Dell Venue 8 (2014)If the appeal of a product is all in the name, nobody told Dell’s tablet team.

It wasn’t all that long before we wrote this—about six or seven months ago—that we looked at Dell’s first entry-level Android slate with an 8-inch screen, the Venue 8. (That’s not to be confused with the company’s Venue 8 Pro, which is a Windows 8 tablet.) We found it competent but, as compact Android slates go, rather ordinary. In most ways, it reminded us of umpteen other compact (7-to-9-inch) Android tablets we had looked at around the same time. But what that Venue 8 model did have going for it was a relatively low price, given the screen size and when the tablet debuted: $179.99 MSRP, with the street price ringing up a little lower on occasion.

So, here we are just a few months down the road, and Dell has revamped that same 8-inch Android, keeping the name but hiking the list price to…$199.99. What gives?

Surprising in a market where Android-tablet prices are driving down, down, down, this price rise is a justifiable one. Sure, the Venue 8 is named the same, and the exterior is nearly indistinguishable from its predecessor’s. But this version, thanks primarily to its 1,920×1,200-pixel, high-resolution screen, is an overall better value. (At the same time as the new Venue 8, Dell rolled out a Bay Trail-enhanced Venue 7, as well.)

Not only does this new Venue 8 outshine the last one, but the higher screen resolution also brings this newer Venue into direct competition with certain higher-end compact tabs, such as Google’s2013 Nexus 7 (a 7-incher) and 2014’s LG G Pad 8.3 (an 8.3-incher). The G Pad comes in three flavors: a G Pad 8.3 LTE/Verizon version, the G Pad 8.3 Google Play Edition, and a standard G Pad 8.3. Each version of the G Pad 8.3, as well as the Nexus 7, has a 1,920×1,200-pixel display, like our Dell Venue 8 review unit’s.

Dell Venue 8 (2014) (Vertical)This 1,920×1,200 resolution generates a very tight pixel depth on a screen this size (283 pixels per inch, or ppi, versus 180ppi on a standard 1,200×800 display). This pixel depth makes images, videos, some games, and certain other content more detailed and attractive than on the standard 1,200×800-pixel displays found on most of today’s compact tablets. (We’ll look more closely at the Venue 8’s display panel in the Features & Apps section later in this review.)

In fact, this Venue 8’s high-resolution screen puts it on par with the 8.3-inch G Pad. The various versions of the LG G Pad 8.3 may have slightly larger screens, but they also sell for at least $50 more than this Dell, depending on the promotions of the day. Furthermore, while the G Pad 8.3 deploys Qualcomm’s speedy Snapdragon 600 CPU, the Intel “Bay Trail” Atom processor in this Dell slate helped the Venue 8 perform better on many of our tests. (We’ll look more closely at how this Venue 8 did on our benchmark tests in the Performance section later on.)

On the outside of this tablet, things are just as strong. This Venue 8 is slim, solid-feeling, and light—a pleasure to use in almost every sense. It’s thinner and lighter than its predecessor, too.

As you read on, you’ll note a couple of things, such as its sole audio speaker, that we thought could use improvement. But our bottom line? The Atom-based Dell Venue 8 is one nice compact tablet for the money, even if it’s a little more money than before. We’re just surprised that Dell hid this tablet’s backlight under a bushel by not naming it the “Venue 8 HD” or the “Venue 8 Premium.”

Read the entire article at Computer Shopper.


 

HP SlateBook 14-p010nr PC Review and Ratings

When it comes to providing alternatives to Windows-based PCs, we can’t fault HP for a lack of trying. Not only has the Palo Alto, Calif.-based company brought a couple of Chrome OS-based Chromebooks to market of late, but it has also rolled out a few such lean machines based on all-out Android. One was the 21-inch Slate 21-k100 All-in-One Desktop PC we looked at last year; the second is the subject of this review, the $429.99-MSRP HP SlateBook 14-p010nr PC.

Now, mind you, the Slate 21 was an unmitigated flop. (It wasn’t just us who thought so; our sister site, PCMag.com, concurred in its even harsher review.) While hardware issues related to performance, design, and construction kept us from recommending the Slate 21, the software was also to blame: Android itself was a big, or even bigger, problem. An operating system meant primarily for use on smartphones and tablets, it just wasn’t prime-time ready to drive a full-fledged desktop PC.

