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Best tablet PCs to buy in 2014

Posted on 11 Apr 2014 at 11:00

Find out which tablet to buy in 2014 with our round-up of the nine best models

Tablets are the hot gadget of the moment, but which is the best one to buy right now? We've seen all sorts pass through our Labs in recent months, including the Surface 2 from Microsoft and the iPad Air from Apple.

To help you make a decision, we've gathered together the best nine on the market and summarised them below:

Apple iPad mini 2 with Retina display

Apple iPad Mini 2 with Retina Display

Slipping under the radar somewhat in the wake of the new iPad Air, Apple’s second instalment of the iPad Mini is equally as exciting as its larger cousin. It’s physically identical to its predecessor, with a surprisingly sturdy build considering that sleek design, but underneath the attractive chassis hides a benchmark-crushing 64-bit Apple A7 chip. Of course the iPad mini 2’s real draw is its new 1,536 x 2,048, 7.9in Retina display, boasting realistic skin-tone reproduction, tint-free black and white images and a pin-sharp pixel density of 326ppi. The price is relatively steep at a current price of £319 for the 16GB Wi-Fi version, but considering the sheer quality of this compact tablet, it’s worth every penny.

Read our full iPad mini 2 with Retina display review

Samsung Galaxy TabPRO 8.4

Samsung Galaxy Tab Pro 8.4

Launched at CES earlier this year as the newest addition to Samsung’s growing Android tablet range, the Galaxy TabPRO 8.4 is an impressive specimen. It certainly looks the business, with a handsome, white faux-leather rear panel, and its slim 128mm width make it perfect for one-handed use. Under the hood there’s a quad-core, 2.3GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 SoC supported by 2GB RAM and 16GB storage, achieving benchmark scores comparable to the iPad mini 2. Equally impressive is its 8.4in 2,560 x 1,600 panel, with a pixel density of 341ppi delivering crystal-clear images, saturated colours and wide viewing angles. It’s feature-packed, fast and touts a superb display, but the Samsung Galaxy TABpro 8.4’s £349 price may be off-putting to some.

Read our full Samsung Galaxy TabPRO 8.4 review

Kindle Fire HDX 8.9in

Amazon Kindle Fire HDX

Apple has had things all its own way in the 9-10in tablet space in recent years, but the Kindle HDX 8.9in shows it is possible to compete. This tablet is – astonishingly – even lighter than the iPad Air, yet doesn’t feel at all flimsy. It boasts a higher-resolution, 2,560 x 1,600 display with an even higher pixel density than the Air’s Retina screen, and its core hardware – a quad-core 2.2GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 – runs games and apps as quickly as any tablet around. To cap it all, the Kindle Fire boasts the best battery life we’ve encountered on a tablet since the Apple iPad 2. It isn’t quite the accomplished all-round tablet the iPad Air is, thanks to the limited Amazon App Store, but it is a tempting £70 cheaper.

Read our full Kindle HDX 8.9in review

iPad Air

iPad Air

Apple took its time delivering a successor to the iPad 4, but the iPad Air was well worth waiting for. It’s a slimmer tablet, and lighter too, echoing the design of the iPad mini. Yet, despite going on such a severe diet, Apple has still managed to increase both power and battery life significantly. Supported by the undeniable quality of the iOS app store, and its huge selection of tablet-specific apps, the iPad Air cements Apple’s position at the top of the tablet tree. It’s pricier than most of its Android rivals, but it remains the best tablet on the market – bar none.

Read our full iPad Air review

Nexus 7 (2013)

Nexus 7 (2013)

We loved the first Nexus 7, but this new one really blew our socks off when it first appeared in September, and it remains our favourite 7in tablet. It's slim, light and beautifully well-made, runs the very latest version of Android (KitKat) with no unnecessary extras, and features a fantastically sharp, 1,920 x 1,200 IPS display. That isn’t all, though: Google also squeezes in a high-power, quad-core 1.5GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 Pro CPU, which delivers top performance, both in games and apps. Best of all, the new 16GB Nexus 7 costs a mere £199. A superb compact tablet.

