You're looking to buy a new tablet but are confused by all the options out there? If you're looking for the best tablets of 2013, then you've come to the right place. Here we will guide you through the hottest tablets from 7-inches and up, to help you reach a decision on buying the right device for you.
Our list of top tablets covers all operating systems, sizes and price points, so you'll be armed with everything you need when choosing to buy. We'll be regularly updating this feature with the latest and greatest tablets we review, so you can see where the smart money is heading.
Run this question through your head: "Which tablet is best for me?" Think about size first and foremost, what you'll be using the device for and, therefore, how powerful it'll need to be. Is build quality your most important factor, or can you settle for a plasticky finish at a more attractive price point? Each question will impact which tablet best suits your needs.
The tablets market is vast and not all of it is brand, brand new. Refreshes are always on the horizon, but many tablets from back in 2012 remain strong in today's market. We’ll be regularly updating this feature with the latest and greatest tablets that we review - not just the current top 12 that we have listed - but only those we've reviewed and have passed our tests. That way you can see where your money is best spent.
Let us know what you think is the best tablet in the comments below - you may have personal preference or advice for others and we love to hear it.
12. Microsoft Surface Pro 2
The aptly named Surface Pro 2 is a lot like its predecessor but with Windows 8.1 on board and different architecture under the hood. That means a better battery life from this half-laptop, half-tablet device. A definite plus point, although we're still a little perplexed as to exactly what Surface thinks it is.
Some might argue that the Surface is more a laptop replacement than a laptop. It sort of is, sort of isn't. It lives in its own world, but it's a powerful world and one that fans of full Windows 8.1 will love.
The 10.6-inch screen has a 1920 x 1080 pixel resolution that's the perfect match for HD movies. Or you can do anything else on it that you can do with a Windows 8.1 device. It's just like a laptop, albeit minus a clip-on keyboard like the Asus Transformer Infinity (below) - with Microsoft that's something you'll have to fork out extra cash for.
Overall there's no denying that it's a solid, well-built device with a glorious screen. Think of it as a standalone tablet, however, and it feels a little bit too thick and heavy. Think of it as a boundary-blurrer that straddles the tablet-meets-laptop category and you'll be a far happier customer.
Whether that amasses to enough to get you on board and give the Pro 2 a new home, well, that's going to depend on your point of view. We find the Surface Pro 2 genuinely decent to use, better built than plenty of Ultrabooks, but also that it doesn't entirely connect with us as a tablet-like device. If only it came with the keyboard included for a touch less cash.
PRICE: £719 ("64GB")
QUICK VERDICT: Surface Pro 2 is a subtle push forward for the device compared to the original, and a necessary one. The second-generation Pro shows us that Microsoft is listening - from the physical adjustments of the flip-stand, through to better battery life from Haswell, and the steps forward in software with the introduction of Windows 8.1. It's positive, but not tablet perfection in our minds.
FULL REVIEW: Microsoft Surface Pro 2
11. Asus Transformer Pad Infinity
It might not look like a tablet at first glance, but that's the Transformer's crowning glory - it's the most complete Android-based laptop replacement we've seen, yet functions as an excellent standalone tablet too.
Here the Android operating system has evolved to become an operating system that can cope with removable USB drives and office documents almost as easily as Windows does. What you also get is strong cloud back-up and access to a very comprehensive app store, amazing battery life and a great 1920 x 1200 resolution 10-inch screen.
Ok so neither the keyboard nor the mouse are perfect, and it's pricey, but what you do get is the sort of flexibility that's missing from most other tablets. For many, it's likely to be a more enjoyable system than either a Windows or OS X laptop, and it's an easy migration from a smartphone.
Future versions of the Transformer are just around the corner, which may naturally drive down the price of the Infinity - something to keep an eye on.
QUICK VERDICT: Aside from the high price, and the ongoing issue of the trackpad being a little bit small, we really like the Infinity. It's a lovely standalone Android tablet but the keyboard makes it so much more attractive. It doesn't place higher on account of its high price is all.
FULL REVIEW: Asus Transformer Pad Infinity
10. Samsung Galaxy Note 8
The Note range continues to be a surprise. When it launched, there was much smirking about the included stylus Pen - something that we love - but Samsung's skill here has been to make the device work perfectly without it, but then to offer bundles of extra features if you do want to make use of the stylus.
The Note 8 doesn't have a super-high screen resolution, however, with just 1280 x 768 pixels nestled on that 8-inch touch panel. Not bad, but not as competitive as the likes of the cheaper, higher-resolution Nexus 7. But then that doesn't come with a pen.
QUICK VERDICT: There's lots to love in the Galaxy Note 8. The only real letdowns are the screen resolution and the fact that, despite this, it's still quite expensive. If you're after a budget tablet in this size, then look to the Advent Vega or the Nexus 7, or even the Amazon Kindle Fire HDX - but just don't expect the same breadth of features and usability from the Amazon offering.
