Saturday, 25 January 2014

Choosing the Best Tablet: Kindle Fire HDX, iPad Air, Surface 2, Nexus 7

Choosing the Best Tablet: Kindle Fire HDX, iPad Air, Surface 2, Nexus 7

by Sean Thomas : email , twitter , google+ | on November 29, 2013 | in Gadgets

Every year tablets are on the top of most people’s wish-lists, but each year there are a new models and price-points that customers can shop from. This year there are four tablet makers that shine the brightest. Over the past year we have spent a great amount of time with each of these options, and each of the different sizes that are offered from these top brands. To get shoppers ready for the holiday season, a few of the editors sat down and decided the best talking points for each of them, and who would benefit the most from their features. Choosing the right tablet can be a daunting task, for yourself and more so as a gift, but after weighing the options the choice can be much easier when you compare them side-by-side.

The Kindle FIRE HDX (Starting at $229 and available at Amazon) 

Amazon’s Kindle Fire line added two new tablets this year, the Kindle Fire HDX 8.9
and the Kindle Fire HDX 7 model. Amazon offers some of the best services available for tablet owners. Thanks in large part to Amazon’s PRIME membership rewards and Amazon’s top-notch cloud capabilities in conjunction with their video and book libraries.

Amazon’s Kindle Fire HDX line has one easy advantage over all four of its competitors, and that’s price for the entertainment offered. The Kindle Fire HDX 8.9
model comes with a 2560 x 1600 (339 ppi) display. It’s beyond standard HD and it’s an amazing screen to watch any of the video apps that are offered (Amazon Instant Video, Netfilx, Hulu+ etc.). The 7 screen features a 1280 x 800 (216 ppi) display, and it is the best value for the cost when compared to the other tablets. You will also be listening to these videos with a Dolby Digital Plus speaker system, one of the best in the tablet industry.

While you are watching shows and videos on Amazon Instant, there is also X-Ray for Movies and TV. Amazon owns (Internet Movie Database) and it’s considered the go-to source for information on actors, movies, cast-lists and general info on all things Hollywood and TV. Amazon has integrated this tool into their HDX line, allowing a simple info panel that can be pulled up while you watch any show or movie on Amazon Instant. If a familiar guest-star appears in your favorite episode and you can’t remember his name, Bam, you hit the panel and there his picture and info. You can even click on the actor and checkout the IMDB info. It’s one of those “that’s awesome” moments, and not something that you definitely need, but love to have when you want it. The same can be done with lyrics when using X-Ray for Music.

You can add to that Amazon’s laundry list of features, like Amazon Prime. Kindle owners can borrow any title from the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library for free, as frequently as a book a month. You can also enjoy unlimited, commercial-free streaming of “tens of thousands of popular movies and TV shows” from Amazon Instant library. Amazon also lets you download videos from their library to watch online, a feature no one else offers.

The tablet also features a 2.2GHz quad-core processor and 2GB of RAM, so it won’t have any problems offering you the best picture while playing videos or surfing the web. You have probably seen commercials for Amazon’s new on-device tech support known as the “Mayday Button”. This is a truly unique offering from Amazon, and it’s perfect for anyone that may not consider themselves to be ‘tech-savvy’.

So Who is this perfect for? Who is this not for?

The Kindle Fire HDX Line is for the television, movie and reading enthusiast. If you, or the person you are shopping for will mostly use a tablet for streaming movies and shows, checking emails or hitting social media, or just general internet surfing; then the Kindle Fire HDX is the go-to tablet, both in features and in value. There’s no comparison when it comes to entertainment in this price-range. The Kindle Fire HDX simply offers the most services, the most exclusive video-content and the most benefits for using their bookstore than any other tablet on the market.

The downside to the Kindle Fire HDX is that even though you will find the most popular apps (Facebook, Twitter, Hulu, Netflix, Pintrest, Amazon Instant, Kindle, etc.) there is nowhere near the amount of apps being offered as the Google Play store or the App Store. Almost all major applications hit the Amazon App store, but some may take a while to make it over. The store offers almost any major app that you can think of, and it is growing, but the Kindle Fire HDX is for the entertainment lover, the one that loves movies, films and books, and it’s not designed to be used as a productivity or work tablet.

