Pick One – Galaxy Tab S 10.5, iPad Air, Kindle Fire HDX 8.9, Surface 3

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Tablets are a personal choice. Some folks will favour the various flavours of Android, others are solid iOS advocates – even though the choices are severely limited once you go down that road. Still others have found their bliss in Fire OS and then there are the Windows fans.

Each option has something to commend it so we’ve collected a pick from each of the Big Four (it would be Five but we can’t think of another tablet OS worth speaking of – and the BlackBerry PlayBook doesn’t count). These are the current race leaders, though we’d be lying if we said that there weren’t tablets out there that outdid the quartet below in once aspect or another.

Which one is for you? Read on below to find out.

  • Galaxy Tab S 10.5
    Display: 10.5-inch Super AMOLED (2,560 x 1,600), 288ppi
    Chipset/CPU: Exynos 5 Octa 5420/Cortex-A15 1.9GHz quad and Cortex A7 1.3Ghz quad (3GB RAM)
    Storage: 16GB/32GB, up to 128GB external
    Camera: 8MP (3,264 x 2,448), LED flash, autofocus/2.1MP (front)
    Connectivity: WiFi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac, Bluetooth 4.0 LE
    Battery: 7,900mAh Li-Ion (non-removable)
    Operating System: Android 4.4.2 KitKat
    SIM Card: None
    Features: Fingerprint sensor
    Dimensions: 247.3mm x 177.3 x 6.6
    Samsung’s Galaxy Tab S 10.5, which also comes in 7- and 8.9-inch sizes, is the current pick of the Android tablet lineup. Samsung have rolled out their Super AMOLED displays in a big way for these tabs, with some monster resolutions on hand.

    They haven’t skimped much on the power either, the Exynos 5420 Octa chip is designed to lighten your workload. Improved WiFi access, a lovely big battery for all-day action and Android 4.4.2 make up for the lack of a SIM card slot and for this particular model.

    Is this for you?

    That depends. Do you like Android and multimedia? Wireless video streaming over a home network? Fighting with Samsung’s TouchWiz UI? Okay, so that last one’s not really a selling point but the screen, wireless capability and CPU all point towards an in-home media tablet that spends far more time streaming Netflix in the smallest room than it does surfing the web looking at text.

    If you don’t mind wading through Google’s Play Store in search of the best apps, are fond of Android’s openness and the possibilities that rooting this device provides, then Samsung’s Tab S 10.5 might be just what you’re looking for.

  • iPad Air
    Display: 9.7-inch Retina (1,536 x 2,048), 264ppi
    Chipset/CPU: Apple A7/ARM-v8-based 1.3Ghz Cyclone dual-core (1GB RAM)
    Storage: 16GB/32GB/64GB/128GB
    Camera: 5MP (2,592 x 1,944), autofocus/1.2MP (front)
    Connectivity: 3G, LTE, WiFi 802.11 a/b/g/n, Bluetooth 4.0 LE
    Battery: 8,600mAh Li-Po (non-removable)
    Operating System: iOS 7 – iOS 8
    SIM Card: Nano-SIM
    Features: Multi-touch
    Dimensions: 240mm x 169.5 x 7.5
    Let’s face facts, Apple’s hardware and software work so well together that they’re almost bound to be that couple celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary without ever having had more than a minor disagreement. The iPad Air is just the newest milestone for the pair, where everything is simple, works as intended and requires very little maintenance.

    The Retina display always looks good but Apple’s App Store is also heavily monitored from the top down so you’re sure that you’re going to get what you’re looking from from the software you download. The internal hardware might not be capable of record-breaking performance but it does what it needs to thanks to some of the company’s engineering tweaks. Also: SIM card support.

    Is this for you?

    Are you an Apple fan? Then yes. How do you know if you fall under that heading? Well owning an iPhone is a pretty good indicator but even if you’ve never owned a tablet or smartphone in your life, wanting to actually do things with your technology without worrying too much about how it works is a reasonable sign.

    Apple’s iPad Air is as close to a pick-up-and-go tablet as you’re likely to ever get, unless someone invents something that reads your mind and transforms according to your subconscious needs. Get it if multimedia use as well as general functionality, minus the technical aspects, are your cup of expensive beverage.

  • Kindle Fire HDX 8.9
    Display: 8.9-inch IPS LCD (2,560 x 1,600), 339ppi
    Chipset/CPU: Qualcomm Snapdragon 800/Krait 400 2.2Ghz quad (2GB RAM)
    Storage: 16GB/32GB/64GB
    Camera: 8MP (3,264 x 2,448), LED flash, autofocus
    Connectivity: 3G, LTE, WiFi 802.11 a/b/g/n, Bluetooth 4.0 LE
    Battery: Li-Ion
    Operating System: Fire OS 3.0 Mojito
    SIM Card: Micro-SIM
    Features: Multi-touch
    Dimensions: 231mm x 158 x 7.8
    The tablet to get if all the others are too mainstream, Amazon’s Kindle Fire HDX 8.9 features bits and pieces from all of the others on this list. The high-res screen that Samsung’s Tab S has (though Amazon had it first), a forked version of Android made for the Kindle Fire, SIM-card support, large storage capacity…

    Which, taken with the Qualcomm internals, isn’t bad for what could be considered a glorified ordering device. Amazon, like Apple, likes to hang onto the reigns of what appears on their hardware so you’re going to be tempted to grab a new book, comic or movie every time you turn it on. That’s not a bad thing, is it?

    Is this for you?

    Book, magazine, music junkies are probably going to be the first folks in line for a Kindle Fire HDX 8.9. Portable enough to keep with you, beefy enough to play anything you might like from movies to games and everything in between and backed by Amazon’s own online services – your credit card is going to dislike you for this one.

    Amazon’s tablet is especially ideal for the folks overseas who have access to an Amazon Prime account. Lots of freebies, the ability to (in places) have your online orders delivered at speed, streaming audio… Sounds like a pretty awesome deal to us. But the tablet, taken on its own, is pretty darned awesome too.

  • Surface Pro 3
    Display: 12-inch (2,160 x 1,440), 326ppi
    Chipset/CPU: Intel Core i3-4020Y/1.50 GHz (base model) (4GB RAM)
    Storage: 64GB/128GB/256GB/512GB
    Camera: 5MP(rear)/5MP (front)
    Connectivity: WiFi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac, Bluetooth 4.0 LE
    Battery: Unknown
    Operating System: Windows 8.1 Pro
    SIM Card: None
    Features: Type Cover (sold separately)
    Dimensions: 292.10mm x 201.42 x 9.14
    Wait, should this even be on this list? Microsoft’s Surface Pro 3 has been unleashed overseas and, like the others in the lineup, will take its sweet time in getting here, if at all. It comes in various flavours, from a 64GB Core i3 tab to a 512GB Core i7 monster tablet but packed into a little tablet form factor.

    On its own, it is (depending on which model you’ve picked) the most expensive, most powerful tablet you’ll buy today. Add in the costly Type Cover and it goes from 12-inch super-tablet to ultrabook contender – just remember that the Core i7, 8GB RAM, 512GB storage option will set you back at least R30,000 for the tablet portion alone.

    Is this for you?

    As with the others, this is a matter of taste. There are people out there who like Microsoft’s Windows 8 touchscreen interface, others still have the interface thrust upon them. But if you’re looking to pack a full computer into a slightly oversized tablet form factor, there’s just about no other option.

    It’s not for nothing that the Surface Pro 3’s various high-end configurations can be favourably compared with Apple’s MacBook Air. If you’re all about the hardware and if there’s no limit to your tablet-buying budget, the Surface Pro 3 is what you need to own.

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