Best tablets of 2012
We round up our favourite tablets of 2012, including the Nexus 7, Nexus 10, iPad 4 and iPad Mini
Want to buy a tablet, but not sure which to get? We round up our favourite tablets of 2012, including some on Android, iOS and Windows 8.
Google and Asus' Nexus 7 has been one of 2012's real gems, effectively re-defining the tablet space into something where smaller and more affordable devices are a viable option. Asus consistently delivers excellent build quality in its devices and the Nexus 7 is no exception. It is, admittedly, much more utilitarian than the company's own hardware developed outside the Nexus brand, with its textured rubber back panel, but the shape is still interestingly phone-like and the fit and finish is top notch.
The size is great for portability and the display delivers quality visuals with great clarity at 216 pixels-per-inch (ppi). Being a Nexus device there's not a hint of bloatware onboard - it is pure Android and has been kept up-to-date with the latest builds as well as having access to over 700,000 apps on the Google Play store. Performance is fantastic thanks to the Nvidia Tegra 3 quad core chip and you can now get 16GB and 32GB versions with optional 3G connectivity. Best of all, the Nexus 7 is one of the most affordable tablets on the market, you get so much for your money it's almost silly.
The big brother of the Nexus 7, the Nexus 10 was created by Samsung. As well as being larger with a bigger, higher resolution display the Nexus 10 sports some proper next-generation hardware under the bodywork. Most prominent is the ARM Cortex-A15 dual-core chip, as most other tablets run on Cortex-A9 architecture.
The Exynos 5250 processor is much faster than chips found in other devices giving the Nexus 10 a real edge on performance in general operation as well as intensive apps, games and multitasking. The display is also tremendously impressive, it's a 10.1-inch Super PLS (Samsung's IPS equivalent) with a 2560x1600 pixel resolution at 300ppi for some stunningly sharp, bright and colourful picture quality.
Apple's iPad hardly needs any introduction. The iconic slate is now in its fourth iteration and although physically it has changed very little from the iPad 2 it's still a very comprehensive and cohesive package which remains easy to get to grips with.
On the hardware front the iPad 4 now features a port for Apple's new Lightning connector, while in terms of software it's running the latest build of Apple's own mobile operating system: iOS 6. iOS 6 doesn't add much new stuff that is all that special, but it's still a highly intuitive platform, it's slick and responsive with good optimisation and it has access to over 700,000 apps and games in Apple's content store.
Take an iPad, zap it with a shrink gun and you've got yourself an iPad Mini. Well, almost, the hardware spec and display aren't quite as hot as the full-size iPad, presumably due to Apple trying to keep the cost down. The hardware spec doesn't matter so much though, as everything is so well optimised and it'll still run the bulk of App Store content.
The display is a 7.9-inch IPS LCD at 1024x768 pixels and 162ppi which isn't exactly on par with Apple's signature Retina quality, but still, it's bright, has good contrast and colour and is at least reasonable on picture quality. The device is very robust with an aluminium back panel and much more portable than the full-size iPad.
The Transformer Pad Infinity is a 10.1-inch slate with a detachable keyboard dock. The whole thing is made from brushed aluminium and the build quality is superb - there's no flex and the device has excellent balance making it feel lighter than its actual 598g weight.
Power comes from an Nvidia Tegra 3 quad-core chip which runs Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich (ICS) at a slick pace and performs well for gaming. Although there's allegedly a custom interface you wouldn't know it to use the tablet as it appears more or less as stock Android. The display is rather special too as it's a Super IPS+ LCD with an HD 1920x1200 pixel resolution at 224ppi. Another perk is the massive battery boost you get from the additional power pack inside the keyboard dock.
Samsung's Galaxy Note 10.1 was designed for those who loved the S-Pen stylus from the Galaxy Note smartphone but wanted a bigger canvas to work on. It's got plenty of power from a quad-core Exynos chip with 2GB of RAM, so pen responsiveness, accuracy and smoothness is excellent as well as general performance in normal tablet duties.
The Xoom 2 Media Edition is the smaller member of Motorola's Xoom range but it also has a few unique features such as a splash-resistant coating. It's currently priced at £160 putting it in the same ballpark as Google's Nexus 4 and with a similarly decent spec. It sports a dual-core Texas Instruments processor, 16GB of storage space and a larger 8.2-inch display at the same 1280x800 pixel resolution. It's also thinner than the Nexus 7 and has an HDMI output or media streaming via Motocast. There's no disadvantage on operating system software either as it has been kept up-to-date with Android 4.0.
Asus Transformer Pad TF300
The Transformer Pad TF300 gets an honourable mention for being the affordable version of the Infinity. The screen is regular IPS LCD, isn't HD and has a lower 1280x800 pixel resolution and 149ppi pixel density. Meanwhile the bodywork is made of plastic rather than aluminium. However, despite these cost-cutting concessions the TF300 still has a competent set of Nvidia Tegra 3 internal hardware and the build quality is still very premium. It also has the same keyboard dock battery boost as its premium brethren.
Barnes & Noble's Nook HD is one of those branded tablet-cum-eReader devices focused towards a specific content distribution platform. It's based on Android, but has been modified extensively to the point where little of Google's software remains visible. The Nook HD is small, lightweight and has a distinctive visual style and reasonable build quality. You can't access Google Play for apps, instead the device faces Barnes & Noble's own content store. However, the interface is quite slick and easy to use, there's plenty of onboard storage space (expandable by microSD) and performance is decent.
The Surface RT is a bit different from the rest of the pack because it runs Microsoft's tablet interface, Windows RT. This is similar to Windows Phone 8 with its colourful Live Tiles. The build quality is excellent and the slate is made from specially treated magnesium and features some striking design elements. It also has an optional detachable keyboard dock which allows you to make the most out of the pre-installed Office suite.