iOS Tablets

Whether or not Apple's tablet experience is a desirable one is certainly open to debate, but it's hard to deny that the iPad still remains the tablet that all other tablets have to measure up to and are compared against. Last month Apple updated its iPad lineup with the new iPad Air 2 and iPad Mini 3, and removed the fourth generation iPad. As it stands, Apple has a larger selection of tablets than it has in the past, but whether or not some of them are worth buying is another story. Right now the entry price for an iPad is $249, and it scales as high as $829. For the purposes of these recommendations, we'll be evaluating the tablets based mostly on the base configuration, with additional consideration about the price of storage and cellular upgrades compared to other tablets.

For the most budget minded user, the $249 entry point buys you the original iPad Mini. This is effectively the same hardware platform that shipped with the iPad 2 in March of 2011. With its ageing specifications and low-resolution display, it's not something I would really recommend to anyone, even someone on a very tight budget looking for an iPad. An additional $50 makes things much more interesting, as $299 buys you the iPad Mini 2 which was originally launched as the iPad Mini with Retina Display. Although the display's color gamut is effectively the same as the original Mini, the 2048x1536 display is an enormous improvement over the original. The internal hardware is also superior, with Apple's A7 SoC that still seems to be holding its own a year after release. At $299, the iPad Mini 2 is definitely a worthwhile consideration, even if the color gamut leaves much to be desired.

At the higher price points of $399 and $499 we have three different tablets. For $399 you can choose between the original iPad Air or the recently released iPad Mini 3, and for $499 you can get Apple's new flagship tablet, the iPad Air 2. With the $499 price point it's not really a difficult decision if you're set on buying an iPad, as the Air 2 is thinner and significantly faster than its predecessor. It also includes Touch ID which is a much more desirable feature with the recent launch of iOS 8 and Apple Pay, although not as much of a must-have feature as on a phone.

Choosing between the iPad Air and the iPad Mini 3 is more difficult, as both devices share the same overall specifications. The big differences are obviously the size, the superior display calibration on the iPad Air, and the inclusion of Touch ID on the Mini 3. The A7 SoC in the Air is also clocked 100MHz faster and maintains performance longer due to the heat spreader and lack of stacked RAM, but for most users this isn't going to have many real world implications. I think that I would lean toward the iPad Air as my recommended iPad for the $399 price point, unless the user really needs the smaller size and wants Touch ID. In all other circumstances, the Mini 2 provides the same small tablet experience as the Mini 3 at $100 less.

There's one more factor to consider, and that's the prices of the tablets after storage upgrades, as well as the availability of those upgrades. Apple's pricing scheme for NAND has traditionally been a 16GB base model, with an additional $100 bringing you to 32GB, $200 bringing it to 64GB, and more recently a $300 boost would bring the storage up to 128GB. With the launch of the new iPhones, and subsequently the new iPads, Apple adopted a new storage pricing scheme with the same 16GB base model, but with the $100 and $200 jumps bringing you to 64GB and 128GB respectively, which is a $100 reduction for both of those upgrades compared to the original cost. The iPad Mini 2 and iPad Air now have an upgrade to 32GB for $50, which I would consider a worthwhile investment as 16GB can disappear awfully fast on a tablet.

Overall, I would say that my recommendations are the iPad Mini 2 for the entry level spot at $299, the iPad Air at $399, and the iPad Air 2 as the flagship at $499. There are obviously considerations to make about size and storage, but in general I think these are the best devices that Apple offers at their respective price points.

Intro Android Tablets
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  • PC Perv - Sunday, November 30, 2014 - link

    Your bias is blinding you. How about checking out your own review?

    The Nexus 7 has literally zero advantage except for getting quicker Android updates. That's per YOUR OWN review. And what is wrong with RGBW panel, as long as it displays correct images and gives awesome crispness thanks to its high PPI? Would you say CYMK in your printer (and just about every printer) is also a problem?

    From what I can tell you are one of those typical AT reviewers, hell bent on "Apple is the standard" and judging everything from that angle. I admit not every AT reviewers are like that - especially those in Europe seem to be more even-headed. I am looking forward to the day when you "leave" to work as Joni Eve's personal driver.
  • PC Perv - Sunday, November 30, 2014 - link

    lol, Joni Eve. Sorry I meant "Johnny Ive" XD
  • Brandon Chester - Sunday, November 30, 2014 - link

    My mistake, I had forgotten how it's strangely the larger tablet with the worse display. Calling me ignorant for a mistake is interesting since you incorrectly identified the SoC in the Nexus 7 two times in a row, despite the exact model being put in the article. I never called you ignorant for your mistake.

    RGBW is actually a real issue, you get huge reductions in chroma resolution. Again, the display isn't so much the issue as the hardware driving it. I have used it myself and there's obvious jank, S800 was not designed to drive such a high resolution. That's all I have to say about that.

    I don't know why you brought up Apple, it seems like you've just fallen into throwing out ad hominems because of what appears to be buyer's justification because you own the TabPro. If you disagree with me that's fine, but accusing others of bias and making personal attacks is not at all a valid way to argue a point.
  • PC Perv - Sunday, November 30, 2014 - link

    Wrong again. I had the Nexus 7 (2013 model, which I sold because of performance degradation due to its cheap components), not the Tab Pro. I would have not spent $400 on the Tab Pro anyway.

