I'm a tablet lover. I always have been and likely always will be. I love the extra display space, ultra portability and fantastic battery life. And when applications are optimized for the display size and resolution, nothing looks better.
If one thing is certain of 2012, it was a great year for tablet fans. There were several great tablets introduced and, in some cases, pricing finally took a turn for the better and started creeping down towards a more manageable range. Meanwhile, specifications surpassed all expectations. Display resolutions far exceed 1080p and the distance processor technology has come in a comparatively short time is mind-blowing.
Below, I have composed a list of my top five tablets for 2012.
1. Nexus 10 by Samsung
Google breathed new life into the Nexus brand in 2012, and it started with the unexpected addition of some serious tablets to the lineup. Best of all, the tablets come at a great value. The Nexus 10 is manufactured by Samsung is the best tablet the company has ever made. In fact, it may be the best tablet any manufacturer has ever made, depending on what's important to you.
If, like me, you're a pixel junkie, there is nothing that quite compares to the Nexus 10 display. he world swooned over the 9.7-inch Retina Display on the third- and fourth-generation iPad, which boasted an impressive 2,048 by 1,536 pixel resolution and 264 pixels per inch. The Nexus 10 display measures 10.055-inches diagonally and sports an awe-inspiring resolution of 2,560 by 1,600 pixels for a pixel per inch count of 300. For those keeping count, the Nexus 10 display has nearly one million more pixels than the latest full-size iPad, which has over one million more pixels than a standard 1080p television. Truly amazing.
Aside from that, the Nexus 10 comes with either 16GB or 32GB of built-in storage, 2GB RAM, a 5-megapixel rear camera, 1.9-megapixel front-facing camera, 1.7GHz dual-core Exynos 5250 chipset and a giant 9,000mAh battery. Although currently sold out on Google Play, the 16GB and 32GB models sell for $399 and $499, respectively.
The Nexus 10 is easily among the most highly rated tablets this year.
2. Nexus 7 by ASUS
Of Google's additions to its tablet lineup, the Nexus 7 by ASUS caused the bigger splash. Not only is it a seriously impressive 7-inch tablet specimen, but it starts at only $199 for a 16GB model. This particular tablet was a game-changer, especially for the price of current and future tablets.
Under the hood, the Nexus 7 has: 7-inch 1,280 by 800 pixel display, 16GB or 32GB of storage, 1GB RAM, a 1.2-megapixel front-facing camera, 1.2GHz quad-core Tegra 3 chipset and a 4,325mAh battery. It's just small enough to fit in a back pants pocket, jacket pocket or purse and packs a serious punch, especially for gaming.
Google also released a version of the Nexus 7 with cellular connectivity (3G and HSPA+) with 32GB for $299. Point blank, the Nexus 7 is the best value tablet on the market. But it's also my second best tablet overall.
3. New iPad
I've never been a huge fan of iOS in tablet form. But I can't discredit how great Apple's tablets are and always have been. The ecosystem and vastness of the tablet-optimzed selection in App Store are unparalleled. They're what make the iPad brand what it is.
Don't get me wrong, the hardware is fantastic. And many of the applications have essentially become vital organs in my workflow. But the stock iOS software, especially for tablets, could stand a nice, modernizing update.
Inside, the latest iPad includes: a 9.7-inch 2,048 by 1,536 pixel display, 1GB RAM, 11,560mAh (42.5Wh) battery, dual-core A6X chipset, a 5-megapixel rear camera, 1.2-megapixel FaceTime camera and either 16GB, 32GB or 64GB of storage space. The downside to Apple's iPad, however, is the price. The base model starts at $499 and jumps $100 for each larger capacity, plus $130 for cellular connectivity. That means for 64GB and LTE connectivity, you're looking at paying $829.00 plus tax and monthly data rates.
It's a great tablet, no doubt. That said, anything but the base model is definitely not cheap.
4. ASUS Transformer Pad Infinity
I have now owned no less than three Transformer tablets by ASUS. I owned the original Eee Pad Transformer twice and the Eee Pad Transformer Prime. To be concise, if you're looking for a tablet for productivity, look no further than the ASUS Transformer Pad brand.
The Transformer Pad TF300T is the entry model, and is a great value, starting at $399.99. The Transformer Pad Infinity, however, is one of the finest Android tablets around. It comes with a 10.1-inch Super IPS+ LCD display (1,920 by 1,200 pixels), 32GB or 64GB of storage, 1GB RAM, an 8-megapixel rear camera, 2-megapixel front-facing shooter, 1.6GHz quad-core Tegra 3 and a 25Wh battery.
The main benefit to Transformer Pads, though, are the add-on keyboard docks. At $150, they're not exactly cheap, but the overall experience of an Android tablet with a removable keyboard dock is unmatched. Basically, the dock turns the Transformer Pad into an Android netbook. The overall price of the package is the major drawback. The 32GB model starts at $499 while 64GB will cost you $599. Throw in a keyboard dock and you're looking at $550 or $650. Ouch.
5. iPad mini
One of the more disruptive tablets of 2012 was the iPad mini, mainly because the late Steve Jobs' damning remarks about smaller tablets a few years ago. No less, the iPad mini has turned out to be quite the popular tablet of late.
With a 7.9-inch 1,024 by 768 pixel display, the 162 pixels per inch is easily the least favorite feature for many. It's a far cry from Apple's Retina Display standard and has already left many iPad mini owners wanting more. Overall, none of the specifications are mind-blowing. It has 512MB RAM, a 16.3Wh battery, a dual-core A5 chipset, 5-megapixel rear camera, 1.2-megapixel front-facing shooter and either 16GB, 32GB or 64GB of built-in storage. It comes in either a Wi-Fi only model starting at $329 going as high as $659.
Again, it's not cheap, by any means. But the ecosystem and unparalleled tablet app selection make the iPad mini a great choice. However, recent rumors point towards a iPad mini with a Retina Display in the not too distant future.
Honorable mention: Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1, Microsoft Surface
I had trouble making this list. Tablets are … different than smartphones. And there were two I, unfortunately, had to cut that are still great tablets: the Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 and Microsoft Surface. Both are tablets I really want to like.
The Note 10.1 has all the right specifications and software that sets it apart from the competition. Except there is one minor detail that effectively ruins it for me, the display. At 10.1-inches and 1,280 by 800 pixels, the resolution is simply too low for the price, which starts at $499 for the 16GB model. Simply put, there are better options for the same price or less.
And the Microsoft Surface. Once it gains more development support, Windows RT tablets may be serious competitors. But the first-generation hardware wasn't quite up to par with third- and fourth- generation iPad and Android tablets. Storage space is only a small issue, considering it comes with full USB support for external drives. And the processing power is just fine – it has a 1.3GHz quad-core Tegra 3 chip. But the price isn't quite justified for an unrefined first-gen tablet and OS.