Best tablet 2013: our top 10 ranking
6th Dec 2013 | 17:10
Top tablets compared; which is best for you?
Best tablets: 10-6
What's the best tablet for 2013? Today's latest tablets compared and rated - constantly updated
Tablets are taking the world by storm. Just a few years ago they were an unknown for many people, but nowadays you've got more choice than you can shake a mildly agitated badger at.
And with choice comes decisions - difficult decisions. Do you eschew Apple's high prices, join the Android brigade and find the best iPad alternative? Or jump on board Apple's lovetrain, and use one of the most popular tablets on the planet?
The Amazon Kindle Fire HDX is incoming, so stay tuned for that - we've got high hopes for the internet retailers latest foray into affordable but high-powered tablets.
We've made it easy for you and pulled together the top 10 tablets of the moment available in the UK.
For those of you who are still new to the whole tablet game, let us fill you in on what one is:
In general terms, today's tablet computers sport touchscreens ranging in size from 7- up to 13-inches. These dimensions are by no means static, and boundaries can be blurred as smartphones get larger displays, a la the 5.7-inch Samsung Galaxy Note 3 and huge 6.44-inch Sony Xperia Z Ultra.
As with today's best smartphones, applications play a big role on tablets – once you've decided which of these tablets if right for you, check out our top app lists so you can get your fill of Temple Run, update your friends on Facebook and read the latest news, all on a bigger screen.
If none of the top 10 tablets here take your fancy then head on over to our tablet reviews pages, where you'll find in-depth reviews for many more models.
Let us know your thoughts on the top 10 (and whether you think we've got the order wrong) in the comment box below.
10. Tesco Hudl
Given it's price the Hudl is very well-specced, sports a solid build and a pretty decent 7-inch display. Stock Android will please those who are not fans of the various interface overlays which exist, and the addition of a microSD slot is useful.
Of course the Hudl isn't going to blow you away with super slick operation, although the quad-core processor means there's a chunk of power under the hood. But the less said about the camera, the better.
If you can stretch to £200, we'd still recommend the Google Nexus 7 as the best pound-for-pound tablet on the market. If you're looking at spending closer to half that, though, we can't see any compact tablet out there that tops the Hudl.
9. iPad mini
Apple's former CEO Steve Jobs famously slammed small tablets a few years back, leading many to believe the Cupertino-based firm would never dabble in the budget end of the market, but here we are.
In terms of consistency in the tablet market Apple cannot be matched, as it now lays claim to the top two places in our top 10, although the iPad mini is no longer the jewel in an already glistening crown - it's already been usurped by the upgraded Google Nexus 7 and its successor.
Now we have all the Retina magic we'd hoped for on the new Mini edition, the old Mini isn't a bad device - we'd just recommend you heavily look at the newer model before you plump for this one.
When it landed we dubbed the iPad mini "the best iPad Apple has ever created", and while the iPad Air now claims that title now, this pint sized slate is still an OK choice on a budget.
If the screen puts you off, fear not, for the iPad mini 2 with Retina display is now out - but at least it hasn't shoved the Mini off the list altogether.
8. Microsoft Surface Pro 2
*Ding, ding* Round 2. Microsoft's second generation Windows 8 slate is here, building on its predecessor and providing a well rounded tablet-come-laptop experience.
In terms of portability the Surface Pro 2 won't be winning any awards - it's big and it's heavy, but if you're looking for a powerful business tablet then the Pro 2 is one of the best (if not the best) around.
Microsoft has improved the Pro 2 in a numbers of ways from the original Surface Pro, with an updated Windows 8.1 OS, beefy Intel processor, improved battery life and two position kick-stand.
The Surface Pro 2 doesn't offer the best natural tablet experience, but if you're looking for a device which bridges the gap between laptop and tablet then this is one of the best on the market.
With a handy QWERTY keyboard, large screen and Microsoft's Office suite it's an obvious business machine, but also offers something rather different to the iPad and Android slates.
