kitkat : William Harrel – Journalist

In late 2013, Lenovo released a couple of Android slates literally capable of standing on their own two feet. Well, strike that—they were capable of standing on their own one foot.

Literally and technically, it’s not a foot at all. As you can see below, it’s more like a kickstand…


Lenovo Yoga Tablet 2 (8-Inch, Android) (Feet)


That stand is what has set apart Lenovo’s Yoga Tablets—the first generation, and the newer Yoga Tablet 2 models we’ve been looking at here in early 2015—from the rest of the Android and Windows pack.

The tablet aisle has become quite the crowded place, and Lenovo realized it had to be bold in its design. In the first Yoga tablets, the kickstand allowed you to position Lenovo’s tablets in three distinct and often quite useful “modes,” standing free in several possible orientations. With the Yoga Tablet 2 models, Lenovo has added a new orientation called “Hang mode” (which we’ll discuss in the Design & Modes section later on). Now, you can use the Yoga Tablets in even more ways that other tablets just can’t pull off as elegantly.

Also with this round of Yoga Tablets, you have more choices in terms of screen size. Up from two screen-size options in Android—in the original Yoga Tablet 8 and the Yoga Tablet 10—now you have three to pick from: the $229.99-list Yoga Tablet 2 (8-Inch), the subject of this review, as well as a $249.99-list Yoga Tablet 2 (10.1-Inch), and the $469.99-list Yoga Tablet 2 Pro (13-Inch), all shown below…

Lenovo Yoga Tablet 2 (8-Inch, Android) (Sizes)

We should point out, though, that the 13-inch model, with its dazzling QHD (2,560×1,440) display, low-power built-in projector, and JBL speakers, is actually more of a high-end entertainment device—a sleek, premium slate not really in the same class as the 8- or 10-inch Yoga Tablet 2. Here seems a good place to point out that we classify tablets with 9-inch or larger screens as “full-size,” and slates with displays smaller than 9 inches as “compact.” With the emergence of 13-inch models, though, we’re considering calling models in that size range “oversize tablets”—far bigger to handle than the dominant 9- and 10-inch tablets that orbit the Apple iPad’s dimensions.

The Yoga Tablet 2 8-incher is quite on the other end of the spectrum from “oversize.” It has roughly the same screen size as an Apple iPad Mini 3, and in our opinion that’s the smallest truly acceptable screen size for Android tablets these days. Given prices in 2015, much of the gloss has come off of 7-inch models for us, and as high-res screens have crept into tablets this small, the difference between a 7-inch and an 8-inch tablet is that much more pronounced.

While physically this Yoga tablet looks much like its 8-inch predecessor, inside it’s a completely new animal, as you’ll see in the Performance section later on. An ARM-based MediaTek processor powered the previous Yoga Tablet 8. The Yoga Tablet 2 (8-Inch), as well as the other two Android Yoga Tablet 2s mentioned above, have gone Intel, running on Atom CPUs. (Many competing compact slates from first-tier makers also now use Atoms.) As we’ve seen with other recent tablets, the Atom chip greatly improves performance—especially compared to some of the midrange ARM processors found in the entry-level compact slates of late 2013 and early 2014.

Even so, despite its CPU, the Yoga Tablet 8 came within about $50 (given its $249 list price) of winning our Editors’ Choice nod back when we reviewed it in late 2013. We thought—and still do—that the Yoga Tablet 8 was a $199 slate, and we think the same about this newer model. So far, though, we haven’t found it anywhere online for less than its $229.99 list price, and in places for slightly more, suggesting that Lenovo’s not having any trouble selling it.

While the Intel Atom CPU certainly beefed up this tablet’s performance, most recent competing compact models have also stepped up to the same or similar Atoms. In other words, the Yoga Tablet 2 (8-Inch) is faster than its predecessor, but so are most of its competitors. And where the 2013 Yoga Tablet 8 was generally faster than many compact slates of that era, today’s model, performance-wise, is just average—even if average isn’t so bad, nowadays.

Battery longevity is a different dynamic. On the first Yoga Tablet 8, we saw a whopping 15-plus hours in our video-playback test. Comparatively, the 8-inch Android Yoga Tablet 2 came up short by nearly 3 hours. But it still lasted long enough this time around to deliver at least a couple of days of everyday work, such as browsing the Web and answering e-mails, before we had to recharge.