That was 2013. Now, here we are about 10 months out, with a brand-new Android-based laptop.

HP SlateBook 14-p010nr PC (Rear View)This isn’t the first attempt at such a thing. Lenovo has an Android laptop, the Lenovo A10 (not to be confused with the Lenovo A10 Tablet), being sold in markets outside the United States, and Asus pioneered the Android/Windows laptop hybrid in machines like the mixed-bag Transformer Book Trio. And HP did try its hand at an Android tablet with a detachable keyboard dock, the SlateBook 10 x2, some months back, in the vein of earlier Asus Transformer Pads. But it’s still a pretty lean group.

The hardware itself is not a problem, this time: The SlateBook 14 is a darn nice machine. Its chassis is sleek, loaded with productivity and convenience options, and, due primarily to its Nvidia Tegra 4 quad-core processor and 2GB of system RAM, it performs quite well. The other components are no slouches, either; the raw numbers we gathered on this laptop say nothing about the SlateBook’s sharp-looking 1,920×1,080 (full HD) screen and ear-pleasing Beats Audio speakers and sound system. Together, the display and speakers make for a superior device for watching videos and listening to music.

This is, decidedly, a laptop, though. Unlike the several Android-based tablet/laptop convertible systems we’ve tested, such as the $299 Asus Transformer Pad TF103C that debuted around the same time as this machine, the SlateBook 14 does not detach from its keyboard. It also cannot flex in the way that Lenovo’s various Yoga machines and HP’s own Pavilion x360 can, with the keyboard rotating 360 degrees to bend back on itself, so that the display panel (which is touch-sensitive) becomes a de facto tablet. Was that a missed opportunity? Maybe, though many will say a 14-inch tablet would be unwieldy, anyway.

Then again, even if the SlateBook had that tablet mode, you might not want to touch certain apps on it, in any case. Sure, there are a million or so Android apps out there. However, because Android is designed foremost as an operating system for smartphones and tablets, a significant number of them do not format properly on high-resolution screens like this one. (It’s a problem on very high-resolution Android tablets, too.) Sometimes, the app won’t use the entire screen, which looks funny. In other, rarer cases, the app itself is rendered in a manner that makes it unusable.

While Android on a laptop makes more sense and has a more natural feel than Android on an all-in-one desktop, there’s no getting past the fact that the OS just wasn’t designed to run on high-res screens and in this form factor. (You have to reach across a keyboard to touch the screen, which you’ll want to do much more than you would, say, in Windows 8.) Still, Android looks better on this smaller, high-resolution 14-inch screen than it did on the much bigger all-in-one displays in essentially the same resolution. (HP’s Slate 21 has a 21-inch screen, while AOC’s mySmart AIO we recently tested comes in 22- and 24-inch varieties.)

Android appropriateness, then, becomes the real question. Is there a viable need for an Android laptop when it costs as much as a Windows one, and, more to the point, is Android robust enough to serve as your primary computing device’s OS? As we’ve said a few times in the past about these outlier Android machines, it really depends on what you plan to do with it.

Overall, this is a well-built machine, and we can think of many applications for which it would work seamlessly. But it all depends on your expectations. The SlateBook works well for media consumption. If your aim, however, is any kind of real content creation—editing images or video, doing spreadsheet work, and the like—this model only makes sense if you’re already familiar with (and satisfied with) the generally lighter-weight Android apps that handle these tasks. And you won’t save much money by opting for it, given that you can find Windows laptops with local storage and even bigger screens starting for around the same money.

Read the entire review at Computer Shopper.


Asus MeMO Pad 7 (ME176C) Review and Ratings Every now and then we come across a tablet that demands we sit up and take notice—not because it’s glamorous, fashionable, or made of nifty materials, but because of its quiet competence. That was the case with the release of last year’s Asus MeMO Pad HD 7, a Computer Shopper Editors’ Choice in July of 2013.

