More than other tablet operating systems, such as iPad and windows tablets, android goes from low to high. The broad flexibility of Google’s OS lets manufacturers build useful products ranging from $50 to more than $500, fitting a broader range of niches and tastes than the Apple iPad, which has dominated the tablet market since its first release in early 2010. We’ve rounded up our top picks here.
While Android dukes it out with the iPad and Windows tablets at the top of its range, and doesn’t always win, its strengths at smaller sizes and lower price points can be hard to beat. Android tablets also sometimes show up with crazy experimental features like a pico projector or a separate Wacom touchpad for artists. But all of those innovative features make Android a little harder to program for than the iOS or Windows, so you may find that hot games and top productivity apps come to one of the other platforms first. To get the skinny on the latest whizbang features, make sure to read our full reviews on your prospective device.
One thing to be aware of: we anticipate that Samsung will update its flagship Galaxy Tab S line at Mobile World Congress in late February. So if you’re interested in a high-end Android tablet, you may want to wait until you see what Samsung rolls out next month.
Start With Software
Unfortunately, there isn’t a single version of Android, and even within the same version, manufacturers like to add customized interfaces to differentiate their tablets. Most tablets today run 6.0 Marshmallow. The latest iteration, 7.0 Nougat, is not currently on any tablets outside of Google’s Nexus brand. Unfortunately, we don’t recommend the only available Nexus tablet, the Pixel C$649.35 at Amazon, with any enthusiasm. Do not buy a tablet with a version earlier than 6.0. Android 6.0 added important privacy and permission options, and versions earlier than 5.1 may harbor serious security flaws.
Companies like Amazon and Samsung like to put their own spin on Google’s OS, adding a bevy of features, new app stores, and completely revamped user interfaces. It’s not for everyone, but those who are familiar with Amazon’s Fire OS or Samsung’s TouchWiz should give the latest devices from each company a try. And if you’re already heavily invested in the Amazon App Store, you might want to stick with one of the latest Fire tablets.
Even if you don’t have the most recent OS iteration, Android continues to be the most configurable tablet operating system you’ll find. It’s a master multitasker, with an excellent notification system and top-notch integration with Google services like Gmail, Hangouts, and Google Maps. Android is home to plenty of great apps, but there still aren’t as many tablet-specific options as you’ll find for the iPad.