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Best Android Tablets

Samsung Galaxy Tab S3 Tablet Review

This post was made possible through a sponsorship with CJ Affiliate’s VIP Content Service and Samsung, which we thank for the opportunity. Despite being a sponsored review, all content and opinions expressed here are our own.

Tablets like this one are worthy of the best tablet floor stands.

The tablet craze seems to have dwindled down, but that’s not stopping mobile device manufacturers, particularly prime players like Samsung and Apple, from releasing new and improved ones. Such happens to be the case with Samsung’s kick off to 2017; not a Galaxy smartphone but an updated flagship tablet. Let’s find out if this is the new Android tablet king in our Samsung Galaxy Tab S3 Tablet Review! If you’re looking for a good starter tablet instead, take a look at our Reelpad by AARP review too.

Remember to protect your slate with the best tablet cover.

Overview

Price: $599 (32GB WiFi model)
Available: Now
Model: Galaxy Tab S3

Summary: The Samsung Galaxy Tab S3 is the latest in the company’s flagship tablet line. Compare this to the Asus Transformer Prime Infinity tf700t review to figure out which tablet is right for you. The improvements it brings are incremental, especially on the exterior, but they are just the right refinements that may make this the Android tablet to beat. Namely, features like quad speakers tuned by AKG, HDR support, and an included S Pen stylus.

What We Liked

  • Quad external speakers
  • Bright and vibrant display
  • S Pen included in the box
  • Refined hardware and software

What We Didn’t

  • Tablet size may be unweidly for some, and glass back is slippery
  • 32 GB base storage
  • Hit or miss camera quality

Samsung Galaxy Tab S3 Specs

Display9.7", Super AMOLED,
1536 x 2048 resolution
ChipsetQualcomm Snapdragon
820 (quad-core), Adreno 530 GPU
Memory4GB of RAM
Storage32GB internal,
256GB microSD expansion
Cameras13 MP (f/1.9) rear and
5 MP (f/2.2) front
Battery6,000 mAh, non-removable
SoftwareAndroid 7.0 (Nougat)
with Samsung UI
ColorsBlack, Silver
Price$599 (32GB, WiFi model)
Buy Now

Design

Samsung’s tablets could historically be summed up as blown up variants of the company’s Galaxy smartphones, albeit a generation behind the very latest design. The same can be said for the new Galaxy Tab S3 flagship Android tablet.

Samsung Galaxy Tab S3 Tablet
The navigation button layout copies Samsung’s smartphone line: a Home button flanked by Recent Apps and Back capacitive buttons. The fingerprint scanner on the Home Button is as quick and reliable as we’d expect from Samsung.

Therefore, we’re very much talking about a refinement rather than an overhaul of its predecessor, the Tab S2, launched in the Fall of 2015. The square-like footprint and even the entire front layout appears unchanged. So users who consider bezel reduction a selling point will be disappointed. Also, interestingly, the thickness increased ever-so by 0.4″, but which should be of little consequence for a still super-thin 6mm profile. And while an extra 40g brings the total up to 429 grams, the tablet is still a nice weight considering the substantial housing for the 9.7″ display.

Speaking of which, Samsung decided to forgo the option of a smaller 8″ variant. It seems like tablet users prefer to go big. Just be mindful that the Tab S3 is handful (or two) for those of us with average-to-smaller hands. The thinness helps make the device not feel as unwieldy as it should, but handling will still take effort. Some of that fact has to do with the choice of material of the back panel.

Samsung Galaxy Tab S3 Tablet
Glass is premium, but there’s more chance of scratches/cracks on this sizable tablet.

Whereas the Tab S2 had a smooth, plastic backing, the Tab S3 predictably adopted the same design language of Samsung’s current flagships smartphones. That is, a metal frame sandwiched between full glass panels. It’s more premium and sure feels great, but our consensus remains that glass’ slippery and fragile nature makes it not the most practical choice.

The matte finished metal edging extends to the power and volume rocker pair on the right side of the device, interrupted at the top and bottom by white, antenna-allowing plastic inserts. When comparing the top and bottom, you’ll also find an external speaker at each corner. Yes, Samsung gave the Tab S3 quite the audio boost. The combined acoustic output makes for a more immersive experience than we’re used to, but we’d still pick front-facing speakers as the winning solution.

Samsung Galaxy Tab S3 Tablet
The Tab S3 boasts a total of four external speakers (set of two equivalently placed on the top and bottom). They’re excellent when consuming media, but the corner placement means that your grip can cover them when holding the tablet in landscape.

Performance

Like with the build, the Tab S3’s internals also received incremental upgrades. No, the Snapdragon 820 chipset that debuted in smartphones at the beginning of 2016 isn’t the latest and greatest, but it’s a sufficient powerhouse nonetheless. Navigation through the Tab S3’s interface is consistently smooth and responsive, though stutters do rear around some corners. We’re not sure if that’s due to optimization on the end of the chipset or software interface. The similarly spec’d Galaxy S7 seemed a bit more steady to us.

Storage space has unfortunately remained the same, at 32 GB internally. Samsung may figure that a microSD slot well makes for that, but there’s less excuse when the flagship smartphones now come with 64 GB standard. However, we are thrown a bone on the battery end, at now an even 6,000 mAh capacity.

We felt that equated to ample juice for a 2017 flagship tablet. At 50% brightness and moderate use (internet browsing, email, social media apps, etc.), we’d see about 8-10% drain short of an hour. But cranking up the brightness and playing videos/games can take a drastic toll; cutting your time in half. That said, on and off usage consistently got us through two days. Superbly minimal idle drainage certainly helped with that.

The main 13 MP rear camera is capable, but don’t expect it to hold a candle to the quality of Samsung’s flagship smartphones. Thanks to a larger f/1.9 lens aperture, captures are well-lit and hold their ground in darker environments. Sharpness could use some work, as well as the hit or miss auto-focus. Check out some of our shots below.

Display

The star of the show is undoubtedly that massive 9.7″ display, and this is where you’ll be glad that this is a Samsung-made tablet. The company’s S-AMOLED panels are arguably the best in the mobile device industry. However, we’d be pressed to say it’s better than what we got in 2015, aside from the addition of HDR support with content that uses it.

Samsung Galaxy Tab S3 Tablet
The Tab S3’s display is a reflection of Samsung’s brilliant S-AMOLED panels on the Galaxy flagship smartphones.

The resolution stays at the same 1536 x 2048 (264 ppi) pixel density and our eyes see a similarly vibrant and color-rich viewing experience. There’s little to complain about. Blacks are as deep as they can go and details are brilliantly vivid. The screen can also get stupendously bright. But we can see a case where color accuracy could be in question, as colors on some videos look over-saturated to our eyes.

Accessories

Samsung Galaxy Tab S3 Tablet
The S Pen functions as flawlessly as we remember on the Note 7. The Air Command menu pops up with a touch on the floating pen icon, and the Samsung Notes app can robustly tailor your note/drawing desires.

Samsung largely focuses on usability in its tablets, which means that there’s a couple invaluable accessories that boost the experience. And one of these is generously included in the box – a stylus. This S Pen has more girth than the slim pop-out stylus you’d find in the Note smartphone line, making it more comfortable to hold and a joy to write/draw with (boasting a 0.7mm fine tip and over 4,000 levels of pressure sensitivity). The drawback is that you cannot attach it to the tablet, not even magnetically like on the Microsoft Surface Pro.

Another nifty and well-made accessory is the Tab S3 Book Cover Keyboard – a flexible book-style case that clings to the tablet via magnets. We loved how seamlessly and effortlessly the cover interfaces with the tablet, and its smooth, quality feel all-around. A crease on the cover allows the tablet to tilt and magnetically merge with pin connectors above the keyboard, turning the Tab S3 into a productivity machine. Our biggest complaint is that there’s no way to adjust the tilt angle. The keyboard functions well aside from a few keys that have to get squished in to fit the tablet’s footprint.

The keyboard has no battery of its own, so you won’t be able to depend on it to keep you running longer. An option like that would’ve been great. This also means that the keys don’t have a back light.

Software

Android 7.0 (Nougat) is the talk of the town when it comes to Android, and the Tab S3 certainly packs it. On a Samsung device, that more means the company’s refined UI elements, like matured icons, fonts, and layouts. The drop-down notification shade, for instance, has a flatter and more classy aesthetic, of which also carries over the new Quick Settings customizations and notification interactions (i.e. replying to a message directly from the notification).

The user interface is still as heavy as ever, but as of late that’s been less of a concern. Samsung has trimmed the fat and refined the valued features, such as dual app windows and the Briefing news aggregator on the left-most panel. Digging in the Settings menu will reveal useful functions. We really appreciate how easy it is to flush the system of resource hogging processes – the software automatically looks for battery-hogging apps and let’s you put them to sleep. Other notable mentions are a Secure Folder option that grants only you access to files you place there, a Blue Light Filter that helps reduce eye strain, and an audio resolution upscaler.

