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Best rugged Android tablets money can buy

Update: check out our 2017 edition of best rugged tablet list and our best rugged smartphone list

From luxury to commodity to absolute necessity, being able to connect to the web while on the go and carrying your work with you far and wide have taken new meanings in recent years, as conventional PCs lost steam and ultraportable alternatives rapidly gained traction.

Best Rugged Android Tablet

Tablet construction site

And whereas most smartphone and tablet owners nowadays still fall in the light to moderate user categories in regards to their productivity and range of tasks completed, there are those who take gadgets very seriously, depending on them not to entertain and amuse, but put bread on the table.

These power users are not the same so-called power users that Apple or Samsung usually address with fancy new iPhone, iPad or Galaxy launches. They are real-life, modern John McClanes, who rock Casio Commandos, Kyocera Torques or Cat B15s as “daily drivers”, not because they make them feel manlier, but because a bendable 6 Plus or GNote 4 couldn’t get a through a workday without cracking under pressure.

They’re not heroes, they just like things done a certain way. They work in tough outdoor conditions but never complain. Even in their spare time, they love hanging out in the wild, with nature’s strengths and shortcomings.

Panasonic Toughpad

They’re not afraid of a splash of water, dust, dirt, extreme temperatures, altitudes or things like radiation or vibration. Some can even take a bullet without blinking. Each and every one of them however need survival tools, and a good starting point are the rugged Android smartphones we recommended a while back.

Next step? A solid yet compact and portable, secure, smooth and powerful ruggedized Android tablet. Yes, we know, Windows has the upper hand for the most part in this grossly overlooked niche. But if you look hard enough, here are some of the best Google-powered options you’ll be able to find:

Fujitsu Stylistic M532 – available at $358 on Amazon

Just so we don’t scare you right off the bat, we’ve decided to start the countdown of the best rugged Android tabs with possibly the world’s cheapest. Obviously, the M532 is thus not the most robust ultraportable money can buy.

On the bright side, it’s fairly thin and light, at 8.6 mm and 560 grams respectively. And given the wasp waist and low price, the 10 incher is no featherweight, withstanding extreme conditions such as high altitude, shocks, vibrations and minimal or maximum temperatures, courtesy of MIL-STD-810G certification.

Fujitsu Stylistic M532

The Stylistic can also remain whole after being dropped a few times, though it’s best to protect it from violent contacts with hard surfaces. Above all, the M532 is a business-oriented slab, offering a host of security add-ons and data protection methods, and ergo being a better fit for an enterprise environment rather than a construction site or war zone.

Last but not least, the thing runs Android 4.1 Jelly Bean, packs quad-core power, 1 GB RAM and 32 GB internal storage.

Panasonic Toughpad FZ-A1

Just so you know, the Android “Terminators” are arranged in no particular order, as they’re simply too different to rank. Clearly, pitting the Toughpad FZ-A1 against the Stylistic M532 would have been comparing apple to oranges.

Toughpad FZ-A1

That said, deciding between the two is pretty easy. Fujitsu’s option is better for enterprise, this thing “dares to go where no tablet has gone before”. Meaning you definitely want to put on a protection helmet while on duty as, say, a contractor, but this baby can handle any and all environments by itself.

Yes, it’s that tough. It even comes with an extended 3-year warranty to show you how durable it is. And Panasonic may not list bullet resistance as one of the slate’s features, but honestly, this is your safest best for a war comrade.

Panasonic Toughpad FZ-A1 back

It’s massive, at 2.1 pounds, it can handle repeated drops from dizziness-inducing heights, and it’s of course MIL-STD-810G certified. The carcass is encased in magnesium alloy, the corner guards are made of elastomer, and you get all kinds of hardware encryption methods, the highest degree of password security, root and anti-virus protection.

Panasonic Toughpad JT-B1 – available at $1,486 on Amazon

Does $1,500 feel a little too rich for your blood? We get where you’re coming from, and don’t blame you, but believe it or not, the JT-B1 is even stronger than the other Panasonic Toughpad. Aside from complying with all military standards for everything from extreme temperatures to rain and freeze, this compact little 7 incher sports a sealed “all-weather design”.

Toughpad JT-B1

And the raised bezel increases the LCD impact protection. Translation: you can drop the JT-B1 on its face over and over again, and it won’t crack. The craziest thing is the device’s weight, 1.2 pounds, although the 8-hour battery life is a close second.

