Best Windows 8 tablets: the top Windows 8 tablets we've reviewed
21st Mar 2014 | 08:47
The latest Windows 8 tablets and hybrids
Windows 8 tablets: reviews and hands ons
Microsoft's been pushing tablet computers for the best part of a decade, so you can imagine how happy the success of the iPad 4, Samsung Galaxy Note 8.0, Google Nexus 7, Sony Xperia Tablet Z and other great tablets makes them.
But Microsoft doesn't give up easily, and Windows 8 tablets are with us, both in the form of full-blown Windows 8 Intel-powered devices such as Sony's Tap 20 and Microsoft's own Surface Pro and Windows RT ARM-based tablets such as Microsoft's own Surface RT, soon to be replaced by the Surface 2.
Before you dismiss Windows 8 tablets as a flash in the pan, Windows 8 tablets aren't one kind of device.
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We're seeing a huge variety of devices, ranging from simple slates to fully convertible laptop-tablet hybrids, including those where keyboards slide out from beneath the screen, as well as those with styluses and detachable keyboards. We've even seen tablet/all-in-one hybrids. If it's a plain laptop you're after, then check out our best Windows 8 laptops article.
There's as much variety in the Windows 8 tablet range as there is in the entire catalogue of tablets available running all the other operating systems.
So it really is up to you to decide what sort of Windows 8-powered tablet you want. Do you want to use it mainly for reading, playing games, typing out documents on your commute or sketching ideas for a new artwork?
To help you decide, here's a rundown of the Windows 8 tablets that we've reviewed so far.
Acer Iconia W4 - £250 / $299 (around AUS$331)
The Acer Iconia W4 ships with Windows 8.1 and the starting model has a fourth-generation Intel Atom processor. Generally we'd recommend this for casual users, as it will struggle with too many apps open. If you're mostly interested in browsing the web, watching videos and reeling off a stream of tweets and facebook posts then this will do the job very nicely.
Our model came with 32GB, which isn't much to start with and shrinks even further to 15GB once you factor in the OS. Connectivity also isn't particularly strong: there's a MicroSD slot for boosting that meagre storage, but only one micro-USB which means you'll need either a converter or Bluetooth peripherals.
So far you may be thinking it doesn't sound that exciting. It's fortunate then that the W4 has one of the best screens we've seen to date. It's not 1080p, but it is an exceptionally vibrant IPS variant with good viewing angles, which makes it excellent for watching a movie with a friend.
The Iconia W4 also comes with a free copy of Microsoft Office Home & Student 2013 and took our heavy testing in its stride, marking over 9 hours of battery life.
Lighter than an iPad Air but a little thicker than an iPad mini, in all there's a lot to like about the Acer Iconia W4, particularly the price.
Microsoft Surface RT - £279 / $329 (around AU$389)
The most famous of all the Windows RT tablet-laptop hybrids, Microsoft's Surface RT is distinctively colourful and clicky, as we've all no doubt seen and heard in the TV ads.
It's also newly discounted as well as being square and sturdy, and has a fresh VaporMg coating and a 10.6-inch widescreen that works well when you want to snap apps side by side in Windows.
The clip-on Touch Cover feels very light, and typing on its flat surface takes some getting used to. Alternatively the more expensive Type Cover feels more like a normal laptop keyboard, if that's what you'd prefer.
Its kickstand supports the screen at a handy angle in laptop mode, though the processor struggles with demanding graphics more than a laptop's would.
The screen is bright and clear but relatively low res. But ultimately, a lot of the Surface RT's success depends on how many desirable apps are added to the Windows Store, since you can't download and run apps from elsewhere.
Asus Transformer Book T100 - £349 / $571 (around AU$640)
Asus is waving the flag for Windows 8.1, with this quite a stylish yet affordable convertible 10.1-inch tablet.
Its affordable price means we can't grumble too loudly at the average Intel Atom Z3740 Bay Trail chip paired with only 2GB of memory. We have praise though, for the battery life, which is a none too shabby result nearing 11 hours. We did have one caveat with the battery – we found that it takes 6 hours to charge the T100 back up again once you've drained it.
On its own the Transformer is about as heavy as the iPad Air, but once docked it's much thicker and heavier. Although the keyboard clips easily enough into the tablet, we found it quite a cramped experience and in terms of typing comfort, we recommend using it to write Legend of the Fall-length novelettes rather than seemingly endless epics like A Song of Ice and Fire.
The screen is decent too with a 1,366x768 display, which means it's not Full HD, but with a 170-degree viewing angle you can watch Game of Thrones together, if you can't be bothered to read the books.
We'd have also liked to see onboard LTE/4G support, but overall for the price of the Asus Transformer Book T100 it makes an appealing laptop/tablet combination.
Dell Latitude 10 - £375 / $500 (around AU$600)
Business-focused, the Dell Latitude 10 runs Windows 8 and features fingerprint scanners and smart card readers, offering something a little different.
