The 13-megapixel camera takes incredible shots. The octa-core CPU and included 4 gigabytes of RAM make this one of the most supercharged tablets available.
It’s pricey, so while the S4 is one of the fastest out there, it’s definitely not the best value.
Good screen size and resolution. Long battery life and excellent storage capabilities. Included S Pen is a big plus, and tablet is robust enough to run more advanced drawing and graphics apps.
Charging cord is too short for some users. Tablet can power off unexpectedly. Pre-bundled apps may bog down performance, but can be switched off. A few reported issues with screen failing after a few months.
Compact size is a plus for owners who want portability or one-handed use. Users like the screen resolution.
Battery charges more slowly than higher-end Tab models, and drains faster. Single speaker offers weak audio performance. Some reports of tablets going into an “endless reboot” loop without a clear solution.
Very user friendly, with newer owners up and running in minutes. Streams video without a glitch, as well as older apps. Battery life is adequate.
Older Android operating system that can’t be updated. Runs more slowly than newer, higher-end Tab models. May not run newer apps. Reports of “endless reboot” issue. No front-facing camera.
Strikes a balance between price and features. Fun for casual gaming or video streaming, and good for checking email or light web surfing. Lightweight and easy to travel with.
Display is not as crisp as higher-priced models. Speaker placement and sound quality are poor. Battery life is short (about 8 hours with daily use) and charging is slow.
We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.
We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.
Google’s Android mobile operating system is the most popular mobile OS on the planet. Every day, millions of Android users interact with the apps and functionalities that are essential to their daily lives. Android isn’t just for smartphones, though. It can now be found on mobile tablets from a wide variety of manufacturers. With an Android tablet, users can do everything they do on their smartphones but with a much larger screen and a more powerful set of internal components. If you’ve ever wondered what your Android phone would be like on steroids, now’s the time to look into an Android tablet.
That’s the good news. The bad news is that there are hundreds of different Android tablets available, ranging from models that are as fast as laptops to models that barely respond to touch input. That’s where we come in.
Read on for our best advice on Android tablets – how to pick out the perfect one, what to look for, and which features are essential – and then check out our top picks.
Before you get lost in a sea of technical specifications and jargon about Android tablets, consider these three questions:
What will you use your Android tablet for?
Consider your primary use cases – these should have the biggest influence on your decision. If you plan on using a tablet for watching movies in bed or casual web browsing from the couch, almost any Android tablet will do. If you want to use a tablet to take notes, you’ll need one with a bigger screen and good stylus support. Picture your ideal scenarios and then think about the tablets that best fit them in terms of size and power. Once you have a general idea of how big and how powerful you need a tablet to be, you can focus on models that meet your criteria.
How portable do you want your tablet to be?
All tablets are portable in theory, but in reality they can weigh anywhere between two and five pounds. That may not sound like much, but your shoulders will be able to tell the difference after a day of carrying your tablet around. If you plan on taking your tablet lots of places with you, consider getting a lighter model or one with a screen on the small side. If you’re mostly going to keep your tablet in one place, portability matters a lot less, so that might be a good reason to go with a larger tablet.
Do you need a tablet with a headphone jack?
Ports for standard 3.5mm headphones are an endangered species, and it’s only a matter of time before they disappear altogether. If you’ve got a collection of hi-fi headphones, or you just prefer the simplicity of traditional headphones, make sure the tablet you buy has a headphone jack. If you buy a tablet without a headphone jack by mistake, that’s OK. You can always get an adapter for using the tablet’s native ports, or you can buy a set of wireless Bluetooth headphones.
The Galaxy S4 is a worthy entry into Samsung’s top-shelf line of Android tablets. It’s got an eight-core processor, a ton of RAM, and some of the best tablet cameras around, making it the Android tablet that every other manufacturer is trying to beat. If you want the best standalone Android tablet there is, this is the one to get.
There are a lot of different features to compare across the tablet market, but before you start comparing CPUs or RAM, consider the three features that will have the biggest impact on your overall experience.
Brand: Every manufacturer has its own approach to Android tablets, ranging from the quality of the build materials down to the look and feel of Android. Many brands have a strong reputation for making great Android tablets, such as Samsung, LG, or ASUS. Others, like HP or Acer, are known for shipping flimsy, buggy hardware. Stick with a name brand you know, and avoid getting an Android tablet that’s frustrating and underpowered.
Screen size: The screen size defines the tablet, so this is one of the first key decisions to make. If you want a portable Android tablet that can fit in a purse or a satchel, stick with models in the seven- to eight-inch range. If you want one that’s about the size of a sheet of paper, look in the nine- to ten-inch range. If you need an Android tablet with a larger screen, you’ll find many of them come on 2-in-1 laptops.
LTE support: Most Android tablets are WiFi-only, but some premium models contain an LTE radio, so you can pair them with a subscription to your wireless provider and get LTE internet on your tablet anywhere you go. If your tablet is mostly going to be used in areas where there’s WiFi, you don’t need to get an LTE-enabled model, but if you’re often out and about without WiFi and still want it to be able to get online, you should get one. Monthly subscription rates for LTE-enabled tablets vary based on your wireless provider.
