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Top Android tablets (January 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 January 2014 which includes an awesome Nvidia-powered system.
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1 of 10 Adrian Kingsley-Hughes/ZDNET

Introduction

Tablets are everywhere, and while Apple's iPad Air – 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 January 2014.

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. There's also a fantastic Nvidia-powered system in this lineup.

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2 of 10 Adrian Kingsley-Hughes/ZDNET

(Source: 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 4.3 "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 of internal storage
  • Stereo, surround speakers
  • Battery life of 9 hours

 

Price: from $199.

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3 of 10 Adrian Kingsley-Hughes/ZDNET

(Source: 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 10 Adrian Kingsley-Hughes/ZDNET

(Source: 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.

Thanks to a recent OTA (over-the-air) software update that added new features to the Tegra Note such as always-on HDR photography, the tablet is better than ever.

A solid system, especially for those looking for a gaming platform.

  • 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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5 of 10 Adrian Kingsley-Hughes/ZDNET

(Source: Asus)

Asus Transformer Pad Infinity TF700T

An oldie but still a goodie.

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.

While the hardware is capable of handling most apps you can throw at it, performance when it comes to some of the newer, more demanding games leaves a little to be desired. If you're into gaming, you might want to give this tablet a miss. 

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 of internal storage
  • Battery life of 9.5 hours

Price: from $499.

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6 of 10 Adrian Kingsley-Hughes/ZDNET

(Source: 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-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
  • USB 3.0
  • 16GB storage of internal storage
  • Battery life of about 11 hours

Price: from $299.

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7 of 10 Adrian Kingsley-Hughes/ZDNET

(Source: 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"
  • 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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8 of 10 Adrian Kingsley-Hughes/ZDNET

(Source: 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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9 of 10 Adrian Kingsley-Hughes/ZDNET

(Source: 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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10 of 10 Adrian Kingsley-Hughes/ZDNET

(Source: 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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