It seems that it was just a few years ago when we had but two awkward choices for portable computing: either bring a large and clunky laptop for full utility or use a smartphone with a miniature, restrictive screen. Then came Apple, as is so often the case in the tech world, and innovated the market with its iPad. No longer would you have to make the choice between utility and convenience: the iPad’s powerful features and its slender, compact body were the perfect blend of both. But ultimately, the product proved less than perfect for many, so now we have a seemingly endless variety of tablets and tablet manufacturers to choose from. There’s no doubt that they all want to compete with – and beat out – Apple and its prized tablet. But can they? Read on and find out, as we have compiled a list of the best tablets currently on the market. And, to make things easier for our readers, we’ve sorted them into groups based on an individual user’s budget.
The best budget Android tablets of 2016
Depending on your means or your outlook on consumer electronics, budget devices are either perfect or not worth your time. It’s true that the models we list here aren’t going to set new records in terms of performance, nor will they introduce new and powerful features. But they have something that makes up for any lack of non-vital features: an affordable price that lets even those with limited assets enjoy an amazing piece of technology. If you’re looking to buy a tablet without emptying your pockets, here are some of the best choices – inexpensive, but with no less emphasis on quality.
Amazon Fire HD 6: an undersized tablet that does the job
“An Amazon tablet? Since when are they a manufacturer?” is probably going to be your first thought after learning that the giant of online shopping is dishing out tablets. And you’d be right: Amazon’s foray into electronics manufacturing is a fairly recent development, although that’s no reason to dismiss their equipment. It’s hard to ignore the obvious about the Amazon Fire HD 6: it’s small. In fact, it’s smaller than most tablets you will come across and more closely resembles a smartphone. Depending on the tasks you intend to do, this could end up proving fairly prohibitive, so keep this in mind when deciding on what to purchase. The build itself also feels like it’s not quite there: too much plastic and too much thickness mean the tablet probably isn’t going to daze anyone with its design. Instead of using the standard version of Android, Amazon chose to customize the operating system for their devices.
Fire HD 6 features Fire OS 4 Sangria, which works fairly well but might take some getting used to if you’re coming from classic Android devices. For the price, the tablet’s specs are acceptable and deliver smooth performance: its 1GB of RAM and 1.21GHz quad-core processor aren’t going to deny you from your favorite high-definition media, although the 8GB of storage might.
We could go on about some family-friendly features of the OS or its Amazon Store optimization, but you’re probably more interested in the price. The standard price tag is $100, although you can get the tablet for as low as $70 by jumping through some hoops. If you don’t mind the 6-inch screen, you aren’t likely to find better performance for the money.
Tesco Hudl 2: looking to play in the big leagues
Unlike Amazon’s Fire HD 6, the Tesco Hudl 2 is a full-fledged tablet: with over 8 inches of display size, you shouldn’t have any trouble making out even the smallest letters or the tiniest of details. It’s not just the size, either: the display is of surprising quality for a device in this range and easily rivals some far more expensive devices. Like many other tablets of a similar price, however, the Hudl 2 suffers from that plastic-y feel that low-end consumers know all too well. On the plus size, the device comes in 8 different colors, giving it a nice customization option and making it very appealing to kids. The specs are nothing to be ashamed of: the screen’s size allows for easy rendering of its 1920×1200 full HD resolution, and its decent 16GB of storage can be further expanded through a card. The 1.8GHz quad-core processor from Intel outperforms most devices in the same range all will allow for virtually any task you could think of, while the 1GB of RAM is standard issue for a model in this price range.
The fact that the tablet uses an out-of-the-box Android KitKat 4.4.2 will be welcomed by most Android users who will have no trouble transitioning between devices. Unfortunately, the joy will be short-lived when these users realize the tablet is chock-full of various Tesco retail software (or, should we say, bloatware). Unless you’re a die-hard Tesco consumer, this isn’t going to be a welcome addition to your new device. But with a price of around $120 for a full-sized tablet of impressive capabilities, the Hudl 2 will go a long way towards making it up to you.
The best mid-range choices for Android tablets in 2016
Ah, the good old balance. Can’t have enough of it, right? Mid-range tablets are meant to perfectly balance out performance, quality and cost in a marvelous trifecta that screams “Buy me!” As it turns out, not all of the devices in this range end up rising to the task. In fact, it’s not uncommon to see various mid-range electronics – tablets included – perform significantly worse than their budget counterparts, creating no small amount of customer dissatisfaction. Fortunately, you won’t have to worry about that here. We’ve put together some of the best mid-range tablets for users who want top performance without cashing out a new mortgage – read on to see our picks.
Our first choice: LG G Pad 8.3
If there’s one thing you can expect from LG’s devices, it’s aesthetics: over the years, the South Korean manufacturer has gained a reputation for producing some of the most stylish phones on the market. It’s interesting, then, that the LG G Pad 8.3 seems to focus more on performance while letting design take a back seat. That’s not to say the G Pad is ugly, of course: you aren’t likely to ever feel embarrassed by taking out a LG device in public, especially a somewhat pricier one. Yet it feels like something’s missing – the looks almost feel uninspired, without any of the special finishing touches that make LG phones and tablets sought-after. Fortunately, the excellent full HD 8.3-inch screen 273ppi with helps sway the overall design and makes way for colorful videos and detailed pictures. The screen doesn’t just look good, either: the G Pad’s powerful internals make lag and freezes almost non-existent and the large screen should respond to every input without issue. The non-carrier version comes with a 1.7GHz quad-core processor – not as powerful as a mid-range device can be, but still fast enough and complemented by 2GB of RAM, 16GB of storage and a Qualcomm Adreno 320 GPU.
