Android : William Harrel – Journalist

Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact Review and RatingsAbout six months ago, we looked at Sony’s sleek and capable Xperia Z2 Tablet, a full-size (10.1-inch) Android tablet with a wonderfully thin, light, and attractive design. It had a great-looking screen and superior battery life, too, making it a no-brainer recipient of our Editors’ Choice nod. The Xperia Z2 was in a word, a very fine tablet.

As a result, we couldn’t help but get excited when the Japanese electronics giant announced an 8-inch compact version. (We classify tablets with screens between 7 and 9 inches as “compact.”) And that excitement was well-justified: Aside from its reduced screen size and some slight changes to the port layout, the new, littler model—Sony’s Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact—is otherwise much the same super tablet, right down to the 3GB of system RAM and the Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 processor powering it inside.

While this new Xperia’s screen is 2.1 inches smaller—from 10.1 inches down to 8 inches—the native display resolution (1,920×1,200 pixels) has stayed the same. As we’ll discuss more in a bit, going down by 2.1 diagonal inches means a significant reduction in screen real estate. But because the screen is so much smaller physically, the actual density of pixels per inch (ppi) is significantly higher. And that increases the overall perceived detail and quality.

Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact (Vertical View)One thing that did not shrink along with the screen, though, is the price. The Z3 Tablet Compact starts at $499.99 MSRP (for a version with 16GB of onboard storage), putting it at the same starting price as the full-size Z2 Tablet. That makes the Z3 Tablet Compact the single most expensive compact slate we know of in its base version, with Samsung’s Galaxy Tab S 8.4 and Apple’s iPad Mini 3 (each starting at $399 list) being its most closely priced compact competitors.

Though we fully understand that miniaturization costs money, Sony’s pricing scheme here is puzzling, and it runs counter to competitive trends. Apple and Samsung both offer full-size and compact versions of their flagship tablets, and the latter are at least $100 cheaper than the big versions. The fact that Sony engineered the same high-performance CPU into the Z3 Compact as in the full-size Z2 Tablet is to its credit, and likely part of why the Compact’s pricing remains high.

Even so, $500 is a lot of dough for a compact Android tablet. It’s a lot, too, for any full-size tablet not named iPad. Is this Xperia worth it? It’s definitely a matter of three things: a matter of taste, a matter of how much you like Android, and a matter of how deep your pockets are. What we can say pretty firmly is that the Z3 Compact’s amazingly trim chassis makes for one elegant-feeling tablet. It’s so light and balanced that you can forget you’re holding anything at all.

In addition, the Z3 Tablet Compact, since it’s built around the same CPU and RAM configuration, performed very closely to the Xperia Z2 Tablet on several of our benchmark tests, and it actually lasted nearly an hour longer on our demanding battery-rundown test. That really surprised us, given that the Z2 performed admirably in that regard as it is. The Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact’s unplugged runtime is one of the best in the tablet business, Android or not.

Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact (Vertical)Plus, like its predecessor, the Z3 Tablet Compact is dustproof and waterproof—to the extent, that is, that Sony claims it’s safe to use your slate in the bathtub or the rain. We’ll look at this and other design features later on in this review. But our bottom line on this little Android is that it’s upscale indeed, and priced like it knows it.

For some buyers, given all the top-notch components and that gorgeous screen, it may well be worth it. But make no mistake: This is a luxury model among Android tablets, with a price to match. And realize that those who’d prefer a still-state-of-the-art, but bigger-screened, tablet can get a Samsung Tab S or Apple iPad Air 2 flagship tab for the same price, while those after maximum performance in a compact tablet can opt for the rip-roaring, albeit much less slick, Nvidia Shield Tablet at about $200 less.

Read entire review at Computer Shopper.


 

Dell Venue 7 3000 Series Review and RatingsThe update cycle on most Android tablets has been around 12 to 18 months—it’s not often that one of these products gets refreshed in just six or seven. But that’s what happened with Dell’s original Venue 7 tablet, as well as its sibling, the Venue 8, both released in late 2013. Dell showed the first versions of these Venue tablets to the door rather quickly after they debuted.

The strongest impression we had of these 2013 Venues is that they were commonplace, with very little inside and out to differentiate them from most other compact Android slates. Especially so the 7-incher: Like most recent budget tablets, nearly everything about it was adequate but unexciting. It was the kind of tablet that would do in a pinch, but it didn’t inspire much in the way of enthusiasm or enmity.

The good news is that their replacements are thinner and lighter tablets with faster, more efficient Intel Atom processors. Our review of the $199.99-MSRP Venue 8 3000 Series revealed that, aside from a few minor flaws (a one-speaker sound system; shorter-than-average battery life), it was a much better tablet. A new full-HD display and a peppy 64-bit Atom CPU saw to that.

Dell Venue 7 (2014) (Front and Back)The Venue 7 3000 Series isn’t quite the same success story. Dell didn’t equip this smaller, $159.99-MSRP 7-inch model with a higher-resolution screen, nor, as you’ll see in the Performance section later on in this review, does it come with quite the same CPU as its 8-inch sibling (though it’s close). That doesn’t make the Venue 7 3000 Series a bad tablet, by any means. But the differences are significant enough that we found the Venue 8 an all-around better value, and a better tablet period, price regardless.

Still, this second Venue 7 is a decent slate in its own right. This one is a little thinner and lighter than last year’s, and, as mentioned, the different processor inside makes it a little faster. Dell’s problem here, as we see it, is that the Venue 7 3000 Series isn’t any more attractive, feature-wise, than several competing models, including Asus’ recent $149.99-list MeMO Pad 7. Plus, the popularity of smaller 7-inch slates appears to be waning in favor of 8-inch screens. An 8-inch display is larger by about 30 percent, making 8-inch tablets easier to use. And all else being equal, the price difference between 7- and 8-inchers is narrowing. Good budget 7-inchers hover around $150; budget 8-inchers start around $180 to $200.

Yet another reason the Venue 8 3000 Series is more attractive is that to get the same super-high resolution (1,920×1,200 pixels) on a 7-inch screen, you must step up (or down, depending on your perspective) to Google’s Nexus 7, the patriarch of high-res 7-inch tablets. Now, the Nexus 7 may be nearing the end of its long run (Google had just removed it from the Google Play Store when we wrote this, though it was still available from resellers), but it’s around the same price as the Venue 8 3000 Series. And the Nexus 7 doesn’t come with a way to expand the onboard storage, which, as we’ll discuss on the next page, both the Venue 7 and the Venue 8 do. And, of course, the screen is an inch smaller than the Venue 8’s.

Dell Venue 7 (2014)Our bottom line? If you can afford it, spend the extra $40 or so for the larger, higher-resolution Venue 8 3000 Series. You’ll be glad you did. If your budget limits you strictly to $150 or so, though, the Venue 7 3000 Series is a good tablet, but then so is Asus’ $149.99-MSRP MeMO Pad 7, as well as a few others—and some of those cost even less.

As we wrote this, Dell was offering a $10 “instant savings” incentive on its Web site, thereby lowering the price on the Venue 7 3000 Series to $149.99, the same as the Asus tab. But assuming the prices stay parallel, we’d still opt for the Asus 7-incher.

Read the entire review at Computer Shopper.


 

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.