2014 could be one of the most competitive years for tablet makers yet, with each wanting to ensure their device ends up the year’s best selling. For buyers this is a good thing as it has led numerous hardware companies to unveil a ream of new tablets.
Kind people that we are, we’ve collated a list of the 10 best to keep an eye on for the year ahead.
10. Panasonic Toughpad FZ-M1
Panasonic’s latest 7in device is the toughest in this list by a long way. Featuring IP67 certification and a chunky feel, this looks to be exactly the sort of device you’ll want to send out with employees whose workplaces are outdoors, such as in the utility or construction industries.
Powered by a fourth-generation Intel Core i5 Haswell processor, Panasonic’s slate should be more than powerful enough for most workers’ needs.
It will be pricey, however, and is expected to weigh in at over £1,000. That said, you certainly get what you pay for and Panasonic knows its bread and butter when it comes to rugged devices.
9. Asus VivoTab Note 8
The Asus VivoTab Note 8 should go beyond your standard media-consumption device. This 8in unit packs a handy set of specifications including a quad-core fourth-generation Intel Atom processor, eight hours of expected battery life, 2GB of RAM and 64GB of expandable storage.
The Taiwanese firm’s slate comes pre-installed with Windows 8.1 and Microsoft Office Home and Student and also includes a Wacom stylus.
Several device makers have entered the 8in space recently, with Dell, HP and Lenovo all offering their own Windows 8 devices in this class. Asus’ rendition sounds quite promising, especially because Asus is touting this device to be perfect for creative and professional types. It’s entering a crowded marketplace, but it has every possibility of succeeding.
8. Acer Iconia A1-830
Sure the Acer Iconia A1-830 may not be the most exciting device on our list, but with prices starting at a rock-bottom £140, it certainly is one of the cheapest.
Unveiled at the 2014 CES tradeshow, the new Iconia is one of the cheapest Android tablets to arrive this year. While its specs aren’t top end – its powered by a reasonable, but not stellar, dual-core 1.6GHz Intel Atom Clover Trail+ processor and has just 1GB of RAM – considering its price it’s still very good value for money.
This is especially true when you consider the Iconia’s build quality. Despite being cheap, the Iconia has a robust metal chassis. During our hands on we found the design made the Iconia feel significantly sturdier than some more expensive tablets.
7. Nokia 2520 follow up
For years Nokia said it would not create a tablet and would instead focus on developing its smartphones. The tactic proved a hit and – despite still having a woefully lower share of the market than big players Apple and Samsung – over the past three years Nokia has enjoyed a steady increase in smartphone sales.
Clearly feeling confident, the Finnish firm chose to build on this and launch its first ever tablet, the Lumia 2520 last year. Boasting Nokia’s trademark colourful design and featuring a host of productivity services pre-installed, such as Microsoft Office, the 2520 won us over and we listed it as the best Windows RT tablet ever made.
Given its positive reviews, Nokia may take a second run at the tablet market and release an updated version of the 2520. If so, we’re praying it will run using the full version of Windows 8, not the stripped-down abomination that is Windows RT.
6. Microsoft Surface Pro 3
Since launching its first batch of Surface devices in 2012, Microsoft has been gradually refining its professional tablet offering. This was showcased in 2013, when Microsoft unveiled the Surface Pro 2 tablet.
Designed to tweak rather than reinvent the original Pro’s offer, the only significant additions to the Pro 2 were the inclusion of a new and improved Intel Haswell processor, two-position kickstand and more recent Windows 8.1 software.
While there are no official details yet, we’re expecting a much more serious reboot to the Pro portfolio this year, as Microsoft continues to try and increase its presence in the tablet market.
5. New iPad Mini with Retina display
Apple’s iPad Mini has been a roaring success since it was introduced two years ago, with users rushing to grab the tiny device to save on space and weight when travelling around.
First-generation owners may well now be ready for an upgrade to the next iteration of the device, and the latest version could have several notable improvements.
This most likely is the inclusion of a the same fingerprint scanner found in the iPhone 5S, to add security and time-saving benefits, and an improved camera.
No doubt Apple’s crafty engineers will also have found a way to shave off more weight and thickness from the device too, as they did with last year’s iPad Air, and who knows, perhaps they’ll even brand it the iPad Mini Air.
4. Lenovo ThinkPad 8
While 2013 saw an influx of new 10in and 12in Windows 8 tablets, the small form factor space continues to be dominated by Apple and Google, with their respective iPad Mini and Nexus 7 devices.
This is sad as 7in and 8in tablets are actually very useful. Being small and light the tablets are ideal productivity aids for people who regularly travel or are constantly on the move. Because of this we were very happy when the Chinese PC maker chose to rectify the situation, unveiling its brand new ThinkPad 8 at CES 2014.
Featuring an 8.3in 1920×1200 full HD screen, powerful Intel Z3770 quad-core 2.4GHz Bay Trail processor and boasting all the inherent enterprise benefits of Microsoft’s Windows 8 Pro, the ThinkPad 8 has the potential to be one of 2014′s best tiny tablets.
3. Galaxy Note Pro 12.2in
Korean tech heavyweight Samsung has been edging its way into the enterprise space for the past year. But so far the shift has been software based, with Samsung limiting itself to releasing tools such as its Knox security service.
At CES 2014 this all changed when Samsung unveiled its Galaxy Tab Pro and Note Pro series of devices.
Both the Note Pro and standard Pro tablets come in a variety of size options, ranging between 8in to 12in. For us the 12.2in Note Pro is the most interesting.
Featuring a 12.2in 2560×1600 resolution display, productivity-focused Magazine UX Android skin, Knox security and a dockable S Pen stylus, we can see the Note Pro appealing to a variety of businesses.
2. Google Nexus 7, 8 and 10
Google’s Nexus 7 has been rather all-conquering in the 7in device space in the past 18 months, boasting market-leading specifications at close to budget prices. A sharp, HD screen coupled with a powerful processor and light-yet-strong build quality has made it something to behold.
But 2014 could be different, with rumours swirling around a potential up-sized 8in device running an Intel chipset. The speculation isn’t particularly solid, but was fuelled by an accidentally leaked promotional image of an 8in-looking device appearing last year.
The Google Nexus 8 would be an interesting addition to Google’s Nexus fleet, filling space where other firms such as Lenovo and and Dell have already ventured.
Meanwhile, the Nexus 10 is definitely showing its age, so we’re sure a new Nexus 10, probably called the Nexus 10 2, will be launched this year. From the fleeting rumours currently circulating, we’re looking at a sleeker 10.1in device with an identical display to its predecessor. Weight and design will be key here, as its rivals have already demonstrated. Plus, if the device wants to have credentials beyond media consumption, an optional keyboard and built-in stylus certainly wouldn’t go amiss.
1. iPad Air 2
Last year Apple released what we think is its most innovative and interesting iPad to date, the iPad Air. The Air features a number of great features, chief of which is its new design. Apple worked to give the iPad Air the same visual allure as its Macbook Air laptop, designing it to be as thin and light as possible. As a result the iPad Air is 20 percent thinner than the iPad 4, measuring in at 7.5mm thick, and is a staggering 180g lighter.
As if this wasn’t enough, Apple somehow managed to fit a host of top-end tech into the iPad Air’s tiny chassis, loading it with a cutting-edge 64-bit A7 processor and cornea-bustingly bright 9.7in with a 2048×1536 Retina display.
Even though we can’t see how Apple could physically improve the iPad Air – considering its track record of releasing a new tablet every year – we can’t help but salivate at the idea of getting our hands on an upgraded version, and no doubt many more around the world are thinking the same.