Staples.ca: The 10 Best Tablets of 2013 Reviewed


HP Slate 7


This competitive offer from HP balances performance with price for a great value tablet.

Despite its impressively low price tag, there's nothing budget about this tablet's look and feel. Sleek, sturdy and just a tiny bit heavier than its main 7 inch competitor - the Nexus 7 - this well crafted device has obviously had a lot of attention during its design phase.

Under the hood, the value continues. Operating on Android's 4.1 Jelly Bean with a 1.6GHz dual-core ARM A9 processor and 1GB of RAM to keep things running smoothly, you won't notice any lags unless you're asking a lot. The front and rear facing cameras get the job done -- great for the odd snap or Skype chat. The battery has a similar level of performance: you'll get an adequate five or six hours of video playback before you need to find a power source.

If you're worried that the 8GB of onboard storage doesn't sound like enough, the Slate 7 has a thoughtfully placed microSD slot on the top edge that can stretch to another 32GB. As an Android device, there is a lot of built-in Google and HP compatibility, making this an intuitive tablet for youngsters or first-timers.

The 7 inch (17.8 cm) screen, and 1024 x 600 pixel resolution could look a little faded or out-of-date if you're used to a sharp smart phone, but again - at such an accessible price, it's worth it. One differentiator that's worth a mention is the Beats Audio sound system with built-in stereo speakers (located on either side of the micro USB charging and data transfer port on the device's bottom edge), which gives the Slate 7 an edge over many more expensive tablets.

For users looking for plenty of bang for their buck, or who need something sturdy for the kids to throw around a bit, the Slate 7 is a great choice.

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ASUS VivoTab


Well-designed and perfect for professional use, this tablet has its fair share of fans. It looks great, particularly when viewed next to its very reasonable price tag. Invest in a docking keyboard to accompany the full-sized stylus and you'll have the equivalent of a powerful and very lightweight Office laptop to work with.

The ASUS VivoTab measures 10.94 by 7.24 by 2.12 inches and weighs 581g. The plastic exterior feels solid and sturdy, and the slightly rubberized back will stop the device from jumping off slightly sloped surfaces.

This Windows device runs on a dual-core Intel Atom Z2760 at 1.8GHz. There's an impressive 64GB of storage, and because this tablet runs the full version of Windows 8, you'll be able to use any existing software on it. Of course, there's a microSD card slot to boost storage, as well as a handy micro HDMI and a combination microphone headphone jack. What's more, the battery's great: you can expect a solid eight or nine hours before you need to recharge.

But this device isn't all work and no play. Something that makes this functional tablet stand apart is its speakers. Thanks to SonicMaster technology, you can expect a full audio experience. The 10.1 inch screen has a resolution of 1366x768 and uses IPS technology to get maximum possible impact from multiple viewing angles. Added to this, the VivoTab's ultra-portable design makes this a great choice for any multimedia fans.

The 8MP rear facing camera has a powerful LED flash, helping you take wonderful photos on the move. The video recording kit (a large F/2.2 aperture and 5-element lens) means you'll also capture excellent quality video. Meanwhile, the front facing 2MP front camera delivers surprisingly good conferencing capabilities.

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KOBO Arc 7 Tablet


Despite its strong resemblance to its KOBO ereader relations, the Arc is a fully fledged, very affordable tablet that truly deserves a place on this list. In fact, the Arc provides a unique tablet experience that sets it apart from its competitors.

If you like stripped-back clean design, then the KOBO Arc will tick a lot of boxes. The flat front features a page-sized screen, along with dual speakers and the KOBO logo across the bottom section. The microUSB port on the bottom edge and the 3.5mm headphone jack on the right edge are the only ports, and you'll just find a power button and volume rocker on the edge. The chiselled rear and rounded corners are a nice touch.

This tablet runs on the android 4.0 Jelly Bean operating system. Its 1.5 GHz dual core processor keeps things snappy and there's 16GB storage. It boasts a 7 inch 1920 x 1200 resolution, with IPS, which is similar to the 1080p screen that you'd find on something like the latest Nexus 7. However, the aspect ratio is better suited for books, which tells you something about the target audience and heritage of this particular device.

