Battle of the tablets - which is best?

The popularity of tablets continues to rise and this year are set to surpass PCs for the first time, but which is the best tablet? Let's find out...
 
 
 

 

  • Microsoft Surface, tablet, windows 8
    David Phelan
    By   | Tech & Gadgets journalist
    Last updated: 30 October 2013, 14:01 GMT

    Tablet computers, those light, flat, touchscreen beauties that sprang into existence just three years ago with the launch of the Apple iPad, are flourishing. People who have never used computers find them quickly intuitive, whether they’re children or the elderly. And in between, many have found them irresistible.

    They’re great for checking emails, playing games, watching video and editing photos. Facebook updates, reading magazines, surfing the internet and… well, you get the idea – they’re versatile. But not all tablets are created equal. Do you want budget or deluxe? Large or small? We’ve rounded up the best, to help you choose the right one for you.

     
     

     

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  • Apple, iPad Mini, tablet
    David Phelan
    By   | Tech & Gadgets journalist
    Last updated: 30 October 2013, 14:01 GMT
    BT rating
     

    Price: From £269

    Website: www.apple.com/uk

    If you want a small tablet, the iPad mini, though a lot pricier than the Nexus 7, is hard to beat. The screen is bigger (7.9-inches) though it’s not as high-resolution. This means there are less pixels on the screen, so it’s not as sharp as the iPad or the Nexus 7. The lightness, extraordinary build quality and design of the tablet make it highly desirable, with black/slate and white/silver versions available.

    It has the same operating system as the bigger-screen iPad – iOS 6 - but is much more portable and the dual-core chip ensures it never feels slow. Touchscreens respond to your finger press, so it’s important to have an area where you can hold the tablet without activating it. On other tablets this is a wide frame, or bezel. But the iPad mini, with a super-slim bezel that means it’s more screen and less frame, solves this problem ingeniously.

    The iPad mini has the same 5MP rear camera and 1.2MP front camera as the larger iPad, capturing HD video, although there’s no flash. It is available in capacities of 16, 32 and 64GB, (but there’s no card slot).  Each size comes in either WiFi or WiFi and cellular (3G/4G) connectivity options.

    Its chief disappointment is the way apps designed for the iPhone look on the larger screen, there are enough tablet-optimised apps for this to be a rare problem.

     

     

     
     

     

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  • Google Nexus 7, tablet, android
    David Phelan
    By   | Tech & Gadgets journalist
    Last updated: 30 October 2013, 14:01 GMT
    BT rating
     

    Price: From £159

    Website: play.google.com

    The Nexus 7 is made by Asus for Google, whose Android operating system powers the device. The seven in the title refers to the screen size: seven inches. The screen is higher resolution than the iPad mini, though no match for the iPad’s Retina display. Android is a little geekier than Apple’s interface, with more customisation options such as live widgets (small programs that sit on your homescreen and update in real time) and expanded notifications, however it’s still straightforward and appealing.

    The Google Play Store has around the same number of apps available, including some made by Google, like the excellent Google Maps. Android is updated frequently, but this one has the latest version available, Jelly Bean.

    The Nexus 7 is well-built, though not as slim as the iPad mini, but its textured back means it’s unlikely to slip out of your hand. Storage is limited to 16GB and 32GB options, with no memory card slot, a 32GB 3G version is available too and it has an NFC chip for contactless payments.

    There’s no rear camera, but a front-facing one handles video calls happily enough. Decent power from the quad-core chip and a good price make the Google Nexus 7 an appealing small-screen tablet and it’s noticeably cheaper than the iPad mini, making it a good budget option.

     
     

     

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  • Samsung, galaxy note 8.0, tablet
    David Phelan
    By   | Tech & Gadgets journalist
    Last updated: 30 October 2013, 14:01 GMT
    BT rating
     

    Price: From £340

    Website: www.samsung.com

    The Samsung Galaxy Note 8.0 runs Android Jelly Bean, but looks and feels totally different to the Nexus 7, thanks to Samsung’s TouchWiz user interface. But what differentiates the Note from the Nexus 7 and iPad mini is the stylus or S-Pen which is stored in a corner of the tablet. Pop it out and relevant apps launch, such as a notepad which is clever enough to recognise the stylus’s scribblings but ignore your hand resting on the screen. You can also have two apps open on screen at the same time such as a web browser and email.