FULL REVIEW: Samsung Galaxy Note 8 review
9. Advent Vega Tegra Note 7
The Advent Vega Tegra Note 7 is one of the better affordable 7-inch tablets on the market, particularly if you're a gaming fan or like to use a stylus. Before you shrug it off as "just another tablet" this Tegra-4-powered device is well worth a look in.
The £180 price sits it below the Nexus 7, but also sits it below in the spec department too: the screen resolution is not in the "Full HD" category, and while that's fine enough for gaming it won't match up to the panel on the similar-priced Nexus 7. But while that's among the biggest points against this device, we wouldn't describe anything about the Advent Vega Tegra Note 7 as bad - except, perhaps, for the bonkers-long name. And you get that stylus included which is really useful.
QUICK VERDICT: A great 7-inch tablet and stylus combo. A touch less weight, the latest Android OS and a higher resolution screen in version two and we'll have near perfection.
FULL REVIEW: Advent Vega Tegra Note 7
8. Amazon Kindle Fire HDX
The Amazon Kindle Fire HDX does a lot to make itself a competitive offering. The detail in the display and the power on offer, for the price, make it a compelling choice.
But the HDX finds itself in the same position as last year's model: it's fighting incredibly hard, but stuck to the Amazon track. The result is that, when it comes to content, you can get everything in competition Android land - aside from Lovefilm. But on those other devices you get more freedom and you're part of the bigger system, with more choices.
PRICE: £199 (with offers)
QUICK VERDICT: If you're after a good quality tablet that performs well, with a great display, plenty of power, at a good price and you're more interested Amazon's content than having the latest apps, then the Kindle Fire HDX may well make you very happy.
FULL REVIEW: Amazon Kindle Fire HDX
7. Kobo Arc 7HD
There are two reasons why we’re drawn to the Kobo Arc 7HD over the Amazon Kindle alternative. First, it allows you to access Google Play without either rooting the device or side-loading applications. You're free to do as you please, not locked down to shopping in Amazon’s own Appstore as on the Kindle platform.
Second, the price. At £159 for the £16GB storage model - it's £189 for the 32GB model - it remains great value for money. It might not be quite as powerful as the Kindle Fire HDX, but if you want an "open" experience then the Kobo has a whole lot going for it, and we rather like the way it offers access to eBook content. If all that scares you a bit and you want Kindle familiarity, then you'll know exactly where to head: to the Kindle Fire HDX.
When considered on its own merits, and the price, the Arc 7HD is a great buy that we've enjoyed using a whole lot. Its only real letdown - and this might be a deal-breaker for some - is there's no possibility of 3G or 4G connectivity, it's Wi-Fi only.
QUICK VERDICT: A great Android tablet with Kobo's eBook store put pride of place. But you're not locked down to anything - use Google Play, use Amazon's Kindle store, or Kobo's. It's all wide open here, and for the price it's a really tempting 7-inch tablet. Just a shame there's no 3G or 4G offering.
FULL REVIEW: Kobo Arc 7HD
6. Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1
There's something about the Samsung Note 10.1 that "just works". It comes complete with a Pen which is a brilliantly useful addition.
If you have any artistic talent, then there's a very real chance you'll be able to make the Note 10.1 work for you as a creative tool. The big screen means you can use it for all manner of illustrations and layouts and it's an ideal companion for throwing together notes in a meeting.
However its 1280 x 800 resolution 10.1-inch screen is more limited than, say, the Google Nexus 10.1 - which is around the same price point. If you're into watching movies then the Google device is likely the preferable choice.
But if you want a tablet with a stylus Pen then there's a whole lot of good in the Galaxy 10.1 If only it had a higher-resolution screen, we'd demand everyone rushed straight out to buy one.
QUICK VERDICT: We aren't pretending that Samsung has quite the same build quality as the Apple iPad, and we know people are beholdent to the iTunes ecosystem, but the Note has so much going for it, particularly the inclusion of a stylus Pen. That makes it an individual product in a crowded market.
FULL REVIEW: Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 review
5. Sony Xperia Tablet Z
Previous Sony Android tablets were late to arrive to the party and blighted by quirky design that just didn't quite deliver.
Then Sony flipped that on its head with the Xperia Tablet Z. It's a stylish, lightweight Android tablet that is also waterproof so you can take it in the bath. How about that?
The 10.1-inch display isn't quite the best out there, though, as it's bettered by the Samsung-built Nexus 10 (below), which offers a more natural colour palette as well as a higher resolution for sharper details, but at 1920 x 1200 the Xperia is still very good.
The thing that the Xperia Z tablet does deliver is build quality. It's more luxury than the likes of Google's slightly more affordable tablets, so if Android is a must have then Sony has a true competitor for the Apple iPad 4 here.