Getac Z710 – $1,495

This is the last uber-expensive tab we’re going to list, we promise. And perhaps we’d never have recommended it in the first place, especially as it doesn’t come from a big-name manufacturer, but the Z710 breathes strength through its every pore. Maybe more than the Toughpad rivals.

What we like the most at Getac’s design approach is they knew from the get-go their target audience couldn’t care less about style and elegance. There are no aesthetical bells and whistles here, just a 7-inch tablet small enough to hold in one hand and “built to survive”.

Getac Z710

Six-foot drops, extreme temps, solar radiation, you name it. Oh, and the screen is perfectly readable in the most difficult lighting conditions, plus glove-friendly. A barcode scanner is inbuilt for obvious reasons, and 3G connectivity is not an option, it’s standard.

Guaranteed to last you at least three years of constant abuses, the Z710 runs Android 4.1 Jelly Bean and packs 1 GB RAM, as well as 16 GB internal storage.

Xplore RangerX – $1,391

1,400 bucks is still a lot of money, but not only is the RangerX a little cheaper than our previous two recommendations, it’s also larger, at 10 inches, and thus more productive. Needless to stress this can also take a loooot of abuse, specifically repeated drops on every edge, corner, plus directly on its face, including on concrete from heights of up to 4 feet.

rangerx

Then you have all the extreme conditions that don’t affect the usability of the big guy in the least, which include -4° F to 140° F temperatures, blowing rain, 95% humidity, functional shock, 15,000 feet altitudes, fluid contamination and solar radiation.

As for security options and neat add-ons and features, Xplore Tech equipped this beast with Gigabit Ethernet, CAC and Smart Card Readers, a Kensington lock slot and optional Verizon 4G LTE among others. Just beware of the vague, fishy Amazon listing and maybe go over to Xplore directly for a quote depending on your exact needs.

Motorola ET1 – $1,246

Bet you didn’t know this thing still existed, huh? Well, it has amazingly survived Motorola’s rise and fall, its retreat from the tablet market and successive buyouts from Google and Lenovo. Of course, it’s no longer widely available, but Amazon sells it directly, and the price isn’t so bad… all things considered.

Keep in mind that Moto put Jelly Bean on the 7 incher a while back, so the software at least should be silky smooth. The hardware, not so much, as that dual-core TI OMAP 4 processor is horribly outdated. Not quite as indestructible as some of the above contenders, the ET1 remains a top choice for enterprise users, with its manageability, security and decent durability.

Motorola ET1

The spec sheet includes a bar code scanner, phenomenal 8 MP rear camera, 1 GB RAM and protection for 4-feet drops, thermal shock, humidity, etc., etc.

Before wrapping up, we’d like to remind you the Android universe is an extremely volatile one, so keep your eyes out for alternatives yet to come. Like Samsung’s Galaxy Tab Active. Not recommended for the most extreme wild conditions, the $700 KitKat-loaded 8 incher will nevertheless fight water and dust, plus remain operational after dropped from 4-feet high… in theory. It’s your call now, so choose wisely and stay safe.

Best business-friendly Android tablets money can buy in December 2014

Once upon a time deemed harmless toys incapable of challenging the conventional laptop’s productivity, tablets have grown in mainstream popularity of late not only because they’re smaller and, often, easier to master than computers.

tablets-and-business

They’re also slowly but steadily moving up the enterprise ranks, becoming safe, functional and, most of all, cheap enough to use in business environments. Besides, tablets allow professionals and entrepreneurs to take their work with them wherever, whenever, with increased comfort.

Juggling between one’s relaxation and entertainment needs, and office endeavors is a walk in the park, and a slew of optional accessories and add-ons like keyboard docks or stylus pens often bring tabs perfectly on-par with larger PCs as far as productivity goes. Sometimes, higher.

Business tablets

Granted, many tablets, especially in the Android ecosystem, remain focused on light tasks, gaming, or multimedia playing. Which is why you may need a little guidance into picking the pads that mean business the most. Here are seven top options available today, each one fitting a different enterprise profile:

Google/HTC Nexus 9 – starting at $400 on Amazon

At first glance, there’s nothing businessy about the latest entry in the “pure Google” Nexus franchise. Quite on the contrary, if we’re talking strictly from a software standpoint, as Big G is never keen on adding software optimizations or security “enhancements” in the mix.

What makes the N9 a sensible choice for corporations and corporation workers is the dedicated keyboard folio, up for grabs on Amazon at $88. Sure, most tabs support third-party docking stations and keyboard cases. Many of which might be larger and thus more productive than Nexus 9’s accessory.

