If you’re looking for a tablet and don’t fancy an iPad, then Android is the way to go. (Don’t know what an Android tablet is? Check out: what is an Android tablet?)
There are other options out there; Windows 7 tablets are available, the BlackBerry PlayBook is on sale now and the HP TouchPad has come and gone in a flurry of £99 panic-buying. But Android 3.0 is currently the main OS rival to the iPad, and the products are creeping onto the shelves one by one.
- Follow our tablets channel: @TR_Tablets
We’ve gone from zero Android tablets to stacks of the things in a very short space of time, and inevitably some are better than others.
Some have ten-inch screens, others seven, and there are big differences in battery life, processing power and on-board RAM. So while we wait for the likes of the Asus Eee Pad Slider, Samsung Galaxy Tab 7.7 and Amazon Kindle Fire, let’s see what the current best tablets are…
1. Asus Eee Pad Transformer
Best Android tablet PC for: replacing your netbook
We love the Asus Eee Pad Transformer. It’s been around for a while now, but in our opinion, it’s still the most compelling Android tablet available. Not only is it powerful and well featured, it’s designed to work with a keyboard dock which turns it into a fully-fledged Android-powered netbook. The fact is that Android as an OS is still lagging behind iOS in terms of tablet usability, so products need a USP.And on that score, this is the tablet that changed the game. Look out also for the Asus Eee Pad Slider which comes packing a slide-out keyboard – it’s coming soon and promises great things!
2. Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1
Best Android tablet for: the out-and-out tablet experience
While the Transformer offers something a little different at an unbeatable price, the Galaxy Tab 10.1 offers a direct alternative to Apple’s iPad 2. Sporting the Tegra 2 dual-core CPU, it’s both marginally thinner and lighter than the iPad 2. This is some achievement, especially when you consider the fuss Apple made about how thin and light the iPad 2 was on launch. If you want an iPad-like tablet that’s not an iPad, this is the one. The prices are the same as the iPad 2, so it’s a straight shoot-out on features…
Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 review
3. Sony Tablet S
Best Android tablet for: PlayStation gaming
As a veritable mega-giant in the consumer tech universe, Sony’s landing on Planet Tablet was always going to be interesting. Blasting off alongside the fold-in-half Tablet P, the Tablet S has a unique wedge-shaped design and top-end specs. It’s a very decent and refined tablet, and has the unique feature of having access to original PlayStation games. The only issue is that it’s not as tidy as the Galaxy Tab 10.1 and not as versatile as the Transformer. Apart from that, it’s one of the best Android tablets out there.
4. Motorola Xoom
Best Android tablet for: sleek good looks and solid performance
The Motorola Xoom was the first Honeycomb tablet to hit the shelves. Current prices are starting at about £330, which is great value for a 10-inch tablet of this calibre and it’s thus worthy of your attention. Solid build quality, decent battery life, good performance.
- Motorola Xoom review
- Compare Motorola Xoom deals
5. Toshiba AT100 / Thrive
Best Android tablet for: anyone who wants a full-size HDMI port
There’s a predicament with the Toshiba AT100: it has a certain appeal for advanced users who’ll appreciate the slick performance, but the bulky size is a major problem. One brilliant move was to make the USB and HDMI ports full size. You can just unplug your Xbox and snap in the Toshiba AT100 when you want to watch on an HD TV. The tablet enables you to plug in a regular keyboard and mouse – this ease of adding peripherals is a win. Battery life is another bonus. Yet, the hefty size and weight (plus the passable screen quality) is the main reason we prefer other recent tablets.
6. LG Optimus Pad
Best Android tablet for: Playing around with 3D
The consumer electronics giants are throwing everything at 3D, and LG has decided that its first Android tablet should play a role in its ‘3D is the best’ hearts and minds mission. The tablet has dual-5MP cameras which work together to shoot 3D images and record 3D footage. Cool, huh? The problem is that there’s no 3D screen, so if you want to watch your 3D movies you’ll need to either plug the tablet into a 3D TV or watch in anaglyph 3D on the tablet’s screen. If you’re crazy about 3D, this is your next Android tablet.
7. Acer Iconia Tab A500
Best Android tablet for: fans of brushed aluminium bodywork
Acer’s Android tablet is good looking and offers similar performance to the other Android 3.0 tablets on show here. We like it, but it’s missing a bit of sparkle and there’s not much on show here that we can cling on to. It’s not as stylish as the Galaxy Tab 10.1, and doesn’t offer anything different like the Transformer does with its keyboard.
8. Acer Iconia Tab A100
Best Android tablet for: budget 7-inch tablet performance
It’s hard to recommend the Acer Iconia Tab A100 in light of the 10-inch alternatives. Yet, for such as ebook fans and those who like smaller tabs, this is the best of the 7-inch lot. In some ways, the BlackBerry PlayBook is better in a technical sense – at least it does real multitasking – but it has too few apps. We like the A100 for an express purpose: greater mobility and book reading. For most tasks, a 10-inch tablet is a wiser bet. But for well under £300, this is not a bad product.
9. HTC Flyer
Best Android tablet for: Portability and fans of Sense UI
HTC has decided to release the tablet running on Android Gingerbread, which will upset some purists that believe these tablets should run on Honeycomb. However, the HTC Sense overlay deals with that, offering a new range of widgets and content to mask the fact it’s running older versions of the OS (although a Honeycomb update is imminent). The new tablet has a 7-inch LCD screen, and comes with an aluminium unibody shell that feels very nice in the hand. However, with a price of nearly £600, can this tablet compete?
- HTC Flyer review
- Compare HTC Flyer deals
10. Samsung Galaxy Tab
The original iPad rival – does the Galaxy Tab still have something to offer?
Samsung’s original 7-inch Galaxy Tab is looking a bit old and tired now, and we weren’t big fans of it when it was brand new anyway. However, with heavy discounts, this tablet is now available for under £300 and there are plenty of attractive 3G package deals available. There’s no Android 3.0 here though, which makes this Tab little more than a smartphone on steroids.
11. Viewsonic Viewpad 7
A decent Android 2.2 tablet but it’s already out of date
The Viewsonic Viewpad 7 is exactly the same, albeit slightly more expensive than the Linx Commtiva N700 – and confusingly, Viewsonic is marketing it as a smartphone. It’s a terrible smartphone but it’s a fairly competent 7-inch Android tablet: its 600MHz processor isn’t really fast enough for Flash though, not to mention recent Android releases. There’s no Android 3.0 on board here though, so this should only be considered if you can get it for a cut-down price.
12. Hannspree Hannspad
Another Android tablet bereft of the Android Market
This tablet has more in common with Samsung’s current tablet offering, the seven-inch Galaxy Tab, than the new boys when it comes to software. However, it’s a match for them when it comes to hardware grunt. The problem is that it’s let down by the absence of Android 3.0 and the Android Market, an unresponsive touchscreen, poor viewing angles and some shoddy optimisations.
And our pick of the hottest up-and-coming tablets is….
Amazon Kindle Fire
After months of speculation, the Amazon Kindle Fire has been officially announced at an event in New York, marking the first time the company has entered the tablet market proper. The successor to the Amazon Kindle is a 7-inch device that comes with Android, albeit a version that has been heavily altered by Amazon to make the best use of the company’s e-shopping spine. The screen is an IPS display that’s made from Gorilla Glass, it houses dual-core processor, and weighs in at 14.6 ounces. There is a tablet-optimised shopping app on board – this is said to comprise simplified and streamlined pages, so it is easier to buy stuff on than the actual Amazon website.