Final Thoughts

The Samsung Tab S3 is no doubt one of the best and most refined tablets out there. We think that Samsung could have evolved the design further than just essentially throwing a glass panel on the back, but there are plenty of other improvements that makes the update worthwhile: quad speakers, HDR-capable display, USB Type-C port, and a superb stylus in the box. Not to mention a boost on the battery, camera, and horsepower. Unfortunately, that means that the Tab S3 has a top-tier price tag to match, at $599 to start. And if you fancy that snazzy keyboard cover case, that’ll set you back another $129.

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Best Android Tablets

ASUS ZenPad Z8 Android Tablet Review

In our search for the best Android tablets, we wanted to try this ZenPad.

The tablet market isn’t quite as dynamic as the smartphone space, but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t exciting devices coming out. Then again, I even get excited about the best tablet cover. ASUS is one of those underdog but long-standing mobile manufacturers who stick by their strategy and continue to push forward. What’s that strategy? Great bang-for-buck Android devices. If you’re on the hunt for a good starter tablet, take a look at our Reelpad by AARP review too.

Android tablets are worthy of getting accessories for, like the best tablet floor stands.

The ZenPad Z8 tablet is the company’s latest effort. We already know that they make quality technology from our Asus Transformer Pad Infinity TF700T review. The Z8 has a bunch of the high-end specs users demand today, but at a totally reachable price. One of the best things is that it’s not just restricted to WiFi. The Z8 can connect to Verizon’s network and utilize its full LTE speeds. Let’s check out if the value here is as good as it sounds, in our ASUS ZenPad Z8 Android tablet review.

Overview

Price: $250 retail or $150 2-yr contract, or $10.41/month on Verizon
Available: Now
Model: ASUS ZenPad Z8

Summary: The ASUS ZenPad Z8 tablet hits value on the head. Its display, performance, and software is sufficient for a pleasant Android experience, but compromise can be seen in the camera and audio quality. Being Verizon-compatible gives it a mobility advantage.

What We Liked

  • Great display resolution and quality
  • Dual front-facing speakers
  • Current Android version and smooth performance
  • Latest USB Type-C port

What We Didn’t

  • Design may be too basic for consumers
  • Rear and front cameras are lackluster
  • Slow charging rate

ZenPad Z8 Specs

Display7.9" IPS LCD, QXGA resolution (1536 x 2048)
ChipsetQualcomm Snapdragon 650 (hexa-core, 1.8 GHz)
Memory2GB of RAM
Storage16GB, with up to 128GB microSD expansion
Cameras8 MP rear and 2 MP front
Battery4,680 mAh, non-removable
SoftwareAndroid 6.0.1 with ZenUI interface
ColorsBlack
PriceRetail: $250
Verizon 2-yr contract: $150
Verizon payment plan: $10.41/month
Buy Now

Design

Devices that focus on value are naturally nothing special in terms of design. The ZenPad Z8 tablet is no exception, but that in no way implies that its build is sub-par. Quite the contrary, actually. Its plastic makeup is impeccably assembled. There’s a smooth refinement to the way the back cover and front bezel transition into the rounded edges. The effortless look and feel is assisted by the tablet’s slim profile, at only about 7.3mm. This translates to decently light weight of 310 grams. Despite the thinness, we observed little flex and creaking from the body.

ASUS ZenPad Z8 tablet
The textured back cover adds the little flare of style the Z8 needs to save it from being boring.

While the back cover is minimal, ASUS throws on a textured surface that provides a nice touch of sophistication. On-lookers may not be able to tell that the leather is faux, but you’ll certainly know it when you feel the hard plastic. Other than this, we have a shiny ASUS logo at the center and small camera module protrusion at the top left corner.

We love that ASUS made it a point to not let the front bezel go wild. The Z8 boasts a 74% body-to-screen ratio (whereas the comparable iPad mini 4 trails behind at 70.6%). This keeps the tablet’s footprint down and makes handleability more pleasant.

Another neat feature on the front is the additional speaker grill on the very bottom. It’s symmetric with the other slit up top, meaning that the Z8 indeed packs dual front-facing stereo speakers – not a feature many phones or tablets get. Don’t expect them to win any audio quality awards (they’re tinny-sounding), but they can get plenty loud. Under the top speaker grill, you’ll also notice a small front camera module for video chatting.

ASUS ZenPad Z8 tablet
The dual speaker grills are symmetric cut-outs on the top and bottom bezels along the edges.

We applaud ASUS for not forgetting that there’s a new USB standard in town – Type C. It lives on the bottom alongside a microphone, while on top is solely the 3.5mm headphone jack.

Performance

ASUS ZenPad Z8 tablet
Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 650 is a mid-range, 6-core chipset with exceptional performance.

You’d be correct to not expect top-end specs at this price-point, but that doesn’t mean that the Z8 is a slouch either. Some may argue that a hexa-core Snapdragon 650 and 2GB of RAM is all you need to run Android smoothly. Based our time with the Z8, we’d have to agree for the most part. Despite packing a considerably heavy interface (we’ll get to the software experience later), navigation is satisfyingly smooth and fluid. We did observe an occasional stutter in scrolling or opening apps, but nothing worth complaining about, like with lags or freezes.

16GB of on-board storage space isn’t going to impress anyone, but fortunately, ASUS did not forget about a microSD card slot. Bear in mind that the max capacity card the Z8 will accept is 128GB.

The sealed battery has a decent capacity, at 4,680 mAh. We were plenty satisfied at how much usage that got us. Unless you’re a hardcore user, you should be able to get a couple days from a full charge on WiFi. The Z8 can also tap into Verizon’s network (full LTE speeds), which would draw more power. Battery life won’t be as impressive in that case, but still, the Z8 is at a good place compared to the competition.

An important mention is that although you’ll get the latest and greatest USB Type-C port, we didn’t observe a fast charging rate. Many Qualcomm powered devices include support for the chip-maker’s Quick Charge standard, in which the latest 3.0 version can get you 60-70% charge in about 30 minutes. The Z8’s charging is much slower than that. We figure this may have been one of the behind-the-scenes compromises in order to get the price down.

Manufacturers generally tack on a rear camera on their tablets for the sake of having one, and that feels like the case here. The reproduction quality of the Z8’s 8 megapixel shooter won’t hold a candle to sensors in flagship smartphones, but that isn’t to say it’s terrible. It certainly gets the job, and in good lighting conditions, can crank out some pretty pics.

ASUS ZenPad Z8 tablet
Daylight sample image from the Z8’s 8 MP rear camera. The colors are great but the details could be sharper.

That said, things can go south pretty quickly when the lightning dims, and blurriness/graininess creep in. That occurrence is even more prevalent in the tiny 2 MP front camera. But if you’re not critical on quality and want something that just works, it’s fine.

Display

The screen on the Z8 is superb, especially at the tablet’s price-point. The 7.9″ panel doesn’t appear compromised on paper, with current IPS LCD technology and a sharp 1536 x 2048 resolution. Fortunately, it’s as good as it sounds in person. Images are crisp and colors are vibrant (without being exaggerated).

ASUS ZenPad Z8 tablet
ASUS delivers on quality with the Z8’s IPS 2K resolution screen.

The quality is also maintained even at extreme viewing angles, showing that ASUS isn’t just using some cut-rate IPS panel. However, it doesn’t have the best brightness capability. Indoors, we were pretty satisfied at about 60% brightness. That means that it can be a struggle with outdoor sunlight, even at max brightness, but doable.

Software

Being a new device, the Z8 indeed packs the latest version of Android – 6.0.1 (aka Marshmallow). Although, it’s important to know that ASUS keeps its Android devices heavily shrouded in a custom interface called ZenUI. It revamps almost everything in Android, from the folders to navigation animations.

Third-party UIs aren’t as dreaded as they used to be, though. ZenUI doesn’t show signs of holding the OS back; it’s just a different take on Android. So swiping through the home screens, scrolling through app content, and multitasking are all silky smooth.

Like the look of ZenUI or not, ASUS did think of some nifty features that you won’t find on other interfaces. We really enjoyed the multitude of gesture shortcuts that you can toggle, which generously include double-tap-to-wake. The power management settings are also pretty robust, sporting four levels of battery modes. If you’re not a fan of the out-of-the-box screen color reproduction, the Display settings let you adjust the color mode or temperature.

For better or worse, ASUS includes a plethora of custom apps in the UI, such as its own calendar, contacts, gallery, email, tasks apps. The many users who prefer Google’s software may view these as bloatware, as you can disable them but not uninstall. And being that this device is tied to Verizon, you’ll get the carrier’s unremovable messaging and account manager apps on top of that.

Final Thoughts

At the price-point of the ZenPad Z8, we weren’t initially sure what to expect. Mobile devices manufacturers often make the wrong compromises. Happily, we end our review feeling like ASUS made the right choices. The Z8’s design is minimal but stylish, and the specs are more than respectable. Pair this with the ability to have internet just about anywhere you go and you have an Android tablet that should definitely be on your short list.