It's expensive though, so be ready to fork out at least £700 for the basic version - plus you'll need a keyboard on top of that.
7. Google Nexus 10
The 10.1 display is one of the biggest talking points on the Google Nexus 10. At 299 pixels per inch it's the highest resolution 10-inch tablet display on the planet - take that Apple, and your Retina screens.
If you're looking for something which is packing even more pixels you'll need to trade in screen size for the 7-inch, 323ppi Nexus 7.
It's a great performer too. Other than taking a while to process panoramic photos we never felt like it was struggling to keep up. It's fast and smooth whatever you throw at it.
Sure it may not be as stunning to look at, or as well built as an iPad, and the lack of expandable memory will irk some, but overall the Nexus 10 gives you a quality, big-screen Android experience which is not to be sniffed at.
The Google Nexus 10 is easily one of the best Android tablets on the market and while it's not quite as fantastic value for money as the Nexus 7, it certainly gives Apple's high-priced iPad Air a run for its money.
For the price you're paying, you won't be disappointed. Be warned though, a new Nexus 10 is expected to arrive soon.
6. Amazon Kindle Fire HDX 7
Leaner, meaner and more powerful than its predecessor, Amazon has stepped its game up with the Amazon Kindle Fire HDX 7 as it looks to keep pace with the new Nexus 7.
On paper Amazon's latest 7-inch tablet is more than up to the job with a 2.2GHz quad-core processor, 2GB of RAM, full HD display, up to 64GB of storage and prices starting at £200.
In reality however it's not the complete offering the Nexus 7 is, with Amazon's heavily modified Fire OS 3.0 stripping out a lot of the functionality of Android and putting the retailer's services front and centre.
For the customisation you give up, you gain simplicity and ease of use on the Kindle Fire HDX 7. We'd like to call this the sort of tablet you give to someone who is less than tech savvy, but those devices don't usually have such good hardware.
If you're a Prime subscriber, or heavily invested in Amazon's ecosystem, the Kindle Fire HDX 7 is a smart purchase. For those who want a little more functionality reach for a Nexus 7, or if you have deeper pockets check out the iPad mini 2.
Number 5: LG G Pad 8.3
5. LG G Pad 8.3
What's this? LG in at number two on our smartphone list and then top five for tablets? Could the brand be on a rebound?
Well, when you make an Android tablet with a design language like this one, perhaps it's time to quietly worry at Samsung. In place of plastic, it's got a lovely aluminium shell, and connectivity with other Android phones makes it a viable option for a wider range of users.
Some might question whether the Snapdragon 600 chip is too low-power for a tablet that costs nearly £270, but it allows for a sleeker design according to the Korean brand.
We really liked the G Pad 8.3, and it was only lower down in our list thanks to a slightly higher battery drain than we were expecting - plus the overlay can take some getting used to.
But its the closest competitor to the iPad Mini out there, in terms of design, and it's a tablet we're not ashamed to pull out of a stylishly slim bag.
Number 4: Sony Xperia Tablet Z
4. Sony Xperia Tablet Z
Sleek, powerful, iconic - these are all words used to describe the impressive tablet from Sony,
The brand has been plugging away in the mobile space for a few years, but now the combination of the Sony Xperia Z and Tablet Z show that the Japanese brand is bringing us devices that the public can finally really lust after.
And that's one of the things we liked about the Tablet Z: it's light, really light, yet looks premium too. Sony has surpassed expectation with this and delivered a tablet that wouldn't look out of place in a business class lounge or at the centre of a home entertainment network.
It's waterproof too - sure, you might not use that feature a whole lot, but it gives it an air of ruggedness that puts your mind at ease when manhandling something that costs so much.
With a super slim chassis, impressive screen and whole glut of Sony extras on board, the Xperia Tablet Z is one of the finest pieces of kit we've seen in 2013.
