build quality, the good battery life and the same variety of tablet-optimized apps.

Apple iPad mini 3

Apple iPad mini 3

The Dell Venue 8 7000 is another tablet that didn't make it. It's an odd ball. ON paper, it has all the right ingredients to be a smashing tablet but it's certainly taking its time to release. The Dell Venue 8 7000 has an 8.4" OLED display of 1600 x 2560px resolution, stereo speakers, 6mm thickness, an Intel Atom chipset, expandable storage and it looks awesome. We certainly hope it reaches a wider availability in time for the next edition of this buyer's guide.

Dell Venue 8 7000

Dell Venue 8 7000

The Lenovo Yoga Tablet 2 10.1 was another promising tablet - it has an ample 10.1" display of 1920 x 1200px resolution, a good Intel Atom chipset, an 8MP camera, stereo speakers, an LTE version and Lenovo's unique built-in kickstand.

But the tablet is a bit heavy and Lenovo is way off with its pricing compared to the rivals we pointed out in the previous page. If you're into the unique kickstand it can still be worth looking into as its price is bound to plummet come holiday time (here's hoping).

Lenovo Yoga Tablet 2 10.1

Lenovo Yoga Tablet 2 10.1

Even though the Sony Xperia Z2 Tablet is still a great choice but it is priced higher than the Lenovo Yoga Tablet 2 10.1, the Samsung Galaxy Tab Pro 10.1 and even the Apple iPad Air. If you absolutely must have a 10-inch waterproof tablet (that's also super thin), it may as well be your only choice. But outside of that, it's simply doesn't deserve that price premium.

Sony Xperia Z2 Tablet Wi-Fi

Sony Xperia Z2 Tablet Wi-Fi

Finally, we come to the Samsung Galaxy Tab S 10.5. Compared to the Galaxy Tab Pro 10.1, which we recommended on the previous page, it packs a Super AMOLED display, a slimmer profile and a fingerprint sensor.

But the Galaxy Tab Pro 10.1 has the exact same screen resolution, the same chipset options, it's thin and isn't too heavy. Most importantly the Galaxy Tab Pro 10.1 is close to half the price of the Tab S 10.5. As such, we find it hard to recommend the Tab S, despite our fondness of Super AMOLED screens.

Samsung Galaxy Tab S 10.5
Samsung Galaxy Tab S 10.5 LTE

Samsung Galaxy Tab S 10.5 • Samsung Galaxy Tab S 10.5 LTE

Final words

This tablet buyer's guide comes out with the holiday season just around the corner. Our goal was to pit the best and the most affordable in a way so that you can get a comprehensive idea of which tablet is the better pick over the other. Not always the latest tablets in a lineup are the best deals - the iPad mini 3 and Samsung Galaxy Tab S series pop to mind.

We can't say it enough but we love the tech times we're living in today. There are no longer purely bad options to get and we're now shoulders deep into the time where a year-old tablet is still worth getting. And they are still good not solely based on their reduced prices but because hardware and software have been working together for quite some time to create good and balanced devices, which last more than a year.

The tablet hardware has come to a point where the focus is on making them lighter and smaller, but for most purposes practical - email, multimedia consumption, even multimedia creation, they have already reached an excellent level. Even battery life is no longer of such concern as almost any tablet's battery would last it through a full day's worth of use (which rarely is the case anyway).

And tablets are increasingly interconnecting with smartphones, so you can have your data and your content on all your devices and even access some of your smartphone's features from within your tablet (LG, Samsung and Apple come to mind). Tablets are also no longer defined by the question "why do you need one" and are now just fun devices that can be genuinely useful and even better than PCs in some respects.

If you are sold on the idea of getting a tablet of your own, all it remains to pick the right one for you and we hope, we've given you enough guidance. Enjoy!

Compact tablets

Starting from the ground up we'll be focusing first on the smallest of tablets and will run through them from the lowest price up. This is the segment that has the cheapest slates out there and in this November issue they are even cheaper than in the August one.

Compact tablets are mostly made to fit a budget bill and not for performance but near the end of the list you'll see a couple that are made for performance and not just affordability.

The first tablet in our list is the Samsung Galaxy Tab 3 Lite 7.0. It's already an aging hardware rig by now but it already has Android 4.2 Jelly Bean and has its positives. Its main advantage is the below €100 price tag which allows it to qualify as the most affordable tablet in our list.

It packs a 7" display of the unimaginative 600 x 1024px resolution but has a microSD card to complement its 8GB of onboard storage, a dual-core processor that will push task along and a 2MP camera should you need one. Sadly, it comes without a front-facing camera.