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Best Android Tablets

10 of the Best 7-inch Android Tablets

Is this the year you pick out a mini tablet for yourself, your kids, or the whole family? Those hold-in-your-hand tablets have never looked as good – or come at such good prices. Here are 10 of the best 7-inch Android tablets around:

  1. Nexus 7: Google’s Nexus 7 is the definitive Android tablet. Its 1920 x 1200 screen has one of the highest resolutions in the Android world, and the 2GB of RAM makes this tablet extra-speedy compared to its rivals. This 2013 tablet also costs a lot less than the Nexus 9 or the Apple mini iPad at around $200, making it great to pick up as a gift. There’s no expandable storage though, so the 16/32 GB drive is all the space you get.
  2. Samsung Galaxy Tab 4: Samsung’s Galaxy Tab 4 is a family-friend entry in the 7-inch tablet market, with a Multi User mode and the ability to use two apps at the same time. It’s also known for a comparatively long battery life, ideal for long trips. It also comes with a 1280 x 800 resolution screen and 8GB of ROM.
  3. Asus MeMo Pad 7: The latest Asus mini tablet sports a Quad-Core processor and 16 GB of storage with microSD compatibility. While its RAM and resolution may not be able to match other entries, the MeMo Pad does come with over 200 upgrades to its Android OS, a pleasant addition that could save on some expensive downloads. Speaking of price, at around $125 to $150 (depending on current deals) the Asus MeMo Pad 7 is also quite affordable.
  4. Kindle Fire HDX 7: The Kindle Fire HDX runs Amazon’s own version of Android, which is a little limited compared to other systems (particularly in app options), but otherwise this is an extra-strong entry for the 7-inch Android tablet market. It has a 1920 x 1200 display like the Nexus 7, and a comparable Quad-Core process and 2GB of RAM. It also plays nice with Amazon services, which may be great if you already have a Kindle or like features like the MayDay tech support button. It is one of the best android tablets in its size range.
  5. Lenovo IdeaTab: Lenovo is known for its affordable electronics that are still worth the buy, and the S5000 IdeaTab is no exception. With an HD 1280 x 800 screen, 16GB in flash memory and 1GB of RAM, this mini tablet is just an all-around solid choice. Notably it has USB OTG support for charging and quickly reading devices like USB flashdrives, which is a nice bonus for the more business or document-inclined.
  6. Nividia Shield: Okay, the Nividia Shield is technically an 8-inch tablet, but it definitely deserves a mention for its unique focus on gaming. The tablet can manage PC-level games with its Tegra K1 system (well, those compatible with K1, anyway) and works well with a wireless controller. You can also hook it up to a TV for a big screen. Oh, and it handles Android apps, too.
  7. Tesco Hudls: The Hudl and the larger-but-still-mini Hudl 2 offer some great features for their price tags. If you can, swing for the 8.3-inch Hudl 2 instead of the 7-inch Hudl, since it has a better screen resolution but is available for around the same price.
  8. Acer Iconia: The Acer Iconia is much like the Lenovo IdeaTab, except for a couple important points: It comes with a slightly larger screen, and it has an aluminum frame instead of plastic materials, making it sturdier and more stylish.
  9. Tegra Note 7: EVGA isn’t the first name that comes to mind when thinking about the best mini Android tablets, but the Tegra Note 7 is a strong entry with a few nice perks, like an included styles and an extra-lightweight frame. It may not be in the same league as the Nexus or the Kindle, but it does carry its own weight in the lower-tier division.
  10. Nextbook 7: The Nextbook is a great choice if the other mini tablets are just a bit too expensive. This $60 tablet has all the Android basics, including Gmail and Google Maps, plus a few extras like the preloaded Nook app. Internal memory is 16 GB, a healthy amount of data space for such a cheap tablet. Screen resolution and performance may not be the best, but it won’t destroy your wallet, either.
Categories
Best Android Tablets

EVGA Tegra Note 7 Android Tablet Review

For anyone looking for the best Android tablets, check this out.

I got one! Today we introduce ourselves to EVGA’s Tegra Note 7, the company’s first foray into tablet computing products. Like EVGA’s award winning graphic cards, the Tegra Note 7 is also brought to us in partnership with Nvidia with the device powered by Nvidia Tegra technology.  That marriage of Nvidia tech and EVGA class-leading reliability and customer support — should spark the interest of mobile and PC gamers alike. Plus the little black slab can be had for a cool $200. If you want a good starter tablet instead, try giving our Ematic FunTab Pro Tablet review a read.

Design

EVGA Tegra Note_2

At first glance the Tegra Note 7, looks like your average 7-in tablet running an unskinned Android OS albeit this one is wearing an elegant black dress and saunters in with a working stylus that tucks away nicely on its underside. In hand, the tablet feels just a bit heavier than the 7 inch Samsung Galaxy Tab 3. Or, you could read our Samsung Galaxy Tablet review. The Tegra Note 7 features a single physical button at the top of the unit (held in portrait view) for Power. The right side toward the top is where the Volume Rocker is located. The microSD card slot is just above the Rocker. Back at the top there are ports for MiniUSB charging/data cable, headphone jack and Mini HDMI.

EVGA Tegra Note_5

The back is textured, making the unit immediately standout from other tabs like the Samsung Galaxy Tab 3.0. The Galaxy’s slippery smooth back demands covering or very careful holding and placement. The EVGA Tegra Note 7 also features a magnetic back, which the optional Slide Cover attaches to when folded back. The cover can be folded on itself to work as an adequately sturdy stand that props the unit up for viewing at different angles for hands free enjoyment. While not advisable for obvious safety reasons, that magnetic back is strong enough to keep the tablet attached to a normal refrigerator door. This made cooking with Gordon Ramsey possible while I also feared the unit would plummet to an untimely death on the kitchen floor. It’s quite impressive nonetheless.

Display

EVGA Tegra Note_8

The 7-inch display is one of the unit’s weaker points. It hits well below the 1080p sweet spot and rings in at 1280 x 800 with an additionally low pixel density of only 216 ppi. The display is powered by Nvidia’s PRISM 2 processing. Colors are nice but that low pixel density on a low resolution screen results in washed out images and less than vibrant whites. The Nexus 7, one of the closest contenders does 1080p with a pixel density of 323 ppi. No surprise in performance difference there! But Nvidia’s own lovely little SHIELD handheld performs visibly better at 294 ppi and 720p. That slight bump in pixel density helps to produce richer colors and clarity. Finally, general web browsing and movies are more vivid on both the SHIELD and the Nexus 7.

EVGA Tegra Note_6

That said the unit serves up an enjoyable multimedia experience with a suitable display and a set of well-crafted front-facing speakers.

Camera

EVGA Tegra Note_9

The Tegra Note 7 uses a 5mp camera. Surprisingly it performs better than the “soul stealers” on other similar devices, thought that’s not saying a hell of a lot. You can take photos or record videos at 1080p. Nvidia has outfitted the Tegra Note clicker with their “always-on” HDR technology, which is supposed to capture images as they are seen.

EVGA Tegra Note_10

The end result is solid if not overly spectacular. You get some good pics if taken in even and well-lit settings like outdoors on sunny days. Indoor low light photos are decent and suitable for party pics and social sharing. For context, standard free-hand photos show better color saturation and are noticeably less muddy than those taken with a Galaxy Tab 3 of the same size, but not by much.

Software

EVGA Tegra Note_11

The Note 7 is now running Android KitKat 4.4.2. This is an unskinned version of the OS, as mentioned above. But Nvidia has included a few key applications to take advantage of the Note’s unique features. Those being the included chisel-tipped stylus and the uber-powerful gamer-class Tegra 4 processor. You get a small handful of stylus-friendly app with even more available for free download on the Google Play store. Even the calendar app works well with the Stylus, making it super easy and intuitive for impromptu planning and editing. AirFlow, MyScript calculator, Note Any Time and several others are highly recommended downloads to make the most of the cool stylus functionality.

I must admit the stylus is the productivity boon most won’t see coming in a $200 tablet package. Moreover, it’s fiendishly fun to use.

Performance

EVGA Tegra Note_7

Tegra 4 is definitely a gamer’s SoC. Although the SHIELD beats out the Note 7 in raw synthetic benchmarks (9137 VS 10754) it’s not overly noticeable while gaming.

Conclusion

EVGA Tegra Note_3

The Tegra Note 7 is a marvel in many areas that supersede it’s consumer friendly price tag. The display performance is the only significant detractor. Yet it’s, by no means, a deal breaker. Ok sure, the Note 7 is a bit heavier than the Nexus 7 and the Galaxy Tab 3. But the Tegra 4 processor is substantially peppier and pushes commands and applications to respond with urgency. Many prefer an unskinned Android device as they lend themselves to more inherent changes, without routing, than manufacturer proprietary skins. The EVGA Tegra Note delivers in that regard. Plus, when the 4100 mAh battery is fully charged it can sustain the fun for roughly 10 full hours of general use and 7 hours of gaming.

EVGA Tegra Note_4

Yet beyond that, the camera is fairly solid, which surprised me with its color accuracy and 1080p video capture. However, the stylus and gaming functionality steal the show. That chisel-tipped stylus offers up a very intuitive writing experience across many applications and… Games just sing on the Tegra Note. You can pull them from the typical Google Play store or from Nvidia’s own TegraZone, which houses all the games specially tweaked to take advantage of Tegra processors. Unfortunately the company’s incredible GRID cloud gaming service is not supported by the tablet. Keep hope alive though, because the Note 7, like many other Nvidia products, are updated regularly — with new content and features.

