With the holidays approaching, it's time for our annual recommendations for devices in various product categories. Today we're taking a look at what tablets provide the best value and experience for different users. There's obviously a lot of decisions to be made when buying a tablet, and we'll assume that by the time a user has concluded that they want a tablet they have already determined that it is a more suitable choice for them than a more traditional computer like a desktop PC or a laptop.

The first question the buyer will have to ask themselves is what price they are comfortable paying. Tablet prices can range anywhere from $100 to $1000, depending on exactly what tablet it is, and the buyer's price target will be a constraint on the different tablets they have to choose from. Once a price target has been established, the user must decide what they want to do with their tablet. Some tablets may not have the selection of applications that the buyer needs, and others may not have a suitable form factor or size for performing these tasks. Tablets come in many shapes and sizes, with displays ranging from 7" to 13" with aspect ratios that vary from 3:2 on the Surface Pro 3, to 4:3 on the iPad and Nexus 9, to 16:10 on the Nexus 7. Certain display shapes and sizes will be better suited to watching videos, while others will be better suited to reading PDFs and books.

These decisions about size, utility, and price will ultimately drive the decision of what operating system the tablet should be running. Currently this is a choice between three platforms, with the market being dominated by tablets running iOS and Android, Windows coming in third, and other operating systems like WebOS having been eliminated in previous years due to lack of consumer interest. There are also other factors, like accessories and keyboard attachments, but it's very difficult to evaluate these as their usefulness will ultimately depend on the user's needs. Instead of trying to look at every single tablet that fills every niche, we've looked at what we think are the best overall devices within each of the three major operating systems that are available on tablets.

iOS Tablets
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  • MrBeardyMan - Friday, November 28, 2014 - link

    Google appear to have stopped selling the Nexus 7, in the UK at least, over a month ago. The play store only shows the 5, 6 & 9 so unless you find a retailer with stop you are out of luck.

    It is a great tablet (which I own) and I heartily recommend it - if you can get one.
  • Brandon Chester - Friday, November 28, 2014 - link

    Yeah that's why I put it on. Even if it's "replaced" by the Nexus 9, it's still really worth considering if some retailer has it available near you. I was disappointed to see that it was discontinued.
  • MadMan007 - Friday, November 28, 2014 - link

    Yup. The Nexus 9 is fine for a larger tablet, but it is just not one-handable like the 7, nor can it reasonably go into jacket pockets. They really should have kept the Nexus 7 around, like they kept the Nexus 5 around (although it seems to be in and out of stock), to have a two-tier Nexus line. I suppose Google isn't primarly interested in selling to consumers though and so isn't worried about filling every option. At least we know that the 2013 Nexus 7 will be buyable, even if in refurb form, for a good long time if we judge by the continued availability of refurb 2012 Nexus 7's.
  • EnzoFX - Saturday, November 29, 2014 - link

    I found the N9s display lacking compared to the N7 even. I wouldn't recommend it over an iPad for this reason alone.
  • HisDivineOrder - Saturday, November 29, 2014 - link

    The best part about it being removed from the Google Play store is that so many people talked about the Nexus 6 and 9 as though they were additional options to the cheaper Nexus 5 and Nexus 7, respectively.

    Except they're not ADDITIONAL options. They're full-on replacements that cost a LOT more than the devices they're replacing for extra performance and various improvements that may not be necessary to a great many users.

    When you go from $229 and $269 (and often much lower on sale) to $399 and $479, you're damn close to doubling your MSRP for a tablet. I don't know that the 2" diagonal is going to be worth it to a lot of users. Especially given the quality of the Nexus 7 build versus the Nexus 9 build.
  • thesloth - Sunday, November 30, 2014 - link

    I'd also recommend the LG G-Pad 8 as a Nexus 7 replacement. The only slight issue is that the speakers are a bit tinny compared to the Nexus 7, but other than that it beats it hands down.

    You can get it for about £200 new on Amazon or around £150 for a refurb on eBay.
  • gailthesnail - Sunday, November 30, 2014 - link

    False. Its max brightness is so dim it doesn't even reach 50% brightness on the nexus 7, making it nearly unusable outdoors.
  • zhenya00 - Monday, December 1, 2014 - link

    It's actually an interesting question as to what the departure of the N7 will do to the state of Android tablets? It seems to be the only Android tablet that has ever been widely accepted, and one of the few that I actually ever see out in the wild. It has long been an easy recommendation for someone who doesn't want an iPad for any reason. What now?
  • jessmurray10 - Tuesday, December 2, 2014 - link


    Tab le t M a x x -- offers some Great Holiday Deals on new Tablets with a half of dozen new models released this month, all with the latest specs and premium features -- plus TabletMaxx includes a free $20 - 16GB MicroSD memory card with all tablets.

    One model that stands out is the new mid-size 9" tablet, the Ramos i9s ($239) - powered by one of Intel's first 64-bit mobile processors and offers a premium build quality that compares to the Nexus 9 at nearly half the price... there's also the new 8-inch Pipo P8 ($229) model which also matches most features of the Nexus 9, but with a more compact size.

    For Windows tablets, there's the new X90 HD - Windows 8.1 model ($269) - the only Mid-size, 8.9" Windows tablet available with an AMOLED 2560X1600 display - the same screen found in several premium Samsung devices; plus the X90 HD comes bundled with a case and Bluetooth keyboard.

    Other Holiday deals through Tablet Maxx include the 7-inch Venus Android tablet ($69) with a quad core processor and HD screen; plus an Ultra-size 12-inch model, the Ramos i12 ($259) - which also offers an optional case with keyboard to make a great tablet - laptop combination.

    Another deal-buster is a premium iPad case with Bluetooth keyboard for only $20 (regularly $59)
  • RJ Phillips - Monday, December 15, 2014 - link

    yep, fortunately, there is still iPad Air 2 (happy) http://bit.ly/1GonYJn it definitely deserves to be called the best tech of 2014

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