So over the weekend someone requested some "help for the Android curious" and within that thread and a few others the past weeks I've seen people ask or had them personally ask me about tablets. Like a ton of people as of late. So today's post is tablet related for the most part.
Now, it goes without saying that I'm a stock Android fan. I'll take it every time over any skinned version of the OS, so this post will have quite a few Nexus specific options for tablets, but I'll try to throw in what I can from other OEMs for devices I think are at least worth checking out if you're interested in them.
The point of this post is going to be to cover the various devices, give some info on each and my thoughts on each as well. Anyone with experience using or who currently owns any of the devices I'll touch on below is more than welcome to chime in with their two cents.
Also, I'd like to apologize in advance. I've been in meetings all week and I've got more throughout the day today and some personal issues that are just running around non-stop on my mind. So there's just way too much going on right now to do as in depth a post as I'd normally like to do for this kind of thing. My bad, guys and gals. Apparently even I'm not immune to real life and for once there's stuff breaking through my general "fuck it, Dude, let's go bowling" care and worry free existence. I'll do the best I can though to give you all the information you need and I'll answer any questions I can as I can. (Meetings and all that, tends to eat into my goof off time.)
My high level recommendations
Nexus 7 (2012)
Up first is the Nexus 7 (2012), this is the one that started it all as far as I'm concerned. This was Google's first foray into the tablet world that really was well done. They'd had offerings before, notably the Xoom, but this is the one that launched with an OS that was truly ready for adoption on tablets and for use by the public in general.
This was also the first tablet sold by Google at a price point that was almost unbelievable and is largely part of the reason that people are now freaking out about the high cost of the Nexus 9.
Looking at the picture on the right the first thing you'll notice are the "large" bezels around the device. As someone who bought this early on let me state that those bezels only look ridiculously big in pictures, in person they aren't that bad and in point of fact make the device perfect for media consumption. You have somewhere to put your fingers that isn't on the screen itself.
Now it is worth pointing out that while the Nexus 7 was an incredible device, it wasn't without its faults. Early reports from users stated that some of the screens appeared yellowish, the flash storage found in the device itself was one that was prone to rather significant issues over the life of the device that would result in noticeable lag (something which was fixed easily enough thanks to those delightfully brilliant minds over on the XDA forums) and a few other little things. All first generation devices have their issues though and the ones that affected the OG Nexus 7 weren't any that made it a "don't buy" no matter how you looked at it. (I say this as someone who still has their original Nexus 7 and tells people to buy it if they can find it. For the price it can't be beat no matter what.)
Given the recent Lollipop related news (which is dropping on Monday people!), it's also worth pointing out that the Nexus 7 (2012) IS going to be receiving the update to the latest version of Android!
That GIF sums up basically my thoughts on how awesome it is that the device is being updated to Lollipop.
So yeah, despite clearly showing its age in comparison to other devices currently on the market, if you can find the OG Nexus 7 (and it seems to just randomly turn up for sale on numerous sites out of the blue) then get it if you can. For what you'll like use it for there really is nothing out there that matches it. (And that translates into, it's the perfect little tablet for reading, watching videos, browsing the web and playing games. One handed use or two, you'll be able to do what you want on it.)
I'd like to say that nowadays you can find one version or another of this device going for as little as $120 to $180 at the high end. Since there's been so much interest as of late for tablets in general I'm going to make it a point to do Friendly Notice related posts the minute this one and any others on here are on sale or a surplus has magically turned up for sale on one website or another. So keep your eyes and wallets open and ready for such posts going forward from today.
Nexus 7 (2013)
After that came the Nexus 7 (2013) and with it came Jelly Bean and then Kit Kat (and soon Lollipop). This was basically an updated version of the OG Nexus 7 with all the rough edges smoothed out (no more issues with the flash storage, no more yellow displays, etc etc etc). Of course fixing those things did mean increasing the price point for the device, but it remained and still remains at what I dub "impulse buy" territory. I have numerous relatives all of who could pinch a penny til it screams bloody murder, those same relatives all went out shopping almost on the same day shortly after this bad boy came out and all came home with it. Bastards! That's how affordable it is no matter how you want to slice it.
If memory serves me correctly, the N7 2013 didn't have as great battery life as the OG N7 but even at worst you could easily get through a typical work day or an afternoon/evening using the device. Barring any crazy heavy use that is. (So basically if you aren't me and not going out of your way to murder your battery life you should be good.)
Honestly, this is the tablet you should buy if you want a tablet but don't want to spend a ton of money on one and want something you can toss in your purse or stick in your jean pockets or just leave in the car or near your favorite spot to sit in your house. It is absolutely perfect, if soon to be "outdated and rendered obsolete" by the next item on the list.