Ultimately, the EVGA Tegra Note 7 is an awesome 7 inch Android tablet that is loaded with features, at a price more affordable than the competition. Plus it’s backed by two of the most reliable companies in the tech industry.

Categories
Best Android Tablets

ASUS VivoTab T600 Review

Windows 8 is the final maturation of the Windows platform for a touchscreen world. It should come as no surprise then that in many ways Windows 8 is both excellent and flawed, but this review is not about that. Instead, its about the finest Windows RT tablet on the market, the VivoTab T600. If you don’t necessarily need a full keyboard for your tablet, try reading our EVGA Tegra Note 7 Android review to compare.

And perhaps more importantly, its about the state of tablet computing and how, in so many ways, Microsoft has done something both amazing and terrifying, and ASUS has perfectly enabled the software giant with compelling, powerful, and sleek hardware.

Hardware

The VivoTab T600 is very similar to the beloved ASUS Transformer Pad Infinity TF700T, still the best Android tablet on the market. The VivoTab is a 10.1″ slate with similar components: a 1.3GHz quad-core Tegra 3 T30 CPU, 2GB of RAM, a 1366×768 resolution display with the same Super IPS+ screen technology, and identical front and rear 2MP/8MP cameras, respectively. When looking at these specs there are plenty of differences, but because of the real major difference – Windows RT versus Android 4.0 – the slower CPU, additional RAM, and lower resolution display all make sense for the Windows machine.

It makes sense because, just like on Windows Phone 7 (and now 8), the Windows RT interface is designed around contrasting color, not miniature icons. High resolution pictures aren’t necessary to see what you’re selecting, a brilliant move by Microsoft that I applauded back when WP7 first came on the scene. With WinRT on the VivoTab, the ~720p display is very suitable; 1080p isn’t necessary for such a device, though of course it wouldn’t hurt to have. Considering the current strength of technology, the resolution is proper.

I’m also very happy with the lower resolution screen because ASUS has done such an incredible job with the IPS panel. It’s not only bright enough for use in direct sunlight, it also provides excellent color contrast and is highly adjustable. Many have claimed that Microsoft’s Surface RT tablet is the definitive WinRT experience, but I disagree. Thanks to an incredibly thin shell, a fantastic display, and a really great keyboard dock, the VivoTab RT is the best way to use Windows RT.

The tablet itself has only a few ports: Micro HDMI out, a MicroSD card slot, and a proprietary connector/charging cable that can connect to the optional docking keyboard, which itself includes a USB 2.0 port and another proprietary connector for charging. The back has a slight design, far removed from the TF700T, which is better designed to grip the tablet from either side with or without the keyboard. I find the feel of the T600 to be exceptional, though in fairness I gave up on a thinner tablet for one with a keyboard (see “Keyboard and Laptop Replacement).

Software

We’ll jump back to the keyboard in a moment, because software is really the more pertinent discussion regarding the T600. As a WinRT tablet, you may think that just like Windows Phone 8 this Microsoft product has limited applications available, and thus limited functionality. That’s only half right. There are only a small number of applications currently available on Windows 8, and for many reasons the number of apps will continue growing slowly, far behind the pace of iOS and Android.

But WinRT does offer a number of things that no tablet today can provide. First and foremost is a true, honest-to-goodness web browser, one capable of Flash and everything else. In so many ways this makes WinRT tablets far more potent than iOS and Android with their hundreds of thousands of apps. You can do almost everything on the internet with a full browser, and while it may be Internet Explorer 10, it’s not a dumbed down tablet version. It’s the actual Internet Explorer. It makes Chrome on Android and Safari on iOS look like a joke when attempting to do anything online that requires flash, still an integral part of the web. The capabilities of Internet Explorer on the VivoTab are only limited by the tablet’s hardware. Because yes, eventually even 2GB of RAM will run out of space under the weight of so many open tabs.

But more importantly, there may be hundreds of thousands of tablet apps available on iOS and Android, but there are millions of webapps that have been around for years, and most of them are completely free. Photo editing, video editing. millions of flash games, chat applications…if you can think of it, someone has likely made it available online, so long as it isn’t too big and it doesn’t require downloading any executable files.

The second thing that sets WinRT apart is Office 2013, or more specifically the three main Office applications that come free with all WinRT tablets: Word, Excel, and Powerpoint. It also comes with Microsoft OneNote, an excellent note-taking application that is unfortunately rarely used. What sets WinRT apart from Apple’s iWork suite for the iPad and the multitude of office applications on Android is twofold: on WinRT they are completely free, and they are identical to the typical desktop versions. Just like Internet Explorer, the Office apps aren’t a dumbed-down tablet version. They are the real deal.

Then there’s what I consider the absolute coolest part of WinRT: the desktop view. Android and iOS are completely new operating systems that don’t function like a traditional computer OS. Not so with WinRT. With the hit of a button you can work from a Windows 7 desktop environment. All of the built-in applications are there, from Internet Explorer and Office to Paint and Calculator. However, users can’t access the same start menu; that remains identical to Windows 8. So if you don’t feel comfortable switching to a tablet-style OS, WinRT gives users options: the familiar desktop view where nearly everything is the same (down to the control panel and power settings), or the new touch-driven user interface.

There is one catch to the desktop view: it isn’t a true Windows desktop experience. WinRT, due to its ARM processor architecture, doesn’t run applications as a typical Windows computer does, so every program was remade specifically for RT. That also means that if you want to download your favorite programs to use on the VivoTab, chances are you won’t be able to do that. Because no matter how much WinRT looks and feels like a traditional desktop in the desktop view, it isn’t. That’s where the most serious limitation of the platform is; then again, no other OS offers a desktop work environment; we should be so fortunate to complain that something this new doesn’t do so much more that the competition can’t even begin to do.

However, my experience is that 80% of the time the T600 was able to replace my laptop for most simple use. The biggest difficulties come from the hardware (ARM processors are still wildly underpowered compared to traditional x86/64-bit chips), and from using webapps instead of built-in apps. On some occasions I’ve found that some webapps require downloading .exe files to run properly, which in turn makes them unusable on the T600, but those instances are rare. It’s not a perfect system, but if IE10 could have extensions in the place of standard upgrade/update files, it  would improve on the quality of WinRT tablets immensely.

Keyboard and Laptop Replacement

One of the best things about the VivoTab RT is the keyboard dock, a $100 accessory that doubles as a keyboard and battery dock, effectively doubling the already long battery life of the tablet. The keyboard itself is great to excellent. It has two design flaws: the trackpad is tiny and is too easy to press when typing; and the slightly lowered keyboard was built to maximize battery space but the spacebar is surprisingly difficult to press because of the chassis.

Those two things aside, the VivoTab’s keyboard provides excellent type and is very comfortable to use, at least once users adjust to the strange shape around the keyboard. I have also found that after plenty of travel and use the docking clamp doesn’t securely connect to the tablet properly. In the bag the two will disconnect and reconnect constantly; just shaking it while typing may cause the two to disconnect briefly. Thankfully WinRT is very quick with the device and every time the keyboard disconnects, it reconnects almost instantly, fast enough to never notice the disconnect when typing.

Of course, with a keyboard that acts as a dock, a battery, a case, and a keyboard, it’s very easy to mistake the T600 for a small laptop. In several meetings people have done exactly that, shocked that I had such a thin laptop that comes complete with a touchscreen. It should come as no surprise that they are even more shocked to see the two pieces separately. However, using the VivoTab as a laptop only goes so far.

For starters, the 2GB of RAM becomes tiny under too many open documents, photos, and web pages. The processor feels slower than a traditional computer as it should; not for minor tasks like typing in Word or simple web browsing, but in heavier web applications like Gmail. With 4-5 tabs open the T600 slows to a crawl or the other tabs slip into standby mode and need to be reloaded to be reactivated. If you live in tens of tabs, then WinRT is not a suitable laptop replacement until more powerful processors and more RAM become available on tablets.

There are, however, many instances where WinRT does perform just like a laptop, against expectations. The T600 (with the keyboard dock or USB adapter) is capable to install external hardware peripherals like mice, keyboards, and headsets that don’t connect via Bluetooth, such as Logitech’s Unifying 2.4GHz band or Sony’s 2.4GHz dongles for wireless headsets. They just work, no installation necessary. One device, the Logitech Presentation Remote R800, has a sole purpose: to go between slides for presentations. The USB dongle works perfectly on WinRT, which made it far more convenient to use than a larger laptop because of the far better battery life and portability.

Is the VivoTab worthy of replacing a laptop? No, certainly not, though perhaps with the latest ARM A15 processors and 3GB of RAM or more that may change. Such devices may be available late this year. As for the T600, as a laptop replacement it is excellent as a media playback device, a simple typing and web-browsing laptop, and even with a ton of use the 18-20 hours of battery life with the keyboard dock make it lovely to use.

Use & Battery Life

From specs alone, the VivoTab T600 seems like it could go either way, as a very potent, powerful tablet, or as a decent but not particularly speedy one. The strange truth is that because of the nature of WinRT and how people use it, it’ll be very difficult to pinpoint exactly whether it’s a very fast or only mediocre tablet.

