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11/23/2013
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Jeff Bertolucci
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10 Best Tablets Of 2013

Whether you're tablet shopping now or looking ahead, check out this year's standouts.
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The basic design of tablets -- a nondescript black slab -- hasn't changed much since the debut of the Apple iPad in 2010. But tablet technology is rapidly evolving, and there's been market segmentation. Several categories have emerged over the past four years: mini tablets with screens that measure from 7 inches to 8 inches diagonally; larger tablets with 9- to 11-inch screens; and hybrid devices that function as both tablet and laptop. One might also include phablets -- cellphone/tablet hybrids with 5- to 6-inch screens -- as a fourth category, although these devices qualify more as oversized smartphones than true tablets.

However you slice it, the tablet has emerged as a unique genre of mobile device, one that has become hugely popular with consumers and businesses alike. In fact, tablets are expected to outsell laptop computers by a three- to-one margin by 2017, predicts NPD DisplaySearch. According to IDC, Apple and Samsung were the top two tablet vendors in the third quarter of 2013, with 29.6% and 20.4% of the global market share, respectively. Those numbers are expected to change quickly, however, as so-called "white box tablets," typically low-cost slates running variants of Android, gain popularity worldwide.

White-box tablets probably won't make anyone's Best Of list, however. "These low-cost Android-based products make tablets available to a wider market of consumers, which is good. However, many use cheap parts and non-Google-approved versions of Android that can result in an unsatisfactory customer experience, limited usage, and very little engagement with the ecosystem," said IDC research director Tom Mainelli in a statement.

So what makes a great tablet? Light weight and long battery life are two key characteristics, obviously, as well as processing power and a well-stocked app store. Affordability matters too, but super-cheap slates aren't worth it, particularly in the workplace where tablets and tablet/laptop hybrids are increasingly replacing laptops.

It looks as if no single operating system will dominate tablets, with Android, iOS, and Windows operating systems all finding their niche. For instance, the 7-inch Amazon Kindle Fire HDX and the 10.6-inch Microsoft Surface Pro 2, both technically tablets, appeal to different types of user.

Our Best Tablets of 2013 slideshow takes a variety of factors into consideration, including size, usability, price, availability of applications, and compatibility with existing enterprise systems. If you think we slighted a tablet you like, or if you disagree with some of our picks, let us know in the comments section.

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robzilla
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robzilla,
User Rank: Strategist
1/2/2014 | 1:35:37 PM
Re: Most wanted tablet
You left out my new favorite the Dell Venue 8 Pro. Just got the device about a week ago and it is amazing. Windows 8.1 really shines on a tablet. I paid $229 for mine and it has a full version of office, new quad core bay trail intel processor, hd display, good loud speaker, very good build quality, expandable micro sd slot. Since it has a full OS and not a mobile OS I can imstall any program I want.   I can run as many programs at the same time as I want and have multiple windows open and truly multi task. It also has a split screen feature to browse the net while I read email. etc. The battery lasts a long time as well. Running bluestacks I can run any android app as well. The unit is not perfect and only has a micro usb port but there are adapters available. The device does not have gps but no good apps for gps exist in windows yet so I can see why it was left out. It does have a built in compass. As the MS store matures more apps will become available. I see the app ecosystem as an issue for some but the versatility of having a full os on a tablet is pretty incredible at this price. The baytrail processor from intel is really good and on par with some laptop chips. I think there are a few other offerings from other manufacturers but for the price and build quality the Venue 8 Pro is the Nexus 7 of the windows world and costs the same too. If intel and microsoft keep improving it won't take long for them to catch up. The surface tabs are nice but most people do not want to pay laptop prices far a tablet that does not offer a familiar ecosystem and app availability. With these low cost 8.1 tabs I wonder the future of rt? Can a tablet have a full desktop OS and perform? The answer seems to be yes. Microsoft needs to change desktop mode. Simply allow for pinch and zoom in desktop mode and there would be no need for a stylus. but the Dell also offers an active stylus too. The 10 point multi touch screen is awesome. Just for reverence I have owned a few tabs from a Viewsonic gtab to acer iconia a500 to the 2012 nexus 7 and now Dell Venue 8 Pro. The pro is so good I sold my nexus 7. While I liked the openness of Android and being able to easily root it and run custom roms it was showing its age already. Another reason I feel it is foolish to spend tons of money on a tablet is the short life span. Maybe a year or two at best.
DDURBIN1
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DDURBIN1,
User Rank: Ninja
12/23/2013 | 1:35:05 PM
Overlooked Monster M7
The Monster M7 sold by Walmart currently on sale for $99.99 (as of 12/23/12) is a real value.  Althought the graphics are HD at 1280X800 its still provides excellant video quality with GPS, BlueTooth, 16GB, and more. 
masinick
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masinick,
User Rank: Strategist
12/22/2013 | 12:42:09 AM
Re: How did the Nook HD not make it?!
I personally own the first generation Nexus 7 tablet, which I think fares very well (at $199) with more expensive items; too bad the second gen Nexus 7 (improved) does come at a higher price; a used Nexus 7 gen one offering would be great for someone willing to use only Wifi access.  I use mine that way and it does everything I need it to do.  More expensive tablets than this would be a waste for me.