    I know exactly what the Nexus 7's SoC is. I just wasn't sure how to call it. That was not a mistake. Your "mistake," on the other hand, is a different kind. "It's RGBW, so it's out of running" Just like Brian Klug's "It's AMOLED, so it's worthless." type of mistake.

    I can't wait for the day when Apple adopt AMOLED and you declare "AMOLED DONE RIGHT."
  • stlc8tr - Sunday, November 30, 2014 - link

    Just to be clear, AFAIK, the Tab Pro 8.4 isn't RGBW. It's a full RGB stripe display. Only the 10.1 and 12.2 tablets are RGBW.

    Also, given the the Tab Pro 8.4 was recommended at $400, I don't understand why it isn't being recommend at $200, which is *CHEAPER* than the N7.

    "Android alternatives include the Nexus 7, which delivers slightly less performance in most cases than the Pro 8.4 and it “only” has a WUXGA display, but it has one big selling point: it costs $170 less than the Pro 8.4, and you could even pick up two for the price of a single Pro 10.1 – or you could grab the 32GB model and still only pay $269. The Pro 8.4 looks and feels nicer in my opinion, but it’s really difficult to argue with that sort of price competition. If you want two more options, the Kindle Fire HDX 7” ($200) and Kindle Fire HDX 8.9” ($379) pack similar performance with their Snapdragon 800 SoCs and have a lot to offer, but the lack of Google Play Services is a pretty massive drawback in my book. I really can’t find any other direct competition in the Android market for the Samsung Pro 8.4 right now, so it's an easy recommendation."
  • PC Perv - Monday, December 1, 2014 - link

    Another ridiculousness is how he thinks the value of $100 when we talk about $200-ish tablets. He says,

    [Q]Also it's an RGBW panel, and it's normally $300 so I still don't see the appeal at all.[/Q]

    Either he is totally brainwashed, or really bad at math. I mean, if the Nexus 7 was $120 ($220 - $100), would he say the same? Or, would he say the same about the iPad Air 2 if it's on sale for $100 less? No appeal at all?

    I somehow doubt it. Says a lot about his bias, arrogance, and his total disregards of actual consumers.

    I wish this guy had a humility to look himself in the mirror, but I frankly do not expect it from the attitude he has shown here so far.
  • The0ne - Monday, December 15, 2014 - link

    It's not math. It is the unconscious decision to ignore everything else regardless of what was said or in some cases the facts. Religion is great at doing this btw. As you stated previously what does it matter if it's RGBW or anything as long as the image is clear and clean. And at these screen sizes who is really going to see the difference?

    Brandon, he threw out Apple reference because Anand's reviews share the same common reasoning, using Apple as the standard. Remember the screen size, the display? No different that what you're really doing here, albeit not as excessive as the full fledged Apple-loved reviews by Anand. I pray you don't ask us to cite them because that would be embarrassing to Anandtech.
  • steve1616 - Thursday, December 18, 2014 - link

    I have noticed so many people bag on this site for being pro apple. It seems like if anyone says anything good about an apple product, than obviously it is wrong. I didn't read a review made by an apple fanboy, but I have read mean comments made by obvious android fanboys.

    This is a neutral site, but even a pure android site (android police) recommended the ipad air 2 over all the android tablets. Maybe its just better. I started on android tablets. I bought hisense sero 7 pro tablets for my kids since their school required them and this tablet was recommended by the IT guy at their school. It was a good performing tablet, but so far 2 of the tablets I bought died within 6 months. The other 2 tablets have had problems that I have fixed and I am still limping them by. I replaced the 2 dead tablets with ipad minis reluctantly because they have a great track record for reliability and they were on sale for $170. These old tech original ipad mini tablets were better performers on games. They never stuttered on games that the hisense stuttered slightly on. My sister also bought some hisense tablets on my initial recommendation. Her tablets died within a few months and hisense will drag on a warranty for years it is looking like. We're yet to receive anything and it has been over 6 months since we returned the units with RMA's. She bought 2 ipad minis and 1 Samsung tab 4, 8" tablet. We almost bought this same Samsung, but it was quite a bit more money than the ipad mini. I have gotten the chance to play with both tablets and the Samsung tablet is not as good a perfomer as the hisense tablet. It stutters badly in games compared to the ipad mini. In subway surfer the samsung always has this little stutter that can really mess you up. The ipad mini is just smooth. I was guilty of not giving apple a fair chance before this experience, and it was misguided. They seem to have the best tablet at the best prices if you wait for big sales
  • tuxRoller - Sunday, December 14, 2014 - link

    It's actually a krait 300 (15%ipc compared to krait 200).
    It's basically an underclocked s600.
  • gailthesnail - Sunday, November 30, 2014 - link

    Yeah I'm pretty sure you're wrong about that. I have a tab pro and it runs games great. It may not have the absolute newest chip but the s800 is still plenty powerful enough and definitely way more powerful than the s4 pro in the nexus 7. I would even pick it over the shield as nvidia has overpromised and under delivered on all of its chips in the past. The k1 looks like the most overrated chip in recent memory. It overheats, isn't battery efficient, and doesn't actually perform any better than competitors.

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