Real world use is give and take. The problem I ran into was my constant use of the desktop, not the Windows 8 UI. In other words, I found it far more convenient to use the T600 as a laptop that was also a tablet instead of a tablet that could work like a laptop. If you plan on the former, it’ll appear slow. For the latter, it’ll feel like a dream come true.

The reason for that is the exceptional battery life. The VivoTab, like most tablets today, boasts a strong 8.5 hours of battery life. This time is consistent with my use, but more importantly doubled when connected to the keyboard dock. That is to say that users can get up to 17 hours of use out of the VivoTab T600 with the keyboard dock. That’s unprecedented, and it’s something that no other tablet today can boast. Combine that with the native Windows desktop and even if the performance isn’t quite what you were looking for, there is no comparison for longevity. This tablet is what netbooks failed to be.

Conclusion

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I’m very torn about the VivoTab. On the one hand it’s a proof of concept that yes, Microsoft still has something to show in the world of tablets, though perhaps Windows RT isn’t quite it. It feels too much like Windows 7 Starter, a joke of an OS that nobody really wanted and lacked too many pertinent features. The difference is clear: WinRT is meant as a low-priced solution for a low-power device. It is the rebirth of netbooks, but done right: with an excellent form factor (the tablet), exceptional battery life, reasonable power, and a brilliant display.

But then there’s a question of what exactly is the purpose of a tablet. Is it to eventually replace laptops? If so, then the VivoTab is certainly a step in the right direction, but WinRT isn’t the right platform for such a future. Nor is the Tegra 3 processor and 2GB of RAM, both of which pale in comparison to the typical laptop today sporting Intel i5/i7 chipsets with up to 8GB of RAM and a half-decent GPU. Hardware performance may not be the concern for much longer, but the inability to run executable files is an issue. I know that as much as I’d love to use the VivoTab for all my mobile computing needs, I can’t unless I’m willing to give up a lot of programs I like to use in place of web-based applications. And if I don’t have an internet connection, then I’m out of luck.

No matter what anyone can say though, these are problems that cannot be found on Android or iOS. Neither platform even supports a desktop UI, let alone .exe files. They are dumb devices when it comes to web browsing and general use, made for a touchscreen but completely out of place with everyday computing. Sometimes we need one, and other times we need the other. Only Windows tablets offers both, and as far as WinRT tablets go, there is nothing better than the VivoTab RT T600.

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Best Android Tablets

Lenovo Miix 2 8 Windows 8 Tablet Review

You don’t think Lenovo when you think about the best tablets.

Small is in again. Sub-10 inch tablets are more commonplace than ever before. Samsung is doing pretty well with the laudable Samsung Galaxy Tab 3 in the 7-inch form factor. Also, Apple’s iPad Mini is another success story for the tinier tablet brigade. On the Windows side of things, the promise from Intel and Microsoft was that the upcoming ARK atom processor would run full Windows 8.1. In my hot not-so-little hands is the brand new Lenovo Miix 2 8-inch and yes it’s powered by Intel Atom CPU Z3740 (ARK) processor and it is indeed sporting the newly minted Windows 8.1.

ARK is Intel’s answer to the ARM camp of processors, which are more widely adopted and found in familiar devices like the iPad and Samsung Galaxy S4. Readers may remember, the competitive performance of Clover Trail is what earned Intel a seat at the mobile device table. Yet mobile device manufactures remained cautious, leading to a less-than-stellar adoption rate of the Clover Trail silicon. Early reports paint a promising picture for the new processor where performance and power consumption are the main deciding factors. So let’s take a look at the Lenovo Miix 2 and see how the marriage with ARK performs.

Design

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The aesthetics and design are immediately noticeable as a pleasant departure from the more plastic looking original 10in Miix. The unit is thinner and features an elegant chrome band that runs all around the periphery of the unit. It definitely adds a more distinguished flare and sexier styling. When placed in portrait view, the unit can be held in a single hand, yet not quite comfortably. I can manage it but I have rather long fingers. Ultimately it’s not advisable.

In portrait view the Lenovo logo is at the upper right. The Windows logo’d Home Button is at the bottom of the display and centered. The right-hand side plays home to the power button, volume rocker, MicroSD card slot and the mini USB port for charging the battery. Top right-hand side is where the headphone jack is located. Atop the display is the front-facing camera centered. The rear-facing camera is on the back of the unit and is aligned to the left. Finally a single speaker is opposite the rear-facing camera.

Specifications

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Display

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Lenovo has opted for an 8-inch HD 1280 x 800 resolution WXGA display in a IPS panel. This is a gorgeous display, even at this resolution and looks far better with enhanced clarity over the original Miix with its 1366 x 768. Reading text is a breeze yet still nowhere near as clear as iPad from last couple generations. But what the Miix 2 does well is color saturation. It’s impressively rich and lends itself to web browsing and watching videos and other moving media. Brightness and contrast are great and help with viewing the unit on well-lit days from multiple angles.

Hardware

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The tech powering this new little slab is surprisingly, unsurprising. Well the CPU is quite impressive. If you’re looking for a complete rundown of the new ARK (formerly Bay Trail) silicon, we have you covered here. As mentioned the Miix 2 is using an Intel Atom Z3740 Processor clocked at 1.33GHz. The memory on deck is decent 2GB LPDDR3 memory. Yet some may be shocked to see the dearth in storage space.

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Our model uses a 32GB eMMC SSD storage solution. For a little extra cash you can opt for 64GB version. That’s not a bad options. The 32GB flavor only leaves you with about 9GB of usable storage space after the OS and other baked-in applications have gobbled up all the other 20+ gigs of living space on your drive. In our present state of media streaming and infinite cloud storage, 9GB is not so bad. This is a tablet. You’re not loading it up will all your heavy-weighted programs and games. In fact the Lenovo Miix 2 functions best a simple window to the internet and your favorite media.

Camera

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The 2MP front-facing camera is admirable. But it’s the rear-facing 5MP camera that really impresses. It definitely clicks off clearer pictures with much less noise than the Samsung Galaxy Tab 3.0 7-inch.

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It produces better outdoor photos than when in lower light environments. But that’s pretty typical without a host of variable flash features and other tech to help clean things up. You also don’t get much by way of editing tools. In fact, the default camera app is the rather simple and plain Windows 8.1 photo app.

Software

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Although we’re using a x64 CPU. This version of Windows is a 32-Bit operating software. Going beyond Windows 8.1 OS and the garden variety cache of apps that come part and parcel to the OS, there are a few additions. We have Skype, Skydrive, Lenovo App Shop and 30-day McAfee LiveSafe internet security. It’s nice to see a device that’s not loaded down with bloatware. Sadly, I’d bet this city’s finest HotPocket, that Camp Lenovo would have added more if not for that tiny 9GB of remaining storage space.

Performance

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I’m really enjoying the Lenovo Miix 2. The battery life is sufficient and will net you a days worth of moderate use. You should see approx. 8-hours of battery life before a charge is needed. The display sharp, clear with excellent brightness and the touch sensitivity is very responsive. Intel’s new ARK CPU is super peppy, at least in this environment. Navigation through applications and UI is smooth and responsive. The unit feels great when held, although two hands are more secure than one. But it is noticeably more solid than the original. The Miix 2 is more elegant and fun to use than the original. My only really standout complaint is the lack of available storage in the 32GB variant. But a MicroSD card can expand things nicely. Overall the 8-inch Lenovo Miix 2 flaunts a more solid build, faster CPU on Windows 8.1, resulting in a decidedly more sophisticated machine that is highly affordable.

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Best Android Tablets

Lenovo IdeaPad Miix 10 Windows 8 Tablet Review

I often think early adopters and techies touched by the allure of “new shiny” get caught up in just that — the allure. Where tablets are concerned, the needs of techie first-responders are often unclear or unobtainable. Thankfully the selection of tablets on the market is beyond bountiful hitting all manner of price points sizes and specs. For those of you looking to steal away some private time to watch a flick, surf the internet and/or tool around in any of the many Windows 8 apps, then the Lenovo IdeaPad Miix 10 is something to investigate.

Design

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The IdeaPad Miix 10 is, to belabor the obvious, a 10.1-inch Windows 8 tablet weighing 1.28lbs. It’s relatively well-built with a slight hollow and plastic feel when held. You can thank the plastic covered display for that. Holding it in landscape view, you have the Lenovo logo at the top left on the face of the device. The camera lens is featured at top aligned to center. The top right is where the power button is located.

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Opposite that on the top right is where the headphone jack is located. Volume rocker control is on the upper left-hand side. Below this we have covered MicroSD card slot, followed by a Micro HDMI-out port and port the power supply. Flip it over and the back we have a long speaker bar that runs virtually the full length of the device toward the top. Tips for the device to connect with its detachable keyboard are found on the bottom underside. Compare this tablet with our Samsung Galaxy Tablet review to make sure you’re making the right choice.SAMSUNG CSC

The detachable keyboard doubles as a protective case and cover for the Miix 10. Align the aforementioned tips of the tablet with those on the detachable keyboard. Then press firmly so the upper corners of the tablet snap into the corresponding corner wells of the keyboard. Once in place, the unit doesn’t look much different than a traditional laptop — minus a trackpad or input mouse device. It brings a more comfortable and traditional user experience when needed and is quite adequate.