On top of the OS sits a unique custom KOBO interface called Tapestries - an overlay designed to optimize your interaction with all kinds of content, but mainly books and articles. The interface is well-designed and won't stop you from easily accessing other key tablet features, such as your chosen browser or Facebook. Even better: if you decide Tapestries isn't for you, you can easily replace it with an alternative from Google Play.

The battery is quite good too; you won't get anything less than a solid 8 hours of video playback as long as you keep the wifi switched off. Finally, the 720p HD front-facing camera, with its 1.3 mega pixels means you're not missing out with the great value KOBO Arc.

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Google Nexus 7 2nd Gen


A beautiful, high end tablet that outstrips its much-loved predecessor without adding too much to the price tag.

The second generation Nexus 7 (so good they named it twice) has been brilliantly streamlined. It's skinny and light enough to sit comfortably in one hand, while still managing to feel sturdy and durable. Make no mistake though: this little beauty demands a case. It'd be a crime to scratch that bevelled glass front, and that sleek matte plastic back does tend to slide around.

As always with Google, beauty is more than skin deep. You can look forward to an exceptionally high performance display, packed to the enviable density of 323ppi. Text and images are very crisp indeed, making this a great tablet for keen readers. Despite the excitingly named 'antifingerprint technology', you might want to carry a silk handkerchief round with your Nexus to keep unavoidable smudges from sullying its perfect form.

Google is also closer to cracking the battery life problem than many competitors. Presumably employing some kind of witchcraft, they've managed to slightly reduce the Nexus' battery capability on paper, without actually affecting it in reality. It probably has something to do with improvements to battery management.

The device has 32GB and, unlike most non-Google tablets, doesn't allow for extras to be added. Hardcore media lovers might struggle with this, particularly when you realize the operating system takes up 6GB of those 32 on offer. But maybe the dual cameras (1.2 MP front, 5 MP rear), stereo speakers and Qi wireless charging will make up for it.

Really though, this is a thoroughbred Google experience. Although it's still running Jelly Bean, the Nexus 7 is now on 4.3 instead of 4.2 and, as an owner, you'll be first in line when the Key Lime Pie upgrade does arrive. A Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 Pro 8064 processor with a 2MB L2 cache and 1.5GHz processor speed make the Nexus 7 an exceptionally zippy joy to use.

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Samsung Galaxy Tab 3 Tablet


A distinctively large screen defines this excellent Android tablet from Samsung. An extra inch makes all the difference, and the 1,200 x 8000 resolution, as well as a 1.5 GHz dual-core processor and expandable memory make the Galaxy Tab 3 a favorite for media lovers. The pretty standard 16GB of memory can be easily pumped up with a microSD card slot that allows for a whopping 64GB of extra space.

Looks-wise, the Samsung tablets are getting better and better. It's a marvellous achievement to create an 8 incher that feels no bulkier than its 7 inch competitors. The Tab 3′s edges curve up slightly for a comfortable fit in the palm; you won't get cramps from holding this one handed.

The dual-core processor and preloaded 4.2 Jelly Bean operating system keep performance slick, and you can squeeze a comfortable 9 hours of battery life from one charge. There's a good quality 5 megapixel rear facing autofocus camera for decent photos, and a front facing 1.3-megapixel camera that's great for video chats.

There's some lovely attention to detail in this tablet. As well as syncing beautifully with other Samsung devices, one extra feature that's worth mentioning is how easy it is to turn this device into a universal remote. With the preloaded WatchOn app and infrared port, the tablet can be used to control most digital TVs and includes a smart channel guide that learns what you like as you watch.

Another user-friendly extra: you can put those 8 inches of real estate to better use with a clever multi-window feature, which allows you to use two apps at the same time. This makes it easy to, for example, drag and drop images, or watch something with a chat app open too.

Overall, the Tab 3 is an excellent, well-rounded choice for those looking to do more with their tablet and at a faster pace.