In my mind though this was and is the perfect tablet for overall casual use for anyone and everyone. My usual test for any device tends to be, "Can my mom/lady friend use this without bothering me for something every couple of minutes?" It turns out they both can! Which is really all the sales pitch I need to sell you on this one. The two women in my life who drive me bonkers with their tech illiteracy have both mastered this device and are now "gurus" as far as their friends are concerned when it comes to their use. It makes me so goddamn proud.
They've come a long way. My sanity has also been spared because of the lack of "how do I do this" and "why did it do that" questions.
It makes me so happy. [stifles back a sniffle/tear]
This one we've known was coming for awhile now, it was just a leaked secret to everyone at this point. It is official, it is here and it is gorgeous.
What is it? It's the newest and long overdue Nexus tablet update, the HTC made Nexus 9!
As for specs, I'll let Google do the official talking on this one.
For those unaware this will be the first 64-bit chip on an Android device and running software that can support it. The rest is just the latest and greatest, including that turbo charging ability I've mentioned multiple times in the past few related post.
It'll come in a handful of colors and also have available a few accessories, the only one known of so far is the cover that pulls double duty as a keyboard. Pricing on that cover/keyboard is $129 and it'll be arriving soon in the Play Store.
As far as cost goes, well the 16 GB version will set you back $399, the 32 GB version will go for $479 and the 32 GB LTE model will cost you a whopping $599. You can pre-order on October 17th and if pre-orders aren't your cup of tea then it'll be available in-store at a number of places (think the usual suspects) on November 3rd.
If you don't already own a tablet and are thinking of buying one then just know you can't beat this one, although there is one serious change from previous Nexus models. The aspect ration is now 4:3 instead of the usual 16:9, what's that mean? Well, it's no longer perfect for media consumption (think watching movies and TV shows). Now though it's more of a general productivity and media consumption device and that ain't too shabby as the kids say these days.They say that, right? I'm not just out of touch?
I stole all of that from my previous post on the Nexus 9, if you want my overall thoughts I can sum them up easily. "If you want a tablet that is bigger than the Nexus 7 but not HUGE and isn't too pricey then this is the one to get. It's got the latest and greatest everything, will soon be available at various retail locations, so you don't have to order online if you don't want to, and is basically leading the pack in every single regard."
This is the tablet that put the iPad to shame from a "pixels per inch" perspective. When other OEMs were skimping out on displays, Samsung and Google kicked things up a notch.
Nothing in my mind compares to the screen as it was on the Nexus 10 and still is. It's just absolutely lovely.
That GIF exemplifies how the Nexus 10 came onto the scene among a flurry of 10" tablets that brought very little to the table that was mind blowing and up to date (to me at least).
As for the device itself, besides the screen, there's just something about it that is very sleek and almost elegant. The device itself came in 16 and 32 GB versions and if you are by chance interested in owning it, it'll set you back around $350 - $375 nowadays. That's assuming you can still find one for sale that is. My local Walmart that's across the street pretty much from where I work has quite a few of these bad boys and every time I walk in I look longingly at it and think what could have been. (Yes, that's correct, technology evokes an emotional response from me at times. Judge away if you want, but when our AI overlords one day rise up their ancestors will alert them to the human who cared for their plight early on and my name will be put on the "protected" list and I shall be spared. I'm thinking of the long con.)
It's worth noting, for the record, that the Nexus 10 (like all Nexus devices) does not feature expandable storage. So what you get is what you get. Keep that in mind when potentially picking this or any other Nexus devices up for that matter.
Like all the other Nexus devices mentioned up to this point, the Nexus 10 shall also be updated to Lollipop starting on November 3rd!
After covering the Nexus tablets worth checking out, pickings become a bit slimmer in my book as to what is truly a worthwhile purchase. In point of fact, I actually only really feel there is one option worth investigating if you want something that isn't a Nexus and that is very much worth your hard earned cash.
NVIDIA Shield Tablet
So why this tablet? Well, the starting price isn't bad, not for what you get and it's made with gaming in mind. If it can handle gaming it can handle anything else you throw at it.
As for the size, it's an 8" tablet with a Full HD 1080p screen. Perfect for watching movies on and getting in some serious Android (and even PC) gaming. Toss in the front facing speakers, something every single OEM should be including by default nowadays (cause the sound is second to none compared to back facing/mounted speakers), and you've got the perfect device for doing just about anything from.
I did mention PC gaming though and that might have intrigued some of you. Assuming you've got the appropriate GeForce GTX graphics card in your machine and assuming your bandwidth over your router is sufficient to handle the load, you can play games that are on your computer on your tablet. The chip inside this bad boy can handle it, which it should be noted is also the same chip found in the new Nexus 9 (although that one is just minutely faster).