The problem here is more with design than the keyboard. The only USB port is a micro-USB port, which is unavailable when the keyboard is attached. Also the camera is obstructed while the cover is attached.

Display

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While being wholly sufficient, the display is nothing to write home about. Resolution is far below that of say the Surface Pro, which is easily one of the closest high profile competitors. The 10.1 display kicks out 1366 x 768 resolution. Heck, some laptops still spit out that resolution — mostly are low to mid-range. For Windows 8 and that lower DPI live-tile user interface, high resolutions are not really needed. The max brightness is 466cd/m2. Again that’s just fine for the native and rather Spartan user interface. It even holds up in traditional desktop mode. Visibility and clarity remain, even in bright outdoor settings. However, it does pick up smudges and fingerprints like you would not believe.

Hardware

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It’s powered by a Intel Z2760 Atom processor clocked at 1.8GHz. The hard drive onboard is 64GB of eMMC flash and the system uses 2Gb of LPDDR2 memory at 800MHz. That 10.1-inch HD display uses an IPS panel. The clicker is a single 1mp front HD camera. Wireless connectivity comes by way of 802.11 b/g/n and Bluetooth 4.0. The 6800 mAh Li-Polymer battery is sustainable for about 11 hours. Sadly like most other Windows 8 tablets, this one still drains heavily when in standby. That said, it should last you a good day of moderate use.

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Other hardware features are centered on port options. These include a hard-to-reach Micro USB 2.0, MicroSD card reader slot, 2-in-1 audio jack (headphones and mic), Micro-HDMI and 3G micro. It features most of the usual suspects minus an easily accessible USB port.

Software

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Beyond the Windows 8 OS and the multimedia familiars like Amazon Kindle, Zinio Metro, RaRa Metro and Live TV, Lenovo tossed in some a few more goodies. These are Lenovo support (tech help), McAfee Internet Security 30-day trial and Lenovo cloud storage powered by SugarSync.

Performance

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At the given price point, the Lenovo IdeaPad Miix 10 delivers a satisfying tablet experience. It does feel a little hollow and the display on the face feels more plastic than anything. Yet the overall user experience is adequate for the cost of entry. It instantly wakes from sleep and boots to life from a powered off state in about 7-seconds flat. Sometimes touch is finicky and not as responsive as I would like. But it’s hardly deal-breaking. Attaching the keyboard and it’s protective case definitely enhances the experience and offers a degree of versatility. Yet doing so prevents the use of a wired mouse, which the Micro USB port blocked by the keyaboard attachment. Alternatively users can opt for a wireless Bluetooth mouse. So all is not lost.

The Lenovo IdeaPad Miix 10 is solid device. There’s a reason it’s currently sold out at the Lenovo online Store. It would make a great gift for young students or low intensity office workers looking for a little escape from the cubicle drudgery.

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Best Android Tablets

RCA Announces a TV Tablet, the DMT580D

If you pine for TV any where you go, and just can’t afford the bandwidth and agro involved with setting up a Slingbox, then you don’t have to look much further than Dyle’s offering.  Recently EyeTV Mobile launched an iOS only compatible product, leaving many of those without an Apple tablet or smartphone out in the cold.  But not any more. If you want a tablet with full features, give our Lenovo IdeaPad Mix 10 review a read.

Today, RCA of all companies announced the DMT580D, an Android tablet.  It would appear to be the first of its kind to include dual built-in TV tuners – Dyle and DTV.    Dyle is a pay for service, which means you’ll have to incur a monthly cost, but with it comes 130 channels from a variety of content providers. If you’re looking to stretch your dollar a bit further, fear not, as you’ll still be able to pick up local broadcasts thanks to DTV support.

Other features include an 8-inch 1024×768 IPS screen, WiFi, dual cameras, and GPS.  The whole get-up is powered by a  a Cortex A5 1GHz processor with 1GB of RAM and 8GB of built-in storage (expandable by microSD card slot).  I don’t know how svelte it is, but at 1.4lbs it’s more than twice as heavy as the iPad Mini, which mind you doesn’t include a TV tuner.  Battery life is a reported 4-hours when streaming TV and 10-hours when surfing the web.

RCA plans to sell the DMT580D tablet for $299 and while the company hasn’t said where, I’ve got a sneaking suspicion you’ll see it at your local Radio Shack soon enough.

Of note, it would seem that RCA plans to sell a less version, the DDA850R, along side it.  It’s not clear what the difference it between the two, though I’m confident it will be cheaper and probably sport a less powerful processor.

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Best Android Tablets

ASUS Transformer Pad Infinity TF700T Review

In the range of 10” tablets, the iPad reigns supreme. At just 9.7”, it is the unstoppable force that no company has managed to put a serious dent into for over two years. And while companies like Samsung have tried, their products have failed by comparison alone.

ASUS has the first amicable competitor, and it’s a refreshingly great tablet.

Aside from the long name, the ASUS Transformer Pad Infinity TF700T is the best Android tablet there is, and potentially the best 10” tablet on the market today. It’s capable of laying this claim by exceptional performance, a wonderful array of software applications and powerful hardware, and a brilliant display that’s only true rival is Apple’s own Retina panel on the iPad.

What makes the TF700T so great? Let’s start with the hardware.

Hardware

The TF700T is a spectacular piece of equipment on a technical basis alone. It’s one of the first devices to use NVIDIA’s new T33 Tegra 3 processors, which offers a 1.7GHz quad-core CPU with their fastest GPU to date. It has a 1080p display, one of the first for any Android device, and a Super IPS+ display (which we’ll get to in a bit). It has a front and rear camera (the latter of which takes some decent shots), and an HDMI-out connector along with a proprietary data/power connector.

Let’s talk for a second about that bod. The 10.1” tablet has a very well defined black glass bezel, but more importantly the edges of the design aren’t completely tapered; they’re flat first for better grip, and then they taper off to the side. This design, while uncommon, makes the device look and feel thicker, but also far more comfortable. The back of the tablet uses the same ASUS spinning design as the previous Transformer tablets, which looks great and helps keep dust and scratches at bay.

Then there’s the really spectacular Super IPS+ display. Unlike traditional IPS panels, ASUS made theirs especially bright, brighter in fact than all other smartphones and tablets I’ve ever tested. It’s the first tablet that is completely readable in direct sunlight. It’s brighter than the majority of laptop screens. It is by far the brightest display on a mobile device that you can buy.

The iPad (2012) beside the ASUS Transformer Pad Infinity TF700T.

Furthermore, it provides excellent picture quality for video. I’ve loaded it up with a ton of 720p video for a recent trip, and the light and color contrast is exceptionally great. Not oversaturated to extremes like on my favorite Samsung Galaxy 7.7’s SuperAMOLED display, but enough to get the most out of any media you have. It’ll prove better than most TVs, computer monitors, and it’ll make that in-flight display look like a 50’s B&W.

Of course, powering that 1080p panel and having the capability of running 720p video is the Tegra 3. In the past I’ve been highly critical of NVIDIA’s capabilities in the mobile space because their Tegra line just didn’t produce the desired quality and performance. For me, the Tegra line has always been akin to Intel’s Atom processors: low powered for battery conservation, but horribly weak and so lacking in performance that it’s impossible to recommend. In the US Tegra 3 has been avoided altogether, specifically on recent devices like the HTC One series and Samsung Galaxy S III, replaced instead by the extremely potent Qualcomm MSM8960 Krait processor. For phones, that proved to be an excellent decision; the performance is documented for US users compared to the international models with Tegra. Until the Transformer Pad Infinity, there hasn’t been a reason to like Tegra.

From top to bottom: iPad (2012), Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 2, ASUS Transformer Pad Infinity TF700T

I’ll talk more about the software behind the processor below, but on the hardware front it is extremely powerful. The T33 capable of running 720p video and upscaling it to the 1080p display at medium settings. And remember, we’re talking about a tablet here, not a laptop. This kind of performance is unprecedented. All high-performance games on Android, like Max Payne, ShadowGun, and Dead Trigger, perform marvelously – again – on medium settings.

That is to say, even if you buy this tablet in two or three months, you’ll still be pleased with the performance. And frankly, few devices are even planning to use the T33, so it’s safe to buy the TF700T without worrying that it’ll become outdated for at least six months.

Specifically regarding the hardware, there is nothing to complain about. The TF700T is a uniquely well-built, well-designed, and very powerful tablet, one that I can gladly travel with in place of my iPad. Heck, it even proved to be a better companion than the Nexus 7.

Software

ASUS’ TF700T runs on Android 4.0, with no word yet on when it’ll upgrade to 4.1 Jelly Bean. Considering ASUS’ new standing as top-dog in the tablet field thanks to the Nexus 7, that upgrade may come sooner rather than later. Even if it doesn’t, this tablet isn’t in any dire need for an upgrade. (Update: ASUS has announced that Android 4.1 will be available on the Transformer Pad Tablets within a week.)

