Tablet recommendations
August 22, 2015 11:10 PM   Subscribe

I'm looking to replace my old busted laptop with a tablet (since all I used the laptop for nowadays was browsing the internet in bed) but I'm out of touch with the vast array of tablets out there and I don't know where to start. More details below the cut.

I definitely want an android tablet, and I'd like one that has a bigger screen and decent power since I'd like to play games on it (mainly Hearthstone and Trials, but emulation would also be nice) and also watch movies (mainly on Netflix). I also have big hands!

Price is important (cheaper would be better ofc), but I might be able to find more room in my budget if there's a really good one I should grab.

If there are good tablet features that might be relevant or just nice to have, feel free to share -- again, I'm out of the loop with respect to tablets so there might be pitfalls I'm unaware of.
posted by flatluigi to Technology (7 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
My coworker and I both have the Samsung Galaxy Tab S 8.4 and they are pretty good. I live on mine, netflix, music, kindle, Microsoft office mobile, goat simulator. All are run with ease. The screen is great and it's slim and light weight. There's a 10in version also.

I had the first gen Nexus 7 and I barely used it, it was slow (especially after lollipop update) and heavy. The Samsung feels like it came from a different decade compared to the Nexus.
posted by M Edward at 11:38 PM on August 22, 2015

Response by poster: I'll have to specify that $300 might be a lot more than I'm currently able to spend, though I would love to win the lottery and pick up that 10 inch one!
posted by flatluigi at 11:54 PM on August 22, 2015

Definitely look at if you're on a budget. Don't forget to consider something in the galaxy note family (10.1, 10.1 2014, note pro) as the pen is definitely a handy feature.
posted by sexyrobot at 12:29 AM on August 23, 2015

If you'll watch movies on it, maybe an important feature would be an HDMI output to connect to a television.
posted by XMLicious at 3:11 AM on August 23, 2015

I recently bought two tablets, one for me, one for my mom, since we're both traveling soon. I got a dual boot import tablet, and she got the Samsung Tab 4. Tab 4 came with an older version of android but it updated itself. It's a very good tablet, it runs most games very smoothly and is coded well. If you have a Samsung phone, you'll be kind of used to the UI, but they have had some UI changes recently. I have no doubt it'd be able to play Hearthstone and Trials. It could possibly run emulation. It had a little issues with the update, and the facial recognition shut off doesn't like to work with Skype, but so far so good, after a month of use.

If you want to play games and have big hands, you want a bigger screen with lower resolution -- the higher the resolution, the harder it will be to render the 3d graphics of some games (it will show more of the screen and need to render more), and the harder it will be to comfortably tap on things because the icons will be smaller. That said, you don't want your resolution to be too small, either.

If your budget is less than $300-- that's a little low. Consider that a decent laptop costs at least that much, so a tablet has to be comparable. And unless you're willing to go second hand, as suggested, you probably won't find anything that will able to smoothy play games, nor will you find anything for 10" -- the bigger the tablet, the more expensive it gets. That said, I don't recommend going under 8" for a tablet, because the smaller you go, the more it's just like a big glorified phone.

You might want to look into an import, or grey import. There are drawbacks to imports though, namely support and warranty and the bloatware that comes with it. It can also be a little buggy. The tablet I got is a Chinese import and I love it. I've had it two months now. It's a Teclast X98 Air II. Yes, it's a dupe for an iPad Air in size (it's 9.7") and looks and uses the same screen and imaging technology. Mine is dual boot (Windows/Android) but they have Android only versions available, as well as Windows only, so it's up to you what you want one or the other or both. If you're seriously only interested in Android though, I'd go Android only -- it's slightly a pain booting between the two, and I find myself favoring one over the other.

There are a bunch of Chinese brands that make tablets though, other than Teclast, and a lot of them are really good, like Onda, Chuwi, etc. Tech Tablets specializes in Chinese import reviews, and was invaluable in helping me make a decision in what I wanted. If you're considering this route, watch a lot of the videos and comparisons before you buy. Ultimately I chose the Air II because it had most of what I wanted-- mini HDMI port, medium resolution to help with gaming, 1.5gb Ram, great screen, up to 64gb slot etc. Most sellers go into the specs, so you need to decide what you need most and go from there (do you want a good camera or prefer more storage space? Higher ram? Better viewing angle? etc). Also, most are copying another big-name tablet, so the accessories (like covers) are usually interchangeable, if you can find the name of the tab the import is duping.

I love it, and it was much better than I expected. The value for money is bar none. I paid about USD $175 for it on sale two months ago, and my mom's Samsung Tablet is at least $100 more-- she really likes hers, but mine has much better specs, a much better screen and image quality, viewing angle, as well as more RAM and processing power. It runs most games smooth and fast as possible, (although the Samsung is really nice at running games too). It runs Netflix perfectly, as well as other TV apps, as well as Kindle (I partly wanted it for reading) and I recently got some free Amazon games, including Goat Simulator, which works really pretty well.

There are a few cons, too. The seller I bought from switched language for me to English so it was really just turn-on-and-go, but it still comes with 8-9 Chinese language apps that can't be removed unless you root it. The Android UI is ridiculously simple, which is good, but also means that you can't hide app icons-- they're either on the tab or uninstalled. Most import tabs come with some Chinese bloatware (as do Western market tabs too). And mine can be glitchy with games-- it would crash with certain games, but the devlopers made a fix, which runs in the background and now it's close to perfect.

So yeah, import tablets can have some issues occasionally. The Tech Tablets community is good at helping with fixes though. Overall, I'm really pleased with it. However, I can't deny that my mom's tablet is a little more stable over all. Because she is less tech-savvy than me, I feel the Samsung is better for her, if you feel that describes you, I'd definitely go for a bigger name brand like that for you.
posted by Dimes at 3:16 AM on August 23, 2015 [7 favorites]

I was recently asked to help find a tablet for someone with high expectations and a low-budget. Ultimately, I've recommend the Asus ZenPad S8 (508C-B1) for around $199.

While it's not a 10" display, the S8 doesn't look small. It feels more like a "real tablet" than other contenders, and the 4:3 aspect ratio helps. It has a 2048x1536 display with 320dpi. Most of the 10" tablets near the same price have much worse resolution, which hinders the tablet experience.

It's very light, and has an OK (8hr) battery life. It has a good amount of ram and hard drive space (2gb, 32gb) - this is par with current standards. The processor is a bit slower, and I felt like it lagged (until I changed screen transitions and power management).

It doesn't have hdmi, but it does have miracast and easier connected to my smart TV. This met my friend's HDMI goal.

Like others have said here, finding a tablet for this price point requires some compromise. If I had to buy a tablet now, for under $250, I'd be happy with what this has to offer, and feel fairly confident that it'll have a good shelf life.
posted by bindr at 5:32 PM on August 23, 2015

Asus memopad, nexus 9, nvidia shield(which was recalled for battery issues, but should be on sale again and is EXCELLENT).

I would buy the hell out of this zenpad.

I would not by a samsung. The tab S/pro/s2 all have amazing screens, but samsung's modifications to android are awful and make even the best hardware run like laggy stuttery crap.

The shield and nexus 9 are arguably the most powerful android tablets available for gaming right now. They both have enough power to just demolish any available android software.

I'd lean towards those over the asus models personally, because intel CPUs cause issues with a few apps. They're great tablets and well made though.
posted by emptythought at 6:09 PM on August 23, 2015

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