iOS Tablets

Whether or not Apple's tablet experience is a desirable one is certainly open to debate, but it's hard to deny that the iPad still remains the tablet that all other tablets have to measure up to and are compared against. Last month Apple updated its iPad lineup with the new iPad Air 2 and iPad Mini 3, and removed the fourth generation iPad. As it stands, Apple has a larger selection of tablets than it has in the past, but whether or not some of them are worth buying is another story. Right now the entry price for an iPad is $249, and it scales as high as $829. For the purposes of these recommendations, we'll be evaluating the tablets based mostly on the base configuration, with additional consideration about the price of storage and cellular upgrades compared to other tablets.

For the most budget minded user, the $249 entry point buys you the original iPad Mini. This is effectively the same hardware platform that shipped with the iPad 2 in March of 2011. With its ageing specifications and low-resolution display, it's not something I would really recommend to anyone, even someone on a very tight budget looking for an iPad. An additional $50 makes things much more interesting, as $299 buys you the iPad Mini 2 which was originally launched as the iPad Mini with Retina Display. Although the display's color gamut is effectively the same as the original Mini, the 2048x1536 display is an enormous improvement over the original. The internal hardware is also superior, with Apple's A7 SoC that still seems to be holding its own a year after release. At $299, the iPad Mini 2 is definitely a worthwhile consideration, even if the color gamut leaves much to be desired.

At the higher price points of $399 and $499 we have three different tablets. For $399 you can choose between the original iPad Air or the recently released iPad Mini 3, and for $499 you can get Apple's new flagship tablet, the iPad Air 2. With the $499 price point it's not really a difficult decision if you're set on buying an iPad, as the Air 2 is thinner and significantly faster than its predecessor. It also includes Touch ID which is a much more desirable feature with the recent launch of iOS 8 and Apple Pay, although not as much of a must-have feature as on a phone.

Choosing between the iPad Air and the iPad Mini 3 is more difficult, as both devices share the same overall specifications. The big differences are obviously the size, the superior display calibration on the iPad Air, and the inclusion of Touch ID on the Mini 3. The A7 SoC in the Air is also clocked 100MHz faster and maintains performance longer due to the heat spreader and lack of stacked RAM, but for most users this isn't going to have many real world implications. I think that I would lean toward the iPad Air as my recommended iPad for the $399 price point, unless the user really needs the smaller size and wants Touch ID. In all other circumstances, the Mini 2 provides the same small tablet experience as the Mini 3 at $100 less.

There's one more factor to consider, and that's the prices of the tablets after storage upgrades, as well as the availability of those upgrades. Apple's pricing scheme for NAND has traditionally been a 16GB base model, with an additional $100 bringing you to 32GB, $200 bringing it to 64GB, and more recently a $300 boost would bring the storage up to 128GB. With the launch of the new iPhones, and subsequently the new iPads, Apple adopted a new storage pricing scheme with the same 16GB base model, but with the $100 and $200 jumps bringing you to 64GB and 128GB respectively, which is a $100 reduction for both of those upgrades compared to the original cost. The iPad Mini 2 and iPad Air now have an upgrade to 32GB for $50, which I would consider a worthwhile investment as 16GB can disappear awfully fast on a tablet.

Overall, I would say that my recommendations are the iPad Mini 2 for the entry level spot at $299, the iPad Air at $399, and the iPad Air 2 as the flagship at $499. There are obviously considerations to make about size and storage, but in general I think these are the best devices that Apple offers at their respective price points.

Intro Android Tablets
Comments Locked


View All Comments

  • BuddyRich - Saturday, November 29, 2014 - link

    I just ordered a Dell Venue Pro signature edition 64 from the MS Store which was only 229 (it had a 120 discount for black friday but it also sold out) should be here shortly. $100 more for 1" of screen and 1GB of RAM is alot but I wanted to ensure I could get a working OTG+Charge cable, Dell sells one, and early tests indicate the Stream 7 doesn't work with with the cheap OTG Y cables. OTG works but it does charge. Maybe something like a Vener8 or +port will work but for what I want to use it for I need charge and USB port access at the same time and these things only have the one port. Otherwise at $99, the Stream 7 is like a Raspberry PI only with a screen (and a version of windows). They are PCs, you can install Linux on these things but with much better hardware than the Pi. Install XBMC and you are better than the XBMC version of Android and you still get a touch interface for fairly cheap.

    This will be my first Windows tablet, but Ive used windows 8 and 8.1 since its release and everything Ive read says these tablets should get a free update to Win 10 in April or whenever its released.

    I used to be an Apple fan boy, going from iPod touch to 3GS to iPhone5 and bought the iPad3 for my first tablet. I dabbled with jailbreaking with the ipod and 3GS but by the time ios4 came out it had most of the features I wanted stock so haven't jailbroken since.

