Huawei MediaPad M2 10.0 Review and RatingsA few years ago, the Android-tablet market was flush with slates in two or three different screen sizes—and economy levels—from most of the big players in PCs. Nowadays? The pickings are pretty picked over.

Whether you’re talking about compact (7-to-9-inch) or full-size tablets (models with screens around 10 inches), we just haven’t seen that many new ones in recent months to choose from—or review, for that matter. Acer, Samsung, and Lenovo have trickled out a few, but most of the full-size Android tablets that have debuted over the past year or so have been upscale, premium multimedia devices with exceptional displays and sound.

In fact, while they can do many things, most of today’s full-size Android tablets are designed primarily for watching digital video. And, much like today’s review unit, Huawei’s $419-MSRP MediaPad M2 10.0, most of these slates are quite good at it—which requires, above all else, two predictable things: good speakers and good screens. (It’s also important to note here that our review unit was near the top of its family in both components and features. As we’ll discuss in a bit, you can buy a reasonably equipped MediaPad M2 10.0 for around $349 MSRP.)

Huawei MediaMate M2 10.0Another thing that most recent full-size tablets have had in common: a tendency to be durable and look upscale, even elegant, in appearance. Dell’s $629 mid-2015 Venue 10 7000 (Model 7040), with a detachable keyboard and touch pad) is an excellent example, as is Lenovo’s solidly built, $499.99-MSRP Yoga Tab 3 Pro. As you’ll see in the section coming up next, the Huawei MediaPad M2 10.0 comes with not only an excellent 1,920×1,200-pixel screen, but also an excellent Harman/Kardon sound system with four loud, clear-sounding speakers.

But this MediaPad isn’t a one-trick tablet; media playback isn’t all it can do. It also supports 2,048 levels of pressure sensitivity that, when coupled with Huawei’s active stylus (in the box with our review tablet), lets you annotate, draw, and take notes with Huawei’s bundled pen-enabled apps. Unfortunately, not all of the MediaPad M2 configuration options include the stylus, which we’ll address in some detail in a moment. Suffice it to say here that the differences in what you get for $349 and $419 are significant.

In either case, whether you buy the least expensive version of the MediaPad M2, the most expensive, or one in between, you’ll get a tablet that’s impressive in appearance (a dead ringer for the iPad Air 2) and build quality for a reasonable price.

Read the entire review at Computer Shopper.

AARP RealPad Review and RatingsMost of us have a technologically challenged elderly relative or two. In fact, according to the Pew Research Center (and several other sources), about 70 million people living in the United States today are over the age of 50—and about half of those folks are only “marginally” connected to the Internet (or have an Internet connection but don’t use it much). And about 30 million seniors aren’t connected to the Internet at all.

Enter senior citizens’ advocate AARP. With the help of chip maker Intel, AARP late in 2014 introduced a compact Android tablet geared toward seniors, the $189-list AARP RealPad. According to Steve Cone, AARP’s vice president of membership and integrated value, the organization identified the need for a product, a value-added tablet designed to make technology less intimidating for seniors. That happened in late 2013, when the group started holding its AARP Technology, Education, and Knowledge (AARP TEK) seminars for members across the country.

AARP RealPadAARP’s CEO, JoAnn Jenkins, explained further that “AARP understands that while technology is a wonderful thing and boomers are one of the biggest consumers of personal tech, it can still be a daunting experience for a large majority of Americans 50-plus.” And there’s a lot of incentive to fix that, beyond a giant market opportunity: Personal-computing devices, like tablets, not only alleviate boredom and help stimulate the brain, but they can also help seniors stay in touch and participate remotely in events with friends and family.

The heart of the RealPad is an Intel Atom processor. About the RealPad itself, Brian Fravel, Intel’s director of North American marketing, said, “In addition to powering RealPad, Intel helped build the software and unique interface on the tablet, making it simple and intuitive to interact with a RealPad tablet, even for those with little technology experience.”

So goes the claim. Because of the unique front end on this tablet, and the services connected to it (which we’ll get to in a bit), this is a niche slate aimed at a particular group, even if the niche is huge. So it was clear to us that we needed to assess it from a couple of standpoints: First, how well does it hold up against other recent entry-level, compact tablets—essentially, its physical-hardware competition? Second, do the software, help system, and other enhancements succeed in assisting seniors not only to use the tablet, but also to access the Internet, e-mail, social media, and the like? We’ll look closely at that software and other enhancements in the Features & Apps section later on.

AARP RealPad (Landscape)As to the tablet itself—its build and screen quality, overall speed, and how well it holds up to today’s other entry-level, compact slates—we’ll cover these issues in several subsequent sections of this review. In a nutshell, though: Suffice it to say that the RealPad’s somewhat sluggish dual-core processor (an Intel Atom Z2520) and short battery life might earmark it, at first, as an underachiever among under-$200 slates.

The processing power, though, is not at all the point in a tablet like this. AARP and Intel are banking far more on this slate’s support and learning features to set it apart. These include a “RealQuick Fix” option for near-instant tablet status updates and one-click problem-solving, as well as numerous tutorials, videos, and enhanced help files. Those items are backed up by 24/7 live tech support, and the purchase price also includes a one-year membership (or membership extension) with AARP itself.

