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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  • BuddyRich - Saturday, November 29, 2014 - link

    I just ordered a Dell Venue Pro signature edition 64 from the MS Store which was only 229 (it had a 120 discount for black friday but it also sold out) should be here shortly. $100 more for 1" of screen and 1GB of RAM is alot but I wanted to ensure I could get a working OTG+Charge cable, Dell sells one, and early tests indicate the Stream 7 doesn't work with with the cheap OTG Y cables. OTG works but it does charge. Maybe something like a Vener8 or +port will work but for what I want to use it for I need charge and USB port access at the same time and these things only have the one port. Otherwise at $99, the Stream 7 is like a Raspberry PI only with a screen (and a version of windows). They are PCs, you can install Linux on these things but with much better hardware than the Pi. Install XBMC and you are better than the XBMC version of Android and you still get a touch interface for fairly cheap.

    This will be my first Windows tablet, but Ive used windows 8 and 8.1 since its release and everything Ive read says these tablets should get a free update to Win 10 in April or whenever its released.

    I used to be an Apple fan boy, going from iPod touch to 3GS to iPhone5 and bought the iPad3 for my first tablet. I dabbled with jailbreaking with the ipod and 3GS but by the time ios4 came out it had most of the features I wanted stock so haven't jailbroken since.

    Then in Nov. of last year I bought a N7 over the iPad Mini for the screen quality and to try something different as iOS7 killed my performance on the iPad3. It wasn't bad on the 5. 7.1 went a long way to fixing this, but there was nothing really new and I found the ios experience to be getting stale. Having dropped my 5 and cracking the screen in May of this year I ordered a Nexus 5 and sold the iphone 5, and have been android ever since, save my iPad and old 3GS I use as remotes and music streamers. I was disappointed with the N9 so don't know what I'll buy next. I want to stick to stock Android but I was intrigued by the OLED screens in the Tab S tablets, but dislike the Samsung UI touchwiz stiff. I do find the Android app ecosystem offers more open apps but also trails iOS in app availability and app features where they exist on both. Its getting better but its not there yet, mostly the games, iOS is usually the first platform where something gets released (see Touchstone for example). Otherwise I love the fact I can run a file explorer on Android and tinker with a bunch of things I couldn't on iOS but with 4.4 and 5 more and more things require root to tinker with and the OS is becoming more closed.
  • mhaubr2 - Saturday, November 29, 2014 - link

    I've been using the Asus TF700 as my "take everywhere" office device for the past 2 years, and I'm totally sold on the idea of an Android convertible. I can just shove it in a folio and take it everywhere - access corporate email & calendar, take notes using the keyboard, and because Android has pointer support with a bluetooth mouse I can remote into my Windows desktop and it's actually usable (even using the tiny trackpad on the keyboard dock). The TF700 is getting a bit long in the tooth, though, and the newest flagship TF303 isn't yet available in the US (assuming it ever will be). I recently picked up the TF103 for $150 for home use and although the screen is crap I really can't complain about the features for the price. Other folks at work have been getting iPads, and but my Asus is far more useful. I'm surprised Android convertibles haven't gotten more traction for this use case.
  • Hemant0010 - Sunday, November 30, 2014 - link

    Microsoft Surface Pro series of tablets bridged the gap between Laptop and Tablet very well. Also, iPad Air 2 and Mini 3 are one of the best Tablets around right now and are also launched in India now. Know more about the price in India and other details - http://www.techuntold.com/ipad-air-2-and-ipad-mini...
  • ruthan - Sunday, November 30, 2014 - link

    Sorry boys but some graphics, headers.. would be nice, this is wall of text.
  • jhh - Sunday, November 30, 2014 - link

    I bought a Nexus 10 on the day it launched. While I don't use it for gaming, the performance is adequate for my use. But, the battery is losing capacity, as it shuts down at 50%. I've read other people saying their Nexus 10 shuts down at 70% available. There are no legitimate options for battery replacement other than returning the tablet to Samsung, and not clear that they have any actual new batteries, or only old batteries with few cycles.

    Tablets without an aftermarket replacement battery source are doomed to a 2-3 year lifetime. If there was a decent tablet with assurances of 6 years of after-sale service available, they would be most likely to get my replacement business. But, they would have to be profitable on after-market services, not just new tablet sales. I hate creating all this electronic waste.
  • PC Perv - Sunday, November 30, 2014 - link

    Read GSMArena's Tablet guide. Much more thorough and unbiased unlike Brandon Chester's propaganda-ridden crap.

  • PokerGuy - Monday, December 1, 2014 - link

    As a long time AT reader I'm very disappointed by this tablet guide/review. It's fine for an audience that doesn't know (or want to know) the details, but rather just high level guidance on what to buy at the store. For a site like AT where the readers are tech savy, it's pretty lousy. I expect more from AT.

    I also don't understand how the G tab pro 8.4 isn't recommended over the N7. I can't see any reasons why the N7 is superior, and it actually costs more. Am I missing something?
  • Poik - Monday, December 1, 2014 - link

    I agree. The problem with a Nexus 7 or 9 is storage. Unless you have an unlimited plan 32GB isn't enough in this day and age and not including SD expandability makes the problem worse. I get that Nexus has never done that but limiting the capacity to 32GB really limits what I can do with it. I want to get a tablet for a trip I'm taking in January but the cost of a tablet with a decent amount of storage is rather crazy.
  • blzd - Monday, December 1, 2014 - link

    The Galaxy Tab Pro 8.4 is cheaper than an N7? What world do you live in?

    The MSRP for the N7 is/was $200. As Anandtech mentioned, Samsung's exynos chips are slow and disappointing even compared to the now outdated Snapdragon 400. That wouldn't be too bad except it's trying to power the slow and disappointing skin known as TouchWiz which makes it feel even slower. Not to mention that the N7 has Android 5.0 already so is light years ahead in software while remaining a good $100 cheaper.
  • stlc8tr - Monday, December 1, 2014 - link

    The Tab Pro 8.4 is available now for $200 (from Best Buy and a few other sites). The MSRP of the N7 was $229 but since Google isn't selling the N7 anymore, there's no direct comparison. New 16GB N7's are going for $200 on eBay.

    Also, the Tab Pro 8.4 does not use an Exynos. It's a Snapdragon 800 @ 2.3Ghz with Adreno 330 GPU.


    As for TouchWiz, it's an acquired taste. There are pluses and minuses. I don't mind it as much now that I've used in for awhile.

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