When one adds to this a 4.4.2 Jelly Bean OS which should appeal to all Android users, the G Pad seems like a device worth buying without thinking too much. But is it really? With a launch price of $250, the LG Pad 8.3 can hardly be called cheap even for a mid-range tablet, and without any real standout feature, it might not sit well with everyone. Still, it’s a satisfactory combination of style and substance for those who can afford a little more. You can buy it on Amazon for $235.
The runner-up: Asus ZenPad 10 ZD300C
It wouldn’t be wrong to say that the ZenPad ZD300C defies categorization in several ways. For starters, some will file it under ‘budget’ while others will find the price leaning more towards the mid-range – more on that later. Then there’s the keyboard that the ZD300C model comes with – when it’s equipped, one might sooner think of the ZenPad as a laptop than a tablet. But a tablet it is: with a screen of ‘only’ 10.1 inches and a fully detachable keyboard, any comparison to a laptop is done tongue-in-cheek. We say ‘only’ because, for a tablet, the ZenPad’s screen is reasonably massive and exceeds most budget and mid-range displays as well as some higher-end ones. Size doesn’t mean everything: the screen resolution of 1280×800 and a pixel density of 149ppi leave a fair bit of screen quality to be desired.
The internals are a mixed bag as well. 2GB of RAM and 16GB of storage is decent, but the Intel Atom quad-core processor with 1.1GHz and the Mali-450 GPU are less powerful than you might expect which makes games, HD video and even some mundane tasks difficult at times. It’s also worth mentioning that the rear camera only has 2 megapixels, which is going to make quality photography virtually impossible with the ZenPad.
For such a large device, the ZenPad does an admirable job of staying sleek and design is certainly one of its strongest points – the metallic finish to the tablet’s edges makes it seem more expensive than it is. With a price point at around $240 for the keyboard version it’s not exactly affordable to everyone, but it’s still a good purchase to make if you value looks and display size over hardware power. You can buy it on Amazon for $249.
Our favorites in the high-end category of tablets in 2016
Sometimes, you have to treat yourself a little – whether it’s Christmas or a similar holiday or you simply feel like going out there and making a purchase that isn’t necessarily the most fiscally responsible one. For such occasions, we’ve gathered some of the best high-end tablets currently on the market. If you’re buying expensive, you might as well buy quality, and these tablets rise above the others either in terms of design, hardware power or both. Of course, they also rise above in terms of pricing, but nobody said that a venture into the high-end category would be cheap. Here are our luxury tablet picks for customers who want the very best.
The Lenovo Yoga Tab 3 Pro: an interesting approach to an old concept
There isn’t much that the Lenovo Yoga Tab 3 Pro won’t do. It advertises itself as a portable entertainment center, but really, it’s everything you could hope for in a high-end tablet device – so long as you don’t mind a bit of extra weight. One would expect that an entertainment-oriented tablet will come equipped with a powerful screen, and the Tab 3 Pro delivers: with 10.1 inches of display size and an astounding 2560×1600 299ppi resolution, the picture quality is as clear as it gets. If you’ve heard anything about this tablet, you no doubt know that it comes with a built-in projector – a revolutionary feature, albeit with limited uses for some. The inner workings are slightly less impressive, but still good: the somewhat-underwhelming 2GB of RAM are paired with a powerful 2.24GHz Intel X5 Atom quad-core processor that will make running any demanding media and even most games a breeze. And with a 13-MP camera in the rear and a 4.9-MP one in the front, the Tab 3 Pro easily sweeps most competition when it comes to snapping and recording – you should have an easy time making quality photos despite the device’s size.
For all its perks, the Android 5.1 Lollipop-powered tablet has a significant drawback: a price tag of around $500. While the price is hardly unexpected for a model that offers so much, it’s still going to place it way above what many can afford. You can buy it on Amazon for $489,99.
Samsung Galaxy Tab S2 8.0: something for the pickiest
It can be hard to tell Galaxy devices apart these days, although Samsung is doing its best to advertise the S2 8.0 model as its flagship one. But is it really worthy of such a title? As well-made as the device might feel, it doesn’t really bring anything new to the table in terms of design: it’s basically a rehash of every Samsung phone and tablet in recent years. The thinness and low weight are definitely a plus, as is the screen: 2048×1536 pixels and a pixel density of 320ppi packed into an 8 inch screen is hard to beat. The specs are equally impressive: its Exynos 5433 Octa-core processor, 3GB of RAM and a Mali T760MP6 GPU allow the Android-powered device to rise above many other tablets in the same range and outperform them by a decent margin. Storage is another high point, as a minimum of 32GB is something we can only hope manufacturers start aiming for as technology progresses.
So why don’t we sound more impressed? As already stated, the Galaxy Tab S2 8.0 is a high-end model that costs $400 and on-wards. For such a price, you probably want your device to have that extra something, be it a massive screen or a unique feature like the Lenovo Yoga Tab 3’s projector. As it stands, the Samsung Galaxy Tab S2 8.0 is an exceedingly powerful tablet but also reminiscent of far too many Samsung devices. You can get it on Amazon for $399.
Our conclusion: no range like the mid-range
We did say earlier that there’s nothing quite like balance, and we meant it. While you might feel drawn by the budget devices’ affordable pricing or the features of the higher-end devices, it’s often right to land somewhere in the middle. It’s not just the fact that mid-range devices offer the most by combining pricing and quality: by choosing to go mid-range, you’ll have a much wider palette of models to choose from, making it easier to find the perfect device for you.
If you’re unwilling to worry about budget devices under-performing or malfunctioning and wish to avoid feeling like you’ve wasted hundreds of dollars on something that’s a trivial purchase, give the mid-range devices a go – they could very well impress.