25
Jul
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It's that time of year again: time to start gearing up to head back to school (which everyone loves, right?). This is the time of year when people are in the market for new gadgets: laptops, cameras, tablets, smartphones... the normal stuff.

If you're an Android loyalist, though, trying to find the right tablet or smartphone for yourself or your child can be a daunting task. Good thing we're here to help. The editorial team here at AP has rounded up our favorite picks for Android-powered gadgets in a number of categories and budgets to help ease the pain of finding the perfect tool for the job.

This edition focuses exclusively on tablets; a smartphone guide is coming soon.

For the College/High School Student

A lot of people say that tablets are merely consumption devices, but I beg to differ. I think the productivity and organization aspect of a tablet rings true within the high school/college scene almost more than anywhere else. But with dozens of tablets on the market, which will suit your needs the best?

On a budget

ASUS Nexus 7 - $200-250

tablet-n7-features-ushome-familyThe best affordable tablet on the market is, without doubt or question, the Nexus 7. Its 7" form factor is fantastic and makes it super easy to carry around or just toss in your bag. This tablet offers a great way to stay organized and, when paired with a Bluetooth keyboard, even take notes on.

With that said, it may not offer all of the features a college student may want in a tablet (like HDMI out, for example).

Buy

The Middle of the Road

ASUS Transformer Pad 300 - $375/$505 with keyboard dock

Asus-Transformer-Pad-300-tablet1The Transformer series has always been a good choice for anyone who wants a little more productivity out of their tablet. The dock offers not only extended functionality by adding a keyboard, but also a full-size SD card slot, USB port, and an internal battery that can add four or five hours of life to the tablet.

The TF300 is no exception to this, and at around $500 (with dock) it's the most affordable quad-core Transformer on the market. Also, thanks to its microHDMI port, it's great for outputting movies or games to an HDTV, making this a fantastic choice for the dorm room.

Buy, Dock

Top of the Line

ASUS Transformer Pad Infinity - $500/$630 with dock

asus-transformer-pad-infinityWhile many people will argue that the Nexus 7 can also fit the "top of the line" category based purely on experience (I'm one of those people), there's no denying that the Transformer Pad Infinity (TF700) is the top dog in the 10.1" range. Much like the TF300, the TF700 offers all the bells and whistles that a student could ask for - keyboard dock, HDMI out, USB, and card reader - but it also bumps the display up to a 1920x1200 Super IPS panel that is absolutely gorgeous, as well as offering a faster clocked Tegra 3 processor and DDR3 RAM.

The bottom line is: if you're looking for the best 10.1" tablet that money can buy, look no further than the Transformer Pad Infinity.

Buy, Dock

For the Elementary Student

Just because they're younger doesn't mean that the elementary kids can't benefit just as much from having a tablet. While their needs may not be the same, there are definitely some good options out there for your young'un.

On a Budget

Fuhu Nabi 2 - $200

1[4]I'm just going to say it: you'll be hard pressed to find a better tablet for kids in any price range. Its quad-core Tegra 3 helps this 7" device zoom along, and the amazing suite of kid-friendly software is fantastic. I recently spent some time with the Nabi 2 (and came away loving it), so to get a better idea of how amazing this little tablet really is, read my full review.

Buy

Other Options

Kindle Fire/Nook Tablet - $200-$250

KFNTWhile there aren't a whole lot of higher end device that we consider to be good for kids, the Kindle Fire and Nook Color's limited user interface and watered-down experience actually create an easy-to-use and closed-off system for kids. You can easily load them up with some educational apps and send them on their way.

Buy: Kindle Fire, Nook Tablet

For the Parents

You didn't think we'd leave you out - the humble parent without whom the children wouldn't exist in the first place - did you? Good.

We know how important organization is in a parent's life, but a little R&R is always a good thing too. Therefore, we've chosen tablets that offer the best of both worlds:

Ultra-Portable

ASUS Nexus 7 - $200-250

tablet-n7-features-ushome-familyDid you expect anything else? It's great for reading, staying organized, playing games, and even watching movies (granted you don't want to output it to your TV). It's the closest thing to "the perfect tablet" that we've found yet.

Buy

The Big Picture

ASUS Transformer Pad Infinity - $500

asus-transformer-pad-infinityOK, we get it: not everyone loves the 7" form factor. For those of you who simply must have a larger screen, the TF700 is amazing. It's the most fluid experience that we've seen on a 10" Android tablet to date (which is saying something) and its HD display is absolutely beautiful. Simply put, if you want a 10-inch Android tablet, this is the one to buy.

Buy, Dock

Acer Iconia Tab A510 - $400

01_iconia_a510Let's say you don't have $500 to spend on the TF700, but you still want a 10.1" device. In that scenario, the Acer A510 is an excellent tablet: it's snappy, very well made, and has fantastic battery life. Sure, it doesn't have the HD screen or 1.7GHz Tegra 3 of the TF700, but for $100 less it won't disappoint.

