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Top Android tablets (February 2014 edition)

Want a tablet but don't want to buy a svelte iPad Air or the petite iPad mini because you want to stay away from the Apple walled garden? Not a problem! Here are my top Android tablets for February 2014 – and this month we have a couple of new entries. And 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 11 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 nine Android tablets for February 20142014 – and this month we have a couple of new entries.

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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2 of 11 Google

The Google Nexus 7

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 4.4 "KitKat" 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, optional cellular, 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 4.4 "KitKat"
  • 5.0 megapixel rear camera
  • 1.2 megapixel front-facing camera
  • Choice of 16GB or 32GB of internal storage
  • Stereo, surround speakers
  • Battery life of 9 hours

Price: from $199.

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3 of 11 Samsung

Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 (2014 edition)

The Galaxy Note 10.1 is Samsung's is a flagship tablet that commands a flagship price. And it just got better with this latest update

The hardware is all top-notch, with a 10.1-inch screen with a 2560x1600 resolution display, a 2.3GHz quad core processor on the LTE version (the Wi-Fi/3G version has a 1.9GHz quad-core CPU and a secondary 1.3GHz quad-core CPU), a choice of 16GB, 32GB or 64GB of storage, an 8 megapixel rear-facing camera, a 2 megapixel front-facing camera, and a 10-hour battery pack.

The software is Android 4.2 "Jelly Bean" operating system.

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. This can be a hugely useful for BYOD usage.

There are two drawbacks to this device. The first is the price. This is a premium tablet, and has a premium price tag to go with that. But at $50 more than the iPad, it's hard to recommend the new Galaxy Note 10.1, especially when you factor in the second drawback – performance. While the hardware baked into the new Galaxy Note 10.1 is top-notch, the tablet still suffers from a sluggishness that makes it annoying to use. Perhaps this will be fixed by a software update, but for now it plagues what should otherwise be a flagship device.

At a glance:

  • 10.1-inch, 2560x1600 display
  • 2.3GHz Exynos quad core processor on the LTE version
  • Android 4.3 "Jelly Bean"
  • 8 megapixel rear-facing camera, a 2 megapixel front-facing camera
  • Choice of 16GB, 32GB or 64GB of internal storage
  • Battery life of 10 hours

Price: from $549.

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4 of 11 Asus

Asus Transformer Pad TF701T

The Asus Transformer Pad TF701T is one of the slimmest and lightest 2560x1600 resolution, 300 pixels-per-inch, Full HD Android tablet on the market, but it is also stylish and very well put together.

The display also supports 10-point multitouch.

The 10.1-inch 2560x1600 resolution display is backed by a powerful Nvidia Tegra 4 quad-core processor that is packed with a very capable 72-core GPU. This hardware runs the Android 4.2 "Jelly Bean" operating system.

The battery life is also excellent, with the tablet and dock combo capable of 17-hours or work.

At a glance:

  • 10.1-inch 2560x1600
  • Nvidia Tegra 4 quad-core processor
  • Android 4.2 "Jelly Bean"
  • 5 megapixel rear camera, and a 1.2 megapixel front camera
  • Choice of 32GB or 64GB of internal storage
  • Battery life of up to 17 hours

Price: from $449.

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5 of 11 Samsung

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-inch 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 an upgraded Galaxy S II.

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
  • USB 3.0
  • 16GB storage of internal storage
  • Battery life of about 11 hours

Price: from $299.

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6 of 11 Google

Google Nexus 10

Here is the Nexus 7's bigger brother — the Nexus 10. However, be aware that we are currently waiting for Google to announce a replacement for this device. This could happen any time soon.

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" upgradable to 4.4 "KitKat"
  • 5 megapixel rear-facing camera, a 1.9 megapixel front-facing camera
  • Choice of 16GB and 32GB of internal storage
  • Battery life of 11 hours

Price: from $399.

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7 of 11 Samsung

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.

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8 of 11 Amazon

Amazon Kindle Fire HD

Amazon, a company that rose to fame by making it easier and cheaper to get your hands on the books you wanted, has been aggressively getting into both the hardware and digital content markets over the past few years. And the recently updated Kindle Fire HD is testament to how serious Amazon is about disrupting the tablet market.

  • Fire OS 3.0, a highly modified version of Android
  • 1.5GHz dual-core processor
  • 7-inch 1280x800 HD display featuring a pixel density of 216 pixels-per-inch
  • Dolby audio
  • Dual-band Wi-Fi
  • 10 hour battery life
  • Choice of 8GB and 16GB internal storage

Price: from $139.

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9 of 11 Amazon

Amazon Kindle Fire HDX

To show how serious Amazon is about the tablet market the company unveiled a new addition to the Kindle Fire HD line-up – the Kindle Fire HDX.

The HDX comes in two different flavors – a 7-inch version and a bigger, beefier 8.9—inch variety. Both are essentially the same hardware apart from the screen and the fact that the 8.9-inch version features a bigger, better screen and a rear-facing camera.

  • Fire OS 3.0, a highly modified version of Android
  • 2.2GHz quad-core processor
  • 7-inch 1920 x 1200 (323 ppi) display | 8.9-inch 560 x 1600 (339 ppi)
  • Both feature a front-facing HD camera, while the 8.9-inch version also has an 8MP rear-facing camera too
  • +11 hour battery life
  • Dolby audio
  • Choice of 16GB, 32GB, or 64GB of internal storage

Price: from $229.

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10 of 11 Nvidia

EVGA Tegra Note 7

The Tegra Note 7 is Nvidia's entry into the fearsome tablet market, and what an entry it is.

While Nvidia itself doesn't make the hardware – it only provides the reference design – its long-term hardware partner EVGA has done an excellent job of putting together a quality tablet at a very competitive price. And EVGA is just the first of many OEMs who will be bringing their own version of the Tegra Note to market over the coming months.

  • Jelly Bean (Android 4.3)
  • 1.8GHz Tegra 4 processor complete with a 72-core Nvidia GeForce GPU
  • 7-inch 1280x800 IPS display
  • 5MP rear camera
  • VGA front camera
  • 16GB internal storage
  • MicroSD card slot
  • 4100mAh battery offering 10 hours of HD video playback

Price: $199.

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11 of 11 LG

LG G Pad 8.3 Google Play Edition

Do you like the Android operating system but hate all the customizations/bloat/crapware that tablet makers like to cram into it? If you answered "yes" then you are not alone, and LG have a tablet that might be of interest to you.

The LG G Pad 8.3 Google Play Edition is a standard LG G Pad 8.3, but with the OS and all the trimmings deleted and a stock version of Android 4.4 "KitKat" loaded onto it instead.

The result is a solid, well-made tablet that runs the latest Android operating system.

  • KitKat (Android 4.3)
  • 1.7GHz Snapdragon 600 processor with an Adreno 320 GPU
  • 8.3-inch 1,920x1,200-pixel resolution with a pixel density of 273 pixels-per-inch
  • 5MP rear camera
  • 1.3MP front camera
  • 16GB internal storage
  • MicroSD card slot

Price: $349.

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