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ASUS® MeMO Pad HD 7 Tablet


Fans of the original Nexus 7 will be thrilled with this tablet. Both devices are made by ASUS so they’re extremely similar under the hood, but this one knocks the price down while also sorting out a few notable niggles. Together, these features make the MeMO Pad a really solid offer.

Powered by a 1.2 GHz quad-core processor, you'll have to play some demanding games to get any kind of stutter in performance. The operating system is android 4.1.2. If you're a real tablet fanatic this might not be quite up-to-date enough, but for everyone else the cost savings make this small sacrifice more than worthwhile. The screen is bright, sharp and easy to read, and you'll find it responsive, slick and fast loading.

It's worth noting that ASUS has added a few extras to the basic OS. You'll find some good apps snuck aboard, including a cloud storage service, a password protection tool and some fun photo gallery tools.

The expandable storage is one problem that's been fixed in this tablet, as there's a microSD slot that lets you add a few critical extra GBs to the built in 16. The other improvement from the original Nexus is the addition of a rear-facing camera. Clocking in at a more than adequate 5 mega pixels, you'll be able to capture some lovely shots.

The 10-hour battery life (easily extendable over a couple of days if you treat it with respect) is also worth a mention.

Now, no-one's claiming this is the sleekest tablet money can buy. But it's also one of the few that comes in anything other than muted monochromes. Some aren't keen on the plastic back, but, as with most tablets and smartphones, it's worth getting a protective case anyway. With a screen size of 7 inches and weighing just .67lb the MeMO will easily become your lightweight, go anywhere companion.

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Acer® Iconia Tablet


Offering a great value and even higher capabilities, the Acer Iconia A1 Tablet has a lot going for it.

Let's start with look and feel. Measuring 10 by 5.73 inches, 0.43 inches thick, and weighing .905 pounds, the Iconia might feel just slightly chunkier and heavier than its competitors. But, given what’s under the hood, it’s actually pretty small and light. Looks wise, the simple white and silver plastic design isn't going to blow your mind, but it's not going to embarrass you either.

The 1GB of RAM and 1.2GHz quad-core processor keep things running very smoothly. You'll be able to switch screens and applications with no lags whatsoever. In fact, you'll have to throw some serious games at this tablet, which runs Android 4.2.2, to notice any problems.

Available as a 8GB or 16GB model, both options can be bulked up via the microSD slot. While we're talking extras, the connectivity ports (a microUSB and microHDMI) make this tablet a versatile multimedia device. You'll be able to easily connect to a wide range of other devices, making it ideal for sharing content on bigger displays.

The 5 megapixel rear facing camera is great, although some might find the front-facing 0.3 MP webcam less than they need for clear video conferencing. No matter what you’re doing, you can always expect high sound quality with headphones.

The screen will probably need to be set to maximum brightness to get a performance that matches other tablets in this list, but the strong battery life means this doesn't matter all that much. Acer has also added a couple of nifty extras to how you can interact with the device. A five finger tap will wake the device from sleep, while a two thumb gesture can be set to activate the camera and other applications. Although of course this also means you'll want to keep wiping that screen clear of fingerprints!

All in all, a solid pick.

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Lenovo ThinkPad Tablet 2


Sleek, stylish and surprisingly sturdy with a beautifully integrated stylus and impressive battery, the 10-inch Atom Windows 8 tablet is a dependable office tool.

This is one of the best looking Windows 8 tablets around: apart from a signature splash of Thinkpad red, it's completely black and looks very professional. It's a shade lighter than the iPad 4 at 1.26lbs and is just a little heavier than its closest Android rival, the Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1. The well-textured back overcomes any challenges this might present though, making the tablet easy to hold with one hand. Curved edges (the stylus' edge is totally rounded) complement this.

The screen does exactly what it needs to: it's bright but doesn't oversaturate colors, and 720p HD video looks really good from any angle, thanks to the IPS screen. It's also a fabulously responsive touchscreen - a real pleasure to use. The well-integrated rear-facing camera and flash, and the 2.1 mega pixel front facing camera are similarly impressive.

