PhoneArena Awards 2014: Best tablets

PhoneArena Awards 2014: Best tablets
Tablets are pretty neat and handy, aren't they? They keep us entertained when we're bored, they make it easy to get in touch with friends, they help us with work and studies, they can even keep Junior occupied when mommy and daddy need some peace and quiet. Not all tablets are made equal, however, and it is our job to highlight the ones deserving the attention of our readers.

This brings us to today's category in our PhoneArena Awards series, where we highlight the year's top tablets. We had the chance to review dozens of slates over 2014's course, and many of them were pretty good, but at the end of the day, these are the three we liked best.

Apple iPad Air 2

In 2010, Apple single-handedly defined what a modern tablet should look and feel like. Today, more than four years later, the iPad is still on top of the tablet food chain despite the stiffer-than-ever competition. Sure, it may not be the perfect tablet, but it is quite possibly the best tablet one can get. Its latest iteration, the iPad Air 2, is light, well-built, and unbelievably thin, which makes it an ideal companion, be it when you're on the go or simply chilling in the couch. It also packs a beautiful screen that's clearly visible even outdoors. With the new A8X system-on-a-chip and 2GB of RAM, performance is never an issue, and with iOS's broad selection of tablet-optimized software, there's an app or game to match any need or taste. And if that's not enough, the tablet's 8MP camera can take presentable shots when a better snapper isn't around. All of this is wrapped in a meticulously-crafted, metal-made body that's a pleasure to touch. 

Google Nexus 9

It may not be the prettiest tablet out there, but seriously, you won't really care once you get to know the Nexus 9 better. That's because its appeal is the inside. Built by HTC, it is the device meant to showcase Google's Android 5.0 operating system and Material Design in all their unaltered beauty. You get some pretty serious hardware under the hood, too, including a 64-bit Tegra K1 SoC and 2GB of RAM, which have no troubles handling anything you throw at them. To keep you entertained, the Nexus 9 is equipped with a great-looking, high-res screen and front-facing stereo speakers. And with its 6700mAh battery, the slate is one of the longest-lasting in our book. What more could you ask in exchange for $400?

Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact

How many water- and dust-resistant tablets can you name? Not much, probably. Well, the Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact happens to be one of those few tablets resistant to the elements, but that's far from all there is to like about it. Sony's 8-inch slate carries "Compact" in its name for a good reason – it is one of the lightest, thinnest, and most portable tablets in its class. Better yet, its compact size is not dragging its battery life in any way. In fact, the Z3 Tablet Compact has excellent battery life, as our benchmarks confirm. But it gets even better once you inspect its specs sheet. With a Snapdragon 801 SoC and 3GB of RAM, Sony's petite slate is both fast and future-proof.

Story timeline



1. KinqElessaR

Posts: 45; Member since: Dec 04, 2014

Why not NotePro? S-Pen makes a huge difference i think. Others are just bigger phones :D

2. maherk

Posts: 6770; Member since: Feb 10, 2012

No Tab-S? Seriously? Or Note 12.2? What do those bring that the Note tabs doesn't? They can't even do 10% of what the Note tablet is capable off.

8. deanylev

Posts: 234; Member since: Mar 11, 2014

Note I totally agree, but the Tab S isn't great all round. Nice screen and design, but after playing with a few in different stores, I found it's the LAGGIEST tablet I've ever played with, even with no apps. Every single thing stutters massively. Albeit, this was the Exynos 5420 version, seems that SoC is not meant for 1600p displays. Snapdragon is probably better.

12. maherk

Posts: 6770; Member since: Feb 10, 2012

I have the Tab S 10.5, and i never ever noticed any lag on it. I am not sure if the US version is also packed with the exynos processor. But yeah, no lag what so ever. The last time i faced a bit of lag was on the S4, but never on the Tab pro 8.3, Tab S 10.5, S5, Note 3 and Note 4.

33. tech2

Posts: 3487; Member since: Oct 26, 2012

The snapdragon version is the one with LTE the WiFI only Tab S has Exynos 5420. The chipsets are not region specific in Tab S's case.

37. Andrewtst

Posts: 696; Member since: Jan 25, 2009

You are wrong, not every country Tab S LTE version is S800. My country LTE version came with Exynos 5420.

22. UglyFrank

Posts: 2193; Member since: Jan 23, 2014

They do push a monumental amount of pixels

35. SuperMaoriBro

Posts: 533; Member since: Jun 23, 2012

Played with one in store at a couple different stores and also noticed massive amounts of lag. Picked one up on sale (exynos version) and took it home and it doesnt lag at all, everything is super fast. Loading times are especially fast. Not sure why the store demos lag so much.

