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.
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
The 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).
The Middle of the Road
ASUS Transformer Pad 300 - $375/$505 with keyboard dock
The 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.
Top of the Line
ASUS Transformer Pad Infinity - $500/$630 with dock
While 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.
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
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.
Kindle Fire/Nook Tablet - $200-$250
While 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.
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:
ASUS Nexus 7 - $200-250
Did 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.
The Big Picture
ASUS Transformer Pad Infinity - $500
OK, 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.
Acer Iconia Tab A510 - $400
Let'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.
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+
The 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+
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.