The Best Tablets of 2013
So far, the 2010s have proven to be the decade of the table. Apple sprinted out to an early lead with the iPad, but Amazon’s Kindle quickly picked up millions of users thanks to its low price and access to a massive library of downloadable content. Google’s free Android operating system has been a runaway smash among hardware and software developers, and Microsoft has recently invited itself to the party with the release of its Windows-based Surface tablets. A tablet is not a small investment; if you plan to buy a tablet in 2013, you want to make sure you’re getting the best for your needs. In this article, we’ll discuss the best tablets of 2013 and help you make an informed buying decision.
Starting Price: $499 | Shop Now
The iPad is the product that kicked off the tablet revolution, and it’s the product all other tablets must still measure up to. Any competing company who can’t provide an adequate answer for why customers should buy their tablet rather than an iPad is dead in the water before they’ve even begun. In 2012, Apple updated the iPad by giving it a new high density display — dubbed the Retina Display — with a massive resolution of 2048 by 1536 pixels. In addition, the fourth generation iPad has a new dual-core processor with quad-core graphics. Couple this with a selection of 700,000 free and premium apps, and the iPad easily remains the best tablet of 2013. However, superiority comes at a price; the iPad starts at $499 and the price ramps up quickly as you add additional storage and 4G LTE networking.
Apple iPad mini
Starting Price: $329 | Shop Now
In a sense, the iPad mini can be thought of as an iPad 2 with a 7.9-inch screen. The small screen makes it much smaller and lighter than the standard iPad, but the resolution of 1024 by 768 gives it just a quarter of the total pixel density. Nevertheless, because the number of pixels per square inch is significantly higher than that of the iPad 2, some find the display almost indistinguishable from a Retina Display in practice. The iPad mini is equipped with Apple’s previous generation A5 processor and is available with 4G LTE networking and up to 64 GB of internal storage. It also has stereo speakers — something no previous iPad has had.
Amazon Kindle Fire
Starting Price: $159 | Shop Now
With its selection of about 35,000 apps, the Kindle Fire isn’t about to outpace the iPad in its software selection anytime soon. What it does have, however, is access to Amazon’s massive library of digital content including books, movies, TV shows and music. If you’re already an Amazon Prime subscriber and enjoy taking in Amazon’s content on your computer, buying a Kindle Fire to enjoy that same content on the go is a natural. However, it’s important to remember that the Kindle Fire doesn’t have the versatility or the performance of the iPad — hence the lower price. Higher-end models of the Kindle Fire are available, priced up to $499. These models add support for HD video content, a larger screen and 4G LTE networking.
Samsung Galaxy Tab 2
Starting Price: $239 | Shop Now
Among the Android-based tablets intended for general use, Apple’s nemesis Samsung has arguably the most compelling product. It has access to over 700,000 apps according to current estimates, and although it includes a paltry 8 GB of internal storage, it has something the iPad lacks: a MicroSD card slot. This allows you to expand the storage of the Galaxy Tab 2 as you see fit without constantly needing to find things to uninstall. Samsung also has a larger model of the Galaxy Tab 2 with a 10.1-inch screen, which costs $349. Choosing between the iOS-based iPad and Android-based tablets such as the Galaxy Tab 2 is largely a matter of preference as both operating systems have an enormous amount of support from software developers. Apple exerts tight control over its app ecosystem, but some people believe this increases the overall quality of the selection on Apple’s app store.
Barnes & Noble Nook HD
Starting Price: $269 | Shop Now
Among tablets created for consuming digital media, the Nook is the Amazon Kindle’s greatest competitor. Like the Kindle, the Nook has a limited app ecosystem and you shouldn’t expect it to replace a computer. Thousands of apps are available for the Nook, however, so you can use it for basic gaming, Web browsing, chatting and accessing social media. At the time of writing, approximately 1.6 million books are available for the Kindle in the United States. Barnes & Noble, however, claims that 2.5 million books are available for the Nook. It may therefore be the superior tablet if you want something purely for reading digital content.
Microsoft Surface With Windows RT
Starting Price: $499 | Shop Now
The Microsoft Surface has to be one of the most confusing — and initially disappointing — tech products released in recent years. For months, we’ve been reading that Windows 8 would be the operating system that would finally give us the full Windows experience on a highly portable device. Then, we became even more excited when we found out that Microsoft would be designing its own tablet. The Surface is finally here, and it runs an operating system that looks exactly like Windows 8 but isn’t, and doesn’t run most Windows software. Wait, what? That’s right; Windows RT is Windows, but it only runs apps from the Windows Store — an ecosystem that has years of catching up to do before it’ll offer the same amount of content as the Apple and Android app stores. In addition, customers have been quick to note that although the Surface has 32 GB of internal storage, only 16 GB are available for use. Microsoft is preparing to release a Surface tablet that will run Windows 8 — confused yet? — but pricing information isn’t currently available. The Windows 8 Surface tablet could easily cost $1,000 or more when Microsoft announces it early next year.