21 Dec 2012, V3 Staff, V3
The last 12 months really have all been about the tablet. It's become the must have device as the perfect complement to the smartphone that is now embeded in our lives.
After Apple kickstarted it all in 2010 with its first iPad rival, manufacturers have been falling over themselves to compete and 2012 was the year when they finally brought out devices worthy of competing with Apple.
This saw Google, Amazon and even Microsoft enter the fray with new and compelling offers, with the 7in form factor now firmly established as a viable alternative to larger 9-10in offerings, especially with Apple now moving down to this size.
With so much on offer V3 decided to draw up a list of some of the best tablets, adding in a few ereaders that caught our eye as well, to see which ones we liked best. Of course if you disagree, let us know in the comments box below.
10. Amazon Kindle Fire HD
Launched towards the end of the year, the Kindle Fire could well be one of the most popular tablets of the year as those wanting a cheap but efficient tablet buy into the Amazon brand known so well known from its ereader devices.
The device itself has some fairly basic component specs including a 1.2GHz dual-core processor, a front-facing camera for video calling and storage of either 16GB or 32GB.
It also runs a heavily modified version of Android, which although nice to look at it, isn't that easy to use, which may alienate some users.
Nevertheless at a super low price point of £159 you can see why Amazon is putting a lot of faith in users paying to download media to cover back its losses on the devices' production, although given the competition in the 7in tablet space, this may be a risky strategy.
9. Asus Transformer Pad
The Asus Transformer Pad Infinity has made our list thanks to its quirky form factor, as this Android device was one of the first to operate as both a tablet and a laptop.
Ideal for those in the market for a business-focussed tablet, Asus' Transformer Pad Infinity comes with a bundled in keyboard which makes it easy to type up documents and lengthy emails. That's not all it's good at, though.
The Transformer Pad Infinity also boasts a powerful 1.6GHz quad-core Nvidia Tegra 3 processor, Google's Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich software and a 10.1in 1920 x 1200 screen, which means it offers up crystal clear images and easy-to-read text.
The Asus Transformer Pad Infinity comes stuffed full of other features, too. On its rear there's an 8MP camera with 1080p HD video, a 2MP front-facing camera, either 32GB or 64GB of included storage, a microSD card slot, a 9.5 hour battery life and HDMI connectivity, which means you can connect the device to your HD television.
8. Yoga IdeaPad
The Yoga is what Lenovo call its first 'multi-mode' notebook, and it's able to fold and contort into numerous different positions. Available in two sizes of 11in and 13in, both models' displays are built on a hinge that allows them to tilt 360 degrees, folding it from a laptop to a tablet in one motion.
This flexibility means the IdeaPad Yoga can be used in four different positions: "clamshell laptop", "tablet", "stand" and "tent" modes.
Not only does the Yoga allow for a number of viewing positions, but it is also quite the powerhouse, with the larger 13in model running the full version of the Windows 8 operating system and powered by a choice of Intel Core processors with up to 8GB of RAM, a 256GB SSD hard drive and up to eight hours' battery life.
The IdeaPad Yoga might seem a little pricey, retailing for a starting price of £1000 for the 13in model and £700 for the 11in version. However, its sleek and adjustable design will see that you don't have to buy a laptop as well, saving you money and giving you one less device to carry around.
7. Amazon Paperwhite
It's easy to assume that the glut of new tablets hitting the market this year would have all but wiped out the humble ereader. After all, why would consumers want a device that specialises in doing a single thing well, when an all singing, all dancing tablet can do the lot?
Well Amazon's Kindle Paperwhite stands as testament to why such thinking is just plain wrongheaded as the lightweight, portable reading device is a top notch offering.
Kindle's e-ink has always been easy on the eye, but the addition of the illuminated screen means users can read in virtually all lighting conditions. And unlike a backlit tablet, the Paperwhite's light doesn't stream into your eyes - the screen is illuminated from above. For anybody with a serious amount of reading to do, this is a great way to avoid eye strain.
The device itself is easy on the pocket - both in outlay and portability - and features neat additions such as the Time to Read feature, which lets users know how long it's likely to take them to reach the end of a chapter. What more could the bedtime reader ask for?
The market for ereaders may never reach the scale of the tablet market. But the Kindle Paperwhite shows why it won't yet be swept away by the tablet frenzy. If we had one small quibble, we're not entirely convinced that the 3G option is entirely necessary.
6. Apple iPad 4
Apple's iPad 4, also confusingly known as 'the new iPad' and 'the iPad with Retina display', is the firm's latest, and arguably greatest, 9.7in tablet device.
