Christmas, Pesach, Eide, Diwali, the first Sunday before Pentecost; every time of year is a good time of year to buy a tablet PC. So, which one do you buy? It’s very easy to get caught up in the idea of what is the best tablet, but you really need to think a little harder about what it is that you want a tablet to do for you before you make up your mind.
We went down and cornered the team in the Pocket-lint review labs to find out which tablets they thought were best at certain tasks. So, whatever your need, we’ve come up with a list of the very best tablets available today. We’ll be updating it each time we find one that’s better. That way, you can rest assured that, whenever you’re reading this, the names on this page are still the very finest tablets that money can buy.
Best for film &TV
iPad 4, £399
While the Google Nexus 10 has an arguably better display size and resolution, when you’re streaming films in HD, it’s the same as any other display with none of those extra pixels put to good use. In real terms, it’s only the iPad 4 that maxes-out its screen credentials thanks to the iTunes Store with a whole bunch of film and TV content specially for it.
Lovefilm Instant is accessible along with Netflix, too, plus there’s more support for catch-up services on iOS than any other platform. All that together with a general choice between downloading and streaming and that pretty much nails it for the iPad. Odd given that it’s not even got a 16:9 screen, but there you go.
READ: Apple iPad 4 review
Best for multimedia
Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1, £400
We like the Note. We like it a lot. It does everything you’d want a top-end tablet to do, and you get the stylus which, while not crucial to most people, is a very tidy little device for multimedia purposes. Whether you’re drawing, writing, taking notes or just having a bit of a swish about, it’s a great optional extra to have at your disposal. There’s also some very decent processing power with this machine so that the screen and pen work well together with no slowness or lag at all.
On top of that there’s a multitasking side-by-side mode which means you can get a real benefit from looking at one thing, and writing notes about it, and the ability to play video in a window, along with whatever else you're doing is, in our view, a killer app. Overall, this thing is powerful, plays a lot of video back incredibly well, and generally feels responsive.
Best budget buy
Google Nexus 7, £159
The impressive thing about the Nexus 7 is the quality of the device you get from Asus, at the price you're being asked to pay. The hardware and the build quality is top-notch, there’s plenty of power and the screen is fantastic. Add this to a pure Google experience, the latest version of Android and you're on to a winner from a software point of view too.
Along with the likes of the Kindle Fire HD and Nook, Google and Asus have been at the cutting edge of the drive to turn tablets from a luxury item to the standard household gadgets that they should be. The price is nigh on unbeatable and the experience is solid. What’s more, there’s none of the limitations of a more closed system that you get with Amazon.
READ: Google Nexus 7 review
Best for travel
iPad mini, £269
So, it turns out that Samsung was right all along. Again. There is a market for the 7-inch tablet. Of course, the iPad mini is a 7.9-inch tablet which is, naturally, entirely different, but let’s not quibble. The iPad mini made small tabs sexy and stylish where the Nexus 7 made them useful and affordable.
The Nexus 7 is a great machine but the iPad mini just adds that touch of class. As Apple demonstrated, it’s also a little handier if you prefer to use your browser in landscape. Most importantly, this is an iPad that fits in your hand/manbag without so much as a squeeze. It still delivers all those apps, just on a slightly less exciting screen; fortunately, for slightly less money too.
READ: Apple iPad mini review
Best for gaming
iPad 4, £399
We’d like to say that it’s a totally different tablet that picks up this prize but, well, it’s another one from Apple. The iPad 4 is currently the class leader in terms of tablet graphics with the GPU inside the Apple A6X SoC. The other hugely important factor is the content itself: the games.
For the time being, the best gaming titles come out on iOS before they come out on Android and sometimes they never even make it to Android at all. What’s more, they just seen to be slightly better optimised to the iOS hardware too; far easier when there’s only really two models to think about.
READ: Apple iPad 4 review
Best for productivity
Microsoft Surface RT, £559
It’s a close call between the Surface RT and the Asus Transformer Pad Infinity. The Asus is the better value option and comes with a better keyboard but, with Office the de facto standard for work in this day and age, it’s always going to be tough beating hardware than runs Windows.
It's not cheap, but its battery life is excellent and it’s still as light as you need it to be. The acid test of any gadget, for us, is how sad we are to give it back once we've finished reviewing it. In this case, we were beyond sad. The Surface might not be perfect yet, but we can see a bright future for it.
Best for kids
LeapFrog LeapPad 2 Explorer, £84
We’d like to tell you to go and buy your kids an iPad. They’ll love you forever and the apps on iOS are superb, but even the iPad 2 is a bit of stretch starting at £329 for something that could end up getting destroyed within a week. Instead, it’s a choice of one of the two more obvious, specially made for kids devices and it’s the LeapPad 2 that ultimately has the edge on that from Vtech.
It’s a better size for kids than an iPad and there’s still a pretty decent choice of around 300 apps and games to download, along with a stylus to use. It’s considerably cheaper than something from Apple but, let’s face it, it’s probably not going to stop your wee ones wrestling your adult tab away from you. It’s an additional toy, not an alternative.
Best for the coffee table
Amazon Kindle Fire, £129
Surely the ultimate statement in the modern home is to have a tablet for general use; one that belongs to everyone in the house including the guests? As such, you don’t need the best app store, you don’t need the finest graphics power, you just need something that’s cheap, effective and with a very decent browser.
Well, none comes cheaper and more effective than the Amazon Kindle Fire. The Silk browser is very decent, Amazon certainly provides enough in the way of apps for regular lifestyle, travel, reference and shopping, and that’s really all you need. The only drawback is that, unlike the HD version pictured above, there's no webcam for video calls in the standard version.
Best for web browsing
Google Nexus 10, £319
According to Amazon, the Silk browser is the best in the business. According to us, Chrome is just as fast and you can get that on any Android tablet these days. If you want a piece of hardware for just checking out the web, then it’s the Nexus 10 all the way.
On top of the software, you need as big and as beautiful a screen as possible, and that’s what the Nexus 10 gives you. That screen resolution might not work all the time when it comes to streaming HD movies but it makes every inch of a web page look super sharp and ready to be read.
READ: Google Nexus 10 review