Like most compact (7- and 8-inch-class) tablets we’ve seen over the past year or so, the MeMO Pad HD 7 was primarily an entry-level slate. At first glance, you might wonder why it was an Editors’ Choice at all, or even noteworthy. Compared to some competing compact models (such as Google’s highly desirable 2013 version of the Nexus 7), it offered little that was ground-breaking in terms of technology.

What that modest 7-inch slate diddo, though, was bring to reality a well-built, attractive tablet for under $150, complete with a decent sound system and a quite serviceable display. And that’s what the subject of this review—the MeMO Pad HD 7’s replacement—does here in 2014, as well: It redefines what a budget tablet can and should be.

Yes, the name is almost the same, to the point of confusion. The MeMO Pad 7 (no “HD”) is one of a group of three entry-level tablets that Asus rolled out in summer 2014. The others were the $299-list, 10.1-inch Transformer Pad TF103C and the $199-list MeMO Pad 8, both of which we reviewed just before this one. (Hit the links for the deep dives on those models.) The Transformer Pad TF103C, we found, was a pretty reasonable deal. It has a much larger display than our MeMO 7 review unit, and for the additional $150, you get a full-size tablet along with a fully integrated Android keyboard dock that turns it into a workable Android laptop.

Asus MeMO Pad 7 (Yellow)Still, that’s double the price of the MeMO Pad 7, and these are two very different tablets, for two different crowds. A closer match is the MeMO Pad 8. For the additional $50 that it costs versus the MeMO Pad 7, you get, well, another diagonal inch of display (which translates, if you do the math, to 30 percent more screen area).

For some buyers, that extra 30 percent is well worth another half a C-note. It does make things larger and easier to see, especially for those of us advanced enough in years to start experiencing declining eyesight. Plus, the 8-incher can be easier to read for another, less obvious reason: Despite its smaller screen, the MeMO Pad 7 has the same native resolution as the MeMO Pad 8. That means that (as we’ll discuss later on) the 7-incher has the more “detailed-looking” screen of the two, due to the necessarily smaller, tighter dots, but the 8-incher renders icons and other elements a bit larger. Even so, it’s a difference only noticeable if you really look for it, and a matter of personal preference between the two.

Otherwise, the MeMO Pad 7 and its 8-inch sibling look, feel, and smell a lot alike, right down to their controls and internal connectivity, which are nearly the same. Unlike last year’s 32-bit MeMO Pad HD 7 model, though, all three of Asus’ new slates run on a fairly new quad-core, 64-bit Intel Atom CPU, which, as we’ve seen in both the Transformer Pad TF103C and the 8-inch MeMO Pad, is an able performer. It delivered respectable scores on our battery of benchmark tests, and it contributed to a good, long runtime on our demanding battery-rundown trial. And it felt snappy in practice.

Asus MeMO Pad 7 (Angle View)Those truths, combined with the solid hardware, are what make this new MeMO Pad 7 much parallel to last year’s winner: It balances a lot of things that tend to be mutually exclusive. In addition to performing well, the MeMO Pad 7 is light, thin, and easy to hold on to. While the screen might be a little small for some buyers’ tastes in the current market, given the fast rise in popularity here in 2014 of tablets with 8-inch screens, it’s a good one, as 7-inchers go. If compact, economical, and Android are what you’re after in a tablet, it’s hard to beat the MeMO Pad 7 for the money, given the field.

Read the entire article at Computer Shopper.


 

AOC mySmart All-in-One Android PC (A2472PW4T) Review and RatingsBack in November of 2013, we looked at an early attempt at an Android all-in-one PC, the Slate 21-k100 All-in-One Desktop PC from HP. Our opinion then was that running Android—a mobile operating system designed for smartphones and tablets—on a full-fledged computer was sheer folly. Not only was Android clunky on a 21-inch all-in-one (AIO), but several of HP’s hardware and design choices were baffling, too. As a result, the Slate 21 received one of the lowest scores we’ve given to a product in quite some time.

Now, venerable monitor maker AOC has tried its own hand at the same game with its mySmart All-in-One Android PC, another attempt to run Google’s open-source mobile OS on a large-screen AIO. This time, though, there are actually two such models: a $299.99 (MSRP) version with a 22-inch screen and the $399.99 (MSRP) model A2472PW4T, the 24-inch unit we’re reviewing here. Aside from the 2-inch-diagonal screen difference and the ensuing chassis-size change, these two machines are identical in almost every way.

