2012: Tablets of the year

The best tablet on the market is not always the best value for money on the market.

While most major technology manufacturers make tablets, not all are able to bring them to market at prices that makes sense. As a result, no-name brands compete alongside the biggest names in the business. They can’t match the quality of the big guys, but their prices are often unbeatable.

The choice for the best tablets of the year takes both of these factors into account. The tablet ranking is divided into 10” devices or thereabouts, those with screens smaller than 9”, and then the overall choice of Tablet of the Year.

10” Tablets

The Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 has one differentiator that looks pretty mundane when you merely examine the specs: a detachable stylus – the S-Pen – for writing and drawing on the tablet screen. It’s pressure sensitive, which allows it to come into its own for creating art that requires the simulation of different levels of pressure. The Note includes a tilt-to-zoom feature, which takes some getting used to, but can enhance photography and gaming alike. 

The iPad 4 whips the Note on price but, beyond the dazzlingly sharp retina display, it has introduced little differentiation from its predecessors. The screen does put it ahead of Samsung’s other 10” play, the updated Galaxy Tab, though, despite the latter adding facial recognition to the mix.

Little separates the top three, with each claiming the edge in one or two departments. The honorable mention, however, may be a surprise. The iPad 2 is now 18 months old, but for that very reason Apple has slashed its price, despite it being adequate for most tablet tasks. That makes it the best value for money 10” tablet on the market.

  • Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 N8000, with S-Pen stylus. 1 GHz Dual Core processor, 2GB RAM, 600g. Ships with Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich). R7699 (Foschini Group)
  • iPad with Retina Display (4th generation). R5195 (iStore)
  • Galaxy Tab 2 P5100 10.1”, Android 4.0, 1GHz Dual Core processor, 1GB RAM, 32GB storage, microSD slot, face recognition, voice calls. R5899 (Foschini Group)
  • Honorable mention iPad 2, R4199 (iStore)

Tablets – 7”-9”

The iPad mini is a surprise package in every sense of the word. While we know the screen is close to 8”, the number 7 in the specs fools us into thinking it is on a par with standard 7” screens. It isn’t. It’s not very much smaller than a full-sized iPad, yet is so thin and light, it is far more portable. The operations are smooth, the battery life is satisfying and the price … that price! Considering that the name-brand equivalents available in South Africa, from Samsung and Huawei, start at around R4 500, this is one of the great tablet buys of the year.

It’s worth mentioning the budget tablets here as well, and three of the ones I have used give a satisfying price-performance ratio: Colpad 2 from TabletWorld, the no-name brand 7” from Android-tablets.co.za, and the locally adapted Wise Touch from Wise Tablets.

  • iPad mini, 7.85” screen. R3395 (iStore)
  • Samsung Galaxy Tab P7300 8.9” screen, 1GHz processor, 1GB RAM, 16GB storage, 3G, Wi-Fi, USB. R6198 (8ta)
  • Colpad 2 3G, Android 4.0, 7” screen, 1GHz processor, 4GB storage, dual SIM slot, 3G and Wi-Fi. R1999 (Tabletworld.co.za)
  • Android-tablets 7”Gen 1, Android 2.3, 1.2GHz processor, 4GB storage, microSD slot, 3G and Wi-FI. R1150 (Android-tablets.co.za)
  • Wise Touch 7” Gen 1, Android 2.3, 1GHz processor, 4GB storage, microSD slot, Wi-Fi, localised apps. R1395 (wiseshop.co.za)

Tablet of the year

Finally, the Tablet of the Year, chosen from the devices above: the iPad mini. Give it a USB port, and it would be my overall Gadget of the Year. That honour goes to a non-consumer item, the Alcatel-Lucent lightRadio, a cellular base station that fits into the palm of your hand. It is so small and portable you probably will never spot one in use, yet it has the potential to solve most of the problems with holes in urban network coverage that bedevil mobile communications.

The iPad mini is not designed to solve anyone’s problems except those of Apple itself. It introduced the device as a result of watching its competitors taking ownership of the 7” tablet market, which late chief executive Steve Jobs insisted would never be viable.

The current slump in Apple’s share price is partly ascribed to the fact that the iPad mini for the first time positions Apple as a follower rather than leader and innovator. But it also shows that, even when following, Apple is hard to beat. – Gadget.co.za

Arthur Goldstuck is editor-in-chief of Gadget and founder of World Wide Worx. Follow him on Twitter or Pinterest

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