    Though the screen is fractionally bigger than the iPad mini’s – this one measures 8-inches – the wide bezel means it’s significantly bigger and a little heavier. Still, the screen is higher-resolution, and it shows.

    The Note’s design is defiantly glossy and plasticky, in contrast to Apple’s metallic finishes. Unlike the iPads, this tablet has a card slot so you can expand the 16GB or 32GB internal memory – handy if you discover you do want lots of apps after all. There’s also a 3G SIM-card slot should you want to get onine.

    The quad-core processor ensures it’s fast, slick and smooth in operation, though battery life doesn’t quite match the nine hours you can expect from other tablets here – expect around seven to eight hours between charges.

    Like the iPad mini the Note 8.0 has a 5-megapixel primary and 1.3-megapixel secondary camera, again with no flash.

    Overall the Note 8.0 is a neat and effective tablet, especially for doing work and drawing, but the iPad mini beats it for style and app choice, and it’s simply too expensive to appeal to a wide range of people.

     
     

     

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  • Microsoft Surface RT tablet with Blue keyboard
    David Phelan
    By   | Tech & Gadgets journalist
    Last updated: 30 October 2013, 14:01 GMT
    BT rating
     

    Price: From £399
    Website: www.microsoft.com

    The latest edition of Windows on full-size computers, Windows 8, is radically different from earlier computer interfaces. This tablet is the first computer hardware from Microsoft and uses a cut-down version of the Windows 8 system. It takes time to get used to - all tiles and apps that you download from Windows Marketplace – but it’s classy and appealing.

    This is a big tablet – the screen measures 10.6-inches and it’s the heaviest on test by some way thanks to solid, metallic build. Unlike the other tablets here, a keyboard is a real boon. There are two accessories available which work as a cover and a keyboard. The TouchCover is the better of the two and works almost as well as a conventional keyboard.

    The Windows element makes this the most work-compatible tablet, especially since there’s a full touch-optimised version of Microsoft’s Office suite of productivity programs on board – but there’s still fun to be had streaming video and so on. The cameras are disappointing – both front and back are just 1.2MP.There’s a card slot for expanding the internal memory, which is a good thing – despite coming in 32 and 64GB versions, only 15GB and 44GB space is usable.

    The most radical tablet here and least accessible to novices, but if you’re a Windows 8 computer user, it’ll all be very familiar. Prices start at £399 for the entry-level model – cheaper than the iPad.

     
     

     

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  • Apple, tablet, iPad
    David Phelan
    By   | Tech & Gadgets journalist
    Last updated: 30 October 2013, 14:01 GMT
    BT rating
     

    Price: From £399

    Website: www.apple.com/uk

    The iPad has now reached its fourth-generation model. The aluminium case is beautifully crafted and the design is the most elegant of any tablet – apart from the iPad mini. Apple’s tablet continues to lead the field thanks to the most intuitive and attractive operating system and the range of 750,000 apps, those tiny, affordable programs which do everything from telling you your bank balance to calling you a cab.

    Apple’s App Store includes 300,000 apps designed specifically to look great on big screens and what a screen the iPad has. Apple calls it a Retina display because there are so many pixels your eyes can’t see the dots. The 9.7-inch iPad screen is the highest-resolution here and looks glorious – video is pin-sharp and ebooks read as smoothly as paper.

    You can choose between storage capacities of 16GB, 32GB, 64GB and 128GB, for most people 32GB should be more than enough unless you’re app-crazy or want to store lots of video on board. Note that there’s no expandable memory card slot here. It’s available in Wi-Fi only and Wi-Fi and cellular versions for connecting to the internet over the mobile phone network via 3G and 4G.

    The rear camera is 5-megapixel – though a big tablet rarely makes an easy-to-hold camera. Still, image stabilisation means you can shoot HD video without jerkiness. A front camera (1.2MP) suits video calls – Apple’s Face Time app works well.

    With a dual-core processor ably handling games and HD streaming, the iPad remains the tablet to beat, though it’s facing stiff competition from the smaller, cheaper iPad Mini.

    BT.com: Best In Test

     

     
     

     

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