I got my mom a Nook HD, and that costs even less and I think it is a bargain.  It is easy, energy efficient, and good value for the money.

The other models also seem to have appeal, but too bad we couldn't add a few more to the list.  A few years ago, tablets other than the iPad were not too hot; today I wonder if the iPad is even worth the extra money; MANY Android models offer excellent value.  For me, the Nexus 7 is perfect, but I see the Barnes and Noble and Amazon low end offerings as excellent, better than the no name Android knock-offs.  I don't know if any of them are improved and "good" these days, but I wouldn't go for one unless it had at least Android 4.2 or newer stuff on it.

While I'm not a Windows tablet fan, at least I can see the value if someone really uses a lot of Microsoft applications and wants remote access to them without having to carry along heavy gear.

I personally don't see the value in the iPad line but for those who are willing to pay the price, there is certainly a lot offered in their various alternatives.  Compared to 2-3 years ago, there are A LOT of good values now in tablet systems, so this article was worthwhile in sharing them.

 
masinick
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masinick,
User Rank: Strategist
12/22/2013 | 12:32:13 AM
Re: How did the Nook HD not make it?!
I agree.  I bought the Barnes and Noble Nook HD for my mom a few months ago as a birthday present.  Make no mistake; it's a low end model, yet even so, it still has plenty of good features:

1. Efficient use of power.  My mom can read her Email and do whatever else she does and only occasionally charge the unit.


2, It's easy for a senior citizen to use and its easy on the budget.

3. As mentioned, it offers the Google Play store, so you can use it as an Android device very nicely.


4. In case it wasn't clear, ease of use makes this one attractive as well as the low price.
burn0050bb
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burn0050bb,
User Rank: Apprentice
12/5/2013 | 6:50:40 PM
Re: How did the Nook HD not make it?!
Plus, you can install Android on your Nook, and have a full fledged, compatible tablet!
ZachM969
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ZachM969,
User Rank: Apprentice
12/3/2013 | 4:40:37 AM
Re: Mini
Apple doesn't "own" an entire vowel - the  Ramos i-series to which the "i" stands for Intel - Ramos also manufacturers the k-series and w-series - I think if it's marketed as the "Ramos i-series" it won't be an issue
ZachM969
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ZachM969,
User Rank: Apprentice
12/3/2013 | 4:38:21 AM
Re: Mini
Apple doesn't "own" an entire vowel - the Ramos i-series to which the "i" stands for Intel - Ramos also manufacturers the k-series and w-series - I think if it's marketed as the Ramos i-series it won't be an issue
mmcgann334
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mmcgann334,
User Rank: Apprentice
12/2/2013 | 1:54:29 PM
10 Best Tablets of 2013
Great areticle comparing all the tablets and their pricing/product strategy! Thanks for letting us know about the best tech deals and products!
Shepy
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Shepy,
User Rank: Apprentice
11/28/2013 | 7:09:50 AM
few surprises
Surprised to see the kindle fire in there with it's horrible locked down os, being higher in the list than the Nexus 7 which is arguably one of the nicest 
sfreeves
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sfreeves,
User Rank: Apprentice
11/26/2013 | 1:23:03 PM
Tablets
Great insights right before the holiday season!  With all the competition and marketing going on for tablets lately it is nice to have a comparison available!
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