How bizarre. While the smartphone market seems to be evolving towards a “bigger is better” credo, with practically every high-end device measuring 4.7 inches or above, the tablet world is undergoing a shift in the exact opposite direction.
10-inchers are no longer the bomb and everyone, from Google to Apple and from Samsung to Asus, is craving for a piece of the small (and affordable) tablet pie. Even Microsoft is rumored to be working on a 7 or 8-inch Surface and Nokia is actively pursuing all possibilities.
And though it’s true that the “full-sized” iPad remains the best-selling tab in the world, it’s only a matter of time until that thing will be playing second fiddle for gizmos like the iPad Mini, Google’s Nexus 7 or Amazon’s Kindle Fires.
For now, we’re just glad the competitive nature of the small tablet niche has grown considerably, to the point where it’s tough to pick only five solid contenders for this once upon a time insignificant crown. And that’s without counting the iPad Mini.
Without further ado, here are the five best smaller than 8-inch Android tablets today (i.e.: August 1, 2013):
5. Asus Memo Pad (ME172V)
- It’s incredibly cheap, being very close to reach the $100 sweet spot that we couldn’t even dream of until not long ago;
- Despite being so very cheap, it has the guarantee of a quality brand, whose reputation has grown considerably due to the Nexus 7 Google partnership;
- It packs a generous 4,270 mAh battery, which should be capable of handling his own for a good seven or eight hours of continuous use between charges.
- Its build quality is reported to be pretty shallow by many reviewers;
- The design is not its strongest suit, having massive bezels and a pretty bulky figure;
- The 1 GHz VIA WM8950 processor is clearly not ideal for gaming or even heavy browsing;
- The 7-inch screen is… well, pitiful, boasting a 1,024 x 600 pixels resolution and 170 ppi.
4. Samsung Galaxy Note 8.0
- S Pen support. Enough said, right?
- Ultra-slim bezels and a waistline that could make a world-class supermodel jealous;
- Available in several different flavors, including with 32 GB of storage and 4G LTE connectivity;
- It has microSD support, unlike all of our top three tabs;
- Packs a great amount of heat under the hood, courtesy of a quad-core Exynos chip and 2 GB of RAM.
- It’s outrageously expensive, at least compared to Amazon and Google’s contenders;
- For a tablet so pricey, the 8-inch 1,280 x 800 pixels resolution panel is modest;
- Again considering its price range, it’s not exactly premium-looking, rocking an all too familiar plastic exterior.
3. Amazon Kindle Fire HD 7
- Great overall value for money, though still a little ways behind the Nexus 7;
- Surprisingly sharp 7-inch display, considering it doesn’t boast the resolution of a lifetime (1,280 x 800 pixels);
- Micro HDMI port;
- Excellent “ecosystem” (if you’re not a “vanilla” Android fanatic).
- It’s occasionally extremely sluggish, packing a now modest dual-core 1.2 GHz TI OMAP chip;
- Lacks Google Play support, with Amazon’s Appstore sometimes incapable of compensating;
- No microSD support, rear camera or GPS, plus a fairly modest front snapper.
Pricing: Available via Amazon for $214 in a 16 GB variant and $244 with 32 GB of storage
2. Google/Asus Nexus 7 (2012 edition)
- With its follow-up recently introduced, it’s likely to see imminent price drops (not that it’s very expensive as things stand);
- Runs Android 4.3 Jelly Bean already and should be one of the first in line for a 5.0 Key Lime update in the fall;
- It’s not made of aluminum, but it looks and feels great in the hands of users, being elegant and unexpectedly robust;
- The quad-core Tegra 3 processor is an oldie, but a goldie, providing enough oomph for most casual gamers and unpretentious users in general;
- NFC connectivity;
- Lacks microSD support and rear camera;
- The display is a little on the disappointing side of things, though it still holds its own against the Kindle Fire HD panel, for instance.
1. Nexus 7 (2013)
- Although it’s a gigantic step up compared with its predecessor, it’s only 30 bucks more expensive;
- Awesome design, with slimmer bezels than before, 290 grams weight and 8.7 mm profile;
- Stunning 7-inch IPS panel with 1,920 x 1,200 pixels resolution;
- Blazing fast (at least on paper), being powered by a quad-core Snapdragon S4 Pro chip and 2 GB of RAM;
- Optional 3G and 4G LTE support;
- Runs Android 4.3 and will benefit from the fastest software updates in the business.
- Still lacks microSD support;
- Packs a 3,950 mAh battery that’s not only worryingly tiny, but also impossible to replace (sans a screwdriver, a lot of effort and warranty voiding, that is).
Pricing: Available via the Play Store for a starting price of $230.
That’s a wrap, ladies and gents, and now you have the floor. Had a different top five in mind? Different order? How about the iPad Mini, if we were to take that into consideration, where would it fit in these rankings? Are you planning to buy any 8-inch or smaller Android tablet? Which one? We’re all ears, so don’t be shy.