Buy

But There's Another Option

If you want to get an Android tablet for either yourself or your child, but don't want to spend $350+ for a brand-spanking new 10-incher, there's another way: buying used or refurbished. Often times people hear those two words when referring to electronics and immediately cringe. The fact is, though, on various sites like eBay and Amazon, you can find great deals on older tech. Therefore, we're going to give a rundown of our favorite "last-gen" tablets. Sure, these won't offer the latest and greatest, but they'll definitely work on a budget.

ASUS Transformer TF101 - $200+

2The original Transformer offers most of the functionality as its newer brothers (HDMI out, keyboard dock with USB and full SD card slot, etc.), and it has Ice Cream Sandwich to boot. Sure, it's a bit heavier and clunkier than the streamlined TF700, but at less than half the price it will get the job done.

 

Motorola XOOM (Wi-Fi) - $250+

3[5]While the XOOM was the first Android 3.0 tablet and is nearly two years old at this point, it's still not an awful choice for someone on a budget. Why? Because Motorola is still updating it; in fact, the Jelly Bean soak test started recently, making this the first 10.1" device to get Android 4.1. Not bad for something a couple years old, right?

One More Thing

You may have noticed a common theme here: all of our picks are Wi-Fi only. The reason for that is simple: carrier-branded tablets just aren't worth the money. They're often overpriced (even after subsidization), cost far too much on  monthly basis, and are always the last to receive updates (if they see them at all). Not to mention that most schools, coffee shops, and many other public places offer Wi-Fi now, so there really isn't a need for the added data package.

As always, we're here to help: if you have a question about a particular tablet or deal, sound off in the comments and we'll do our best to provide an honest, objective answer.

Cameron Summerson
Cameron is a self-made geek, Android enthusiast, horror movie fanatic, and musician. When he's not pounding keys here at AP, you can find him spending time with his wife and kids, plucking away on the 6- or 7-string, or watching The Texas Chainsaw Massacre on repeat.

  • http://therealtoddmanning.tumblr.com/ Kim

    Can you give me an idea when/how jelly bean is coming to Motorola Xoom and what NUMBER update it would be, i.e. 4.0.4, (I know that's NOT it, just asking). Thanks.

    • http://twitter.com/TheGermian Germian

      It's most likely gonna be 4.1.1 and the first official test builds are going out to a few testers today. When it's gonna be released for everybody? No idea.

      • http://www.androidpolice.com/ Cameron Summerson

        Nailed it.

    • Deniz Ozan-George

      It's just about there...soak testing now. Should update to 4.1.1.

  • Guest

    Xoom should get an OTA push for Jelly Bean, and it should be 4.1.1 I believe. If not, then it's 4.1

    • Asphyx

      it's already out there, Soak test started days ago and from that there are already places to download it from if your not in the soak test group. Link is on this site if I'm not mistaken.
      But it is WiFi Xoom (Wingray) only.
      If you have a 4G Xoom best to go get TeamEOS's JB ROM.

  • tryptech

    Any mention of the Kindle Fire and the Nook Tablet should be instantly replaced with the Nexus 7. You get better specs and a better Android experience for the exact same price!

    • http://www.androidpolice.com/ Cameron Summerson

      While I somewhat agree with this statement, I feel like both are still great for kids because they're so watered down and closed off from the rest of the Android ecosystem.

      • tryptech

        Well, with the nexus being a Google device, it can still get a lot of use after the kid phase is long gone

  • oneillperson

    It seems to me that the Asus Transformer's keyboard dock is a must-have for any student, because it makes typing much faster and also acts as a stand for the tablet. Is it really worth the added $150? And is the touchpad on the dock useful?

    • http://www.androidpolice.com/ Cameron Summerson

      Worth the extra $150? Yes, because of the USB port and full SD card slot. Is the touchpad useful? Not at all. I have disabled it on every TF I've ever used.

    • Chris Peng

      Occasionally, like when you are using some flash based video player online and you full screen (buttons stay tiny) touchpad is useful. Also I use the two finger scroll when I am typing, slightly easier than lifting my hands to the touchscreen.

    • Darrell V.

      i rarely used it when i needed my laptop. now that i've transferred to university, i use it every day. the battery life is phenomenal, and with wifi it does just about everything i would need my laptop to do. it makes typing a ton easier and with Google Drive, you don't have to worry about compatibility. i got my TF101 during the Best Buy coupon debacle, and immediately purchased the dock. no regrets. i feel the same as other people regarding the trackpad--it's largely useless. i just press the screen most of the time.

