The iPad is one of the most popular choices for tablet buyers, but what's the next best choice? We asked technology writer Adam Turner to share his advice.
If you don't want to join the iPad army then you're really choosing between Android and Windows.
Choosing mobile gadgets is a matter of trading portability against productivity. If you place more importance on portability then you'd probably lean towards a 7-inch Android tablet like the Nexus 7 or Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 7.0. You might even consider the range of Android phablets such as the 5.5-inch Samsung Galaxy Note II, 6.1-inch Huawei Ascend Mate or even the giant 7-inch Asus Fonepad.
If you're looking for an afterhours companion rather than a business productivity tool then I'd certainly favour Android over Windows. The Google Play app store is more likely to meet all your needs than Microsoft's store for Modern UI apps (although it is making up ground).
If you're already using a Windows 8 smartphone then a Windows 8 tablet is naturally more appealing, but if you're starting from scratch then Android is probably the way to go.
Your benchmark for Android tablets would have to be the $249 Nexus 7 (or
$349 3G model), which broke new ground last year in terms of price and performance and still puts most other Android tablets to shame. If your tablet will live on the coffee table then you might consider going up to
10 inches, but the 7-inch form-factor is perfect for people on the go who still want plenty of screen real estate.
If you place more importance on productivity than portability, and you live a very Microsoft Office-centric lifestyle, then you might lean towards a Windows 8 tablet. Something like a 10.6-inch Microsoft Surface RT or Surface Pro could serve as a decent notebook replacement and meet your needs when you're working on the road -- offering tight integration with Microsoft's SkyDrive and cloud Office apps. You'll also find a growing range of third-party Windows 8 tablets from the likes of HP, Dell, Acer, Asus and others.
The Surface RT is rather limited, in that it won't let you install third-party desktop Windows applications. Instead of spending $1,000+ on a Surface Pro running a full version of Windows 8 Pro, I'd weight it up agains the slick 10.1-inch Dell Latitude 10 which starts at $649 (although you'll need to spend at least $899 for a 3G-enabled model).
Trimming off that half-inch makes it more portable than Microsoft's offerings, but for roughly the price of the Surface RT the Dell delivers a fully-functional Windows 8 Pro tablet.
Sticking with Windows just for Office compatibility would seem a high price to pay when something like the Android-powered Nexus 7 is so much easier on your pocket and your wallet. There are Android (and Apple) alternatives to native Microsoft Office apps, but they tend to be cumbersome. It's still worth experimenting with those apps, or cloud alternatives such as Google Docs, before you turn your back on Android and embrace a Windows tablet.
If I was forced to choose one today it would be the Nexus 7, probably in conjunction with a Galaxy S4 smartphone in my pocket so they could share an Google account and apps. The Nexus 7 is the perfect balance of size, features and price, while Android is going from strength to strength and should meet your needs.