Picking the Top Tablets in a 'Stagnant' Market Led by Apple, Samsung

 
 
By Don Reisinger  |  Posted 2015-07-01
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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    Picking the Top Tablets in a 'Stagnant' Market Led by Apple, Samsung
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    Picking the Top Tablets in a 'Stagnant' Market Led by Apple, Samsung

    By Don Reisinger
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    Apple's iPad Air 2 Still the Leader
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    Apple's iPad Air 2 Still the Leader

    No discussion on tablets is complete without talking about the market leader: Apple. The company's flagship tablet, the iPad Air 2, comes with a 9.7-inch screen and runs the full version of iOS, allowing the device to easily sync with iPhones and Macs. The iPad Air 2 comes with 16GB of storage to start but goes up to 128GB, and also includes an option that allows users to connect to it on mobile networks. The iPad Air 2 is the trend-setter in the marketplace.
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    Google Nexus 9 Deserves More Attention
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    Google Nexus 9 Deserves More Attention

    Google's Nexus 9 is one of the most appealing Android tablets on the market for any company or consumer seeking a standard build of Google's platform. The device has a 9-inch screen and runs the standard version of Google's Android. It has all the bundled Google apps, including Gmail and Maps, and comes in the customer's choice of 16GB and 32GB versions. There's also an LTE-ready model for those seeking mobile connectivity.
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    Sony's Xperia Z3 Compact Is a Slim Option
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    Sony's Xperia Z3 Compact Is a Slim Option

    Sony's Xperia Z3 Compact is all about being lightweight and thin. The device has an 8.1-inch screen and runs on Google's Android platform. The slate is just 6.4mm thin, and at 270 grams, is one of the lighter tablets on the market. Sony also touts the tablet's durability, saying that it's both waterproof and "dust-tight." There is one caveat, however. It's running an older version of Android—KitKat.
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    Amazon Still in the Mix With the Fire HDX 8.9
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    Amazon Still in the Mix With the Fire HDX 8.9

    The Amazon Fire HDX 8.9 came on the scene in a big way, trying to displace the iPad Air 2 as the leader in the marketplace. While that didn't happen, Amazon did offer up a solid product, boasting an 8.9-inch screen, a completely modified version of Android and all of the Amazon apps that consumers might like. Those apps include the Kindle Store, Amazon Instant Video and FreeTime, which gives parents control over screen time. It's a nice product for those who don't want an iPad and are heavily invested in Amazon products.
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    Asus Gets Into the Mix With the VivoTab Note 8
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    Asus Gets Into the Mix With the VivoTab Note 8

    Asus at one time was the company that dominated netbooks. But as tablets came on the scene, netbooks fell by the wayside. Now, the company is offering its Asus VivoTab Note 8, an 8-inch tablet that, unlike most other products in this roundup, is running on Microsoft's Windows 8.1. The "Note" in its name means the slate comes with a stylus aimed at the enterprise and the device boasts Office Home and Student 2013 out-of-the-box. It's a nice alternative to the Surface Pro 3.
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    The Acer Iconia Tab 10 Has the Latest Gorilla Glass
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    The Acer Iconia Tab 10 Has the Latest Gorilla Glass

    Acer may have watched its PC sales fall short of those of competitors like HP and Lenovo, but the company is offering a solid tablet in the Iconia Tab 10. The device has a 10-inch screen and the latest version of the ultra-hard screen technology Gorilla Glass 4. The tablet runs on Android and, according to Acer, has a "Zero Air Gap" technology system behind its display to create more vivid images and readability in sunlight.
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    Dell Venue 8 7000 Is Solid for the Enterprise
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    Dell Venue 8 7000 Is Solid for the Enterprise

    The Dell Venue 8 7000 may be one of the more appealing tablets in this market for companies seeking a mobile slate. The device, which has an 8.4-inch screen, starts at just $349, making it one of the cheaper options in this round. The Android Lollipop device comes with either 16GB or 32GB of on-board storage. However, it's a WiFi-only product, which means LTE connectivity is a no-go with the Venue 8 7000.
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    Nvidia Shield Is About Gaming First
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    Nvidia Shield Is About Gaming First

    Out of all of the tablets in this roundup, the Nvidia Shield is arguably the most gaming-focused. The Nvidia Shield Tablet runs on the Tegra K1 processor and is available in both WiFi and LTE. The slate is designed for gamers first, but it's a suitable option for consumers and even enterprise users who want a tablet that can handle graphic-intensive tasks.
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    Galaxy Note Pro 12.2 Is Samsung's Big Screen Tablet
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    Galaxy Note Pro 12.2 Is Samsung's Big Screen Tablet

    As ABI Research notes, Apple and Samsung are delivering the most popular products on the market. So it's natural that Samsung's big-screen tablet has a place in this roundup. The Samsung Galaxy Note Pro 12.2 may be one of its better options, offering 32GB of storage, a 12.2-inch screen and Samsung's own Exynos 5 Octa processor for high power. The slate also comes with the Samsung S pen, allowing for full writing on the display.
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    Don't Forget About Microsoft's Surface Pro 3
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    Don't Forget About Microsoft's Surface Pro 3

    Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella has made it abundantly clear that mobile technology is supremely important to his company's future. One way Microsoft is serving that market is with the Surface Pro 3. The tablet has a 12-inch screen and runs on Windows 8.1. Under the hood, the Surface Pro 3 is a beast, boasting the customer's choice of an Intel Core i3 to an i7. Those high-end specs make the Surface Pro 3 awfully notebook-like in its functionality, but also push its price higher: It starts at $799 for the base model.
 

Tablets are in a free fall. ABI Research reported that in the 2015 first quarter the tablet market recorded the largest drop in shipments since 2009, with a hefty decline of 16 percent from the same period in 2014. ABI said part of the problem is that the space is dominated by two players—Apple and Samsung—and has not found a credible third- or fourth-place competitor to drive tablet sales "out of stagnation." So why aren't consumers and enterprise users choosing another vendor? Part of the reason could be perception. Apple and Samsung have massive marketing budgets and popular devices. For another company to break into the space, they would need a truly ground-breaking tablet design backed by a huge marketing effort and still have no guarantee that they would grab significant market share from the top two makers. In fact, many consumers may not even be able to name more than just a handful of today's top tablets. This slide show will remind potential tablet buyers there are plenty of interesting models not made by Apple or Samsung. Yes, the iPad and Samsung Galaxy Note are included here, but the slides will also showcase models that don't often grab the spotlight.

 
 
 
 
 
Don Reisinger is a freelance technology columnist. He started writing about technology for Ziff-Davis' Gearlog.com. Since then, he has written extremely popular columns for CNET.com, Computerworld, InformationWeek, and others. He has appeared numerous times on national television to share his expertise with viewers. You can follow his every move at http://twitter.com/donreisinger.
 
 
 
 
 
 

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