      • DavyPaul

        Don't forget, the t f 1 0 1 comes with Polaris Office which is a pretty good office product. Also Asus supply a network drive option for those cloud files! I share my wifi/3 g from my Chinese dual Sim 'Droid. The extra USB/battery options are great for emergency charging.

    • http://royblumenthal.com/portfolio royblumenthal

      I have the TF101 with dock. I love it. The usb ports are worth the whole price. It recognises any usb mouse, harddrive, mem stick. And the battery extension is wonderful. I find the trackpad very useful. While it's true that you have to avoid brushing against it, it's a powerful addition for navigating. I love it.

    • Asphyx

      It's much more than a keyboard!
      It also has an auxiliary battery, Gives you full USB support, the Dock is pretty much a docking station with Keyboard and at the same time is a good case to protect the screen while you travel.
      I have a Xoom and mostly because I am shying away from anything not a "Google Experience" device. But if I was in the Market for a new Pad I would probably get an Asus with the dock. I'm hoping that the partnership with Google on the Nexus puts Asus into the Google Experience Realm of Android Devices.

    • oneillperson

      Thanks for the responses. I'm so glad that a wireless mouse and USB drive will work - that makes me want it even more. I'm definitely getting the dock too.

  • http://www.facebook.com/RobJohnson90 Rob Johnson

    No UK version? D=

  • Simon Belmont

    How is the Xoom nearly two years old? It was released in February 2011. That's less than a year and a half old. Just saying.

    Other than that, good article. Thanks.

  • yoss17

    Pleasee a review of the lenovo ideapad S2110 .. it cost just $399 including the Dock ... Could be a very affordable option ... thanks..

  • Bas

    Lots of ASUS, I see. It's the best Android tablet manufacturer so far IMO.

    • Asphyx

      Asus has really done a great job of engineering thier tablets. If only they had an unlocked bootloader or were a google experience device (like the new Nexus).
      The Keyboard dock was a stroke of genius and well designed to make it the ideal laptop replacement for those who don't need power just laptop ergonomics.

      • Bas

        Exactly my thoughts!

        • Tyler Chappell

          If only it weren't for their poor i/o performance.

  • Jonas Hejde

    Is there any word on when the Nexus 7 will be coming to the Scandinavian countries? (Heck, I only care about Sweden!)

  • A83

    Archos g9 series,should be a budget choice also to my opinion 250gb hd model latest ics(no jelly bean yet..) is my choice

  • http://royblumenthal.com/portfolio royblumenthal

    Maybe in America you can go for a wifi-only machine. In South Africa, that's a strict no-no. If it hasn't got a SIM slot, then it's barely half a machine.

    My TF101 is wifi-only. And as a consequence, I use my feeble iPad1 MUCH MORE OFTEN than the superior Android machine.

    Maybe the article needs to add a caveat for people who live in countries where wifi isn't ubiquitous?

    • jusatin

      just share the internet from your android phone..

    • Asphyx

      Or get yourself a data package with a WiFi puck, then you can use it on mucyh more than just your tablet!

  • Asphyx

    I would not suggest the Nexus for students because of the lack of a back facing camera. It really helps to be able to take pictures of the blackboard and even video of the lessons for review later on.
    Really the older options like the Xoom and TF101 are the best options there. They might seem a bit underpowered by today's standards but running Jelly Bean (which is possible for the Xoom and prob also the TF101 by now) you really don't notice it unless you have a quad core tablet your already used to.

    • Tyler Chappell

      They should add a second place option, where the Galaxy Tab 2 7.0 would fit right in, meanwhile, as a college student, I would just still use my phone to take a picture of those things or pages in a book if I needed to, so it's not really a drawback since most college kids who will have a tablet like this probably already have a smartphone.

  • justin

    Galaxy note 10.1 gogogo

  • ALD3

    JMO but Xoom has way too many problems and the chargers have a very low life span. Nexus 7 with no micro sd card slot makes it pretty useless. The Galaxy Tab 2 7" is much better than the Nexus 7, only drawback is no back camera. I got 2 Galaxy Tab 2 7" for my granddaughters to use in college but should have gotten them the Galaxy Tab 7+, as I have one and it is better than the 2. Acer tablet 7" is pretty good with micro sd slot and both cameras, have that 1 also. Again just my experience with these devices.

  • http://twitter.com/anoojshah Anooj Shah

    If you want to get an Android tablet or phone for the kids, get whichever device you want and just load Kytephone (www.kytephone.com) on it. It turns any Android into a safe kid-friendly device.

  • delia

    I am 55yrs old going back to college and thinking of doing digital text books, which tablet for the money and resources would be good for my purpose

  • http://www.facebook.com/tree1152 Debra Martin

    I know this feed is over 6 months old, but here goes: I have several Matrix One tablets that were going to be donated to Veterans entering into college. Now that the company has gone undercover, what are my options to upgrade the OS which now is ICS 4.01?