The 5 Best Tablet Computers
Tablets are built to hold an immense amount of computing power within an extremely portable and versatile design that allow them to be used in a variety of ways, whether it be for business or for leisure. Their ever-growing popularity has spawned a multitude of different models and operating systems, which may make it difficult to choose from. But we've narrowed down the choices with our top 5 picks to help you determine the perfect tablet for you.
What Is a Tablet?
A tablet is essentially a mobile computer that has a touchscreen, processor, and battery all encased within a single slate, hence the name “tablet.” Tablets have a very minimalist design in terms of hardware, with only a few physical buttons and operation being dictated by finger gestures on the tablet's touchscreen.
Most tablets are divided into 10-inch and 7-inch categories and nowadays come with a built-in camera, microphone, accelerometer, and a Wi-Fi chip, with the option of adding a cellular band so that you can get 3G or 4G internet connectivity wherever you go. But what makes a tablet really useful is the wide variety of applications that you can download onto it. There practically is an app for anything and everything you could want to do, which is what makes a tablet so versatile.
Top 5 Tablets
Apple iPad (4th Generation)
The original Apple iPad kicked off the tablet generation, and four iterations later, it's still one of the best tablets you can buy.
With top ratings from Consumer Reports and Good Housekeeping, the newest model's greatest feature is its gorgeous Retina display that packs a massive 3.1 million pixels into a 9.7-inch screen, resulting in lifelike text and almost realistic image clarity. Inside the iPad's super-thin aluminum casing is a A6X dual-core processor that outputs blazing fast speeds when using apps or playing games, as well as a massive battery that lasts over 10 hours on a single charge. Many users have also reported that the iPad's iOS operating system is a breeze to learn and use.
This Apple tablet has access to over 375,000 iPad-optimized apps available on Apple's App Store, which is the largest collection of tablet apps around. While it may lack the customization options of its competitors and has the highest price tag on this list, the newest Apple iPad still sets the bar for quality in the tablet market with its impressive set of features.
Microsoft Surface RT
Another Consumer Reports top pick, the Microsoft Surface RT is best-suited for those who want the most computing power out of their tablet.
With 2GB of internal RAM and a quad-core NVIDIA Tegra 3 graphics chip, the Surface RT powers through apps smoothly and efficiently. Its large 10.6-inch display doesn't match the incredible resolution of the Apple iPad, but HD content still looks really good on it. The Surface RT utilizes the Windows RT operating system, which is the newest in the tablet market. It excels at multi-tasking like no other, as it allows you to have two apps open side-by-side at the same time. Also, pairing this tablet with an optional Touch Cover or Type Cover will really turn the Surface RT into a productivity machine.
However, being the newest OS means that the app selection in the Windows Store is the smallest collection available so far, and users have also said that there's quite the learning curve in using this tablet. That being said, the Microsoft Surface RT adds a fresh new look with a big dose of power that comes in at a very attractive price.
Google Nexus 7 (2nd Generation)
Google's Android line of tablets has the largest share of the tablet market today, due to the sheer amount of options available. Of those options, Google's Nexus 7 stands out as the bright and shining example of the best Android tablet for your money.
A top pick from Consumer Search and Consumer Reports, the Nexus 7 holds a whopping 2.3 million pixels in its 7-inch HD display. That may be less than the Apple iPad, but at 323 pixels per inch, images and text may look even sharper and more realistic on the Nexus 7. Having a quad-core Snapdragon S4 Pro processor and 2GB of RAM guarantees that apps run very smoothly and that graphics shine brilliantly. A built-in NFC chip allows you to wirelessly charge the Nexus 7's battery, which can last over 9 hours.
The Nexus 7 is also one of the few Android tablets that comes with a stock version of newest Android 4.3 “Jelly Bean” operating system, which means that it won't have any unnecessary third-party apps pre-installed. It may not be as simple as Apple's iOS, but there's a lot more customization options and it has fully-integrated Google apps. When all is said and done, the Google Nexus 7 is an incredible iPad alternative at less than half its price.
Amazon Kindle Fire HD
A Consumer Reports Best Buy, the Amazon Kindle Fire HD is a feature-rich tablet that doesn't require you to be to super rich to get it. It may not be a powerhouse like the Nexus 7, but the Kindle Fire HD's 1.5GHz dual-core processor works well enough for fast web browsing and playing games.
The 1280x800 resolution HD display is nothing to laugh at either, as reading and watching HD content looks beautiful on this device, and its 10+ hour battery life is impressive for a budget tablet. This tablet is especially ideal for Amazon Prime subscribers, as the Fire OS 3.0 “Mojito” operating system integrates all of Amazon's services into the device for easy management and access. The new FreeTime feature provides strong parental controls in allowing separate profiles to be created for children using the tablet that will also cater content from Amazon accordingly.
However, the Kindle Fire HD is far from perfect. The app selection in the Amazon App Store is extremely limited, there's a cost to removing ads from the device, and the OS may feel significantly slower than its competitors. But for the price, the Kindle Fire HD is a great tablet that offers a ton of bang for your buck.
Barnes & Noble Nook HD+
Despite the very tough competition, the Barnes & Noble Nook HD+, another Consumer Reports Best Buy, is hands down the best value you can get on a tablet. First off, it has all the great features of tablets priced way above it. It has a brilliant 7-inch display with an incredible 1920x1200 resolution that beats its Amazon competitor, a fast 1.5GHz dual-core processor, and a mighty 10-hour battery life. It also allows multiple profiles to be created on the device as a parental control feature. Its biggest and greatest feature, however, is that it has access to the Google Play Store and its massive app collection.
Like the Kindle Fire HD, its operating system is an Android skin that takes advantage of Barnes & Noble's small ecosystem. But unlike the Amazon tablet, having access to apps in the Google Play Store essentially makes the Nook HD+ a full-blown Android tablet at a ridiculously low price. Slight performance issues aside, the Nook HD+ tablet is an incredible bargain that you should grab ASAP if you're looking for the best value tablet.
And those are our recommendations for the best tablet computers. As always, be sure to check out the Wise Bread Shopping Calendar to learn when and how to buy just about anything!