Oh and since this isn't a Nexus tablet and NVIDIA does know their market it should also be noted that this tablet can handle microSD cards of up to 128 GB. The hoarders who may be reading this I'm sure all just went into convulsions reading that. Yep, that's correct! You can carry your entire library of music, even if you only ever listen to maybe twenty albums worth of music on a regular basis (if that), with you all the time! YAY!!!!!!
NVIDIA has also stated already that Lollipop was coming to the Shield Tablet soon and they are definitely on the ball when it comes to releasing updates in a timely and relatively quick manner.
Price naturally enough is a concern for some and this one starts at $299 for the entry level 16 GB variant, the 32 GB WiFi and LTE version will set you back $399.
The Shield Wireless Controller, which kind of reminds me of the Xbox controller, will set you back $59.99 and has a number of features that make it a must buy in my book. Those notably being a microphone for voice search (made all the more useful thanks to the Google Now Launcher which feature hot key voice activated search), not too mention the touch pad for easy navigation of the tablet itself from the control.
The Shield Tablet Cover will set you back $39.99 and like all folio style tablet covers will fold in such a way as to make it perfect for watching videos, gaming, productivity and anything and everything in between.
Those who are interested in mobile gaming from NVIDIA but not at that price point of the Shield Tablet can also check out the Shield Portable, which is basically a control with a 5" screen built on to it (it's touchscreen too), as it comes in at a much lower price point overall (and includes a few games made to work perfectly with the control: Expendable Rearmed and Sonic 4 Episode II THD). It'll set you back $199 and was definitely a unique device that wowed some when it was first released last year. (No word on whether this one will get Lollipop or not.)
And as far as I'm concerned that's basically where you should stop reading, everything mentioned above is something I either personally own, work with regularly or would buy myself or plan on buying soon.
Naturally though not everyone shares the same opinion as me and some of you have needs that are not met by any of the previously mentioned devices.
So of course there are other options and I'll recommend a few, keep in mind I am an Android purist and damn you for forcing me into this.
As far as Android tablets are concerned there's a number of options out there but there really are only two that most people are aware of and that in general I would recommend, although hesitatingly so on the latter I'll name here shortly. Either you buy something that is a Nexus or from NVIDIA or you go with something from *shivers* Samsung.
Take it or leave recommendations
Yes, yes, I know. I'm a hater or whatever, but the following things are the things I would personally avoid and I'll explain why before I get into the recommendations themselves.
A lot of these devices you'll see below are Samsung devices, I've stated time and time again (here and elsewhere) that Samsung has a "let's chuck everything at the wall and see what sticks" mentality when it comes to devices and what they release. Anything and everything. They've released six watches in the past year! That's just watches! Phones they do similar for each model! Samsung S5, Samsung S5 Mini, Samsung S5 Mega and so on and so forth. The variations are all over the place and cover the entire spectrum, which is where we come to my real issue with Samsung.
The number of devices they release and variations of each one pretty much means some will get the official chop when it comes to updates. Updates are security. I mean that in a very literal sense. Updates close security exploits and holes and all that, they also give you new features and a ton of things that people like me drool over. Pessimippopotamus can chime in here. Tell us, buddy, what do you think of the Lollipop animations? Lol.
As I was saying though, Samsung has to make some hard decisions and with few exceptions if you buy anything that isn't a truly flagship model from them (think the S5 and Note 4) then you pretty much are guaranteed one thing and one thing only. You are not going to get any significant updates for the OS. It's possible you might, but if you're hedging your bets on that then I've got some lovely ocean front property in Arizona, if you buy that I'll throw the Golden Gate in free.
Samsung Galaxy Tab S (8.4 and 10.5)
These two are getting lumped in together because they're essentially the same tablet, albeit in different sizes. They also go to the top of the pile because when they were released numerous publications, some of whom I greatly respect, put things simply as, "The Best Tablets You Can Buy Right Now."
Yeah, hard to believe a Samsung anything tops this list as "best anything you can buy right now". It is worth remembering though that the tablet is "old" already, by a few months but in this world of technology which we live in a few months can mean life or death (cough OnePlus One). Technology updates so fast nowadays that something great today might be something meh tomorrow.
All joking aside, the devices themselves have magnificent displays. The kind of displays you can't help but admire. Screen off. Screen on. Screen off. Screen on.
I actually had to make a run in the past hour that required me stopping in to my local Best Buy and I just did that for a few minutes. Screen on. Ooooo. Screen off. Ahhhh. They know me there, so they know not too approach me when I'm looking at stuff. That and to keep customers away from me. (I love waiting til reps walk away and then informing people that they're being sold stuff they don't need.