Note, though, there’s something big the AOC AIO can do that the HP Slate 21 can’t. The mySmart can double as a high-resolution (1,920×1,080-pixel) touch screen for Windows, making it, in a sense, something of a hybrid product. AOC mySmart All-in-One Android PC (A2472PW4T)Unfortunately, while it makes a fairly decent monitor for straightforward viewing, this AIO has some serious design and performance issues that affect its overall value and effectiveness as a desktop machine. The touch functionality leaves much to be desired in either mode, too.

In addition, this is the first AIO we’ve seen that comes without a keyboard or pointing device in the box. You’ll have to provide your own, or else resort to typing onscreen, which isn’t at all productive. On the other hand, this AIO has several USB ports, and it supports Bluetooth, so your options are wide open if you want to buy your own input devices. We’ll talk more about these design issues on the next page.

All of this is not to say that there’snothing to like about AOC’s mySmart PC—quite to the contrary. For starters, it’s built around a good-looking 23.6-inch display panel and a decent sound system for watching movies and viewing high-resolution images. Very few Android games and apps, on the other hand, can take proper advantage of the high-resolution screen (which we’ll get into in greater detail in the Features & Apps section). So the screen is really only of note if you’ll be using the display in monitor mode.

On the other hand, for a mid-2014 Android-based device, this one is full of 2013 compromises, were it even just an Android tablet. It’s using last year’s Nvidia Tegra 3 processor, and it came outfitted with a two-versions-behind installation of Android, 4.2. While we didn’t care much for HP’s Android all-in-one, at least the HP Slate 21 came out of the gate with the most modern Tegra 4 CPU and the latest version of the Android OS at the time. Both systems, however, are low on storage (just 8GB inside).

AOC mySmart All-in-One Android PC (Front View)As we said about the Slate 21, this Android AIO provides neither a well-rounded Android-tablet-style experience, nor full-fledged all-in-one PC performance. If all you need is a large touch-screen device for watching videos, browsing the Internet, and managing e-mails and social media sites, this one will do. And, like we said before, it works as a touch-screen monitor—with, as you’ll see on the next page, some major caveats.

Still, realize that you can find basic Windows AIOs starting at about $350 (albeit with smaller screens), and for most users, those will be a far better alternative. Android doesn’t do big screens all that well to begin with, and when you stack on some this model’s shortcomings, it’s tough to get excited about the mySmart in light of what you can get for the same money.

Read the entire review at Computer Shopper.


 

Asus MeMO Pad 8 (ME181C) Review and Ratings Here in the summer of 2014, Asus went and updated its line of entry-level Android tablets, though it hasn’t changed the names of them very much. Two of the new models, the $149-list MeMO Pad 7 (which we’re in the process of testing and reviewing) and the $299-list Transformer Pad TF103C, we’ve seen before in different guises. (We reviewed the similar-sounding, and very good, MeMO Pad HD 7 last year, as well as a host of Transformer Pads in the past.) But then there’s the subject of this review, which breaks new screen-size ground for Asus and its MeMO Pad line.

The $199-list MeMO Pad 8 is yet another in the long list of Android tablets with 8-inch screens to turn up over the past year or so from the usual tablet-making suspects. For the most part, the MeMO Pad 8 is much like the refreshed MeMO Pad 7, aside from the additional inch of screen real estate. As compact slates go, both the 7-incher and the 8-incher are reasonably good values.

Asus MeMO Pad 8What’s different with these, though, is that they’re now Intel-based. The quad-core 64-bit Intel Atom processor in the MeMO Pad 8 ran many of our test apps handily, without, compared to some higher-end 8-inch slates, breaking much of a sweat. And the tablet itself is sleeker, lighter, and thinner than several of its competitors, making it feel more premium, and, to a certain degree, elegant. In fact, in terms of overall performance, durability, and comfort, the MeMO Pad 8 held up reasonably well to some higher-end compact models, such as LG’s premium G Pad 8.3 Google Play Edition and G Pad 8.3 Verizon LTE.

