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Best Android tablets (July 2013 edition)

Don't want to get locked into Apple's ecosystem by buying an iPad or iPad mini? No problem! Here are my top 7 Android tablets for July 2013. And if you're looking for budget Android tablets, there are two here you might be interested in.
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1 of 8 Adrian Kingsley-Hughes/ZDNet

Introduction

Tablets are everywhere, and while Apple's iPad – along with its little brother, the iPad mini – commands the most media attention, there's no shortage of excellent Android alternatives to choose from.

Here are my top 7 Android tablets for June 2013. I've also included a couple of budget Android tablets ideally suited to those who want to try out a tablet without spending too much.

All of the tablets features here are very capable, powerful workhorses, and are ideal not only for home users, but also for enterprise users or those looking for a BYOD tablet. Any one of these will give you an excellent Android experience, and, when combined with the right apps, will allow you to get a lot of work done when you're away from your desk.

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Google Nexus 7

My favorite tablet — and one that is rapidly replacing my full-size iPad as my go-to tablet.

The Google Nexus 7 was the first Nexus-branded tablet to be released by Google. The hardware, manufactured by Asus, consists of a 7-inch display with a 1280x800 resolution screen, an Nvidia Tegra 3 quad-core processor, a choice of 16GB or 32GB of storage, and a – somewhat limited – 1.2 megapixel front-facing camera.

The main downside of the Nexus is that it does not feature a card slot to allow you to expand the storage.

The hardware runs the very latest – and highly capable – Android 4.2 "Jelly Bean" operating system, and features an improved, very efficient software keyboard. Being a Google tablet, you're also guaranteed software updates, rather than having to rely on the goodwill of the hardware maker.

The tablet also features Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, NFC, and optional cellular, and all this is powered by a battery that can give 10 hours of usage under normal conditions.

A powerful tablet in a small, easy-to-carry form factor.

The more I use this tablet, the more I like it. It's big enough to do real work, and yet small enough to carry around in a jacket pocket.

At a glance:

  • 7-inch, 1280x800 display
  • Nvidia Tegra 3 quad-core processor
  • Android 4.2 "Jelly Bean"
  • 1.2 megapixel front-facing camera
  • Choice of 16GB or 32GB
  • Battery life of 10 hours

Price: from $199.

Link/image source: Google.

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Google Nexus 10

The #2 spot goes to the Nexus 7's bigger brother — the Nexus 10. 

The Nexus 10 sports a 10-inch screen with a 2560x1600 resolution display, a dual core ARM Cortex A15 processor, and a quad core Mali T604 graphics processor.

The Samsung-made tablet also comes with a choice of 16GB or 32GB of storage, a 5 megapixel rear-facing camera, a 1.9 megapixel front-facing camera – which is far superior to the 1.2 megapixel camera that the Nexus 7 has – and a power pack capable of delivering 11 hours of usage.

The Nexus is designed by Google, and so it offers the best, purest Android experience possible – and it also means that you will get operating system updates direct from Google, rather than have to wait for the hardware makers to the update.

Overall, a powerful, very well made tablet, and if you have space in your life for a 10-inch tablet, you should take a look at this one. The main downside of the Nexus is that it does not feature a card slot to allow you to expand the storage.

At a glance:

  • 10-inch, 2560x1600 display
  • Dual core ARM Cortex A15 processor
  • Android 4.2 "Jelly Bean"
  • 5 megapixel rear-facing camera, a 1.9 megapixel front-facing camera
  • Choice of 16GB and 32GB.
  • Battery life of 11 hours

Price: from $399.

Link/image source: Google.

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Ainol Novo 7 Venus

The second cheap and cheerful tablet from Ainol. This one is the 7-inch Novo 7 Venus, and is certainly worth a look.

Again, not a big-name brand, but a look at the spec will tell you that this is quite a well put together tablet, especially when you take a look at the price.

At a glance:

  • 7-inch 1280x800 IPS display
  • ATM7029 quad-core CPU with GC1000+ GPU
  • Android 4.1 "Jelly Bean" compatible with 4.2
  • 2 megapixel rear camera, and a 0.3 megapixel front camera
  • 16GB storage
  • Battery life of 5 to 9 hours

Price: from $129.

