Best business tablets: 10 great slates for work
15th Dec 2012 | 09:07
The best options for business tablet users
Tablets are everywhere, but which is the right one for your business? TechRadar Pro chooses the top ten tablets for business users; from the tablet with the greatest wow-factor, through to the tablet that will get you through the day on one charge.
If you're confused over which operating system to buy we offer a quick guide to iOS vs Android vs Windows 8 at the bottom of this article.
In no particular order, here are the top ten tablets for business;
1/ Apple iPad (3rd generation)
Price from £399
If you're looking to impress clients and contacts by pulling the slickest tablet in town out of your bag during meetings then look no further than the third generation iPad.
Sure, it's almost a millimetre thicker than the iPad 2 but that extra thickness will be forgiven as soon as you lay your eyes on the fantastic Retina display, which boasts and incredible 2048 x 1536 resolution. Presentations will look absolutely stunning on this 9.7-inch screen and, if the 264ppi density isn't creating enough of a stir, you can always beam the action up to a big screen TV by teaming the iPad up with the inexpensive Apple TV.
Apple's App Store also boasts a wealth of superb office-based solutions such as Pages, Keynote and Numbers – proving that the iPad is much more than a plaything.
There are also some brilliant third party apps to help with productivity such as Documents to Go and, by using cloud platforms such as Dropbox (which offers fantastic packages for small businesses), it's also incredibly easy to keep your files in sync between your office and your tablet.
Apple, of course, offers its own syncing ecosystem – iCloud – although you'll need a Mac office setup to really make the most of this.
Read the full Apple iPad 3rd generation review
2/ Asus Transformer Pad Infinity
Price from £500
Asus specialises in hybrid tablets that blur the boundaries between slates and laptops and the Transformer Pad Infinity is the new flagship device of the range.
Packing a powerful 1.6GHz quad-core Nvidia Tegra 3 processor, along with 1GB of RAM and a Full 1080p HD display, the Infinity will smash through even the most demanding graphical tasks with ease.
But it's the keyboard dock that will really make a difference with your tablet-based work activity. Not only does it turn the Infinity into a full-functioning Android powered laptop by offering physical QWERTY action, a multi-touch trackpad and USB connectivity, it also packs its own battery that provides up to seven hours of extra battery life.
The keyboard features 254mm chiclet keys, the same size that you'll find on one of Asus' 10-inch netbooks, and is comfortable to use and never feels cramped.
With regular SD and microSD expansion, a Micro-HDMI port and a connector dock that allows for seamless syncing between the Transformer Pad Infinity and your PC, this really is the most complete business tablet.
Read the full Asus Transformer Pad Infinity review here
3/ Storage Options Scroll Extreme 9.7 Tablet PC
Prices from £160
Undoubtedly, the best tablet for under £200 is the Nexus 7 but if you're looking to equip your business with a bigger screen device while at the same time keeping the cost on the lower side you could do worse than investing in this option from British company Storage Options.
The Scroll Extreme 9.7 may not boast an awe inspiring spec sheet but it is still a nice looking machine with a build quality that exceeds its modest cost, with a decent hardware setup to boot.
It's powered by a 1.2GHz dual-core CPU and Android 4.0 runs surprisingly quick. You may get a bit of lag when switching between homescreens or loading up apps but, overall, it's a decent experience and more than acceptable for the price.
On the sides of the Scroll there's a wealth of ports, with no fewer than six sockets for you to extend the usability of the slate.
Weighing 620g it's light enough to chuck in your bag for a day out in the field and its curved edges make it pleasing to hold. There's 8GB of onboard storage, which isn't too bad – although you'll probably have to make use of the microSD expansion if you want to store larger files.
Battery life is superb thanks to the substantial 7800mAH power pack on board. You'll comfortably get between 10 and 15 hours of regular use, and days of standby.
Read the full Storage Options Scroll Extreme 9.7 Tablet PC review here
4/ Apple iPad 2
Price from £329
You may be wondering why we're including the iPad 2, especially given that there's a new Apple slate in town. The answer is a simple one – money. If you're looking to kit out your team with top-end slate without breaking the bank then, pound-for-pound, the second generation iPad is still one of the heaviest hitters around, coming in at around £70 cheaper than its successor.
The benefit of having the whole team all singing from the iPad hymn sheet is that, with Apple's iCloud, it has never been easier to sync documents and files across devices – especially if you've got a Mac-based office setup as well.
And while the latest iPad trumps the iPad 2 in almost every respect, there is still one crucial aspect in which the second coming wins out – portability. At just 8.6mm thin, it's 0.8mm slimmer than the newer version and it's also around 50g lighter as well, at 601g.