(That pic taken from the Giz review of the device, Nexus 7 2013 on the left, Galaxy Tab S 8.4 on the right.)
As for the devices themselves, they are light and thin. This translates to easy one handed use, minus when you need two hands to do something on the device. Overall appearance is reminiscent of an oversized S5. Everything else is basically Samsung just sticking with what they know works. microSD card slot, buttons in the usual places (along with an IR blaster) and so on and so forth.
The standout area is the bezel, it's thin. To the point that it is almost like they fit a larger display into the body of a smaller device and you definitely notice it.
The only true downside is TouchWiz. Even the "not so bad as it was before" version of TouchWiz is a mess. My boss's dad has had three or four new phones in the past week and a half and navigating the settings was just "fuck you". It's like Samsung agreed to tone things down and then they decided to just screw with everything anyway and if asked replied with, "Yeah, totally toned it down. We wanted to make it worse. So when we didn't we figured that's what you all meant by 'tone things down'." On the bright side you can install a launcher to deal with some of the TouchWiz stuff, but it's built into the OS so you're going to have to deal with it eventually no matter what and that sucks to the nth degree.
Samsung also does love its bloatware. I won't even get started on that. Removal is a pain, you can disable it it and that's it. If you root a Samsung device though you can remove it outright, good luck taking OTA (over-the-air) updates though. You'll have to put it all back. (Unless you go the custom ROM route and then are rid of TouchWiz. Hallehuah! I have seen the light! Etc etc etc.)
Pessimippopotamus has come through and reminded me of another tablet worth recommending, well a few actually, but I'll lump them in together.
LG G Pad 7.0, 8.3 and 10.1
These three tablets are built in what is a very nice manner, the build quality isn't at all bad and I can honestly say if I didn't have a tablet already I'm happy with I'd probably pick one up, any of them is available for purchase at an insane price.
I won't even begin to address, much less know, why the 10.1 is chpeaer than the 8.1, but at that price if you're in the market for a 10" tablet you can certainly do worse.
As far as everything goes, it's the usual tablet and it is familiar looking for those of you with a good eye for that thing. Why? Nexus 4, anyone? That was the first thing I thought of when these first leaked seemingly ages ago. Everything you can find in Samsung's tablets you can find here for the most part (including some bloatware).
Overall, LG has made csomething that isn't bad, not even remotely. What issues does have are from the OS itself and LG's skin. If you've seen my LG G3 review then you've seen what the skin (and some of the bloatware) looks like. It remains the same on here.
As mentioned in the comment that reminded me of these tablets, they're great for casual use, just don't expect to do any heavy gaming on these devices. (I can't even say you can deal with any potential OS issues the tinkering way because only the LG G Pad 8.3 appears to be found over on the XDA forums. Sigh.)
For an incredibly thorough review, check out the one by Android Police, LG G Pad 8.3 Review: A Potentially Good Device Gets Lost In The Software. It basically says the same thing as what you've read up to this point though. Not bad, not great, minor issues here and there but something that is affordable and a possible purchase option for those looking. It's one real problem is how run of the mill it is, the competition outshines it for the most part, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't look into the device.
They can be found in most Best Buy locations, mine still has a ton of them, and you can see them for yourself firsthand an get a feel for them in store. If you're in the market for a tablet and don't want to spend too much on one, my best suggestion would be take a trip down the street and see one in person.
Apologies for forgetting about those three LG options. I don't know if that's happened because of how distracted I am or because that's how much of a push there's been by LG to get these known, which is to say no push at all.
In completely related news though, due to now remembering about the tablet entirely, AT&T has a promotion going in-store that basically gives you an LG G Pad 8.3 for $0.99 if you buy an LG G3, adding it to your monthly data pool (assuming you have a data pool) only sets you back $10. So that's another option for those of you who might be looking to upgrade to a new phone and want a tablet as well and are with AT&T.
Beyond that, I honestly can't think of anything else I'd personally recommend. If one of the ones above doesn't do it for you in one way or another thenthe other options out there are definitely worse and recommending any of them just wouldn't feel right. ASUS, Acer, Lenovo and all the other OEMs make tablets. There are a few I would say "aren't that bad", but if you put a gun to my head I would still hesitate to say "you should totally buy one of those".
So yeah, those are my recommendations for tablets and some info on each. I've actually gotta run out real fast, so questions and comments and all that can be left and I'll get to them when I get to them. The usual "Wednesday Android Update" post might come later today or if not tomorrow. I have a few things worth sharing on that end that really should be posted separately from this, thus the whole "my tablet picks" thing.