In addition to performing well, looking good, and handling better than the price would suggest, the MeMO Pad 8 has a screen that doesn’t disappoint. The native resolution is 1,280×800 pixels, and we found the overall quality (as you’ll see in the Features & Apps section later in this review) a little better than average for an under-$200 slate. When you combine the screen with the tablet’s equally adequate speaker output, this is not a bad slate for viewing movies and consuming other media.

Asus MeMO Pad 8 (Front View)Plus, as we’ll get into in the Performance section of this review, the MeMO Pad 8 kept up relatively well during our tests, not only turning in very good scores on most of our speed-based trials but also delivering great numbers on our battery-rundown test. Like last year’s MeMO Pad HD 7, which impressed us enough to earn it our Editors’ Choice nod, the MeMO Pad 8, at just $50 more, is equally impressive—only with a bigger screen.

Read the entire review at Computer Shopper.


 

Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 10.1 Review and RatingsWhen it comes to elegant premium Android tablets, few companies outdo Samsung. (And only one outdoes it consistently, among tablet makers in general. We’ll leave you to guess who.) However—and this is true of most tablet makers—the South Korean electronics giant’s entry-level and midrange slates have historically been less impressive than its top-of-the-line ones. But that’s not to say that some aren’t fine tablets in their own right.

The compromises necessary to hit those lower price points can also mar the final product, making it appear cheaply constructed or lacking in high-end features. In our experience, a high screen resolution and a good sound system are usually the first victims.

Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 10.1Take, for example, the Samsung Galaxy Tab 3 10.1 we reviewed about this time last year (July 2013). Beyond its buggy software, we found its relatively low-resolution screen and slow processor disconcerting, as well as its humdrum overall appearance and build quality. At the time, granted, it was $100 to $200 cheaper than the premium ($499.99-list) Toshiba Excite Pro and Samsung’s own $499.99-list Galaxy Note 10.1 (2014 Edition), but even so, compared to the premium slates of the day, it seemed inferior.

More recently, Samsung released its $499.99-list Galaxy Tab Pro 10.1, which we reviewed a couple of months ago, in May 2014. Much like the company’s other premium slates, the Tab Pro delivered a good-looking, super-high-resolution (2,560×1,600-pixel) screen, great sound, and long battery life. And, like most other high-end Samsung Android tablets, not only did it perform well, but it also came with the useful TouchWiz interface customization, or “skinning,” that we’ve come to expect from Samsung’s higher-end Galaxy tablets. That model set the bar until the advent of the Tab S slates.

Therefore, something’s got to give to get a lower price. The real question is, of course, are these $100-to-$200-cheaper Galaxy Tabs, such as the subject of this review (the $349.99-MSRP Galaxy Tab 4 10.1), decent values compared to their higher-end siblings? Or should you just bite the bullet and lay out the full $500 for the premium model?

More often than not, the build and display quality, as well as the performance of, the premium model are better enough that recommending the budget-friendly version over it doesn’t feel right. In other words, what you give up for the savings just doesn’t balance out.

Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 10.1 (Front View)Still, not everybody needs an expensive-but-gorgeous powerhouse of a slate. (Indeed, many folks, we think, would prefer holding on to the savings.) The good news is that, unlike a few of Samsung’s past attempts at making step-down slates, the Galaxy Tab 4 10.1, while in no way perfect, is a pretty decent middle-of-the-road tablet.

Granted, like most budget-friendly models, this one comes with a relatively low-resolution screen for its size (just 1,280×800 pixels) and a middle-of-the-road processor—here, a Qualcomm Snapdragon 400. The 400 is definitely not the fastest quad-core tablet CPU around, but during our experience with it, it performed reasonably well, if not a little sluggishly, compared to higher-end Qualcomm, Nvidia, and Samsung offerings we’ve tried in various tablets.

The Galaxy Tab 4 10.1 is certainly no Galaxy Tab Pro, nor a Galaxy Tab Note, for that matter. However, compared to some of the midlevel Galaxy Tab models we’ve seen over the past few years, this Galaxy Tab is a clear improvement. It’s almost as attractive as the company’s latest premium model, the Galaxy Tab Pro 10.1. And, while the CPU showed a little rust in our benchmark tests, turning in less-than-impressive scores across the board, the difference was not nearly as pronounced in our hands-on trials. In browsing Web pages, answering e-mails, watching movies, and other common tasks, we saw overall acceptable performance and little to no lag.

