While many budget smartphones have come a long way in proving that "affordable" no longer necessarily means "bad" over the past few years (Moto G, anyone?), the budget tablet is still oftentimes a gamble. On one hand, devices like the Nexus 7 provide a fantastic user experience for not a lot of moneydollars; on the other, there are devices like the Snakebyte Vyper that basically verify the saying "you get what you pay for." Of course, some manufacturers – like ASUS, for example – seem to have a better handle on the art of building usable, affordable tablets.
Every once in a while, a product comes along that changes our perception of what a particular category of device can be. A device that breaks the mold and becomes something more. Something better. Something that revolutionizes work, play, or both. A thoughtful, well-designed product for the masses.
This is not one of those times.
This is one of those times when a company talks up a product, only to leave its users completely unsatisfied – not that many of you have heard of Snakebyte Vyper in the first place.
Late last year, Samsung released the revamped model of the largest Note tablet, the Note 10.1 2014 Edition (which actually came out in 2013, despite its name). It brought with it a full refresh to the lineup, including high end hardware, a better display, and an improved interface. The S Pen became more valuable, and Multi-Window more usable. All in all, it was a good upgrade.
The Note Pro 12.2 is a continuation of that upgrade to the product line, as it's essentially a larger version of last year's Note 10.1 in both hardware and software.
I've said it dozens of times, but I'll say it again: there aren't enough eight-inch Android tablets. When the iPad Mini was announced, I assumed more manufacturers would jump on the form factor, but nope – there still aren't that many. Needless to say, when HP announced the Slate8 Pro, I was intrigued. It's an 8-inch tablet with a 4:3 aspect ratio, which treads directly on the iPad Mini's territory. Of course, we have to be realistic here – it's an HP tablet, and so far there hasn't been anything really remarkable coming from them.
Back when NVIDIA announced its Tegra Note platform, it was said that several manufacturers would be producing their own versions of the unit. The basic components are the same – Tegra 4, 1GB RAM, 1280x800 display, etc. – but each manufacturer is still free to tweak and change the design as they see fit. HP's Slate 7 Extreme is a perfect example of this – it looks nothing like the EVGA Tegra Note 7 (which was the first TN7 device to market), yet it packs all the same features.
There's no need for a full review of the new Google Play Edition of LG's G Pad 8.3 - you're familiar with the software thanks to LG's own Nexus 5 and other AOSP devices, and you can check out Cameron Summerson's review of the retail version of the G Pad 8.3 for a look at the hardware. Aside from the "V510" badge on the tablet's legal tiny type, this is the same device, and there's not so much as a Google logo to tell the two apart.
Imagine your perfect full-sized tablet. It's light, thin, has a gorgeous high-resolution display, multiple-day battery life, powerful speakers, and a cutting-edge processor. The Kindle Fire HDX 8.9 is all these things and more. From a hardware and engineering standpoint, it is truly a marvel. And, for a certain class of buyer, it may very well be that "perfect" full-sized tablet.
When I reviewed the Fire HD (7") last year, I came to a similar conclusion - I was wowed by the hardware (perhaps excepting the processor, which was a laggardly dual-core TI OMAP), but the software made it difficult to recommend for enthusiasts like you and me.
Asus has been in the business of making Android tablets for as long as it has been a viable business. The company has certainly won praise for its efforts on Google's Nexus tablets, but Asus still makes its own separate tablets in the Transformer line. The newest entrant in that group is the Transformer Pad TF701T. It's not the catchiest name ever slapped on a wedge of metal and glass, but it's not the name that we're interested in – it's the experience.
Toshiba pisses me off. It's a company that released one of my favorite Android tablets of all time (which is also subsequently abandoned after 4.1). When I know that a company is capable of putting out good gadgets but they continuously release garbage, it frustrates me. Announcement after announcement, I think this could be the one – this might just be the next good Toshiba device. And every single time, I'm disappointed.
When LG announced the G Pad 8.3, I was really excited. Finally, another entry into the eight-inch tablet market! Couldn't wait to get my hands on it and really dig in. Sadly, throughout my use of the tablet, my excitement slowly dwindled – when I opened the box and saw the device itself, I was more eager than ever to turn it on, but as time went on, the user interface just killed the experience for me.