Looking for the best tablet? There are a lot of options out there, but we've done the hard part for you and narrowed it down to the Top 5, sorted by categories: Value, Apps, As a Media Player, Bragging Rights, and Budget.
Value: Nexus 7, $220 for 16GB
The Nexus 7 is unbeatable in terms of bang for your buck. Boasting the sharpest screen on any tablet at 323 pixels per inch, a 1080P screen, quad core processor and 2GB of ram all for $220.
Users love it: It has more than 1,500 Amazon reviews with 4 stars, and most issues reviewers mention have been fixed with firmware upgrades. Users report the battery life is excellent, the screen is stunning, and the improved processing power and ram make a huge difference from its predecessor.
To compare, a non-Retina iPad Mini will run you about $100 more, only has a dual core chip and has a far inferior screen. Meantime, if app selection isn't important to you, and you're looking for something more to watch movies on, a Kindle Fire HDX has slightly more pixels and is only $10 more. And if you want a bigger screen (but not more detailed) and don't need so much processing power, the Kindle HD 8.9 is a great buy.
Also, if you like the way iOS works and aren't into tinkering, we would never tell someone to go from Apple's iOS to Android; the Android experience is less user-friendly. iOS and Apple "just work" in a way Android doesn't quite, not yet anyway.
Still, the Nexus 7 is a great buy, but don't put off the iPad mini just yet, especially if you're about Apps (see below).
Games & Apps: iPad Mini Retina, $399 for 16GB
There are two kinds of people: people who buy lots of apps, and people who buy virtually none. If you're not trying to engage with the amazing world of apps and are sticking to vanilla functions like mail applications, listening to music and using Yelp, apps aren't a big deal for you and a cheaper device will keep you just as happy.
If you are into apps, reviewers consistently say Apple has the superior ecosystem. You can see a more thorough breakdown here, but this reviewer concluded that Android was better to iOS only when it comes to "Social Networking and Streaming Music." As far as games, they are usually released on iOS first, and they are consistently better: Apple makes much less hardware and has far fewer iOSes for developers to worry about.
Jumping into a specific app category is revealing. When it comes to music production, for instance, iOS blows Android out of the water:
Despite having a huge installed user base, when it comes to music making apps, Android remains very much the poor relation to Apple’s iOS.
This isn’t because developers don’t want to release apps for Google’s mobile OS, rather that various problems — notably high audio latency and the fact that there are numerous devices and different versions of Android in circulation — have prevented them from doing so.
Each App store has a huge amount of applications, but if you're looking for the best of the best, iOS' App Store delivers more than Google Play.
Go with the iPad Mini Retina if you want an excellent gaming experience coupled with a high-quality selection of apps.
Budget: ASUS MeMOPad HD 7-Inch, $129.99 for 16GB
The ASUS MeMOPAD is nothing special, but its price is outstanding. If you're on a tight budget, it's a spanking deal for the money.
Out of 268 user reviews, the MeMOPAD has almost 4 and a half stars on Amazon.com.
One user put it excellently:
The only users [of this tablet] who may truly complain about the device are gamers, those who need massive computing power (power users), or those who are more concerned about impressing others with their cliquish device (Apple buyers?) instead of the utility of the device.
The MeMOPAD is a highly functional, no-frills tablet, and at $130 it's the cheapest one we could recommend. There are cheaper tablets available, but they are all prone to serious shortcomings and outright failure.
If you're in the sub-$150 range and want something new this is the way to go.
As a Media Player: Kindle Fire HDX 8.9, $379
At this price point and for this purpose, the Kindle Fire HDX 8.9 absolutely crushes the competition. It's blazing fast and has a better screen and sound than anything out there. The competition is flimsy: an iPad Air has an inferior screen (25 percent fewer pixels) and inferior sound; the Nexus 10 is outdated at this point — the screen is comparable, but the processor and performance are not.
There's not a lot to explain here, really. This is plainly the best tablet for consuming media.
The iPad Air will give you superior Apps and Games, but it'll run you more money, clocking in at $499 base, which is why it earns our final category...
Bragging Rights: iPad Air, $499 16GB
Apple makes premium products at a premium price, and the iPad Air is exactly that. It's irrefutably the best tablet on the market, smoother and more powerful than ever. It has the best apps, an amazing screen, decent sound (not as good as the Kindle HDX though), and while it weighs 3 ounces more than the Kindle, that's not really a big deal.
If you're not an Android lover and can spend the extra money, there's nothing to think about: Get the iPad Air. It won't let you down for a second. If you're going to be watching stuff all of the time, and aren't into apps, you may consider saving some money and going with the Kindle HDX, but really, this device is going to be great for everything. Everything. It's not the best bang for your buck, nope, but it is the best. That simple.