In addition, this midlevel model comes with most of the multitasking and other Android interface enhancements we’ve seen on the recent Galaxy Tab Pro and Galaxy Note slates, which greatly enhances this budget-friendly Galaxy Tab’s overall value.

Read the entire review at Computer Shopper.


 

Lenovo Tab A8 Review and RatingsDuring 2013 and the first half of this year, we’ve tested and reviewed a bunch of compact Android tablets. Over that time, as a class, compact tablets have diversified in a big way; earlier, the only common screen size that small Android tablets came in was 7-inch. (Nowadays, we classify slates with 7- to 9-inch screens as “compact,” while tablets with larger screens are “full-size.”) The big growth has been in 8-to-9-inch models, likely thanks to the emergence and success of Apple’s 7.9-inch-screened iPad Mini.

Some of these, such as LG’s G Pad 8.3 (whether the standard, Google Play, or Verizon LTE versions) and Samsung’s Galaxy Tab Pro 8.4, were premium, high-performance slates ranging between $300 and $400, while others, such as Dell’s Venue 8 and Acer’s Iconia A1-830, were inexpensive, entry-level tabs under $200. Then, too, a few recent “classic compact” models with 7-inch screens, such as our Editors’ Choice favorite of last year, Google’s Nexus (2013), have persevered despite premium prices (in the case of the Nexus, $200 to $300).

Lenovo Tab A8

Without question, we’ve no shortage or lack of variety in compact Android tablets.

That brings us to the subject of this review, part of the recent wave of 8-inchers. Lenovo’s $179.99-list Tab A8 is a low-cost 8-inch model with 16GB of storage, a 1,280×800-resolution screen, and an entry-level MediaTek quad-core processor. What all this adds up to is an under-$200 slate that stacks up well against like-priced competitors, less so against higher-priced models. When compared to Google’s $229.99-list 32GB version of the Nexus 7, for example, the Tab A8 comes up short, even with its larger screen, and even more so when pitted against one of the elegantly designed LG G Pads.

You can buy the Tab A8 in only one configuration—with 16GB of onboard storage, plus the core components mentioned in the previous paragraph. However, Lenovo says it will offer the A8 in four different colors, as you can see here…

Lenovo Tab A8 (Colors)

When we wrote this in early July 2014, though, only the Midnight Blue was available.

In addition, Lenovo says it will offer a 3G version, which will connect you to the Internet via your wireless provider wherever it delivers service. Like the other three chassis colors, the 3G-ready model had not yet materialized. When and if it does, though, it will come with ostensibly upgraded audio: a pair of stereo speakers, rather than the single speaker that graced our Wi-Fi-only test unit. Plus, it’s expected to have proximity and ambient-light sensors, neither of which you’ll find on the Wi-Fi model.

Lenovo Tab A8

The Tab A8 is part of a refresh of the company’s budget-friendly A-series tablets, including the 7-inch IdeaTab A1000. The line comprises three different models—the Tab A7, Tab A8, and Tab A10—each, according to Lenovo, designed for different kinds of use. The smallest of the lot, the Tab A7, is intended primarily for reading and browsing, where the A8 is designed as an entertainment-consumption slate. The 10-inch A10, on the other hand, is meant to serve both productivity and media-playback functions.

With such a wide selection of feature sets and prices available, choosing the right compact slate is often a matter of evaluating overall value in each model—in short, what do you get for the money? In the case of the Tab A8, you get a nice-looking display, reasonably competent audio for a single-speaker tablet, and acceptable performance. We think this Lenovo slate provides good value for its $179.99 list price, but it’s not a breakaway product at that price. We’d like it much better discounted by a Hamilton, a Jackson—or maybe even one of each.

Read entire article at Computer Shopper.


 

WHAT IS AMD'S PROJECT SKYBRIDGE, AND WHAT WILL IT DO FOR COMPUTING?Up until recently, the line between low-power ARM processors and x86 CPUs has been distinct: ARM-powered devices consisted primarily of tablets, 2-in-1 hybrids, and convertibles, while x86-powered machines were mostly laptops.