Read our full Nexus 7 review

Microsoft Surface 2

Microsoft Surface 2

Microsoft’s first Windows RT tablet was an accomplished piece of design, with its integrated kickstand and slender keyboard covers, but slow performance made it a dissatisfying tablet to use. We remain unconvinced by RT as a platform, and unsure of its long term future, but if anything has a chance of rescuing the struggling OS, then it’s the Microsoft Surface 2. It’s built on the new Nvidia Tegra 4 platform, which delivers much quicker, slicker performance than the previous version. Outlook has been added to the bundled suite of full Office apps, and the Windows Store is slowly improving. Couple all that with a more digestible price of £359, a dual-position kickstand and improved, backlit keyboard covers, and you have a highly competent and flexible tablet.

Read our full Surface 2 vs Surface Pro 2 review

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User comments

But the biggest bargain...

I think the Archos 80 Cobalt I bought from Tesco for

By The_Scrote on 29 Dec 2012

Before...

...Buying ANY of these tablets please take a moment to locate a suitable forum for hints, tips and most importantly, to find out about issues and problems that may NEVER be fixed.

I'm looking at you Nexus 10!

By rhythm on 29 Dec 2012

iPad Mini

It has a bigger, more pixely screen, it has older hardware and it is more expensive... "but you get what you pay for."

If they had released it two years ago, when iOS was the leading mobile platform, it might have been a good tablet, now it looks dated compared to the competition.

Having used an iPad 4, I was very disappointed with the iOS tablet software.

Android feels more modern and the newer tablets feel much smoother.

To be honest, having used a couple of RT and Windows 8 tablets (I haven't seen the Surface yet), I find the interface refreshing and easy to use.

Battery life isn't that important to me, I think, if I get a tablet at all, then it will be a Windows 8 tablet - or more likely a 13" or 15" convertible.

By big_D on 30 Dec 2012

I've got a few work android tablets of different sizes and tried IPads but I wouldn't mind a Surface/WIN8PRO tablet.

I found the Nexus 7 excellent for the price and pretty usable.

The thing is that the Android tablets are basically commodity items and theres a huge price differential between them and WIN8 PRO tablets.

Really hard to justify WIN8 tablets at the moment.

By MikeHellier on 25 Jan 2013

KeithT

What we need on the market is a 10" tablet docking onto a decent keyboard (Asus have got this) but also a cheapish mobile internet link.

By JKeithT on 7 Feb 2013

@MikeHellier

I am looking at a Windows 8 tablet now, having said I for years said, that I wouldn't buy a tablet...

But I wouldn't justify the price as a tablet, I would justify the price as a desktop replacement. I'm looking at a couple of docks and carrying it between home and work, with a screen and keyboard at both ends for working on and using it as a tablet in meetings and on the move.

By big_D on 14 Feb 2013

@JKeithT

The Lumia 2520 is 10.1" with 4G. There's a good Keyboard cover (includes battery and USB within folio case) too.

Surface 2/Pro 2 both have excellent keyboard options, extremely easy to tether to a phone and have 1080p 10.6" screens.

It just depends on what software is required - just Office? RT. Pro (full Windows) will run anything.

By onegin101 on 10 Dec 2013

"You get what you pay for"

So if you pay and extra £70 for an iPad Mini you get something better than the best 7 inch tablet (the Nexus 7, according to the review above). No, you really don't. If you prefer iOS, and are prepared to stump up the cash then fair enough - but you're not buying the best 7 inch tablet by a long chalk.

By KevPartner on 10 Dec 2013

why no tesco Hudl

Hudl should of made it on the list... high res, sd card, gps, almost pure android, Bluetooth, dual band wifi, hdmi out, cameras etc. Ok its not the quickest etc but it is by far the most complete package. All the others at this end of the market are missing one or usually several off that list. Nexus maybe better but its £80 (60%) more and cannot tick all the features that the Hudl has.

By davidk1962 on 31 Dec 2013

For a 10" screen

Can I recommend Sony Xperia Tablet Z. It's last year's model but it's less than £340, has a retina screen and is very slim.

By ArtissTheGeek on 11 Apr 2014

surface rt is a great buy

What's with the constant press reference to the surface rt being slow. I have a surface rt and it is fast and responsive, as good as any iPad. The addition of office elevates it above a consumption device into a productivity tool when required. I am very pleased with my surface rt and so are a lot of others I know. It is just lazy journalism to criticise the rt based upon hearsay or using a pre 8.1 device.

By bikeman01 on 11 Apr 2014

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For more details about purchasing this feature and/or images for editorial usage, please contact Jasmine Samra on pictures@dennis.co.uk

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