20. fzacek

Posts: 2486; Member since: Jan 26, 2014

One word: TouchWiz...

23. maherk

Posts: 6770; Member since: Feb 10, 2012

Functionality over looks ;) i am not looking to make love to my tablet's UI anytime soon.

25. Commentator

Posts: 3722; Member since: Aug 16, 2011

Then what are you even doing here?!?

3. Neo_Huang

Posts: 1067; Member since: Dec 06, 2013

People gonna be mad that there's no Surface in here.

17. tury694

Posts: 167; Member since: Aug 25, 2014

These fools know not what they do. They have awakened the true beast that is Microsoft.

4. housry23

Posts: 136; Member since: Jun 03, 2012

Nvidia Shield Tablet is a much better choice than the Nexus 9. It's cheaper with basically the same internals and can do much more. Grid game streaming is so cool! It has a stylus and is just an all around better tablet.

5. sprockkets

Posts: 1612; Member since: Jan 16, 2012

This. Nexus 9 is pricey. They fixed the build issues but still, you can't beat the nice things of the shield tablet. Along with what you said, having proper dual screen operation via hdmi is also a big plus.

7. deanylev

Posts: 234; Member since: Mar 11, 2014

Couldn't agree more, you also get a nicer for video watching 16:10 aspect ratio and it's already got Lollipop, to my surprise Nvidia are fantastic with updates. I'd take one over the N9 any day

11. alrightihatepickingusernames

Posts: 474; Member since: Dec 29, 2013

Definitely agree, and this is coming from somebody who was nearly dead set on adopting 64 bit Android with the Nexus 9 at first opportunity. It's just too costly, and the build quality issues, although supposedly resolved still leave a sour taste. Those two compromises make me even more unwilling to swallow a 4:3 aspect ratio. Overall, it was a serious letdown for the Nexus line, sad considering they've previously been a great line of tablets.

26. 0xFFFF

Posts: 3806; Member since: Apr 16, 2014

Not to mention Nexus 9 contains a half-baked chip that a lot of Nexus 9 owners say runs hot most of the time. I'm not sure why Nvidia resurrected a failed technology, but including dynamic code translation seems really dumb. Maybe there is some long term plan for integrating CPU/GPU code where it makes sense, but for now it is just adds jitter and lag to the Nexus 9 experience.

32. NFSHesham

Posts: 297; Member since: Feb 04, 2014

Nividia Shield Tablet ISN'T exactly available worldwide

6. Immolate

Posts: 310; Member since: Jun 17, 2011

Dude Note? Hello? McFly?

9. pyradark

Posts: 895; Member since: Jun 10, 2012

Yehey to sony!!

10. realjjj

Posts: 375; Member since: Jan 28, 2014

Fully ignoring pricing makes no sense. The Sony tab is one of the worst tablets ever if you factor in pricing. The Air 2 is surpassed by the original Air and both get outcalssed by the Min 2 at 300$. The Xiaomi Mi Pad suffers a bit on the software side but it still is a much better buy than almost everything. You guys actually picked some of the worst tablets available and nobody should be foolish enough to buy any of those when they can do muchbetter.

14. tedkord

Posts: 17307; Member since: Jun 17, 2009

I think the idea is best regardless of price.

13. tedkord

Posts: 17307; Member since: Jun 17, 2009

1. Surface Pro 3 . . . . 2. iPad Air 2 3. Who cares?

28. marcski07

Posts: 600; Member since: Apr 25, 2014

surface pro is a hybrid, it is a desklet or tabletop (sound pokemon tho) :D this tablets are nowhere near on surface. hehe

29. tedkord

Posts: 17307; Member since: Jun 17, 2009

It's a tablet. Just one that's significantly more powerful and versatile than anything else.

36. romeo1

Posts: 814; Member since: Jan 06, 2012

I think surface is not in the same category. It runs windows and I'm not sure if the battery life is comparable to other tablets in daily use. Android and ios tablets are great to just watch a movie and hanging around the house etc. Also windows 8 is very confusing and also not very good. Lets hope for 10 to make it up.

15. theguy2345

Posts: 1216; Member since: Jun 24, 2014

The reason the Surface pro isn't here is simple. It is not even in the same league as these toys. It destroys every all the tablets on this list. Hell, we should make a new category for it.

16. WallStreet

Posts: 256; Member since: Sep 21, 2014

Sorry guys, but I think gsma....has done a much better ranking.

18. darkkjedii

Posts: 30966; Member since: Feb 05, 2011

Air 2 is smoking hot, shoulda had the surface, and Galaxy in there too though.

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