It wasn’t until the advent of Windows 8 and Windows RT in 2012 that we saw a lot of crossover, with Intel Core CPUs appearing in several tablets and convertibles, such as Microsoft’s Surface Pro, as well as a handful of ARM-based PCs, such as HP’s 21-inch Slate 21 k100 All-in-One Desktop PC, which is powered by Android.

Read the full article at Digital Trends.


 

Sony Xperia Z2 Tablet Review and RatingsWe’ve had our thumbs (not to mention our other eight swiping fingers) on the pulse of Sony’s tablet-making endeavors for a few years now. While the company’s slates—all Android-based ones—haven’t been runaway sellers, the Japanese electronics giant’s efforts have been impressive, all the way back to the original Tablet S in the summer of 2011.

That first Sony tablet had a unique design and a build quality deserving of our Editors’ Choice nod. The buying public may not quite have shared our enthusiasm, but we stand by the Tablet S as one of the best early efforts in full-size Android tablets. (We classify slates from 7 to 9 inches as “compact” slates, while 10- to 12-inch tablets are “full-size.”)

About a year ago (June 2013, to be exact), Sony supplanted the Tablet S with an all-new, highly elegant design, the Xperia Tablet Z. Like the subject of this review (which is, as you’ll guess by the name, its successor), the Tablet Z was sleek and premium in every way. It was very thin and very light, with an excellent-looking screen and behind it a top-of-the-line Qualcomm 1.5GHz Snapdragon S4 Pro processor. Plus, it was equipped with most every performance and convenience feature we could think of in a contemporary tablet.

Sony Xperia Tablet Z2So, now enter the Xperia Z2 Tablet—an even thinner, lighter, and more elegant refinement of the Tablet Z. Not only does this slate come with one of the fastest tablet CPUs available (Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 801), but the 10.1-inch screen is flat-out gorgeous, and the processor is paired with 3GB of system RAM for increased app-crunching oomph. Combined, these components make for one of the fastest, most attractive full-size Android tablets we’ve tested to date.

You can purchase the Xperia Z2 Tablet with 16GB of onboard storage for $499.99, direct from Sony (as well as from the usual e-tailers), or in a 32GB version for $100 more. In addition, it comes in either black or white…

Sony Xperia Tablet Z2 (Backs)

Like the Xperia Tablet Z before it, the Xperia Z2 Tablet is waterproof and dustproof (at least, so long as you’ve battened down the hatches over the ports and slots), and the display has a very respectable full-HD native resolution of 1,920×1,200. (That’s not quite the field-leading 2,560×1,600 of a few full-size Samsungs, but it’s enough, to our eyes.) It’s extremely well-built and attractive, and, as mentioned, all of the internal components are top-notch. And, like Apple has done with its ever-popular iPad Air line, Sony has baked up a bunch of attractive complementary accessories, such as docking stations, keyboard covers, and noise-cancelling headphones. (We’ll look more closely at some of these in the Design & Accessories section on the next page.)

When you consider all of the compelling, matching Sony gear that you can supplement this tablet with, it makes the buying proposition more attractive, versus a tablet that requires you to make do with generic or third-party add-ons. That’s a key difference, because nowadays, we balk big-time at paying $500 for a full-size Android slate. There are just too many high-quality $300 and $400 models, such as the Lenovo Yoga Tablet 10, available, and pre-Air iPads can be had in that price range nowadays, too. But now and then we run into one deserving of its premium price…and this Sony slate is among them.

Read the entire article at Computer Shopper.


 

Samsung Galaxy Tab Pro 10.1 Review and RatingsTo be sure, Samsung is today’s most prolific—and creative—maker of Android tablets. Each year, the South Korean electronics giant loans us for review its latest Galaxy Notes and Galaxy Tabs in multiple screen sizes and price ranges, with each new version delivering a wealth of updated features and—sometimes—improved performance. And over the years, each new model has usually impressed us. The major exception was last year’s Galaxy Tab 3 series tablets, which were undistinguished performers, among them the full-size Galaxy Tab 3 10.1. (We consider slates with screens from 9 to 11 inches “full-size.”