The Google Nexus 7 (starting at $175 available at Amazon) 

The Google Nexus line is the leading Android Powered tablet, it was designed to go head-to-head against Apple’s iPad, and stands tall for many reasons. The Nexus 7
offers a (323 ppi) display that offers a 1920×1200 HD display capable of 1080p video. This is tucked under scratch-resistant corning glass to keep your device shiny and new. You will be enjoying movies and videos with dual stereo speakers and surround sound powered by Fraunhofer. The Nexus offers the Google Play Store, and that’s one of the key features that makes it so appealing to customers. If you, or the person you are shopping for is an app-junkie with an Android powered phone, then you should put the Google Nexus series at the top of the list.

Many people sink a lot of money into apps and music and if you jump operating systems then you could stand to leave a lot of money behind. There’s also the synching feature, just like Apple and the iCloud, Google can easily synch all of your Android devices. If you, or the person you are shopping for, has an Android phone, synching it with the Google Nexus will be a breeze.

The Nexus 7
or 10 tablets are some of the most powerful tablets that anyone can buy. They come with a stunning display and are still one of the fastest processors in their class. Add a wireless charging option, and the ability to run Android 4.3 on the 7 model and you have a powerhouse tablet on your hands. Your apps will run on the 1.5GHz quad-core Snapdragon S4 Pro processor and the 7 tablet has 2GB of RAM and comes in either a 16GB or 32GB model.

The choice is clear when choosing an Android powered tablet, the Nexus line is at the top. The Google Play Store offers almost any app that you can think of, and no other tablet using Android OS has the capabilities as Google’s line.

So Who is this perfect for? Who is this not for?

The Google Nexus can do it all, and do it well. If the target customer uses a tablet for work, play, entertainment, games or internet surfing, the Google Nexus can handle it with ease. You have all of the benefits that the Google Play Store offers, plus the hardware to show it all of.

The Nexus is at the top of the Android food-chain, the only concern we can voice is that if they are currently using an iOS or Window Powered phone, jumping to a new App Store might cost a little extra at first. In the long-run, this probably won’t be an issue, but many people like to have a coherent ecosystem with their devices, if the target customer seems like one of those people, then stick with the same app store, or convince them that the Google Play store is better.

The iPad Air / iPad Mini (starting at $496 for Air, and $286 for mini available at Amazon)     mini - Amazon

Apple, the company that started the tablet economy. The iPad is an amazing device, with top-of-the-line services and hardware and it still boasts the largest App Store on the market; but it comes at a cost. The two new models that came out this year are the most powerful options in the company’s history, offering new display resolutions and free apps that are sure to wow any customer that can get their hands on one.

The iPad Air is one of the lightest full-size tablets money can buy, it weighs-in at just one-pound. The tablet features a dual-core A7 chip, making it one of the fastest and most powerful tablets available and perfect for even the most hardware hungry apps that developers have thrown into the App store.

Apple opened up all of its productivity apps, which are now free, making the iPad the go-to source for working on school reports, presentations and more. With the Dual-core A7 processor you get 1GB of RAM and you can purchase the 16GB or 128GB option. Videos will look amazing on the 9.7-inch (2,048 x 1,536) display and of course all of your apps, contacts, docs and pictures will synch across your other iOS devices thanks to iCloud.

The same can be said for the iPad Mini, with a 1024×768 resolution it has one of the best screens in its class. Powered by the A5 chip it will run the newly released iOS 7 operating system. It’s everything you love about an iPad, shrunk down for convenience.

So Who is this perfect for? Who is this not for?

Just like the Google Nexus, the iPad Air and the iPad Mini have no downside other than the proprietary App Store. Just as an Android user might want to use the same app-store and easy-synch operating system that they have on their phone, the iPAD offers the same benefit if the target customer has an iPhone. Both iPads offer amazingly fast processors for their class, one of the best screens that you can watch videos and surf the web on, and all the convenience that an iOS user has become accustomed to.

