General information about touchscreen tablets
First made popular by Apple’s iPad in 2010, digital tablets became all the rage, but their sales numbers have started to decline in the last few years. In 2015, 200 million tablets, 300 million computers (of which 200 million were portable computers) and around 2 billion smartphones (!) were sold worldwide.
While tablets have taken some of the market share away from entry-level laptops (especially netbooks), they remain a useful addition to a desktop or laptop computer. As you will see in the tablet comparison at the end of this article, tablets are becoming ever more affordable. They are especially useful for surfing the internet, keeping up to date with social media sites such as twitter or facebook, for reading email, playing simple games (casual gaming), reading electronic books, newspapers and magazines and also for taking and reviewing photographs. Their greatest advantage is their extreme mobility which allows them to be used anywhere at home with fewer constraints than offers a portable computer which is generally heavier and less autonomous. Tablets also have their downside: they are poorly suited to office work as well as any usage that requires a lot of text input (virtual keyboards are not as practical as real ones). Their overall performance is generally mediocre, which is a major limiting factor in their use for such things as video editing, performing complex calculations, photo editing and playing the most recent 3D games.
It is one of a tablet’s most essential elements. The screen’s diagonal is in general between 5 and 12 inches, the most popular models having a screen size of between 7 and 10 inches. The 7 inch models are better adapted to usage in the outside world due to their low weight (300g) which allows them to be easily transported as opposed to their 10 inch counterparts (600g) which are more enjoyable to use, but are generally better suited to home use. The most recent screens are generally of the following types: IPS, PLS, MVA or AMOLED. It is recommended to avoid TN technology which can usually be found on entry-level tables. The minimal acceptable resolution for tablets today is 1024×600 for 7 inch models and 1280×800 for the 10 inch models. The best tablets in these two dimensions are adopting more and more frequently full HD resolution: 1920×1080,1920×1200, or even higher.
The operating system
Now a days, the market is dominated by two operating systems: Apple iOS which holds less than a third of market share. Android from Google accounts for almost the other two thirds of the market. Microsoft has less than 5% market share with their Windows 10 models.
The differences between the latest versions of iOS and Android OS are minimal, moreover the two systems allow access to their respective online app stores, each of which offers millions of free and paying apps (Google play in the case of Android and the App Store for Apple). It is well understood that these two systems are incompatible will each other and it is not possible to migrate applications from one to the other.
Windows 10 is especially present in the convertible tablet market (this is to say laptop computers with detachable keyboards). The apps available for this operating system on the Windows store are much less numerous than those available for the other systems.
It is in this regard that tablets distinguish themselves the most from PCs. In actuality, the majority of tablets (and smartphones) operate with a processor fabricated under the ARM license, while the majority of PCs have x86 processors made by Intel and AMD. The advantage of ARM processors is their low power consumption which gives tablets and smartphones a superior autonomy (relatively speaking!).
At the moment, there are three dominant ARM architectures which can be found in tablets: the older Cortex A9, the newer Cortex A7 and the Cortex A15; a Cortex A12 lies somewhere in between the A7 and the A15. There is also the successor to the A15: the Cortex A17. The Cortex A15 is fast but consumes quite a lot of energy (which means lower autonomy). This contrasts with the A7 which uses much less energy, but which has much inferior performance. The aging Cortex A9 is barely more powerful that the A7 and has a higher power consumption. Its most significant advantage is that it is inexpensive to produce. These A7, A9 and A15 processors exist in two, four and even eight core versions. The Nvidia Tegra 3 (Cortex A9) and especially the Tegra 4 (Cortex A15 quad-core) are high performance models adapted for gaming.
Tablets with the Windows 10 OS usually operate with an x86 processor (usually an Intel Atom), this makes them have lower autonomy and their responsiveness is often inferior to other models. Windows RT is a version of Windows 8 that functions with ARM processors. Unfortunately, X86 software is incompatible with this type of system. In the same way as with iOS and Android OS, Windows RT can only execute applications certified by Microsoft and made available on the Windows Store.
Buyer’s guide: our selection of the best touchscreen tablets.
In this part of our tablet comparison, we have selected the best models of tablets to satisfy all types of users and all budget ranges.
In this buyer’s guide, we have decided to classify the tablets into two categories: smaller than 8 inches (mini tablets) and larger than 8 inches (the standard being 10 inches). We then selected the best products in these two categories trying to propose models representative of the three major operating systems (Android, iOS and Windows) and satisfying all types of budgets. The prices vary between approximately 150 and 900 euros. It is possible to find even less expensive tablets (in supermarkets for example), but their quality is so poor that we strongly recommend against purchasing one.、
Touchscreen tablets smaller than 9 inches (Around 7 inch Tablet)
Within this category, the Ipad mini 4 from Apple (iOS) has played the role of precursor and remains an excellent choice in it’s Retina version (2048×1536 resolution). Its aesthetic appeal and its autonomy (around 10h) are impressive, unfortunately this tablet is sold for a fairly high price (328 dollars for the 16 GB model and up to 442 dollars for the 128 GB model). The competition no longer lags far behind the tablets offered by Apple except maybe in the aura generated by its brand name.
The Asus ZenPAD 8 (Z580C) is our preferred model in the low-budget category (150 dollars). This tablet has sufficient performance to play games and has a pretty good autonomy (7h). More expensive is the Samsung Galaxy Tab S2 8.4”. It has the Android OS and is quite powerful and sleek. It also has an excellent display: an Amoled 8.4” with 2048×1536 resolution.
Touchscreen tablets larger than 9 inches (Around 10 inch Tablet)
In this category, the number of models available is truly staggering. The price range is also very large. It is possible to find 10 inch models of reasonable quality retailing for 200 dollars, but there are also Windows 10 models selling for dollars euros which are closer to portable computers.
The Asus Zenpad 10 (ZD300) models are very interesting because of their attractive price tag of less than 200 dollars. Their performance and autonomy (7h) are good, but their screen is basic and of low resolution: 1280×800. For those people on a tight budget, we recommend the 10 inch model.
The famous Samsung Galaxy Tab S2 10.5”is very similar to the Sony Xperia Tablet Z4 (10.1”). These two tablets are our preferred Android models and retail for around 400 and 560 dollars respectively. They are lightweight, sleek and powerful enough for gaming. They also boast high-quality screens.
The iPad Air 2 is without a doubt the reference in this category for iOS models. Its main advantage is the superior quality of its display which has 2048×1536 resolution with high-fidelity color rendering. It is an excellently designed, lightweight tablet for which one must pay the price as is often the case with Apple products (400 dollars for the 16 GB model and 500 dollars for the 128 GB version).
The Huawai MediaPad M2 is also an interesting high-end model. It has high-performance characteristics, even for gaming, and has good autonomy and an excellent screen. It is however quite expensive.
In this category, there are tablets which run Windows 10. For example, the Lenovo Miix 700 which has a good performance to price ratio and has a real keyboard. Our preferred models within this category are the Surface tablets such as the new Microsoft Surface Pro 4 64 GB which runs Windows 10 and has a 12.3 inch, 2736×1824 resolution display. This model benefits from a real keyboard – which is detachable – and from a Core i5 processor, 8 GB of RAM, and from a 128 to 256 GB SSD hard drive. Unfortunately it is, as a consequence, heavier (800g), less autonomous (6h) and more expensive. This tablet is designed to be an alternative to a laptop computer.