Under the hood you'll find an upgrade from the first ThinkPad's Tegra 2 to an Intel Atom 1.8Ghz dual-core processor. There's also an accommodating Intel Integrated HD SGX545 graphics chip, 2GB of RAM and 64GB SSD storage. Having said that, since quite a lot of this space is taken up with the Windows 8 install and other pieces of pre-loaded software, the microSD card slot is an essential feature. This all adds up to a powerful device that goes from 0 to 100 (off to fully on) in just 14 seconds flat.

Microsoft Office is extra, as is the docking keyboard, but once they're up and running you'll more or less have an office away from the office. This tablet is also easy and rewarding to customize with multiple user accounts, making it ideal for family or business use.

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Microsoft Surface Pro 2 (6CX-00001) Tablet


A professional, high-performance tablet from Microsoft that's a smart step up from the already stunning original Surface Pro.

This beautiful tablet from Microsoft really comes into its own when you start to explore the capabilities of this operating system in its natural environment. The device runs Windows 8.1 off a 1.6GHz Intel Core i5 and boasts 4GB RAM and a 64GB SSD.

Performance is excellent. The Intel HD 4400 chipset keeps things smooth and speedy whatever multimedia demands you're making on it. Unless you're throwing tons of background processes at it, this tablet could easily stand up to desktop use. The 10.6-inch screen is a beautiful thing. Coming in at 1920 x 1080 resolution it's one of the sharpest on the market, and balances contrast and brightness extremely well.

Fans of the original Surface Pro will be pleased to hear Microsoft has kept its promise to improve battery life in this upgrade. Average use will squeeze a hearty seven hours out of the tablet, and that number goes up if you're willing to sacrifice a little screen brightness.

The upgrade offers tweaks that improve this device, rather than a wholesale reinvention. And when it comes to the design and build of the Surface Pro, Microsoft has correctly thought - if it ain't broke, don't fix it. Sturdy and professional, the almost seamless frame is uncluttered and functional. The new kickstand is the only real differentiator, enabling users to angle the screen at a much more convenient height for desk use.

It's still not the lightest tablet around, particularly when you add in the weight of the excellent Touch Cover 2 -- a more or less essential accessory, and a huge upgrade from the original version. Together with the well designed stylus, the Surface Pro becomes a responsive and intuitive desktop device.

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Microsoft Surface 2 Tablet


A thin but strong tablet offer from Microsoft, at a great price considering the considerable improvements from the original Surface, and the fact that Office is preloaded.

Much like the Surface Pro, this edition of the Surface tablet effectively fixes a lot of the issues found in its predecessor. Running Windows 8.1 on its 1.7GHz quad-core Tegra 4 chipset and 2GB of RAM, the Surface tablet feels fast and powerful. You won't get any stutters or lags until you fire up some high end games. If the 32GB of storage doesn't sound like enough, you can still load up more space via the microSD card slot, which accepts up to 64GB.

Surface 2 has a similar look and feel to its predecessor: big, sleek and smooth to hold. A notable difference though is the new color. The chassis is now a pale silver-grey rather than black. At 1.49lbs it's a just a little bit weightier than the iPad 4, but it also has a bigger screen so who's counting? The Surface is also has one of the most useful collections of ports around, including a full-size USB 3 port.

The screen is exceptionally good. Coming in at an indulgent 10.6 inches of HD display (1920 x 1080 resolution), text, images and movies are crisp and bright. Compared to many of its competitors, there's also a lot less glare, making this a great travel companion.

For the multimedia lovers out there, the stereo speakers deliver clear sound at an impressive volume. What's more, the two position kickstand means this upgraded tablet is much easier to use on a desk or lap. And the battery life won't let you down: video play times were coming in at a very impressive 12 hours!

The 1080p cameras are also great, delivering better performance in lower light than many competitors. And connectivity is strong, with 802.11n WiFi that seems to be able to find more access points than other tablets. All in all, this tablet is a great pick, both for those who are already Surface fans and for converts.

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