The docking station that comes with the tablet also boasts four USB ports and other connections for linking the device to an external monitor and keyboard, in order to use it as a full work machine.
It also comes with the ability to swap the battery for a spare, which is again an unusual feature in tablet world. The tablet also works with a stylus, if you buy one separately, and comes with an 8MP rear camera with flash and autofocus, and a 2MP front-facing video call camera.
Nokia Lumia 2520 - £399 / $399 (around AU$450)
Competitively priced and with a playful design style, there's actually quite a lot to like about the Nokia Lumia 2520. For starters it offers a bright 10.1 widescreen display that's capable of Full HD (1,920x1,080), has built-in LTE and array of ports and accessories.
We were surprised it didn't have a kickstand, which means you'll have to trump up an extra £150 ($160/AUS$190) to use Nokia's Power Keyboard, although the keyboard will add an extra couple of hours to the already excellent battery life.
Our general testing saw the Lumia 2520 last a very agreeable 10.5 hours. We found charging it back up a lot less painful too – it took about an hour, which is a fifth of the time required for the Asus Transformer Book T100, for instance.
We also found that the Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 processor zipped along and is backed by 2GB RAM, but that speed is for one reason and our main caveat with the Lumia 2520 – Nokia has chosen to use Windows RT 8.1 instead of Windows 8.1, which means many of the big-name apps are still missing: so no Dropbox or Spotify for instance. Although there are workarounds, like Spotlite in Spotify's case, RT may well restrict its usefulness to you.
On the plus side, you do get a free copy of Microsoft Office Home & Student 2013 and what apps that are available are very fast and responsive.
The Nokia Lumia is an impressive piece of hardware and as long as you're happy with what Windows 8.1 RT can supply, it's quite a compelling choice.
Lenovo IdeaPad Miix 10 - £419 / $449 (around AU$497)
A Windows 8 tablet with a keyboard that has the lighter specs of a Windows 8 RT? That, at least, is the ambition of the IdeaPad Miix 10.
Lenovo goes about achieving this by using a Clover Trail Intel Atom Z2760 processor paired with 2GB of RAM, inside the smart and well-made tablet. This keeps the design thin and light while still being able to handle full Windows 8 OS.
The 10.1-inch touch screen with a resolution of 1,366x768 is also a good addition. This is an IPS with decent viewing angles but not 1080p.
Our performance results weren't fantastic – as long as you don't need the Miix 10 for anything too intensive it will handle most things steadily. Unfortunately, the battery life wasn't that spectacular either. Our intensive tests saw it manage just under 4 hours, but that result isn't helped by the fact that the keyboard drains power rather than supplying it with an extra battery.
Overall, this is a capable tablet that's solidly built but it's not going to give you top-end performance.
Toshiba Satellite W30t - £600 / $997 (around AU$1,103)
The Satellite W30t comes with an easily detachable keyboard, two batteries (one behind the screen and the other in the keyboard) and sports the latest generation of the ultra-low power Core i3 chip.
All this mid-range hybriding cleverness makes for a decent package, but it doesn't entirely add up to the perfect result we'd have liked.
That low-voltage Core i3-4020Y means there's enough power to handle plenty of programs, but it's still a throttled performance from a latest generation Haswell chip, which has been coupled with one of Intel's weaker integrated graphics options.
Additionally, we found the two batteries actually run in tandem, which means they offer close to 4 hours of heavy use, which is good but could have been so much more.
Moving on to storage, the 500GB hard drive is perfectly adequate but we'd prefer to see solid-state for that light and more responsive tablet feel.
As most hybrids tend to, the Satellite W30t's design suffers from trying to appeal to two different audiences at once, which is best reflected in the screen. This offers an IPS display that's bright enough, if limited in colour accuracy, but when turned into a tablet it's just too heavy and chunky.
The Satellite W30t delivers a quality build, but it's not the perfect hybrid.
Microsoft Surface Pro - £639 / US$799 (around AU$889)
Microsoft's original full Windows 8 tablet-laptop hybrid, the Surface Pro, has the same look and the same VaporMg coat as the Surface RT, but has a tweaked kickstand and magnetic connectors for power and the two tear-off keyboards.
It also has a higher resolution 10.6-inch touchscreen with excellent blacks, a smooth, pressure-sensitive stylus and an Intel Core i5 processor.
It can run any application you throw at it, and has USB and DisplayPort connections, but it's heavier than other tablets and has a shorter battery life than the Surface RT.
Toshiba WT310 £650/$1,079 (around AU$1,196)
We tend to think of the Lenovo Yoga as being very flexible. We can't help it, there's all those billboards and the name just screams it, but the WT310 is also a flexible Windows 8 Pro tablet.
Inside, the WT310 has a capable Haswell Core i5 processor, 4GB of RAM and a 128GB SSD, which in spec terms squares it up against the Surface Pro, but to compare them in design terms would be a bit embarrassing for the Toshiba. We're not saying the WT310 is poorly made, it's just very functional and targeted at the education and business market.