The most important difference between this tablet and any other is the three power settings available to users at any time. Because of the high level of performance the Tegra 3 T33 is capable of, ASUS has scaled it to three settings: Power Saving, Balanced, and Performance. As I mentioned earlier, there isn’t a task I’ve found yet that really requires Performance mode, which is an excellent sign. It means that applications and realistic media performance aren’t at the stage where users need worry about the power of the tablet (native 1080p video on a tablet isn’t realistic because of the significant demands of internal memory required, between 4-10GB versus 700MB-1.3GB for 720p, depending on video length).

Of course, that also means conserving battery life requires changing between settings, much like you would on a laptop, which frankly sucks. The computer should know when it needs more power, users shouldn’t have to tell it. Then again, people interested in this tablet are going to be power users, not grandma, unless grandma worked for IBM. In either case, switching between power settings takes but a few seconds, and only HD video and games require anything more than power saving.

The brightness setting adaptor sits right beside power settings, which enables the “super” part of Super IPS+. It offers a significant boost to brightness, which is more than enough to light up a completely dark room. As stated earlier, it’s bright enough to use outdoors in sunny conditions comfortably; the only time it isn’t comfortable is under extreme glare, because the TF700T does have a glossy display.

The only thing missing from the Super IPS+ panel is the option to automatically enable/disable the “super” mode. While Android supports automatically adjusting screen brightness, the TF700T doesn’t support automatically adjusting for the outdoors by turning on the super mode. Just like with the power modes, brightness would be simpler if it were entirely automated.

It does take some time to get used to changing between power and brightness modes. Regular tablet/smartphone users will need to get reacquainted with the concept. It took me a few days before I realized that the tablet was running slow because of the setting, not because it was slow.

Otherwise the software performance is excellent, though that also depends on the power setting that’s currently in use. With several applications running at once, it’s easy to see a performance drop even doing menial tasks when in power saver mode, but jump to balanced mode and that instantly goes away.

The software is great, but two things are missing, and they’re really one thing: automatic adjustments to brightness and CPU performance.

Performance

When I first benchmarked the TF700T, I did it in the power saver mode. In that mode it set several records, including both browser tests. The others it scored very highly in, which just goes to show the sort of performance this tablet is actually capable of even without the highest settings in place.

The Transformer Pad Infinity has the best browser performance of any tablet or smartphone in it’s lowest performance setting. It is almost as powerful as the current top Qualcomm processor at the Tegra 3 T33’s lowest setting. It is only behind the iPad in sheer graphical power in its lowest power setting. Take a look at the benchmarks taken below.

One note regarding all benchmarks: because of several changes to firmware in the process of reviewing, some of the benchmark scores are lower than I originally tested. These firmware updates, meant to improve stability, have also lowered performance slightly. In most tests that means by 1-5%. Also, the Browsermark benchmark only worked for Power Saver mode. I didn’t test for the other modes, and the benchmark has not been available due to server problems from Rightware. When it is up again this review will be updated.

For both browser-based tests, the Pad Infinity ripped apart the competition, almost always regardless of setting or device it’s compared to. This is thanks to two things: a faster overall clock speed (1.6GHz, that can jump up to 1.7GHz), and much more throughput. Even the Archos 101 XS, which we reviewed just a short while ago and which is a newer tablet, can’t compete.

However, when it comes to general performance and heavy graphics rendering, even on performance mode the TF700T struggles. For Quadrant Standard, that’s due mostly to the higher resolution. While devices like the HTC One X and Samsung Galaxy S III render at 720p, the TF700T is rendering at 2.25X that at 1080p. Relatively speaking, the ASUS tablet is outperforming both devices, though the scores don’t show it.

GLBenchmark, however, renders at 720p off-screen, and is a much more accurate test for graphics rendering. We’ll be moving up from GLBench 2.1.5 to 2.5.1 (pardon the terrible nomenclature, those are the actual dislexic-ready version numbers), the latter of which uses a much more stringent 1080p offscreen test as well as several battery benchmarks. Here, the Archos with it’s OMAP processor outperforms the TF700T in the pro test, though not on the Egypt test. The same goes for the iPhone 4S. However, NVIDIA has taken the stance that this particular benchmark isn’t suited for Tegra processors, and in general game performance I agree. Though in every game I ran, including Horn, Max Payne, Shadowgun, Dead Trigger, and several others, there is no performance lag or any performance issues whatsoever.

Camera and Battery Life

I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again. Cameras on tablets, especially larger ones like the TF700T, don’t matter all that much. They’re useful, and should be available, but not for still/video photography. For apps that take advantage of it, perhaps VR apps, sure, but little else.

That said, the 5MP rear shooter is surprisingly good and the front-facing is as well. Both are perfectly suitable for still photography, videography, video chat, self portraits, and anything else you’d like to do. Just please stop using it as your main camera…some of us are trying to take pictures without giant tablets in the way.

Battery life on the TF700T is decent. Unfortunately my battery tests have thus far been limited to smartphones, so the chart above only lists two recently tested devices. What’s strange is the lack of improvement in basic use from keeping the tablet in power saver mode versus balanced or performance. There’s almost an hour difference between the two extremes, but I would expect, considering how major some of the benchmark scores varied, that it only offers 45-60 minutes of extra time.

In typical use, switching between productivity, media, gaming, and with Wi-Fi on and medium brightness, the Transformer Pad Infinity will last around seven hours, though more stressful games and HD media will drop that to around five hours. With the keyboard dock, that number jumps up to 11-12 hours, though because of the sheer number of battery tests required and how long they take with a device that, alone, lasts anywhere from 5-8 hours per test, I didn’t include the keyboard dock in the battery benchmarks.

However, the battery in the keyboard dock will charge the tablet to 70% from no charge.

Keyboard Dock

Along with a number of accessories, ASUS has consistently offered a keyboard dock with the company’s Transformer tablets, and the same holds true with the Pad Infinity. The keyboard dock has three basic functions: secondary battery, case, and of course an attachable keyboard. For the first two, the keyboard dock is great. The second started off to a rocky start, but has since improved exponentially.

When I first began this review, the keyboard was a nightmare. It was slow, not responsive, and essentially impossible to use for anyone who types over 15 words per minute. But ASUS recently released a firmware update for the keyboard which addressed nearly every single problem with it, making the typing experience very good and almost worthy of replacing a laptop altogether. There are only two problems: the software isn’t fast/advanced enough, and the caps lock seriously slows down performance.

In terms of sheer speed, the problem is that Android in many cases isn’t fast enough to handle fast typing at high speeds. We’re talking 60-100 words per minute. Some applications have no problem with this, but my experience is that at times Android itself lags; that’s something for Google to fix. But the caps lock lag is a bigger problem, where anytime the caps lock is pressed, the entire keyboard stalls for 1-2 seconds and all keypresses are disregarded. The reason? To enable/disable the caps lock light. At least that’s the only explanation I can see, because whenever that button is pressed it takes that 1-2 seconds for the light to flick on or off.

The only other thing missing from the keyboard dock is a switch to activate charging on the TF700T. It isn’t necessary when the tablet is at full charge, and to get the most out of both batteries it would be best to only activate the keyboard dock’s battery when the tablet is completely out of juice. Some users might not want that – after all, swapping in and out of the keyboard dock is normal for everyday use – but there isn’t any such option available.

Aside from that, the Keyboard Dock is surprisingly useful. I don’t think the OS is quite ready to replace laptops yet, but one more major release and a device like the TF700T will be at the forefront of removing laptops from the marketplace.

Conclusion

The ASUS Transformer Pad Infinity TF700T is the most powerful tablet on the market. There’s no doubt about it, even several months after its release. There’s little doubt that it’s the best 10” Android tablet you can buy. Based on the price and functionality, it could be the best tablet of this size.

But it isn’t, and that’s because of the software. Performance isn’t a problem thanks to the Tegra 3 T33, which is the proven most powerful mobile processor on the market, as you’ve seen in our benchmarks above.

No, the software is problematic because it seems as if Android isn’t up to spec with such high-end parts. The 1920×1080 display works, and looks beautiful, but it lags even in performance mode. Even something simple like mouse movements – something that Android has supported for two years now – aren’t as smooth as it should be.

Then again, this is Android; the software isn’t as polished as iOS or even Windows Phone. It also means that, as Google has proven with Android, that it’ll grow faster than the competition. The only bottlenecks then are ASUS, to support new software updates like Android 4.1, and Google’s ability to bring meaningful changes to the latest software it deploys. So far ASUS has proven that it isn’t the one slowing things down.

Even with the few software dings, this is by far the fastest tablet there is. There is no tablet I’ve found thus far that can run 720p video in non MP4 filetypes as easily and as well as the TF700T. There is no tablet with a display as good as the Infinity. And there is no tablet that sells for the pricing ASUS offers with equally powerful components. There is no better tablet than the Transformer Pad Infinity.

With a little work from Google, the Transformer Pad Infinity TF700T would be the best tablet in the world, without any doubt. It’s the right size, the right shape, and comes with all the right parts. Hell, with some improvements and better apps I would seriously consider not only replacing my iPad, but my MacBook Air with the TF700T. The only thing stopping me from doing that today is the software implementation and the keyboard, both of which are problems with Android.

