When you think of buying a medium to large tablet, your first thought will be no doubt be an iPad. At $329 for an entry level model though, you have to wonder if there are any alternatives out there that can act as a David to Apple’s Goliath.
The good news is that Samsung, Google, and a few other smaller manufacturers have really closed the gap since Steve Jobs first announced the iPad. The bad news is that there are still quite a lot of duds out there that are slower than a herd of turtles and have unresponsive screens that lead to hours of useless finger jabbing.
There is no right one tablet for everyone. If you use a phone running iOS, then an iPad will be much more natural for you, and vice versa for Android. If you mainly want it to stream TV, the screen will be a bigger factor. If you just want a workaday all rounder then value could be a big consideration.
With so much to think about, we have put together a run down the best value tablets available on the market in 2017, along with their pros and cons.
The original and STILL the best (just).
Pros: Simply an awesome 9.7-inch screen and pretty cheap…by iPad standards.
Cons: It isn’t as much as a leap forward as the iPad Air 2 was, but it’s still a nice evolution in the iPad range.
Some were hoping for a bigger jump in processing power when this new iPad was announced as the successor to the Air 2, but the A9 chipset in the new iPad is still pretty powerful and really reliable. Apple devices always make the most of any chipset they have because they control the software that can go on them so damn tightly.
The iOS system is incredibly intuitive, especially if you already use it on your phone. The screen is fantastic too, though it slightly edged by Samsung’s AMOLED technology on the Galaxy Tab.
The screen is great, but it lacks the laminated screen of the iPad Air – this doesn’t feel as nice to touch.
Galaxy Tab 3.0
Samsung is giving Apple a run for their money in the tablet department too.
Pros: Woah! That screen will blow you away. There’s nothing else like it.
Cons: It’s just a bit too fiddly to use for our tastes. Expensive.
There are so many battles raging between Samsung and Apple. The Korean manufacturer often wins outright on paper but loses when you actually get your hands on the devices. Here is no exception. The operating system just doesn’t flow very well and it all feels a little raw. Over time we are sure Android will catch up to be able to run a device like this, but it feels too buggy for such an expensive tablet.
The glass back is a bit annoying too. If you have kids, this will become oily fingerprints in just a few minutes! It also tends to get scuffed quite easily. Call us Ludites, but we prefer a metal back. The thick bezel around the screen also makes it look (even if it does not feel) a bit cheap.
We’re being harsh though – this is not a bad tablet and it fully deserves to be second on our list. If you’re mainly after a device for playing media, the Tab 3.0 can’t be beaten. Samsung’s experience of building TVs shines through on the AMOLED HDR screen. The color pop is something we didn’t expect to see on a tablet this decade. Its speakers are also made by AKG, a big name in the audio industry.
It also comes with the S Pen, a rival for the Apple Stylus. It works very well but, unless you are a designer, it feels like a bit of a gimmick.
Asus ZenPad 3S 10: Best Bargain
Pros: Fantastic screen. Affordable. Good specs.
Cons: Battery life.
The ZenPad clearly takes inspiration from the iPad’s looks, but not from its price tag. They’ve managed to beat the razor-sharp iPad Air 2 in terms of thinness and they have kept the bezels around the screen to a minimum. However, while it’s pleasing to the eye, it doesn’t quite hold up in terms of premium build quality of the case. The camera is also pretty shoddy!
It does have an excellent screen powered by ASUS’ Tru2Life technology and it’s also got a pair of capable speakers. We were pretty impressed by the Mediatek MT8176 chip, and we were pleasantly surprised by the absence of lag when using this tablet. This makes it perfect as an entertainment centre. If you’re looking for an affordable device to take on the morning train or to distract the kids then this is a great choice.
It’s less good as a business tablet. The software can be a little difficult to get your head around at times. The battery life isn’t terrible, but it won’t give you a full day of heavy use either.
Google Pixel C
Pros: Solid screen. Powerful. Nicely designed.
Cons: Very expensive when combined with keyboard.
Another superb screen makes this another strong option if you are mainly looking to consume media on a tablet. However, it also has a stripped back version of Android that is super slick. It’s not as efficient on a tablet as Chrome OS or Windows yet, but the powerful processing speed means it’s not too much of a drag to use this device for office tasks.
It’s a premium tablet in looks, feel and performance. However, at this price, we would always opt for an iPad or iPad Pro. It’s a shame because we love this the Pixel and were expecting this tablet to rule the mid-market, but the price has just crept up too much to be truly an attractive deal.
Lenovo Yoga Tab 3 Pro
Pros: It’s like a cinema that you carry in your pocket. Who couldn’t like that! Really cheap.
Cons: Marmite looks. Software is a bit old.
Stand this on its side and you can project your screen onto the wall. At first we thought this was a gimmick, but it is actually incredibly cool and works as well as many projectors currently on sale. We were praying for the tablet to live up to this stand out feature. It’s far from awful with battery life, screen quality and sound performance all on its side. However, the software feels a little out of date and can be a bit glitchy at times.
Amazon Fire HD 10
Pros: Great value.
Cons: We don’t love Amazon’s interface.
Amazon’s Fire OS is a bit annoying, it feels a bit flimsy and the camera is a joke. However it has a good HD screen and a wide selection of apps..and…well…it’s $149!
iPad pro 10.5
Pros: This is the Mack Daddy of tablets
Cons: Come on…do you really need the Mac Daddy of tablets?
It’s beautiful, has an eye-popping screen and Apple pencil and the keyboard make it a real option for professional use. If your company is offering to buy one for you, then go right ahead and pick one up. For personal use though, go with the new (and cheaper) iPad.