Link/image source: Aniol.

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Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1

The Galaxy Note 10.1 is Samsung's is a flagship tablet that commands a flagship price.

The hardware is all top-notch, with a 10.1-inch screen with a 1280x800 resolution display, a 1.4GHz Exynos quad core processor, a choice of 16GB, 32GB or 64GB of storage, a 5 megapixel rear-facing camera, a 1.9 megapixel front-facing camera, and a 10-hour battery pack.

The software is Android 4.0 "Ice Cream Sandwich" but there's an upgrade path to Android 4.1 "Jelly Bean".

For times when a finger just isn't precise enough, the Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 comes with a nifty stylus called the S Pen specifically designed to work with a number of applications. This really comes to its own when doing fiddly things like working in a spreadsheet, or knocking out a doodle.

The stylus makes the Galaxy Note 10.1 a great machine for taking notes, planning, and sketching out ideas.

At a glance:

  • 10.1-inch, 1280x800 display
  • 1.4GHz Exynos quad core processor
  • Android 4.0 "Ice Cream Sandwich"
  • 5 megapixel rear-facing camera, a 1.9 megapixel front-facing camera
  • Choice of 16GB, 32GB or 64GB
  • Battery life of 10 hours

Price: from $499.

Link/image source: Samsung.

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Asus Transformer Pad Infinity TF700T

The Asus Transformer Pad Infinity TF700T is not only the slimmest and lightest 1920x1200 resolution full HD Android tablet on the market, but it is also stylish and very well put together.

The 10.1-inch 1920x1200 resolution display is backed by a powerful Nvidia Tegra 3 quad-core processor that is packed with a very capable 12-core GPU. This hardware runs the Android 4.0.3 "Ice Cream Sandwich" operating system, which is now showing its age, but is nonetheless a very capable and robust platform.

The tablet features an 8 megapixel rear camera, and a 2 megapixel front camera, and the battery can go for 9.5 hours between recharges.

At a glance:

  • 10.1-inch 1920x1200 display
  • Nvidia Tegra 3 quad-core processor
  • Android 4.0.3 "Ice Cream Sandwich"
  • 8 megapixel rear camera, and a 2 megapixel front camera
  • Choice of 32GB or 64GB
  • Battery life of 9.5 hours

Price: from $499.

Link/image source: Asus.

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7 of 8 from $200.

Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 7-inch

Now that Apple has released the iPad mini, this seems to have rekindled interest in smaller tablets. For those who are looking for a highly-portable tablet on a budget, the Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 is worth a look.

The 7-inch screen with 1024x600 resolution display is a little meagre compared to the Nexus 7, but offsetting this is the micro-SD card slot that allows you to bump the storage up from the stock 8GB for a few dollars. For those wanting to carry around a lot of data, that little card slot is worth its weight in gold.

The tablet is powered by a dual core Texas Instruments OMAP processor and a 3 megapixel rear-facing camera. The stock operating system is Android 4.0 "Ice Cream Sandwich" but you can upgrade to Android 4.1 "Jelly Bean".

At a glance:

  • 7-inch, 1024x600 display
  • 1GHz Texas Instruments OMAP processor
  • Android 4.0 "Ice Cream Sandwich"
  • 3 megapixel rear camera, and a VGA front camera
  • Choice of 8GB, 16GB, and 32GB
  • Battery life of about 5 hours

Price

Link/image source: Samsung.

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Ainol Novo 9 Spark

Looking for a cheap and cheerful tablet that has plenty of power to handle even the more demanding apps? The Ainol Novo 9 Spark is worth a look.

You might not have heard of the manufacturer before, but the tablets are well worth taking a look at.

At a glance:

  • 9.7-inch 2048x1536 retina IPS display
  • Allwinner A31 quad-core CPU with SGX544MP2 GPU
  • Android 4.1 "Jelly Bean" compatible with 4.2
  • 5 megapixel rear camera, and a 2 megapixel front camera
  • 16GB storage

Price: from $229.

Link/image source: Aniol.

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