iOS Tablets

Whether or not Apple's tablet experience is a desirable one is certainly open to debate, but it's hard to deny that the iPad still remains the tablet that all other tablets have to measure up to and are compared against. Last month Apple updated its iPad lineup with the new iPad Air 2 and iPad Mini 3, and removed the fourth generation iPad. As it stands, Apple has a larger selection of tablets than it has in the past, but whether or not some of them are worth buying is another story. Right now the entry price for an iPad is $249, and it scales as high as $829. For the purposes of these recommendations, we'll be evaluating the tablets based mostly on the base configuration, with additional consideration about the price of storage and cellular upgrades compared to other tablets.

For the most budget minded user, the $249 entry point buys you the original iPad Mini. This is effectively the same hardware platform that shipped with the iPad 2 in March of 2011. With its ageing specifications and low-resolution display, it's not something I would really recommend to anyone, even someone on a very tight budget looking for an iPad. An additional $50 makes things much more interesting, as $299 buys you the iPad Mini 2 which was originally launched as the iPad Mini with Retina Display. Although the display's color gamut is effectively the same as the original Mini, the 2048x1536 display is an enormous improvement over the original. The internal hardware is also superior, with Apple's A7 SoC that still seems to be holding its own a year after release. At $299, the iPad Mini 2 is definitely a worthwhile consideration, even if the color gamut leaves much to be desired.

At the higher price points of $399 and $499 we have three different tablets. For $399 you can choose between the original iPad Air or the recently released iPad Mini 3, and for $499 you can get Apple's new flagship tablet, the iPad Air 2. With the $499 price point it's not really a difficult decision if you're set on buying an iPad, as the Air 2 is thinner and significantly faster than its predecessor. It also includes Touch ID which is a much more desirable feature with the recent launch of iOS 8 and Apple Pay, although not as much of a must-have feature as on a phone.

Choosing between the iPad Air and the iPad Mini 3 is more difficult, as both devices share the same overall specifications. The big differences are obviously the size, the superior display calibration on the iPad Air, and the inclusion of Touch ID on the Mini 3. The A7 SoC in the Air is also clocked 100MHz faster and maintains performance longer due to the heat spreader and lack of stacked RAM, but for most users this isn't going to have many real world implications. I think that I would lean toward the iPad Air as my recommended iPad for the $399 price point, unless the user really needs the smaller size and wants Touch ID. In all other circumstances, the Mini 2 provides the same small tablet experience as the Mini 3 at $100 less.

There's one more factor to consider, and that's the prices of the tablets after storage upgrades, as well as the availability of those upgrades. Apple's pricing scheme for NAND has traditionally been a 16GB base model, with an additional $100 bringing you to 32GB, $200 bringing it to 64GB, and more recently a $300 boost would bring the storage up to 128GB. With the launch of the new iPhones, and subsequently the new iPads, Apple adopted a new storage pricing scheme with the same 16GB base model, but with the $100 and $200 jumps bringing you to 64GB and 128GB respectively, which is a $100 reduction for both of those upgrades compared to the original cost. The iPad Mini 2 and iPad Air now have an upgrade to 32GB for $50, which I would consider a worthwhile investment as 16GB can disappear awfully fast on a tablet.

Overall, I would say that my recommendations are the iPad Mini 2 for the entry level spot at $299, the iPad Air at $399, and the iPad Air 2 as the flagship at $499. There are obviously considerations to make about size and storage, but in general I think these are the best devices that Apple offers at their respective price points.

Intro Android 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) it definitely deserves to be called the best tech of 2014

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