The best tablet of 2014: Apple vs Sony vs Samsung

The competition is intense.

Savage competition has seen the gap separating Apple’s iPad from a slew of Android tablets close. Ambassadors of Android, particularly Samsung and Sony, have learnt how to couple the refined OS with capable hardware. The result: better products for less.

This comparison takes the two most competitive tablets, Samsung’s Galaxy NotePro 12.2 and Sony’s Xperia Z2 Tablet, and measures how they stand next to Apple’s iPad Air.

Where function meets form

Design is paramount in making complex technology available to people of all technical aptitudes. A poorly designed tablet can lead to great features going unappeciated.

There’s no denying it weighs the hand down

Falling first in design is the Samsung NotePro. Undermining the charm of its brushed steel borders and faux leather back is a hearty weight of 753 grams. In fairness, the tablet does have the largest screen at 12.2 inches, but there’s no denying it weighs the hand down.

Sony’s tablet is the antithesis to the heavy Samsung. It’s a featherweight at 439 grams and one of the thinnest tablets in any division at 6mm. Sony has realised ambitious design with the Xperia Z2 Tablet. The buttons are bespoke, the edging functional and the bordering bezel complements the screen like an artwork’s frame. The Xperia Z2 Tablet by all accounts achieves great things in design, but the iPad Air achieves even more.

The 469 gram iPad air achieves a nice balance between height, width and weight. This keeps it competitive against rivals like the Xperia Z2 Tablet, but it edges ahead on sheer attention to detail.

The iPad Air is a combination of premium materials and skilled craftsmanship. The fine bezels are punctuated by diamond-polished chamfers, and the speaker grilles are precision drilled with lasers into an aluminium body. The extra attention invested in seemingly insignificant details produce a grand experience with the iPad Air.

Apple iPad Air
Apple iPad Air

Read more: The best Android smartphone of 2014: Samsung vs HTC vs Sony?

Winner: Apple iPad Air — just

Android skins v Apple iOS

There was a time when Google’s Android felt malnourished compared to Apple’s iOS, but that no longer is the case. Samsung and Sony’s tablets run the latest version of Android 4.4 KitKat, each dressed with a custom manufacturer overlay.

Samsung’s TouchWiz overlay shines on this tablet. There is no end to its functionality and, unlike the shabby look of TouchWiz on the Galaxy S5, it dons consistent aesthetics throughout the 12.2-inch tablet. However, in spite of its many improvements, its software does not lead the industry.

The Xperia Z2 Tablet is free from the ‘big brother’ governance that turns people off Apple products

Every single facet of Apple’s iOS, from the homescreen to the bowels of its settings menu, is a fine example of technological art. Apple’s credence that a company needs to make both the hardware and the software resonates as iOS takes full advantage of the screen’s space. The established App Store sweetens the deal further by offering more tablet-oriented apps than that of Google’s Play. The colour scheme, the gestures, the animations, the speed: all of it is to the highest standard.

But Apple is critical about how you, the customer, uses the iPad. Files cannot be transferred over Bluetooth, and only photos can be transferred to a PC without iTunes. Not only is the iPad locked down, but it insists you buy complementary Apple products to get the best experience. And sometimes you don’t want to be strong-armed into buying yet another Apple product.

Sony’s rendition of Android arguably features the best overlay of any manufacturer. Application support is strong complements of the Android ecosystem, and Sony then adds one of the best multimedia suites. The iPad’s iOS edges ahead in looks, but the Xperia Z2 Tablet is free from the ‘big brother’ governance that turns people off Apple products.

The interface of Sony's Xperia Z2 Tablet
The interface of Sony's Xperia Z2 Tablet

Read more: Sony Xperia Z2 Tablet review

Winner: Sony Xperia Z2 Tablet

High-resolution screens, Multi-core CPUs

Playing in the high end of the tablet market means each of the three tablets run fast and come with high resolution screens.

Apple’s iPad Air runs the least powerful hardware with a 1.3GHz dual-core CPU, 1GB of RAM and internal storage up to 128GB. The iPad Air might have the weakest specs on paper, but its iOS operating system is the least demanding.

Samsung screens remain the unsung heroes of its tablets and smartphones

The 9.7in iPad Air also has the smallest screen in the comparison, but the 9.7in display has a resolution of 1536x2048 for a density of 264 pixels-per-inch — and that’s higher than both tablets from Sony and Samsung. Having the pixels closer together improves how clarity of a video.

Sony’s 10.1in tablet features a 2.3GHz quad-core CPU, 3GB of RAM and comes with up to 32GB of storage, which can be expanded with a microSD memory card.

The display, which we pined over during our review of the Z2 Tablet, is the least attractive of the trio, as its resolution of 1920x1200 imbues with with a 224 pixel-per-inch density.

Overachieving on the hardware front is the Samsung Galaxy NotePro 12.2. The tablet’s expansive 12.2in screen has a crisp 2560x1600 resolution for a 247 pixel-per-inch density. Granted the ppi count is lower than that of the iPad Air’s, but the negligible difference is easily compensated with the size, vibrancy and responsiveness of the screen. Samsung screens remain the unsung heroes of its tablets and smartphones.