The iPad models only suffer from the price. Apple products are expensive, and if they are out of your price-range then there are perfectly equivalent options that you can choose from on this list, but if the price isn’t a deterrent then there is nothing that we can point out that would prevent someone from buying either of the two options available this year.

Microsoft Surface 2 (starting at $449 available at Amazon) 

The initial offerings of the Surface Tablet had many shoppers confused. There was an RT model and a PRO model at launch and Microsoft had just released Windows 8, which people were still getting used to. Now Windows 8 is becoming much more accepted and understood, and with the inclusion of popular Windows-powered phones, the Surface 2 is set to reclaim a larger portion of the tablet market in 2013 and 2014.

Now the PRO version, is just that, a PRO. It offers the same functions as a laptop and is priced at $899 to start, making it more expensive than any other laptop on this list. It’s an incredible machine with a 1.6GHz dual-core Intel Core i5 processor and you can chose between 4GB or 8GB of RAM with a 64GB to 512GB option. The 10.6-inch (1,920 x 1,080) display is top of the line, but since it is so much more than the other tablets on the list, it wouldn’t be fair to outwardly compare it the other models. We just wanted to clarify which Surface 2 we are talking about.

So we are going to focus on the Windows Surface 2 version, not the Pro, which is comparably priced at $449. Running on a NVIDIA Tegra 4 processor, the tablet makes multitasking and running complex programs like Microsoft Office a seamless experience. The Surface 2 is thin and light, it offers up to 10 hours of battery life and can handle Windows most popular applications. The tablet itself comes in at 1.5 pounds and is 8.9 mm thick, making it perfect for toting between meetings or from class-to-class. The tablet runs on Windows RT 8.1 and it comes preinstalled with Microsoft Office 2013 RT, allowing you access to Outlook, Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote straight out of the box.

Even though it comes in a 32GB or 64GB option, you will also get 200 GB of SkyDrive storage for 2 years. So you’ll have more than enough room for all your pictures, documents, videos and presentations. The Surface 2 also offers a lot of ports, something that not every tablet can boast. There is a microSDXC card reader incase you need another 64 GB of extra storage, an easily accessible video out port, a very convenient USB 3.0 port and of course Bluetooth 4.0 if you hate wires.

In the Windows RT world, the Surface is King. Windows 8 was new when the Surface 1 was released, and the app store offered through Windows was barebones. Microsoft made a lot of changes when it launched the new Surface 2, and all of them for the better. There are more apps than ever for people to choose from, though not as many as Apple or Google Play offers, but because the Surface 2 runs on Microsoft’s RT, the use of Microsoft Word, Skype and other Microsoft applications is easily managed and available on the Surface 2.

So Who is this perfect for? Who is this not for?

The Windows 8/Windows RT operating system gained a lot of ground in the mobile phone market this year, thanks in large part to the success of the Lumina series. Just like the other tablets, having the same operating system on your phone and tablet offers many positives. With the Surface 2, when it fits your lifestyle it’s perfect; but it can be hit and miss. The features offered with Word, Outlook and other Productivity apps are the best offered but that may not be a perfect fit for everyone. Not all Window users have switched to Windows 8 on their laptops or desktops, so there a few people that won’t benefit from synch-options that Windows 8 RT has to offer.

Since the Windows 8 RT operating system is still relatively new, and the app-store is still playing catch-up, we would recommend this tablet if it was specifically asked for. A student that works with Word and wants the functionality, a Windows 8 user or Windows Phone user that loves the live-tiles and touch-features would truly benefit from the Windows Surface. An office worker that enjoys the Excel or Outlook easy-connectivity would be another example. This wouldn’t be our suggestion to just ‘spring’ on someone who is looking for a tablet, it’s not a negative, Windows 8 is just the latest operating system in the tablet world, and because of that we would say it’s better if it comes recommended by the user for it’s unique features