The 11.6-inch screen is also solid quality and Full HD but not the brightest, particularly outdoors, which is a shame as the plasticky WT310 is extremely portable. The WT310 does support pens too, which is a good extra.
One major drawback, aside from looks, is that it's not that quiet in operation, but its specs are impressive and we see this as a faithful companion for travelling business people or kids that need something reliable for homework (away from sneering Apple aficionados).
Lenovo Yoga 11S review - £680 / US$800 (around AU$889)
While other manufacturers are busy pointing fingers as to why the PC seems to be struggling in the face of competition from that Cupertino-based company and myriad tablets, Lenovo is both pumping out solid Windows 8 devices while at the same time, turning a profit. Which brings us to the Lenovo Yoga 11S.
Of course, this isn't Lenovo's first time on the yoga mat. The 13-inch Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga was released last year to very favorable reviews. The appropriately named 11s is a size down. At just 11.6-inches, it's the smallest form factor that can support a full QWERTY keyboard.
Acer Aspire P3 - £700 / US$900 (around AU$1,250)
Acer has upped its game in recent years, and it's easy to forget that just two years ago the Taiwanese giant made its money peddling identi-kit budget laptops by their millions.
The company has since turned around its reputation and is responsible for the glorious Acer Aspire S7 - one of finest Ultrabooks out there - and has also got chins wagging about the Acer Iconia W3 - the world's first 8-inch Windows 8 tablet - as well as the Acer Aspire R7 and Acer Aspire P3Acer Aspire P3 review
Microsoft Surface Pro 2 - £719 / $1,162 (around AU$1,212)
We'd like to say the new Surface Pro 2 model is more than an iteration on its predecessor – but it isn't really. Microsoft has certainly been aggressive in fixing some of the key faults in the original, but it's not exactly eaten its progenitor alive and pummelled its competitors to a pulp. The end result though is still something better, faster and longer-lasting than its forebear.
For instance, it now has the latest Haswell processor, and a nippy 64GB of SSD storage, which as well as offering solid Windows 8.1 performance will mean you can play the likes of Skyrim on the train. The processor upgrade also means that the Pro 2 has more staying power, lasting a busy 7 hours of general use.
Other enhancements we noted were a kickstand that's now adjustable and improved keyboard covers. The Surface Pro 2 hasn't slimmed down through its refinements, however it's still quite a chunky and heavy tablet. The display also hasn't improved either, although it probably didn't need to as it's a crisp 10.6-inch IPS screen with 1,920x1,080 pixels, but a solitary USB port feels like a throwback.
Ultimately, it's probably better to think of the Surface Pro 2 as a laptop in the guise of a tablet and one that offers real productivity gains for anyone firmly entrenched in the Windows ecosystem.
Dell XPS 18 - £1,000 / $1,350 (around AU$1,650)
Essentially an 18-inch Windows 8 tablet crossed with an all-in-one PC, the Dell XPS 18 has a charging stand, Bluetooth mouse and keyboard that turn it into a desktop machine, as well as touchscreen controls and a stand which mean it works on its own, though it doesn't offer stylus support.
Its screen is Full HD, and the machine packs an Intel Core i5 processor, 8GB of RAM, a 500GB hard drive and speedy 32GB SSD into a slim 18mm body. It just offers two USB 3.0 ports, an SD card slot and an audio jack, with no more connections in the charging dock.
The system feels quick, if not the most powerful around, and the keyboard is comfortable to use, though trackpads are better than mice when using Windows 8, so we often tended to navigate with the touchscreen instead of the mouse. Battery life is a little disappointing, largely due to the beautiful big screen sucking it all up.
Lenovo Thinkpad Helix - £1,800 / $2,000 (around AU$2,955)
Flexibility is the big selling point of the Lenovo Thinkpad Helix, which works as a standalone 11.6-inch tablet when removed from its keyboard dock or when unclipped, turned around, clipped back into the dock and folded back over the keys.
It also works as a small laptop when clipped in a normal laptop position or in 'presentation mode', where the screen faces your audience with the keyboard around the back. It also comes with a pressure-sensitive Wacom stylus that's designed for artists, and boasts 3G, 4G and NFC support.
Panasonic ToughPad FZ-G1 - £2,060 / $2,140 (around AU$3,380)
Rugged and splash-proof, the 10.1-inch rubber-coated Panasonic ToughPad FZ-G1 isn't the best looking tablet around, but it does run full Windows 8 Pro.
It comes with a stylus that can be used as a right mouse or customised for your own controls, and the tablet can reportedly survive drops of 4m (13ft).
An Intel Core i5 processor and 4GB RAM help Windows 8 to boot up in six seconds, and gesturing through the interface works well. The battery is removable and lasts for around eight hours, and you can choose to upgrade that, the storage or the processor, or even add a rear camera to accompany the 1.3MP webcam around the front.