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Best Android tablets (September 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 Android tablets for September 2013. For those of you with limited carry space, there's a phablet for you to lust over.

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Topic: Mobility
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1 of 9 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 seven Android tablets for August 2013.

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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The new Google Nexus 7

My favorite Android tablet just got better!

The new Google Nexus 7 is the much-anticipated follow-on to the highly-successful original Nexus 7. The hardware, once again manufactured by Asus, consists of a 7-inch display with a resolution bumped up to 1920x1200 HD display and a pixel density of 323 pixels per inch, a 1.5GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 Pro quad-core processor, an Adreno 320 GPU, a choice of 16GB or 32GB of storage, a 5 megapixel rear camera, and a – somewhat limited – 1.2 megapixel front-facing camera.

The main downside of the Nexus 7 continues to be 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 4.3 "Jelly Bean" operating system, and features an improved, very efficient software keyboard.

Also, being a Google-branded tablet, you're also guaranteed software updates, rather than having to rely on the goodwill of the hardware maker to make them available.

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.

About the only thing I don't like about the Nexus 7 is the 16:10 screen aspect ratio, which makes the device feel awfully top-heavy in portrait mode.

At a glance:

  • 7-inch, 1920x1200 HD display and a pixel density of 323 pixels per inch
  • 1.5GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 Pro quad-core processor
  • Adreno 320 GPU
  • Android 4.3 "Jelly Bean"
  • 5.0 megapixel rear camera
  • 1.2 megapixel front-facing camera
  • Choice of 16GB or 32GB
  • Stereo, surround speakers
  • Battery life of 9 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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4 of 9 from $299.

Samsung Galaxy Tab 3 8-inch

The Android market is dominated by Samsung, and it's no surprise that it has come out with a new 8-inc tablet – the Galaxy Tab 3 8-inch.

At $299, the Tab 3 8-inch is a bit pricey, but it's a good competitor to the iPad Mini for those who don't want to get caught up in the iOS/App Store lock-in web.

The best thing about the Galaxy Tab 3 8-inch is that it is essentially a Galaxy Note 2 (minus the stylus, which I don't care much for anyhow) for $100 less.

At a glance:

  • 8-inch, 1280x800 display
  • 1.5GHz Exynos 4212 dual-core processor
  • Android 4.2 "Jelly Bean"
  • 5 megapixel rear camera, and a 1.2 megapixel front camera
  • 16GB storage
  • Battery life of about 11 hours

Price

Link/image source: Samsung.

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One to watch – Samsung Galaxy Mega

Here's another handset to keep an eye on over the coming weeks – Samsung Galaxy Mega.

Do you think that other smartphones are small and puny? Do you have large hands? Large pockets? Carry around with you a large bag?

Answered "yes' to one or more of these questions? The Galaxy Mega may be for you!

It's clear that Samsung is carpet-bombing the marker with handsets in a variety of sizes, and this 6.3-inch phablet (cross between a phone and a tablet) is at the high end for what's possible – and plausible – for a smartphone in terms of screen size.

The mega is certainly not for everyone, but if you want a smartphone that you can use as a tablet, then this might be worth a look.

  • Jelly Bean (Android 4.2.2)
  • 1.7GHz dual-core processor
  • 6.3-inch 1.280 x 720 display
  • 8MP rear camera
  • 1.9MP front camera
  • 16GB internal storage
  • 3.200 mAh user-replaceable battery
  • MicroSD card slot
  • NFC

Price: from $150 with two-year contract.

Link/image source: Samsung. 

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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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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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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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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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