The Samsung tablet is just as impressive on the inside with specifications matching that of the Xperia Z2 Tablet. It has a 2.3GHz quad-core CPU, 3GB of RAM and 32GB of storage, which can be expanded with microSD memory.

Samsung Galaxy NotePro 12.2
Samsung Galaxy NotePro 12.2

Winner: Samsung Galaxy NotePro 12.2

Cameras, unique features and the verdict over the page

Tags NoteProiosAndroidZ2 TabletiPad12.2galaxyZ2samsungApple4.4XperiaKitKatsonyAIR

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Tony Ibrahim

Tony Ibrahim

PC World

3 Comments

Peter Sanders

1

BIAS, BIAS, BIAS again! Just like so many (other peoples') reviews that are unrealistic!

Give me a break!!!!

(For the sake of other readers of my comment (rant?), probably very few can sustain themselves enough to read the complete and lengthy comment, I AM BIASED toward the Samsung Galaxy Note Pro 12.2. This will be clear throughout. However I am NOT BIASED AGAINST the iPad Air. I do own an iPad 2 and have done for years.)

Do you listen to yourself as you write this ornate prose describing the iPad AIr???? I won't repeat all of the "over-the-top" adjectives used in your review, however I will pick on the "the speaker grilles are precision drilled with lasers into an aluminium body" part.

Are reviewers now into the "fine" size of the holes in the speaker grill? Who really gives a &^$#. You DON'T mention the fact that ALL of the sound exits the tablet at one location, denying the ability of "proper" stereo sound. At least there re now two speaker grills instead of one, but they are so close together that it doesn't really matter! Oh, and if you sit with the iPad on your lap watching movies, you'll muffle the sound anyway!

"The extra attention invested in seemingly insignificant details produce a grand experience with the iPad Air"????

Can you imagine this conversation with a friend, "So, you have a Samsung Galaxy Note Pro 12.2, that's nothing, Look at the holes in my speaker grills! I reckon they're finer than yours"!!!!

You say in part that the TouchWiz overlay shines on this tablet. Then in the next paragraph you effectively say it doesn't! Do you read your stuff before you post it online?

More BIASED drivel begins with "Every single facet of Apple’s iOS, from the homescreen to the bowls of its settings menu, is a fine example of technological art."

What "bowls" by the way? I think you mean bowels?

Then you finish this paragraph of with yet more BIASED drivel "The colour scheme, the gestures, the animations, the speed: all of it is to the highest standard."

Quite a number of tablets are faster than the iPad - IF other reviewers are to be believed.

At least your review on the Samsung screen was positive and did not dwell, as others have, on the "big" difference in ppi!

If you are going to write about technology then you DO NEED to understand the technology about which you are writing! Having the pixels closer (as you commented in the iPad Air reference), DOES NOT IMPROVE TOUCH RECOGNITION. The touch ability is handled by capacitance circuits. Read about it in one of the MANY references on the net.

End of part one...

Peter Sanders

2

Part two (the last part :-) )

So you think that the ability to watch a movie on a tablet in a bucket of water rates higher than the ability to WRITE on a tablet screen and have that writing ACCURATELY converted to text?

Get into the REAL world and use/review the tablet in real world conditions, PRACTICAL conditions!

Your "The rear camera admirably snaps photos in a range of lighting conditions" statement forgets to emphasise that the iPad CANNOT take photos in the dark, or dark conditions!

Your "who wants to take a photo with a device 12.2-inches large?" has some merit, but who wants to take a photo with an iPad AIr, a 10" tablet? Well there are thousands of idiotic (in my opinion) tourists travelling Europe and the rest of the world doing just that, and by the way, they just don't care that the iPad and its flipped down cover block the view and (real) camera shot of the tourists standing behind them. (DAMHIKT! - Don't ask me how I know this!)

"Apple’s iPad does the ordinary things extraordinarily well", no better than other quality tablets and in many cases NOT as good as others!

"Samsung tried to innovate the popular slate" Why insert the word "tried" and imply that Samsung's pen has been less than adequate? Samsung's s-pen is brilliant I use mine EVERYDAY and fine it to be (to use your word) EXTRAORDINARY in capabilities AND performance! (Aha! you've noticed MY bias? - yes I am biased toward the Galaxy Note Pro 12.2")

While you do give credence to the s-pen, the description "jot-down notes" certainly DOES NOT give any credence to the fantastic handwriting recognition the Galaxy Note Pro possesses. This is unfair and very uninformative for potential buyers.

"while the Samsung features an electronic program guide" Yes, let's just gloss over this! Who would want this (very) convenient feature? Yes, I thought it was a bit of a gimmick, but I use it much more than I expected, it's GREAT!

Let's now dwell on that huge mass of users that demand the ability to watch those movies underwater!. WOW! just think of ALL those surfers out there that can now stand on their
board and hold up their Sony Experia Z2 and take panoramic shots as they surf towards the shore, oh, but they can't take those photos in HDR! What a bummer!

I have other work to do, so I'll step down from my soapbox.

Kind regards

Peter

Peter Sanders

3

Sorry about those typos. I chose to read the stuff I wrote after I posted it online. I get a better view of the text and thought I could correct any mistakes. There does not seem to be any edit feature, at least not for unregistered users.

I don't really need to register for yet another comment forum. Maybe I shouldn't read these reviews!

Kind regards

Peter

Comments are now closed.

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