QUICK VERDICT: Excellent design and specification at an impressive price, the Sony Xperia Tablet Z is a great Android tablet with plenty on offer. It's got a more luxury design than the Google Nexus 10, but then it comes in at a price point that's on par with the Apple iPad 4. If you're not an Apple fan and must have Android, however, then this well built and waterproof tablet has a whole lot going for it.
FULL REVIEW: Sony Xperia Tablet Z review
4. Google Nexus 10
Another 2012 model in the ranks, the Nexus 10 brings that pure Android experience, meaning you'll be the first to get updates and it's free from the bloat of additional apps and services you don't want and that some manufacturers add.
Larger than the Nexus 7 (see further down the page), it's the Nexus 10's display that's its real beauty. The sharp 2560 x 1600 resolution looks fantastic and packs in more pixels than even the iPad 4.
All that res means you can revel in the desktop experience of websites with less zooming, and it makes for a great, sharp, reading device too. Or watch movies and play games - there's enough power for that too.
This Samsung-constructed device is well built too, even if it's not in quite the same league as the iPad 4. But if you're an Android fiend then this will likely be your preference product, and if you're undecided then the more accessible price point might help in your decision making.
QUICK VERDICT: The Nexus 10 fill our hearts with joy when we look at that screen. In many ways, this typifies the difference between Android and iOS. The Nexus is competent and powerful, but it lacks that whiff of passion and build quality that you get from Apple products. A great buy at a great price though, Android tablets don't come much better than this.
FULL REVIEW: Google Nexus 10 review
3. Nexus 7 (2013)
The Nexus device range from Google has always been the benchmark for an Android device. The clean state in which to deliver an experience that is pure, that Google owns, before the likes of Samsung, Sony or LG get their hands on it.
The original Nexus 7 was hot stuff: a 7-inch tablet experience that just worked. Enter the 2013 Nexus 7 update and we've got a rip-roaringly good tablet that continues to deliver the goods anew, complete with a 1920 x 1200 resolution screen that - at this price point - knocks many other tablets out of contention.
If you're new to tablet land and want an affordable, portable offering that's got access to the wide range of Google's apps then the Nexus 7 II is probably the best balance of features to price. Indeed it's one of the best Android tablets out there.
It's not as luxury in build as the iPad mini, but if that doesn't both you then save yourself over £100 and invest - Google's got a winner on its hands here.
QUICK VERDICT: It is just an incremental update to the original Nexus 7 - so existing users may want to stick with what they've got - but for those who don't have the original, and are keen to get a small and brilliant tablet, then this is the Android device for you.
FULL REVIEW: Nexus 7 (2013) review
2. Apple iPad mini
The Apple iPad mini might not have as good a screen as the iPad 4 or some other competitors, including the latest Nexus 7, but we love its size, light weight, portability and top-notch build quality.
This is what tablets should be like. Thin, easy to use, and with an abundance of available apps for all walks of life - whether it's watching Netflix or Sky Go from the bath, drawing a picture using apps like Paper or Photoshop, or playing games like Real Racing 3.
For those who need to actually get some work done, you can now get a bevy of keyboards for the iPad mini that effectively turn this into the netbook you owned a couple of years ago.
However, the Retina display model is now available to buy - and while we anticipate it'll be an excellent slate, we're yet to live with one for long enough to confirm that it takes precedence. It's likely that you'll want to wait for the higher-res and more powerful model. But even though the current mini doesn't have the highest resolution screen out there it's still eminently usable and, for us, one of the best tablets out there.
QUICK VERDICT: It might be mini by nature, but it is mighty in the things it can offer. We love it.
FULL REVIEW: Apple iPad mini review
1. Apple iPad Air
The iPad Air is sort of the iPad 5. And this latest tablet walks all over the iPad 4 - it's lighter and thinner, but retains the same 9.7-inch screen panel. It's also faster than before, to the point it's future-proof for the time being and won't feel out of date in six months.
For die-hard Apple fans we can see how you would be disappointed in terms of wow factor, as there is no standout feature here - the Air feels like an iPad mini Retina upscaled. And it lacks the Slow-Mo movie and Touch ID fingerprint scanner of the iPhone 5S.
That's not to say the iPad Air is lacking. It's not. It is seamless experience that just works. If anything the Air is a problem for Apple - and this is a good thing for us all - because by creating something so desirable, fast and functional, we suspect you won't need or want to upgrade for a long, long time. Even iPad 4 owners will likely want one, especially if you're fed up of resting the weightier, larger slab on your leg all the time.
Apple has created a tablet experience that surpasses all others. It's the best tablet on the market in terms of performance, apps, and desirability. What more can we say than that?
PRICE: from £399
QUICK VERDICT: The iPad Air is stunning. Apple has created an experience that will be hard for the competition to match. That in itself makes it the best tablet on the market in terms of performance, apps, and desirability, until the iPad mini with Retina display comes along, and then the fight over which iPad to get really starts.
FULL REVIEW: Apple iPad Air