Its quality abounds the moment you take it out your bag, and the speedy internals and impressive weight are enough for us to recommend it wholeheartedly.
It's no iPad Air, but it does get us very excited about what Sony might be planning for 2014 in terms of a sequel.
Number 3: Google Nexus 7
3. Google Nexus 7
The new Nexus 7 takes over from the original 7-inch effort from Google in 2012, and packs a 1.5Ghz quad-core processor, 2GB of RAM and comes with either 16GB or 32GB of storage
Offered up at just 260g, it's the perfect tablet for slinging in a bag and hurtling down to the local supermarket, or is equally adept at being a long-haul saviour, with reams of apps, a decent slug of battery life and that all-new high-res 7-inch IPS display with a resolution of 1920 x 1200 display with 323 ppi.
It's a little more expensive than the previous model was at launch, with prices set to begin at £199 for the 16GB option and £239 for the 32GB variant - and it's worth remembering that the OS takes a portion of that storage too, to allow for the newly-arrived Android 4.4 KitKat to thrive.
Plus there's a 4G option from the outset... no, wait, that's not coming to the UK for a while either, but at least it is appearing.
But it has some top end features, a low-risk update policy and is built in a way that makes it feel both premium and robust enough to chuck around the house. That's a good mix in our eyes.
If you're considering a tablet now and are already dabbling in the Android ecosystem, we see no reason why shouldn't take the plunge with a Nexus 7.
If you haven't invested at all with Android, you're still in a good place to start. You could check out the iPad mini 2, which is advisable for those who have racked up a lot of App Store purchases, but it's not as affordable as the new Nexus 7.
The new iPad Mini has jumped into second spot by beating everything the new Nexus 7 has bar the price, but that's a tablet battle many expected. For the more sensible among you, looking for a decent tablet bargain, the new Nexus 7 is unbeatable.
Number 2: iPad mini 2 with Retina
2. iPad Mini 2 with Retina
Look at that - Apple's taken the top two spots in our tablet round up. You'll either love or hate that decision, but we can't deny that Apple has the best slates on the market right now.
The iPad Air is just ahead of the Mini 2, thanks to being more competitive on price and having a larger screen for all those iPad-friendly apps.
But this is far from a poor device. It's got reams of style from the aluminium back, a superfast A7 chip and that screen... well, it's what we should have had last year, but it still looks the business 12 months on.
The iPad Mini 2 is actually slightly cannibalised by the change to the Air's design - the larger tablet is now encroaching on the 'portable tablet' space.
That said, the Mini 2 has as many pixels in a smaller space, leading to greater sharpness for text and pics - plus there's no loss in power or battery life, which is a marvel in itself.
If only it was a little cheaper, we'd have two five star tablets on the market at the moment - but even still, if you're looking for a brilliant tablet in the smaller category (and aren't too worried about cost, you wealthy little so-and-so) then the Mini 2 is without compare.
Number 1: iPad Air
1. iPad Air
We have a new player at number one! If you've already read our iPad Air review this will come as no surprise, as Apple's latest slate is the first tablet ever to gain a five star rating on TechRadar.
People scoffed when Apple launched the first iPad, but the sector has grown exponentially since the first generation device landed and with the Air the Cupertino firm has finally nailed the formula.
Impressive design coupled with a thinner, lighter chassis makes for a premium and quite frankly beautiful tablet, and Apple's powerful A7 and M7 chips under the hood means it chews through even the toughest tasks in next to no time.
Of course the price tag is still high, but it's comparable to the likes of the Sony Xperia Tablet Z, finally making it a contender on an even playing field.... and with that in mind, there's no competition.
"It's not just Apple's best tablet, it's the only tablet you should be considering if you're keen on a larger screen." That's what we said in the verdict of our in-depth iPad Air review. While the Xperia Tablet Z is a brilliant tablet, the Air just takes things to the next level.
If you want the best tablet on the market then look no further. The iPad Air has reclaimed top spot for Apple and it's going to take some beating.