So we’ve now seen plenty of tablets hit stores or preparing to hit stores. The most recent additions being the Nexus 7 (3G variant), Nexus 10, iPad Mini, the fourth-gen iPad, Microsoft Surface RT, Kindle Fire HD, Nook HD etc. With the holiday season upon us, people are looking forward to getting one of these gadgets. But which one to get? It’s natural to feel that way. And to help with your decision making, here’s a comprehensive guide on all the competing tablets in the market right now. First up is the Microsoft Surface.
Microsoft Surface RT
Of all these tablets, if there is one tablet that we’re not so sure about, it’s the Surface RT. While MS Surface RT is on par with most competing tablets in terms of specs, design et al, there’s just too much it can’t do. Why do we say this? Well, when we talk about Windows, there’s generally one thing that comes to mind and that is the general Windows UI. A casual Windows user is rather tricked into getting the Surface RT with prior assumption that it’s a notebook alternative. Not to mention, the addition of the Touch and Type Cover go pretty much in favor of the said theory. While Surface RT partially does what a regular Windows PC would do, i.e. opening video files, browsing documents etc, it doesn’t support a lot of apps that work on your notebook or desktop. This is mainly due to the kind of chipset used inside the Surface RT. It makes use of the NVIDIA Tegra 3 chip which will run all the apps on the Windows Store pretty smoothly, but won’t support apps meant for x86 machines. If you try to install third party apps, the annoying error message is shown. You’re probably better off waiting for the Surface Pro, which will be more of a PC alternative. However, if you want a tablet for media playback, some casual gaming and social networking, the Surface RT will not disappoint you. The regular Windows desktop experience doesn’t work pretty well with touch, which is a known fact now. But thanks to the array of connectivity ports on the Surface RT, you have the liberty to add USB 2.0 powered devices like keyboards, mice etc. This is one area where the Surface RT excels over its competition, mainly the iPad. As for the apps on the Surface RT, there isn’t a lot of them. But it’s still a new concept and with time, there will be plenty of apps in the Windows Store, so that’s not a factor in my opinion.
The iPad Mini is making its way to an already crowded space (Nexus 7, Kindle Fire HD, Nook HD etc) in the budget tablet arena. The tablet has a lot going against it than for it, which is rare for an Apple device. As you would have noticed from the reviews of the device, 7.9-inches isn’t as comfortable as a 7-inch tablet. The unusual aspect ratio makes it hard to get used to, well at least for some users. That is negligible really, but nothing can beat the ease of use of an actual 7-inch tablet. What matters in a small tablet is the comfort to use it with one hand and that’s clearly missing with the iPad Mini. However, this is highly subjective and might differ from person to person. If there is one thing worth mentioning as a pro for the iPad Mini, it is the variants that Apple is offering. There’s a 4G LTE variant coupled with three different storage options which is always good for a confused buyer. Although the iPad Mini seems like a scaled up version of the iPod Touch, it will have some takers this holiday season. For those who cannot afford the luxury of the full sized iPad, this should be a nice alternative. The device is already sold out, it is believed, so that tells us about the hype Apple has managed to generate for the device. It runs a dual core A5 chip inside and comes in 16, 32 and 64GB variants. Prices for the Wi-Fi model starts from $329 and extend all the way up to $529. 4G LTE variants start from $459.
Speaking of budget tablets, it’s hard to leave out the Nexus 7 out of the equation, isn’t it? Well, the Nexus 7 rightly kicked off the budget tablet segment, although due credit should go to Amazon for its Kindle Fire which popularized the concept for good. Unsurprisingly, the Kindle Fire remains the highest selling Android tablet ever, that too without having all of Android’s capabilities. So it was about time for Google to step in with the Nexus 7, and they did exactly that, in a major way. Pre orders for the Nexus 7 went over the roof initially, and Google could finally brag of a complete Android tablet that the consumers could approve of. And the recent refresh was even more welcoming as it brought a new 3G variant to the fore, which broadens the horizon a little. Also, ditching the 8GB version and bringing in a new 32GB variant wasn’t a bad idea either. However, customers who got the 8GB version of the tablet recently wouldn’t have nice things to say. The Nexus 7 is a great buy, especially considering the price. Starting from $199 for the 16GB variant, it’s worth every buck.
