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Technology Research Center Main

Best Tablets

The Best Tablets and eReaders at Staples

by Mario Armstrong  |  Follow @MarioArmstrong

Are you looking for a new tablet or eReader? Consider these top picks from Digital Lifestyle Expert™, media personality and Emmy Award-winning TV host Mario Armstrong. From budget options to portable business machines, these reviews will help you identify the technology you need.

Mario Armstrong has appeared on numerous shows discussing technology, including "Dr. Oz," "Steve Harvey," "Rachel Ray," "Nate Berkus," "Katie Couric" and "Inside Addition." He has also been an on-air contributor for several shows and networks, including NBC's "Today Show," Fuse, NPR, WYPR, CNN and HLN.

Smaller Tablets

Today it's cheaper and easier than ever to get into the tablet game, but the one you choose is going to depend on exactly what features are most important to you and your family's needs.

Kindle Fire HDx 7" 16GB w/ Special Offers
Kindle Fire HDx 7" 16GB w/ Special Offers

If you're going to be sharing a tablet with kids, Amazon allows you to create different user profiles on the Kindle HDx so each family member can have his or her own apps, games, movies, books and email, separated out and private to their individual accounts. Amazon also packs in some of the best parental controls of any tablet, so if you want to closely monitor and control what your kids can do with their devices, this is the perfect choice as well.

Amazon's strength isn't with productivity or getting work done—if that's what you need a tablet for, look at the other selections I've made—but for enjoying books, magazines, movies, music and games, Amazon has a huge content ecosystem ready to roll. I especially like that the 7" HDx packs in a beyond 1080p display, so movies and games look GREAT on this device.

Google Nexus 7
Google Nexus 7

While very competitive with the Amazon HDx in terms of hardware, the big differentiator with the ASUS Nexus 7 Tablet by Google is in the software. Instead of being locked in to Amazon's content, you're running the full version of Google's Android operating system on the Nexus 7. This means you're free to get any app from the full Google Play Store, which means access to a much wider range of games, books, music and productivity software.

If you're looking to do some light work as well enjoy some great entertainment, the Nexus 7 is the best way to get a tablet that meets your needs at a price you can afford.

iPad Mini

Apple's tablets bring many unique features to the table. For one, they've got the biggest selection of tablet apps of any platform, which means not only will you be enjoying the widest selection of entertainment available, but you'll also have a much wider selection of productivity apps and office software to help you get work done while on the go.

Another feature I like about the iPad Mini is the screen size, which is a little bigger and a different ratio than the other tablets in this range. The Nexus and Kindle Fire devices sport 16x9 screens. This is the same ratio as your HD television at home, so these devices can perfectly match the resolution of movies and games. On the other hand, the iPad Mini sports a wider 4x3 screen, providing a much nicer experience when reading books, magazines and Web pages. But it will show black bars on the tops and bottoms of HD movies and TV shows. Keep these screen differences in mind when comparing the smaller tablets.

For an extra $100, you can upgrade to the iPad Mini with Retina display, which for some people will make a huge difference in how much they are able to enjoy HD content. The best way to find out if the Retina display is something you really want on your tablet is to head into a Staples store and try both models Mini out. Just be sure to really take some time and compare them side by side to see if that's an upgrade that's worth it to you.

Full-Sized Tablets

Stepping up from a 7" to a 10" tablet means you have a lot more screen space available for work and play. These mid-range tablets are more expensive, and you won't be able to hold them in one hand like you can with their smaller siblings.

Samsung Galaxy Tab 3 10.1"
Samsung Galaxy Tab 3 10.1"

Having a big screen for some people makes a huge difference if you want to watch a lot of movies or play graphically intensive games on your tablet. Because the Samsung Galaxy Tab series runs Google's Android Operating System, the big screen also makes a big difference in terms of productivity when you're trying to work with email, calendars and office software. The Galaxy Tab 3 also offers some cool features exclusive to the Galaxy line, like multitasking for Samsung's native apps, so you can browse the Web while composing an email or taking notes.

While it might be hard to imagine what a difference the Galaxy Tab 3's larger 10.1" screen will make when you're trying to get work done, you don't have to leave it to the imagination. You can try and compare these different screen sizes for yourself to see what works best for you at any Staples store.

iPad Air

The iPad Air packs a beautiful 10.1" Retina display into the thinnest and lightest tablet in its class, so the best reason to get the iPad Air is so you have even more screen available than the iPad mini. If you're looking to do more than reading, Web browsing and gaming on a tablet or just want a bigger screen to watch movies on flights, then definitely take a look at the iPad Air.

I especially like all free apps you get when you purchase an iPad. First there's iLife, which includes iMovie to help you edit and publish movies, Garageband to play and record music, and iPhoto, which helps you organize and share photos right from your tablet. Then there's the iWork suite, which includes the word processing app Pages, the spreadsheet app Numbers and Apple's gorgeous presentation software, Keynote. While these apps come free and work on the iPad Mini, they all make great use of iPAd Air's bigger screen.

Laptop Replacement

All of the tablets I've mentioned so far run either Google's Android mobile OS or Amazon's modified version of Android, the Fire OS. While both of these are good for some light productivity, nothing compares to the huge catalog of apps available for the desktop edition of Windows 8.1. Some people are unwilling to make compromises on their tablet choice, because they demand a single device to do both tablet things (reading, touch-based games, movies and more) as well as run full-blown Windows apps like Photoshop, Office or PC games. Does this sound like you? Then you need a professional tablet.

Microsoft Surface Pro 2

Don't call the Surface Pro 2 "just another tablet." With the full Windows 8.1 operating system at your disposal, as well as several different keyboard and trackpad accessories available, the Surface Pro 2 can go from being a games and movies machine to a full-blown laptop computer in seconds.

Plus, it comes packed with the full Microsoft Office suite of applications for free, so you never have to worry about being stuck without a computer to use for real work when you're on the go. With the latest versions of Outlook, Word, Excel, PowerPoint and more, all optimized for both a tablet and laptop experience, nobody will know you're out of the office as long as you bring your Surface Pro 2 with you to the beach.

This is the best tablet money can buy, and if you think you can afford the hefty price tag to get a laptop and a tablet in one device, be sure to give the Microsoft Surface Pro 2 a test-drive.

Microsoft Surface Pro 2


eReaders

If tablets are out of your price range or you really just want a device for reading and you can do without a full-color screen, an eReader is the perfect solution at the right price. They're also cheap enough to be great gifts for close friends or family—or even be stocking stuffers for the kids—all without breaking the bank.

If you're shopping on a budget, the $69 Kindle WiFi is a no-brainer. Amazon's Kindle Store offers one of the widest eBook selections possible with some of the lowest prices of any eReader platform. This device doesn't have the bells and whistles, like a touch-screen or built-in light, but for a simple reading device, you'll be happy to trade both of those for the low cost of entry, the easy on the arms 6-ounce weight and the month of battery life.

If you want an eReader with all the latest features, I'd have to recommend you step up to the $119 Kindle Paperwhite with WiFi, which offers not just a responsive touch screen but also a best-in-class front lighting system. Using LED lights that face the page rather than shooting light at your eyes, the Amazon Paperwhite lighting system makes it easy to read for hours in low- or no-light conditions. Because it's LED-based, the light doesn't take a huge toll on battery life—you can still expect weeks of battery life with the light on, compared to the hours you get with a full-blown tablet. But remember, if you want color, Web browsing, games, movies and email, not even the Paperwhite will cut it—you'll still want a tablet for all that.



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