Since remaking our scoring system nearly two years ago, no product has ever received 5 stars, which according to our system signifies a perfect product. At the same time, were it not for the few setbacks in Google’s mobile OS, there is little doubt that the Transformer Pad Infinity TF700T would be the first product to receive five stars. It is the first tablet tested that is so well rounded in every way that it fulfills all of the needs and requirements of any user. This means that the TF700T can only improve over time, as Google upgrades Android and as ASUS takes advantage of those upgrades.

Editor’s Rating:

[Rating: 4.5]

Excellent

Bottom Line: The best and most powerful Android tablet on the market, and arguably the best tablet there is

Pros:

  • The fastest performance of nearly any device in nearly every way
  • A beautiful 1080p display that is bright enough to work outdoors while still delivering excellent picture quality
  • Well designed form factor with high-quality parts and feel
  • With keyboard dock, the closest anyone can get to a laptop replacement today

Cons:

  • Features like power settings are excessive for tablet users
  • The biggest bottleneck for this tablet is Android itself. The OS just isn’t at the point where the TF700T can shine above and beyond the competition

The ASUS Transformer Pad Infinity TF700T is available in 32GB and 64GB models starting at $488. The additional keyboard dock is available for $132.

Categories
Best Android Tablets

Archos 101 G9 Review

It seems like every company out there is trying to put out a tablet now a days, and Archos is no different.  With so many different ten inch tablets coming in costing more than $400 mark, they’re not as budget friendly as the smaller tabs for people who don’t need a full on computer (or want a little supplement that won’t break the bank) – Archos wants to change the mold there with this model. If you’re looking for a slightly less expensive tablet, check out our review of the EVGA Tegra Note 7 to compare.  While most tablets don’t bring much innovation to the table, sometimes you get something really neat like the G9.  Even though you could consider this a “budget” ten inch model, it still holds up relatively well to some of the more robust ten inch tabs.

The Archos G9 is loaded with nifty little features that you’ll be hard pressed to find in other tablets.  For one, it has a “kick stand” in the back of it – and this is something you would normally have to buy an expensive tablet case to get.  That alone is worth noting, because cases that offer something like that (and that actually deliver a useable stand) run $50+.  That’s money that you won’t need to spend once you get a G9 – something welcome in today’s economy.  The stand might look small and that it would be flimsy, but I found it to be very good quality, and perfect for watching a TV show or a movie on the go – provided you’re not trying to stream the media unless you’re on WiFi.  Unfortunately the G9 isn’t tied to any service provider for 3G out of the box, but Archos does sell an add-on adapter to enable 3G for the provider of your choice.  I understand the desire to give people the freedom to choose their own provider, but it would be nice to see the “3G Stick” included without an extra cost.  One thing about the add-on that is good though, is that it is a standard USB modem – meaning you can take it out of the tablet when you don’t need it, and drop it into a laptop so you only will need one data plan (One Plan to Cover Them All – apologies to Lord of the Rings fans everywhere for that).

One of the really big things that I love about this tablet, is that is has a micro-USB slot that allows you to hook up an external hard drive with the host adapter cable.  This is really great when paired with a portable external hard drive (like the Hitachi I reviewed last week), because you can really beef up your storage space with little effort.  All that extra storage will be necessary if you want to use the 10.1 G9 to the best of its abilities.  You see, while the G9 plays games as well as any other tablet, and runs productivity apps at a respectable speed, it’s true power is the ability to lay out true HD video using basically every codec under the sun.

The media player that is on board the 10.1 G9 tablet can handle literally any media format you throw at it, and deliver crisper images than some of the more expensive tabs I’ve played with (the Thrive for example).  With a 1280 X 800 LCD screen, you can be sure that anything you want to watch will be beautiful, and it can be viewed from a number of different angles (something I had issues with on other tablets).  To have all of this in a 0.1 inch tablet running Honeycomb coming in right around $300 is crazy (depending on where you get it, the 10.1 G9 can be found for as low as $299), and it’s consumers everywhere that will benefit from that craziness.

The battery life could have been a little bit better in my opinion, but really for the price I can’t complain.  In reality, that’s where any complaint you could potentially levy against the 10.1 G9 falls flat.  Because the price is SO ridiculously low, there’s no reason to complain about things that tablets costing twice as much have.  My Galaxy Tab only lasted just over an hour longer running movies non stop, and base model of that runs $150 – $200 more than this tab; and let’s not even compare the Thrive against it.  Against everything else, that low price is such a shining point that you’ll end up forgetting about little petty things (like the awkward button placement, or overly large area to hold onto it).

The only MAJOR issue with the 10.1 G9 is the amount of RAM that it comes with.  While 1 GB is the minimum for most other tabs, the G9 ships with only 512 MB.  Now this doesn’t affect most of the “casual” tablet games, but try loading a website with a lot of things on it, and you will see performance drop to a crawl.  If you root it and drop an Android manager in though, you can manage that performance drop a bit, and at least make it useable.  The fault isn’t completely on the G9 for that though – vanilla Honeycomb is notorious for memory leaks after time.

Editor’s Rating:

[rating:4/5]

Great

The Bottom Line:  If you’re in the market for a tablet that is cheap, and incredibly good at playing videos of all kinds (and is at least decent at most other tablet tasks), then look no further – if you’re going to be doing things that eat up RAM though I would look elsewhere (for now).

Pros:

  • Easily one of the best video players I’ve had the opportunity to use on a tablet
  • Such a low price point for a decent tablet will encourage more people to jump on the tablet bandwagon
  • The “kick stand” on the rear of the G9 is perfect for watching movies while relaxing

Cons:

  • Only 512 MB of RAM really means that performance takes a hit at times
  • The button placement is extremely awkward, and the outer casing is a bit bigger than it really needs to be
  • While the 3G Stick is a great idea, it would have been nice to see it come standard in the box

You can pick up an Archos 10.1 G9 Tablet from Amazon for $327.55

Categories
Best Android Tablets

Samsung Series 7 Slate PC, Price and Launch Date

The inherent problem with most tablet computers is that they’re not a practical replacement to a laptop.  More often than not, they are infused with an underpowered processor to conserve on battery life and lack a full operating system negating it from becoming an everyday work horse.

Samsung thinks they’ve got the answer to the above problem and it’s arriving October 2nd.  It’s called the Series 7 Slate PC.  Samsung’s newest tablets is a fair bit thicker than Apple’s iPad, measuring .5-inches, but inside is a full blown computer minus a keyboard.    There are up to 4 configurations to choose from, but all models with include Intel’s Core i5 processor.

Much likes the Series 9 laptop, the Series 7 Slate will include an 11.6-inch screen, though this computer sports a capacitive version with a 1366×768 resolution and a 400 nit brightness.  Customers can choose between Windows Home Premium or Professional 64 depending on their needs.  There is also 4GB of DDR3 RAM, Intel Graphics HD 3000 and up to 128GB of solid state storage.

The Slate 7 weighs a tad over 2lbs (2.06 to be exact), but that doesn’t mean they’ve skimped on the battery.  It can achieve up to 7 hours of run time and can be recharged up to 1500 times before losing its zeal for life.  However, Samsung points out that you’ll probably need to shut down a number of applications and perhaps even disable the WiFi or WiMax connections.

Some other notable features include a forward facing 2 megapixel camera and a rear facing 3 megapixel shooter.  There is even a USB port, HSPA connectivity, a wake up time of 2-3 seconds and an optional Bluetooth keyboard and dock.

The Samsung Series Slate 7 PC will start at $1,099.

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Categories
Best Android Tablets

Samsung’s 700Z0A-A01 Z670 Tablet PC Might Be Shipping

Are you shopping for the best tablet or a tablet PC? Samsung has yet to officially announce a ship date for their 700Z0A-A01 Z670 tablet PC, but that hasn’t stopped a few retailers from selling the computer. Today, the hybrid PC popped up on Amazon for $649, but has since been removed.  Provantage lists the lappy for $662, but since there isn’t an actual image associated with the product page were a bit skeptical to its actual existence.

Categories
Best Android Tablets

Samsung Galaxy Tab Leather Notebook Case Review

[Rating: 4]

A formidable question is whether tablets really need cases. Many people and companies seem to think so, both for protecting the screen and device altogether, as well as possibly making the device more stylish and/or more comfortable to hold. With the Samsung Galaxy Tab, users can opt to put down $50 for a hard leather case, or carry it around free and naked.

I prefer the former.

Categories
Best Android Tablets

Samsung Galaxy Tablet Review

[Rating: 4/5]

Is this one of the best Android tablets? Read on and find out.

Pros:

  • 7″ design is excellent, a great form factor for tablets
  • Hardware, software and data is fast as can be
  • Excellent battery life

Cons:

  • Android OS currently has no benefits for tablets; makes it a glorified smartphone
  • Proprietary connector makes it feel like an iPad, but without any spare cables lying around
  • No Wi-Fi only model, high prices on most carriers

The expectations are tremendously high for a tablet to compete properly against the iPad, and Samsung took up the challenge. After seeing their Galaxy S phones (the Fascinate and Epic 4G), we had high expectations for the Galaxy Tablet. What we didn’t foresee was how similar the larger device is to the cellphones which have been dominating the Android phone market.