For a little extra the Samsung Galaxy Tab 3 Lite 7.0 offers 3G connectivity through a SIM slot.


Samsung Galaxy Tab 3 Lite 7.0
Pros Cons
  • MicroSD card slot
  • Very cheap
  • Good battery life
  • Compact and light
  • 3G
  • Low-res screen (600 x 1024px)
  • Limited chipset performance
  • No front-facing camera
Review

The next slate on our list is the Asus Memo Pad 7 ME176CX. It commands a higher price but is still quite affordable. The display diagonal is the same 7" but the resolution is increased to 800 x 1280px and the screen is an IPS unit. On the back there's a more serious 5MP shooter and Asus has included a 2MP front-facing camera for video conferencing - neat.

The Memo Pad 7 also has a microSD card, stereo speakers and great battery life - all the makings of a competent small slate for a good price.

It doesn't carry a 3G option, though so if that's a must for you then move along to our next candidate.


Asus Memo Pad 7 ME176CX
Pros Cons
  • Inexpensive
  • microSD card slot
  • Capable chipset (Intel Atom Z3745)
  • High-res camera (5MP)
  • Stereo speakers
  • Great battery life
  • No 3G/LTE model available
Review

The next listing is the Asus Fonepad 7, which has as the name suggests, built in 3G connectivity. It costs around the same as the Memo Pad 7 and matches it spec for spec although it has a dual-core Intel Atom chip and not the quad-core found in the Memo Pad 7.

Mind you, this is the older Fonepad 7 and not the latest one as it has much better specifications. The newer model does offer dual-SIM functionality so if you're in need of a small slate running two SIMs it may be worth to look into.


Asus Fonepad 7
Pros Cons
  • Appealing price
  • microSD card slot
  • Capable chipset (Intel Atom Z2560)
  • High-res camera (5MP)
  • 3G/LTE built-in
  • IPS display
  • Questionable future software update support

The Amazon Kindle Fire HDX is a very tempting offer at this point in time. Currently, its price is reduced and it will probably stay this way until the end of the holiday shopping season. The Kindle Fire HDX packs a 7" 1200 x 1920px FullHD IPS display, a Snapdragon 800 chipset and stereo speakers.

It doesn't have the most amazing camera and the base 16GB non-expandable storage is a little limiting. Amazon's Fire OS is based on Android but sticks closely to the company's ecosystem and has its own app store with no access to the Google Play store.

If you like Amazon services and want a small tablet the Kindle Fire HDX is a superb choice. It also comes with an LTE option.


Amazon Kindle Fire HDX
Pros Cons
  • Great price at the moment
  • Great chipset (Qualcomm Snapdragon 800)
  • FullHD display
  • Stereo speakers
  • LTE option
  • 16/32/64GB variants
  • No microSD card slot
  • Limiting software
  • Low-res camera (1.3MP, 720p)
  • No front-facing camera

Another great choice is the Google Nexus 7 (2013). It's built to showcase the latest Android has to offer and comes with timely updates (currently freshly running 5.0 Lollipop). Its chipset is showing its age but remains good.

The Nexus 7 (2013) has good stereo speakers, a great FullHD 7" display but its storage is limited to either 16GB or 32GB. There is an LTE variant available for an extra charge.

The price of the Google Nexus 7 (2013) has been back and forth - sometimes the slate is a steal and others it's not the best deal around. Currently, the tablet sits in the middle but might be worth waiting a little bit more for.


Asus Google Nexus 7 (2013)
Pros Cons
  • Great FullHD display
  • Stereo speakers
  • Good chipset (Qualcomm Snapdragon S4Pro)
  • Superb software support
  • High-res camera (5MP)
  • LTE option
  • No microSD card slot
  • No 64GB option
  • A little expensive at the moment
Review

The Huawei MediaPad X1 makes it once more into our tablet buyer's guide. That's because it has a good hardware foundation of a large battery, metal body, expandable storage, high-res camera and LTE built right in.

The Huawei MediaPad X1 comes with the company's own HiSilicon Kirin 910 chipset, which performance-wise matches what the Snapdragon 600 can do. The 7" FullHD display was a joy to gaze at when we encountered the MediaPad X1 at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona this past February. The bezels around the display are very slim and the metal-clad body follows suit.

It is a little expensive but might be worth it if you're looking for a device that can make and receive calls and take advantage of LTE connectivity.


Huawei MediaPad X1
Pros Cons
  • Metal body
  • FullHD display
  • Very high-res camera (13MP)
  • GPS
  • LTE option
  • Questionable future update support
  • Expensive
  • Limited availability