All of this can very well be worth the $189 going price, provided the senior in question is willing to and able to work through the tutorials. The point behind them is to alleviate as much of the frustration as possible in trying to learn to use the tablet. After all, if you have little or no computing experience, Android (or even Apple’s cleaner iOS, for that matter) can seem intimidating.

Our bottom line? As compact tablets go, were price the only thing this slate had going for it, we’d recommend that you pass on it. But if you (or your senior) have been avoiding technology because it’s just too hard to learn, AARP’s RealPad really should help. It’s a good effort, given that it’s the first of its kind.

Read the entire review at Computer Shopper.


 

LG G Pad 8.3 Google Play Edition Review and RatingsLG Electronics is well-known worldwide for its household appliances, televisions, smartphones, even computer accessories—indeed, just about every other type of consumer-oriented gizmo, except tablets. Late in 2013, though, following the lead of HiSenseVizio, and a few other TV makers, the South Korean electronics giant entered the highly competitive tablet free-for-all with its own compact Android slate, the $349.99-list G Pad 8.3 Tablet. (That’s as opposed to the Google Play Edition of the G Pad 8.3 that we’re reviewing here; they are slightly different models.) As the name, suggests, the G Pads have an 8.3-inch screen. (We classify tablets with screens from 7 to 9 inches as “compact,” and 9.7 to 11 inches as “standard” or full-size slates.) Unlike most players in this ever-widening field that have debuted budget-friendly slates in the last 12 months (among them HP, Dell, and Asus), LG’s G Pad 8.3 is a premium device, and priced accordingly.

In fact, aside from the Samsung Galaxy Note 8.0, which lists for $399.99 and sells online for about $330, the original G Pad 8.3, at its debut, was one of the costliest compact Android tablets that had shown up in a while. You weren’t just paying a premium for a vanilla tablet, though; like the Galaxy Note 8.0, this Android came with several operating-system enhancements, spearheaded by LG’s QSlide and Slide Aside features, which allow you to display and work in more than one app at a time. Where this compact slate fell short of the Note 8.0, though, is that the latter also comes with Samsung’s highly functional S Pen stylus, as well as several productive S Pen-enabled apps plenty slick enough to warrant its higher-than-the-norm price.

LG G Pad 8.3 Google Play EditionIn addition to the standard G Pad 8.3, LG also makes a Verizon-ready LTE model (which we’ll be reviewing soon after this model) and a $349.99 Google Play Edition—the subject of this review. The G Pad 8.3 Google Play Edition is the first non-Nexus tablet distributed by Google (you can buy it direct), joining the ranks of some illustrious smartphones, such as the HTC One, the Samsung Galaxy S4, the Motorola Moto G, and the Sony Z Ultra. Like the G Pad 8.3 that preceded it, this Google Play version of the tablet is thin, light, and attractive, and more info

it’s relatively powerful, to boot. However (like other Google Play Edition devices), it comes with a stock (unaltered) build of Android, in this case Android 4.4 (a.k.a. “KitKat”).

LG G Pad 8.3 Google Play Edition

So, what does it mean for a tablet to be a “Google Play Edition”? An advantage of being a Google Play tablet, aside from running a plain-vanilla build of Android (which many users prefer), is that the tablet will automatically receive updates of the latest Android software well before most other Android tablets will. Also, it’s optimized for the latest apps, and you get more Google cloud storage for your content than do owners of other Android devices. On the other hand, you don’t get QSlide and the other multitasking features that the original G Pad 8.3 came with.

What you do get, though, is a comfortable-to-use, durable 8.3-inch tablet, with a great-looking full-HD (1,920×1,200) display, that runs on a cutting-edge Qualcomm Snapdragon processor (which we’ll discuss in the Performance section later on). It also has a pretty good sound system for a slate. In fact, besides the above-mentioned Galaxy Note 8.0, only one other compact slate we’ve handled can boast the build quality of the G Pad 8.3: our 2013 Editors’ Choice recipient, Google’s own Nexus 7 (2013 Edition).

The problem we see for this G Pad, however, is that it sells for about $120 more than the 16GB version of the Google Nexus 7. Now, granted, the screen is 1.3 inches bigger, but aside from that and its MicroSD slot for expanding storage, we don’t see $120 worth of additional value here—even if this is the only “Google” tablet (including the big-screen Nexus 10) that allows you to bump up its storage capacity.

That said, the G Pad 8.3 Google Play Edition is, in a word, a sweet tablet. Aside from the lack of HDMI-out for connecting to HDTVs and, as mentioned, stylus support, it has just about everything you could reasonably ask for today in a compact slate. But does it have enough to justify its price?

Let’s put it this way: We don’t think that most buyers will be disappointed with it. But then, we can say the same about the less-expensive Nexus 7, as well as the more versatile, S Pen-enabled Galaxy Note 8.0. While we really do like this G Pad, it’s up against some rather stiff competition.

Read entire review at Computer Shopper.