As we’ve pointed out in numerous Yoga Tablet reviews, the Yoga Tablet design is unique because of the cylindrical hinge and stand built into the bottom of the device (assuming the slate is in wide/landscape orientation). In addition to providing plenty of room for a capacious battery, it also makes for a great grip point for holding the tablet in one hand while operating it with the other, as shown here…


Lenovo Yoga Tablet 2 (8-Inch, Android) (Hold Mode)

We decided, even back with the first Yoga tablets, that we were fans of the overall design and its various modes, which we’ll get into on the next page. But the new innards and higher-resolution display of this latest 8-inch Yoga Tablet make this 2015 model much superior to the Yoga Tablet 8. Plenty has changed in the tablet market since we reviewed that tablet, but the improvements here outpace the field: Screen quality and performance have increased significantly, and the price went down by $20.

We’d still like the Yoga Tablet 2 (8-Inch) better at $199, but this new compact model is, nonetheless, a very nice tablet for the money.

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.


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.


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.


LG G Pad 8.3 LTE ReviewA few weeks ago, we reviewed LG’s G Pad 8.3 Google Play Edition, which surprised us with its slick design and execution. Soon after, LG sent us a Verizon LTE-connected version, so we looked forward to this model with some enthusiasm. Except for the additional circuitry that’s required to allow this slate to connect to Verizon’s 4G LTE network, this Android tablet’s hardware inside is essentially the same as that of LG’s original Wi-Fi-only G Pad 8.3 (which we didn’t have the opportunity to review), as well as the G Pad 8.3 Google Play Edition.

When we reviewed the Google Play model, we found it to be an attractive, well-built, and comfortable slate—and one of very few compact Android slates to come close to knocking our 2013 Editors’ Choice winner, the still-compelling second-gen Google Nexus 7, from its lofty pedestal. (We consider tablets between 7 and 9 inches to be “compact” models, and slates between 9 and 12 inches to be “full-size.”)

LG G Pad 8.3 LTE (Front View)

The G Pad 8.3 Google Play Edition didn’t quite snatch the Nexus 7’s spot. But the cellular-ready G Pad 8.3 LTE is a stronger contender, to our eyes, especially compared to the 4G LTE version of the Nexus 7. Starting with the obvious, the G Pad 8.3 has a screen that’s 1.3 inches larger, which, as you’ll see in our Features & Apps section later on, has its good and bad points.

Before comparing the Nexus 7 and this G Pad, though, let’s look at the differences among the three G Pad 8.3 models available, starting with the original $349.99-list G Pad 8.3. (We’re tempted to dub that model, with apologies to Ice-T, the “OG” Pad.) What sets it apart from the Google Play Edition are its enhancements to its installation of Android. Among them are LG’s QSlide and Slide Aside, which allow you to display and work in more than one app at a time. The original G Pad 8.3 also has several other LG “Q”-features that enhance the overall functionality and value of the tablet. The G Pad 8.3 LTE comes with these value-added features, too, and we’ll take a closer look at them in the Features & App section later on.

The Google Play Edition, on the other hand, by dint of being a Google Play slate, runs on a completely unaltered version of Android—in this case Android 4.4, also known as “KitKat.” The big advantage of being a Google Play tablet, aside from running a plain-vanilla build of Android (which some users prefer), is that it 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 non-Google Play devices.

The primary difference between the Google Nexus 7 and the original, non-Google Play Edition G Pad 8.3, then, are the Android enhancements and the multitasking apps. Both the Google Nexus 7 and the G Pad 8.3 have gorgeous high-resolution (1,920×1,200-pixel) screens, and both models have loud, fine-sounding speakers, making both strong candidates if you use your tablet for watching videos. Another major difference is price: When we wrote this in mid-April 2014, the original G Pad 8.3 (as well as the G Pad 8.3 Google Play Edition) cost about $120 more than the non-LTE Google Nexus 7; however, that was not the case between the LTE versions of the Nexus 7 and the G Pad 8.3. They’re close in price.

LG G Pad 8.3 LTE (Low-Angle View)

There’s more to consider than just the price of these LTE devices, though. As we discuss in the last section of this review, the Verizon data-plan-plus-device pricing—whether month-to-month or a two-year contract—is a better value with the G Pad 8.3 LTE than with the Nexus 7. Furthermore (and this may be the determining factor for many would-be buyers), when we wrote this, the LTE Google Nexus 7 was backordered on Verizon’s Web site until… the end of June. In other words, unless something changes, it could take two or three months to get an LTE Nexus 7 if you want one. The G Pad 8.3 LTE, on the other hand, was readily available when we wrote this.

Even so, price and availability are not the only reasons to strongly consider the G Pad 8.3 LTE. It’s a mighty fine tablet, with a handful of convenience and productivity features that provide terrific value over other slates that are offered on the Verizon network. With all this in mind, the G Pad 8.3 LTE is a well-deserving Editors’ Choice recipient and a worthy alternative to a cellular-equipped Nexus 7.

Read 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.