And it's not as if you're settling for mediocre tech by taking a step back in the Apple timeline. The iPad 2 still boasts a 1GHz Apple A5 chip, a 1024 x 768 display and 16GB of storage.
Read the full Apple iPad 2 review here
5. RIM BlackBerry PlayBook
Price from £129
Not exactly the rip-roaring success that Research in Motion would have hoped for when they unveiled the 7-inch PlayBook at the end of 2011, the BlackBerry tab does have one crucial ingredient going for it – its bargain price-tag.
From just £129 and with an updated operating system upgrade that adds much-needed features, the BlackBerry PlayBook is now a serious business contender.
It's quite heavy for a 7-inch tab at 425g but it feels like a solidly built device. The back features a soft rubberised plastic that is comfortable to hold and it is easy to grip.
Good news for productivity - the PlayBook's key strength is multitasking. The dual-core 1GHz processor will let you run several apps in different windows and swap between them. Each app is displayed full screen but a quick swipe upwards and it's minimised into a tile view that's great for switching between tasks.
PlayBook OS 2.0 not only lets you access email and sync your calendar, but also integrate your Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn contacts. There's also BlackBerry Bridge that lets you connect to your BlackBerry phone to access all your emails, calendar dates and messages.
The PlayBook is a very well made tablet available at a very reasonable price. In no way can it compete with the top end tabs in terms of performance but, at around a third of the price of the new iPad, it definitely deserves consideration.
Read the full RIM BlackBerry PlayBook review here
6/ Fujitsu Stylistic M532
Price from £360
Japanese computing giant Fujitsu would argue that its Android tablet – the Stylistic M532 – is the ultimate business tablet. It's certainly one that's been built with enterprise in mind from the ground up.
The hardware side of the M532 reads as if it's a regular Android tab. Packing a 10.1-inch TFT display with a 1280 x 800 resolution, it runs the Ice Cream Sandwich flavour of Google's platform via a quad-core Nvidia Tegra 3 processor clocked at 1.4GHz.
There's a front facing 2-megapixel camera for all your video conferencing needs and an 8-megapixel sensor on the back, should you need to grab some footage when you're out of the office.
But it's the onboard software that makes it a serious piece of business kit. It is designed to seamlessly integrate with your company's VDI, your corporate exchange email and your work-based calendar and contacts. There is support for Citrix, VMware and Microsoft Virtual Desktop Infrastructure environments.
As a business-orientated machine, security is also high up on the M532's agenda, with a full year's subscription to Norton Tablet Security included in the price.
Connectivity is also a strong point of the Stylistic M532 with embedded 3G/UMTS, Wi-Fi and built-in GPS. There's also a Micro-USB port, room for microSD expansion and a dock for a Port Replicator.
Read the full Fujitsu Stylistic M532 review here
7/ Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 10.1
Price from £299
Samsung's latest slate doesn't quite hit the heights of its predecessor, although, at less than £300, the Galaxy Tab 2 10.1 is a well-priced tablet that could be just the job if you're looking to equip your team with a big-screen tablet from a manufacturer you know you can trust.
Being a slightly more budget-friendly slate, Samsung has kept the price down with an uninspiring grey plastic chassis, a VGA front facing camera and a bit more bulk. The result is a tablet that feels cheaper in the hand and is less pleasing on the eye.
However, the 10.1-inch 1280 x 800 display is a decent screen, capable of providing you with respectable playback on your presentations, and sharp enough that document editing is a breeze.
The dual-core 1GHz processor on board runs Android Ice Cream Sandwich without too much fuss, although the Galaxy Tab 2 10.1 does lack the fluidity of more expensive Android slates that boast more impressive processors.
Sadly there's no 3G version of the Galaxy Tab 2 10.1, which means on-the-go browsing is out of the question, so you'll need to rely either on a MiFi or Wi-Fi hotspots when you're out and about, or tether the Tab to your smartphone's 3G connection.
Battery life is always a major concern with bigger screened tablets, but you should easily get a day's play out of the Tab 2 10.1.
Read the full Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 10.1 review here
8/ Google Nexus 7
Prices from £159
The Nexus 7 is the tablet that ripped up the rule-book for budget Android tablets. Not only does it offer an incredibly impressive hardware setup, it's also the only tablet that offers the latest version of Google's mobile platform – Android 4.1, AKA Jelly Bean.
And all this at just £159 for the 8GB version or £40 more for a 16GB one.
Inside the Google-branded, Asus-manufactured, device is a quad-core 1.3GHz Nvidia Tegra 3 processor combined with 1GB of RAM. The 7-inch display has a HD 1280 x 800 resolution, meaning it packs an impressive ppi reading of 216.
Weighing just 340g and boasting tough Gorilla Glass, the Nexus 7 is the ultimate tab for taking out and about, as it should have no bother surviving the odd bump or scrape.