Nexus 9

But this one is specifically made for Google’s 8.9 incher, and you’re guaranteed perfect compatibility and a smooth user experience close to the one offered by a traditional laptop. All for less than $500, in a package weighing under 800 grams in total. Nice!

Samsung Galaxy Note Pro 12.2 – $549 in 32 GB configuration

It’s perhaps needless to point out why a stylus could come in handy for a graphic artist, or just a scribbler always attending meetings and always in need of easy note-taking tools. Well, the Note Pro 12.2 is one of the easiest and best all-around, along with its beautiful, greatly prolific S Pen.

Galaxy Note Pro with keyboard

A fantastic multi-tasker and a bona fide powerhouse, the Note Pro 12.2 offers all the screen real estate you’ll need to create and tweak spreadsheets in comfort, and of course, an Office Suite built with your enterprise requirements in mind.

Plus, Knox security, a wireless printing-dedicated app and a bundled keyboard if you’re willing to cough up $720 and up. Not exactly a bargain, but it could be money well spent.

Asus Transformer Pad TF103C – $299 (keyboard included)

Looking for a bargain tablet/laptop hybrid, and don’t mind cutting a few performance and productivity corners? This aging Transformer Pad is a smart buy no matter how you look at it, even if it’s smaller than the Note Pro and doesn’t come with a stylus in tow.

Asus Transformer Pad

Not quite a speed champion, the TF103C can last for a full day’s work on a single charge, and the bundled keyboard is particularly impressive, touting a decently sized trackpad and as such replicating to the letter a notebook’s typing experience.

Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 2014 Edition – $449 and up on Amazon

Something for everybody. That’s our motto today, and the 10.1-inch Note aims to meet the desires of those who see the Note Pro as too uncomfortable to lug around, and the Transformer Pad as underwhelming in the performance department.

Galaxy Note 10.1 2014

Not too pricey, and not too cheap, if you know what we mean, this baby comes with Polaris Office pre-installed, S Pen support on hand, the same exquisite multitasking abilities as the 12.2 incher and an optional case/stand. No keyboard love? Afraid not, although there are numerous external choices.

This $26 Newstyle, for instance. Or this “premium” $47 ProCase. This $37 Supernight? Your call.

EVGA Tegra Note 7 – up for grabs at $159

If your employer is not the generous kind, and you’re simply looking for an inexpensive, light, sleek travel companion instead of a top-of-the-line laptop replacement, the Tegra Note 7 is perhaps the safest bet.

EVGA Tegra Note

It ain’t extremely productive, obviously, but it’s decent for note-taking, courtesy of the intuitive Nvidia Direct Stylus experience, and will let you answer a few urgent e-mails on the move. Oh, and don’t tell your boss man, but the Tegra Note 7 is a bitching gaming device. Almost like an oversized Shield console.

Sony Xperia Z2 Tablet – $530 on Amazon

Pencil pushers (no offense) make up merely a tiny portion of the target audience addressed by business tablets. A solid business tab should handle itself in the wild outdoor too, and in need, fight off water dips and dust contact.

Enter the waterproof, dirtproof Xperia Z2 Tablet. Perhaps not the ideal gadget to visit a construction site without a helmet on, the 10.1 incher is incredibly easy to carry, tipping the scales at 439 grams and measuring 6.4 mm thick.

Xperia Z2 Tablet

Now, elegance may not be the prime concern of enterprise slate users, but if you’re to be available for your business partners and execs at all times, at least do it in style. Speaking of all-times availability, the 10.1-inch Z2 can be had with just Wi-Fi connectivity, or Verizon LTE speeds. The latter, high-speed connected around the clock, costs $500 with two-year contracts, and $600 outright.

Samsung Galaxy Tab Active – $563 on Amazon

Meet the Terminator of business-friendly tablets. This thing can take a beating without flinching, and needs no helmet in its construction travels. The Tab Active is the protection helmet, its rugged exterior ensuring security against four-foot drops.

Also, against accidental water immersions up to 30 minutes, and interaction with dust. Basically a Tab 4 8.0 squeezed into a protective case, the Tab Active is “enterprise-ready, productivity-ready and solutions-ready.”

Galaxy-Tab-Active

How so? With Knox security, NFC, C-Pen support, a bundle of special apps to crank up productivity, various data encryption methods and, last but not least, a daylight-readable LCD screen.

Do we have an enterprise champion? Maybe, although we’d like to stress again each business user is different, and has a very particular set of skills in need of polishing and support. All considered, is anyone thinking of purchasing one of the above? Which one and why? Sound off in the comments section below.