Samsung Galaxy Tab Pro 10.1

Here in 2014, though, Samsung has hit the reboot button, with its early-year release of the Galaxy Tab Pro and Galaxy Note Pro series, which includes the giant Galaxy Tab Pro 12.2 (a stylus-free version of the company’s Galaxy Note Pro 12.2, which we reviewed recently), the Galaxy Tab Pro 8.4 (a review’s forthcoming from us soon on that one), and the subject of this review, the $499-MSRP Galaxy Tab Pro 10.1. (Samsung announced a new-for-2014 Galaxy Tab 4 series just before we posted this review, as well.)

Unlike most of the company’s other recent Android slates, notably the Galaxy Tab 3 and the 2012 Galaxy Tab 2 series, which were positioned more as midrange products, the tablets in the Galaxy Tab Pro lineup are sleeker and premium-priced. They come with the Multi Window and multitasking features we’ve liked so well on Samsung’s latest stylus-enabled Galaxy Note slates. (To clarify: Samsung’s Galaxy Note slates make use of the company’s S Pen stylus; with the Galaxy Tabs and Tab Pros, it’s all finger input.) And the new “Pro” branding is reflected not just in the new tablets’ coolly minimalist chassis designs, but in the productivity-centric selection of apps and features.

In addition, our Galaxy Tab Pro 10.1 review unit was slightly thinner than its closest existing Galaxy Tab kinsman in Samsung’s line, the Galaxy Tab 3 10.1. Thinner and lighter is always a plus, so long as the tablet doesn’t become too pliable as a result. We’re happy to report that this new Galaxy Tab Pro felt hard-bodied and durable enough.

In fact, aside from lacking Samsung’s slick S Pen stylus, the Galaxy Tab Pro 10.1 shares a lot of traits with the company’s Galaxy Note 10.1 (2014 Edition). It has the same leather-esque coating on the back, with the same faux stitching around the edges, and its buttons, ports, and speaker locations are similar. And, like the Galaxy Note 10.1, the Tab Pro 10.1 comes in either white or black…

Samsung Galaxy Tab Pro 10.1 (Colors)

You’re also looking at similar screens between these two prime-time tabs. The Galaxy Tab Pro 10.1 comes with a gorgeous 2,560×1,600-pixel (WQXGA) display panel, the same higher-than-1080p native resolution as on the Galaxy Note 10.1 (2014 Edition). Also, its relatively new Samsung Exynos 5 Octa processor performs well, right up there with the snappy Nvidia Tegra 4 and Qualcomm Snapdragon CPUs we’ve tested in some other recent slates. (We’ve got more on that Exynos chip in the Performance section later on.)

Samsung Galaxy Tab Pro 10.1 (Three Quarters View)

Then there’s the battery life. High performance often comes hand-in-hand with a battery-life penalty, but not so much here: We were especially impressed with the Galaxy Tab Pro 10.1’s 12-hour-plus battery runtime in our video-rundown test. That was about an hour longer than the Galaxy Note 10.1’s unplugged runtime, and well over four hours more than what we got from the Galaxy Tab 3 10.1.

Pricing is the only key concern we had about this slate. The Tab Pro 10.1, which comes in just one storage-capacity flavor (16GB), lists for $100 more than last year’s 16GB version of the Galaxy Tab 3 10.1, and about $50 less than the 32GB Galaxy Note 10.1 (2014 Edition). Without question, the Galaxy Tab Pro 10.1 is an elegant, well-performing tablet with very little to dislike. But we think that the Galaxy Note 10.1 (2014 Edition), with twice the onboard storage capacity and the impressive S Pen stylus for sketching and taking notes, is a better buy at just $50 more.

Of course, price adjustments happen, which could change the relative lay of the land. For instance, we saw the 16GB Galaxy Tab Pro 10.1 selling from some resellers for $429.99 at this writing, although how long that lower pricing will hold is uncertain. We really like this slate, but, given the pricing of the 2014 version of the Galaxy Note 10.1, the Tab Pro 10.1 is a wee bit overpriced at its list price. Other than that concern, though, we’re confident that buyers of this classy tablet won’t be disappointed.

Read entire review at Computer Shopper.