    Then in Nov. of last year I bought a N7 over the iPad Mini for the screen quality and to try something different as iOS7 killed my performance on the iPad3. It wasn't bad on the 5. 7.1 went a long way to fixing this, but there was nothing really new and I found the ios experience to be getting stale. Having dropped my 5 and cracking the screen in May of this year I ordered a Nexus 5 and sold the iphone 5, and have been android ever since, save my iPad and old 3GS I use as remotes and music streamers. I was disappointed with the N9 so don't know what I'll buy next. I want to stick to stock Android but I was intrigued by the OLED screens in the Tab S tablets, but dislike the Samsung UI touchwiz stiff. I do find the Android app ecosystem offers more open apps but also trails iOS in app availability and app features where they exist on both. Its getting better but its not there yet, mostly the games, iOS is usually the first platform where something gets released (see Touchstone for example). Otherwise I love the fact I can run a file explorer on Android and tinker with a bunch of things I couldn't on iOS but with 4.4 and 5 more and more things require root to tinker with and the OS is becoming more closed.
  • mhaubr2 - Saturday, November 29, 2014 - link

    I've been using the Asus TF700 as my "take everywhere" office device for the past 2 years, and I'm totally sold on the idea of an Android convertible. I can just shove it in a folio and take it everywhere - access corporate email & calendar, take notes using the keyboard, and because Android has pointer support with a bluetooth mouse I can remote into my Windows desktop and it's actually usable (even using the tiny trackpad on the keyboard dock). The TF700 is getting a bit long in the tooth, though, and the newest flagship TF303 isn't yet available in the US (assuming it ever will be). I recently picked up the TF103 for $150 for home use and although the screen is crap I really can't complain about the features for the price. Other folks at work have been getting iPads, and but my Asus is far more useful. I'm surprised Android convertibles haven't gotten more traction for this use case.
  • Hemant0010 - Sunday, November 30, 2014 - link

    Microsoft Surface Pro series of tablets bridged the gap between Laptop and Tablet very well. Also, iPad Air 2 and Mini 3 are one of the best Tablets around right now and are also launched in India now. Know more about the price in India and other details -
  • ruthan - Sunday, November 30, 2014 - link

    Sorry boys but some graphics, headers.. would be nice, this is wall of text.
  • jhh - Sunday, November 30, 2014 - link

    I bought a Nexus 10 on the day it launched. While I don't use it for gaming, the performance is adequate for my use. But, the battery is losing capacity, as it shuts down at 50%. I've read other people saying their Nexus 10 shuts down at 70% available. There are no legitimate options for battery replacement other than returning the tablet to Samsung, and not clear that they have any actual new batteries, or only old batteries with few cycles.

    Tablets without an aftermarket replacement battery source are doomed to a 2-3 year lifetime. If there was a decent tablet with assurances of 6 years of after-sale service available, they would be most likely to get my replacement business. But, they would have to be profitable on after-market services, not just new tablet sales. I hate creating all this electronic waste.
  • PC Perv - Sunday, November 30, 2014 - link

    Read GSMArena's Tablet guide. Much more thorough and unbiased unlike Brandon Chester's propaganda-ridden crap.
  • PokerGuy - Monday, December 1, 2014 - link

    As a long time AT reader I'm very disappointed by this tablet guide/review. It's fine for an audience that doesn't know (or want to know) the details, but rather just high level guidance on what to buy at the store. For a site like AT where the readers are tech savy, it's pretty lousy. I expect more from AT.

    I also don't understand how the G tab pro 8.4 isn't recommended over the N7. I can't see any reasons why the N7 is superior, and it actually costs more. Am I missing something?
  • Poik - Monday, December 1, 2014 - link

    I agree. The problem with a Nexus 7 or 9 is storage. Unless you have an unlimited plan 32GB isn't enough in this day and age and not including SD expandability makes the problem worse. I get that Nexus has never done that but limiting the capacity to 32GB really limits what I can do with it. I want to get a tablet for a trip I'm taking in January but the cost of a tablet with a decent amount of storage is rather crazy.
  • blzd - Monday, December 1, 2014 - link

    The Galaxy Tab Pro 8.4 is cheaper than an N7? What world do you live in?

    The MSRP for the N7 is/was $200. As Anandtech mentioned, Samsung's exynos chips are slow and disappointing even compared to the now outdated Snapdragon 400. That wouldn't be too bad except it's trying to power the slow and disappointing skin known as TouchWiz which makes it feel even slower. Not to mention that the N7 has Android 5.0 already so is light years ahead in software while remaining a good $100 cheaper.
  • stlc8tr - Monday, December 1, 2014 - link

    The Tab Pro 8.4 is available now for $200 (from Best Buy and a few other sites). The MSRP of the N7 was $229 but since Google isn't selling the N7 anymore, there's no direct comparison. New 16GB N7's are going for $200 on eBay.

    Also, the Tab Pro 8.4 does not use an Exynos. It's a Snapdragon 800 @ 2.3Ghz with Adreno 330 GPU.

    As for TouchWiz, it's an acquired taste. There are pluses and minuses. I don't mind it as much now that I've used in for awhile.

Log in

Don't have an account? Sign up now