But it's on the inside that the Nexus 7 really shines as a result of that tasty Jelly Bean action. In terms of business, there are a number of tweaks and new features to get excited about.
The People app has been vastly improved, meaning that all of your important contacts are easier to access, and the calendar app has been optimised for the 7-inch display.
Google Now is undoubtedly the stand-out feature though. Its clever travel information, and the fact that it learns where you live and work, could result in you shaving valuable time off of your commute every day.
Read the full Google Nexus 7 review here
9/ Acer Iconia Tab A510
Prices from £349
The Acer Iconia Tab A510 offers Android 4.0 - Ice Cream Sandwich - and quad-core Nvidia Tegra 3 action at an affordable price.
It's quite a chunky device, measuring in at almost 11mm at its thickest point and weighing a hefty 680g but it is not a bad looking tablet despite this bulky build. The edges are nicely curved and there's an attractive silver trim, and there's plenty of port and expansion options on board; you'll find a Micro-USB port, a 3.5mm headphone jack, a Micro-HDMI port, space for a SIM card (on the 3G version) and a microSD card slot as well.
The 10.1-inch display is a TFT one, a technology that lacks the impressive features and vibrant colours of an IPS panel, or the Retina Display on the new iPad. As a result it's a bit glossy, struggles under bright lights, and is also susceptible to becoming covered with fingerprint smudges.
It is still a HD display though, and for a tablet that costs less than £350 this is still pretty impressive.
Android 4.0 has been left in an almost native state with one major addition from Acer - its Touch Ring control panel, which could come in incredibly handy as a work-based app launcher.
Read the full Acer Iconia Tab A510 review here
10/ Toshiba AT300
Prices from £329
At £329 for the 16GB version and £50 more for 32GB of space, the Toshiba AT300 is certainly not cheap however it makes up for the price with lots of desirable features.
At 8.95mm thick it boasts a waistline new iPad owners will be envious of and with a weight of 590g, it is also around 10 per cent lighter than its Apple rival.
The AT300 has a 10.1-inch screen that boasts the same 1280 x 800 resolution as the Acer Iconia A510 and is a display that holds up pretty well in regular usage scenarios, with decent contrasts and rich colours.
Android Ice Cream Sandwich is still a great OS and Toshiba has done little to alter the good work of Google on the AT300. However, Toshiba has decided upon a set of software packages to pre-install including the useful ThinkFree Office package that will play nicely with your office's Microsoft based document and editing software. The action is quick thanks to the Tegra 3 processor.
It's straightforward to get your files loaded up onto the Toshiba AT300 as well with a plethora of port activity on offer. There's Micro-USB, Micro-HDMI and a full sized SD card reader which is great for loading your digital camera's photos.
Read the full Toshiba AT300 review here
iOS v Android
You may have noticed that this roundup contains predominately Android powered slates. The reason for this is that Google's mobile operating system is licensed across multiple manufacturers, with tablet makers able to develop the platform as they see fit.
As such, you'll see different versions of Android (and we're not just talking about releases from Google). Manufacturers are able to 'skin' their devices by adding UI tweaks or add pre-installed software packages. However, any good Android tablet should still be officially Google endorsed and come loaded with the search giant's software suite that includes popular apps such as Gmail, Maps and Talk. Access to Google Play, the Android version of Apple's App Store, is also crucial.
iOS is Apple's platform that appears across not just iPads but iPhones and iPod touches as well. It's a much more controlled setup that Android with users only really afforded the customisation options that the Cupertino tech giant sees fit to offer up. In exchange for this control, you are rewarded with an incredibly slick setup, with little or no danger of bugs or software issues.
There's no right answer when it comes to Android vs. iOS – it's really down to personal preference and what your specific needs are. Our advice is to try both platforms out to see what the better fit for your business is.
What about Windows?
Although Windows 7 does offer such touchscreen control options, it's an incredibly fiddly affair, plagued with hardware issues and it's not really surprising that Windows 7 tablets have never managed to catch on despite the best efforts of a number of big manufacturers.
Windows 8 should kick start the tablet revolution for Microsoft however. It is an OS that is designed firmly with tablets and touchscreen laptops in mind. Its new user interface is incredibly intuitive and touch friendly, with large icons and panels replacing the traditional Windows icon-setup - although purists will be pleased to know that the old-fashioned Windows way is still there lurking in the background, should you miss it.
Microsoft is also taking the bold step of producing its own hardware for Windows 8 with its Microsoft Surface tablets, although we fully expect a barrage of third-party Windows 8 tablets to land as well, especially given that the operating system works on ARM-based CPUs (think Nvidia, Qualcomm and Texas Instruments) rather than just with x86 CPU architecture from Intel and AMD – albeit a slightly toned down version dubbed Windows RT.