Unveiled alongside the iPad Mini earlier this year, the iPad 4 features Apple's trademark Retina display and the 9.7in screen boasts a 1536x2048 pixel resolution, complete with a pixel density of 264 pixels-per-inch (ppi) and a scratch resistant coating.
It may not be as small as the iPad Mini, but the fourth-gen iPad is nice and compact too - measuring in at 9.4mm thick and tipping the scales at 662g, ideal for those after a portable device. It may be relatively compact, but the device also manages to squeeze in a 5MP rear-facing camera with HD video, a 1.2MP front-facing camera, a dual-core 1.4GHz processor and a meaty 11,560mAh battery, which should last around 12 hours.
What's more, the device comes running the latest version of Apple's mobile operating system, iOS 6, making it a great device for those who already wield an iPhone or Apple Macbook.
5. Kobo Glo
Being tech geeks, while we get the fact there are benefits to closed ecosystems, we still hold a special place in our hearts for all open platforms.
Because of this we were instantly won over by the Kobo Glo ereader, which breaks the tradition set by Amazon's popular Kindle series of devices, letting you load books and files from any marketplace that supports the ePub format.
This means that as well as the three million plus e-books on the official Kobo Store, you can copy over files from other ecosystems, like Sony. Add to this the added boon of a backlit screen, that lets you use the Glo in low light conditions and we can't recommend Kobo's latest e-reader enough.
4. Microsoft Surface RT
Microsoft surprised the world earlier this year when it announced plans for its own tablet devices to showcase the capabilities of its Windows 8 platform, which launched at the end of October.
Of the two Surface devices unveiled, only the Surface with Windows RT is currently available, which is powered by an ARM-based Nvidia chip in place of the more conventional Intel processor.
This delivers a more appliance-like experience than the full Windows 8, and also means that the Surface RT really can be used for an entire day running on batteries.
But the real selling point of this tablet is that it comes with Microsoft's Office 2013 apps built-in as standard, making it a great device for editing and viewing documents on the move.
When combined with the optional Type Cover, which provides a full Qwerty keyboard, the Surface can easily replace a laptop for many users.
On the downside, Windows RT means that standard Windows applications will not run, with users restricted to "Metro-style" apps designed for the new user interface. However, the Surface is a worthy contender for one of the best tablet devices of 2012 - if you can get past the new-style user interface.
3. Google Nexus 10
It's no secret that Samsung currently rules the roost when it comes to smartphones.
The company's Galaxy series of smartphones are some of the most popular in the world, with most analysts estimating Samsung currently owns roughly a third of the smartphone market.
Yet, the Korean giant is yet to repeat its success in the tablet market, which is why we were surprised when Google ditched Nexus 7 maker Asus in favour of Samsung for its latest 10in Nexus 10 tablet earlier this year.
However, once we got our hands on the device, all became clear as the Nexus 10 is an absolutely fantastic bit of kit, featuring a host of great features that prove Samsung can definitely cut it in the tablet arena.
Key features include its brilliantly crisp and bright 10in 2,560x1,600 resolution screen which is one of the best on the market and the ability to run multiple user accounts off the device.
With prices starting at a meagre £319, the Nexus 10 is a strong alternative for any tablet fan looking for an alternative to the Apple iPad.
2. Apple iPad Mini
The last 12 months have seen an influx of new 7in tablets, starting with the arrival of Google's first ever own-brand tablet, the Nexus 7 midway through the year.
Not wanting to lose its current top dog position in the tablet market, Apple responded to Google's flagship tablet with its own iPad Mini.
Now while some naysayers may claim the Mini is little more than Apple playing catch up with Google, we have to say the device is pretty damn nice, featuring a number of great features and perks that make it unique.
These include a sturdy, visually pleasing design, larger 7.9in display, 4G connectivity and astounding 10-hour-plus battery life that puts most similarly sized competitors to shame.
1. Google Nexus 7
The Nexus 7 was a game-changer. Launched in the summer it finally brought tablet computing to a price point that didn't sacrifice quality and provided a real alternative to the iPad, and in a form factor that's easier to carry around.
The device, branded Google but built by Asus, packs some impressive specs including a quad-core Tegra 3 processor, a 1.2MP front-facing camera and weighing just 340g. It also comes loaded with the 4.1 Jelly Bean version of Android from the off.
Its impact on the market is clear to see, with Apple forced into moving to the 7in space, admittedly at 7.9in, with its iPad Mini device that it unveiled in October that looks to cash in on those who want something smaller than the full-sized 9.7in offering from the firm.
For all these reasons we think it's worth its place as the top tablet of 2012.