In the beginning Jobs said, “Let there be an iPad.” And there was an iPad, and it was good. And then Jobs said, “Let there be an iPad 2.” And it was thinner, sleeker, and had a camera. And it was good. But then companies like Amazon, Asus, and Microsoft wanted to contribute to the tablet market, and so they did. And as it turns out, most of them are just as good if not better than the iPad- and some cost a lot less.
Why The iPad?
Apple’s new iPad mini and iPad 4th Generation are still the best large tablets on the market. Perhaps the most attractive feature is the Apple App Store, which boasts literally hundreds of thousands of quality apps, all designed specifically for the large-screen device. One of the main reasons for Apple’s stronghold on the app store market is their high level of quality control. Customers know that the Apple apps they purchase have been through rigorous quality testing before being made available to users. Apple iPads also earn universal acclaim for their build quality, stability, and display. The fact is that the Apple iPad is simply a high-quality device.
Why Not The iPad?
So why, after all this time, should you look to another tablet? One major factor is pricing. Apple iPads are still some of the most expensive tablets on the market. Additionally, Apple products are unique in many ways, and not all good. For example, the Apple iPad does not have a USB input, nor does it have an SD card slot. That means that most accessories have to be made exclusively for the iPad, and they often carry an iPad price tag premium.
A newer factor that enhances the non-Apple tablet experience, are detachable keyboards. The Microsoft Surface tablets and Lenovo ThinkPad Tablet 2 have thin keyboards that can be attached to the tablet, thus creating a hybrid laptop/tablet (everyone loves hybrids nowadays). The Dell XPS 12 actually comes attached to a keyboard, but the monitor can flip around within its frame, turning it into a touch screen tablet. But those three devices will actually run you about twice the price of the newest iPad, and more notebook than tablet. So what are the comparable alternatives?
Amazon Kindle Fire 8.9
A front runner is the Amazon Kindle Fire HD 8.9, especially for Amazon Prime members, who get free movie and TV show streaming to the tablet with the service (the same service is also available for Prime members on Android tablets and the iPad). Though it runs Android, it does not have access to the official Google Play Store and other Google services. Still, the Amazon Appstore for Android is stocked with great apps. The user interface is also very shopping oriented (Amazon remains true to form), which for some could be a turn off. But, it is considered one of the top low-cost large tablets on the market. And at $230 less than the newest full-sized iPad (both compared at the least-expensive configuration), it’s a formidable opponent.
Asus Transformer Pad Infinity
A lesser known brand that stacks up nicely against the iPad is the 10.1-inch Asus Transformer Pad Infinity. It’s priced the same as the new iPad ($499.99), and offers an amazingly sharp screen, a thin and light aluminium body, and an extremely fast quad-core Tegra 3 processor. Critics have hailed it as one of the best-large screen tablets available, and it’s one of the few that compares very well directly against the iPad.
Google Nexus 7
For smaller tablets, Google seems to have figured it out. The Google Nexus 7, co-designed by Asus is fast, well-built, and has great battery life. It was the first tablet to ship with Android Jelly Bean, Google’s latest, and definitely best, mobile OS version. The Google Nexus 7 retails for $199, leading the small tablet market in both price and operating systems.
Microsoft Surface Pro and Surface RT
Now, if you really want a top-of-the line tablet and are willing to spend the money, take a look at the the Microsoft Surface tablets. Both have optional detachable keyboards, and run Windows 8. The Surface Pro runs the full version, and sports an Intel Core processor. It’s basically a full-powered notebook in a tablet form factor, and that includes support for all older Windows applications. The Microsoft Surface RT tablet is much the same, but it features an ARM-based NVIDIA Tegra 3 processor, the same as the Google Nexus 7, and it runs Windows RT. This version of Microsoft’s operating system does not support older applications, and is much “lighter” than the full version found on notebooks and the Surface Pro. Windows RT does have a full Microsoft Office suite, however. The Surface Pro starts at $899, while the Surface RT starts at $499.
If you’re looking for a slate tablet, (and don’t want to give Apple your money), Microsoft, Amazon, and Asus provide excellent alternatives at excellent prices. If you’re looking to combine tablet and laptop features, Microsoft is the way to go. And although they cost a lot more than a standard tablet, they definitely cost less than a tablet and a laptop.
By: Devon Portney