If you want to buy an Android tablet with support for LTE mobile data, look for a model labeled as “unlocked,” which means it can work with any wireless carrier you choose. If you buy an Android tablet directly from your wireless carrier, it’s likely locked and can only be used with that service.
Always use a security passcode on any Android device to ensure that others can’t access your apps or data and to protect yourself from unwanted purchases or – worse – identity theft.
Android tablets require you to have a Google Gmail account to download apps from the Google Play Store or use proprietary Google features like Google Docs.
If you’re looking for a basic or entry-level Android tablet, you’ll need to spend between $100 and $250. Tablets in this price range are usually on the smaller side and typically ship with an older version of Android. If you’re looking for a tablet for casual web browsing or for streaming movies and TV shows, you can find a good bargain in this range. If you’re looking for a tablet that’s fast and can keep up with your schoolwork or business, you’ll need to spend more.
Tablets in the $250 to $500 range represent the best value. They’re fast enough to support anything you want to throw at them, they run current versions of Android, and they come in sizes up to ten inches. If you need a tablet that’s fast enough to easily handle basic tasks and will perform well doing intensive work, this is the price range to keep in mind.
If you want the fastest Android tablet available, or you want a mid-range model with some high-end upgrades, plan on spending anywhere between $500 and $1,200. Tablets in this price range truly spare no expense: they have huge screens, a ton of storage space, and best-in-class processors. And best of all, these tablets hold their resale value better than cheaper models. If you know you’ll want an upgrade in the next year or two, it might make sense to spend more now.
If you can handle making a few minor compromises, the Galaxy Tab A is solid performer that can keep up with ongoing casual use. It’s affordable, it’s got an HD screen, and it only weighs 1.16 pounds, which might just make it the perfect kids’ tablet. The Tab A runs an older version of Android, so it doesn’t have the latest software bells and whistles, but at this price point, that’s still a worthwhile trade-off.
Run the software updates when you first power up your tablet. Tablets are computers, and as such, they need software updates to provide you with a stable experience and deliver new features. Give your tablet the best start out of the gate and run the software updates before you do anything else (you can usually find the option to update your software in Android’s Settings app). Once your tablet has downloaded and installed the latest updates, reboot it once for good measure. Then you can enjoy it knowing you’re having the most current experience available.
Delete any “bloatware” apps you can. Although all Android tablets run the Android operating system, most manufacturers make significant customizations to the OS and include proprietary apps. In most cases, the manufacturer’s apps aren’t super useful, and sometimes they’re coded so you can’t delete them. This will vary from tablet to tablet, but here’s the bottom line: when you first get your tablet, look for any proprietary, non-native Android apps and research online to see if they can safely be deleted. If they can, go ahead and delete them and reclaim the storage and screen real estate. (Just don’t delete any apps until you’re 100% sure it’s safe to do so.)
Carry a power bank if you’re taking your tablet somewhere without power. Tablet batteries can last anywhere from four to eight hours, depending on the size of the tablet and what it’s doing. For example, a tablet can last in standby mode a lot longer than it can if it’s continually streaming movies. If you’re going to be in a situation where you suspect your tablet might run out of juice, grab a power bank, which is basically a portable battery with USB ports, and always carry an extra charge (or three) with you.
The Huawei MediaPad is great on paper: it’s affordable, comes with impressive specs, and it’s as thin and light as a Microsoft Surface Pro. Unfortunately, it’s also riddled with performance issues. Because it uses one radio for both Bluetooth and WiFi, the performance of both suffers. Similarly, it can slow to a crawl when connected to an older 2.4GHz WiFi network. On the other hand, the ASUS ZenPad 10 is a strong contender if you can deal with a few minor flaws. It’s inexpensive, has a huge HD screen, and comes with a year of 100GB free storage from Google Drive. If you just need a basic tablet that will last a few years, this is a great option. If you prefer more bells and whistles, like the latest version of the Android OS or enough hard-drive space for your personal media, you may prefer one of our other top picks.
Q. Do I need to get a screen protector for my Android tablet?
A. It’s not required, but it’s a good idea if you want to keep your tablet’s screen free of scratches or cracks. If you’re not going to get a protective case for your tablet, it’s probably a good idea to get a screen protector, but if you are planning on getting a case, get one with a cover for the screen so you can skip getting a separate screen protector.
Q. Why do some tablets say they support 802.11n, while others say they support 802.11ac?
A. WiFi standards have evolved over the years to deliver faster wireless internet speeds and the increased broadcast range on wireless routers. WiFi first hit the mainstream using the 802.11b standard, then evolved to 802.11g, then 802.11n, and eventually on to the current standard, 802.11ac. (Each standard is always backwards compatible with prior standards.) For the fastest WiFi available, buy an Android tablet with 802.11ac WiFi, and avoid buying one that uses an older, slower version of WiFi.
Q. Can I use a tablet as a monitor?
A. Sort of. With the right app, you can use your Android tablet as an additional screen for a laptop or desktop computer, but you can’t use a tablet as a primary monitor for another computer. To learn more, search the Google Play Store for second-screen Android apps.
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