Along with the Nexus 7 refresh, Google also announced the Nexus 10 which is remarkably one of the few tablets out there that could stand up against the iPad. It’s a powerhouse in every sense of the word. With its 300ppi 10.055-inch IPS display, it’s one of the best in the industry, even besting the Retina Display iPad. The main downside to this tablet though, is the app support. Although Android brags of a decent number of applications, most of them aren’t optimized for tablets. As a result, what the user sees is a scaled up version of the mobile app which can be horrendous. The problem persists with the Nexus 10. While its crisp display will make for excellent reading, web browsing and watching videos, certain apps could make you wonder if all this was really worth it. But the tablet is still in its infancy as it’s not completely available in the market yet, so expect this to be sorted out by the app developers in due time. The tablet comes in Wi-Fi only 16 and 32GB variants. Sadly, there’s no 4G LTE or HSPA variant, so users can’t exactly be connected on the go. But at $399 and $499 for the 16 and 32GB variants respectively, the Nexus 10 is a great deal. For this price, you’re getting a remarkable display, a great on board CPU (dual core Exynos 5250) and the luxury of a Nexus device powered by the latest Android 4.2 OS.
Kindle Fire HD 7 and 8.9
The Kindle Fire HD comes in two shapes. One with a 7-inch display and the other with a 8.9-inch display, both boasting of HD resolution and Dolby Audio technology. These tablets will certainly give Google’s Nexus 7 and the iPad Mini a run for their money, but given the fact that it only runs a half-baked version of Android on top of some heavy customization, might be a decisive factor for potential buyers. Both the tablets are available in 16 and 32GB variants respectively and one of them also has cellular connectivity onboard. So Amazon has left no stone unturned in making these tablets attractive for the customers. It all comes down to the buyer, who will ultimately decide the fate of these new budget tablets. Prices start from $199 for the Kindle Fire HD 7 and $299 for the Kindle Fire HD 8.9. Have your pick by heading over to Amazon.
Nook HD and HD+
Barnes & Noble is known for the ever so popular Nook eBook readers. But they’ve evolved drastically over the past couple of years and launched very competitive tablets. The Nook Tablet and Nook Color marked the arrival of B&N in the tablet industry. And now with the recent announcement of the Nook HD and HD+, they have certainly upped the ante. The Nook HD sports a 7-inch HD display while the Nook HD+ comes with a bigger 9-inch Full HD display. Reading eBooks on this tablet is going to be a delight with the crisp display and all those extra pixels. The Nook HD+ sports a 1920×1280 resolution display, which gives it a emphatic pixel density of 256ppi. Running on board the tablets are dual core processors. The dual core CPU is clocked at 1.3 GHz on the Nook HD while the Nook HD+ comes with a 1.5 GHz dual core CPU. So this isn’t old gen by any means, and you’re assured of latest and greatest hardware on the Nook HD series. However, like the Kindle Fire, this one too runs a heavily custom skinned version of Android which the company calls “Paper”. The Nook HD is priced at $199 and $229 for the 8 and 16GB variants. The Nook HD+ will be available in 16 and 32GB variants for $269 and $299 respectively.
So there you have it. These are the tablets currently vying for the top spot out there. I’ve left out the fourth gen iPad out of the list as there is nothing new to know about it, as it was merely seen as an incremental upgrade from the Retina Display third gen iPad (although this one brags of a new beefed up A6X chip). With the exception of the Microsoft Surface, all the tablets are tagged under the budget category. So this holiday season, pick your tablet wisely.