The best-performing Android tablets today

Led by slates carrying Nvidia's Tegra 3 processor, Android tablets are highly competitive against Apple's iPad.

Unlike laptops and PCs, tablets are not heavily defined by their performance benchmarks. The benchmark tests available for tablets are not all cross-platform, and such tests don't always offer especially meaningful results beyond an index number that you can compare across assorted tablets. Still, benchmarks remain one of the best objective measures of a tablet's performance. We put the latest tablets through the benchmarking ringer--as well as through PCWorld's own tests of battery life and recharge--to see how they compare to Apple's third-generation iPad and iPad 2.

Overall, as you'll see from the charts below, we discovered that Nvidia Tegra 3-based Android tablets are among some of the best performers out there. (Of the tablets we assessed in this group, only Apple's iPads and Samsung's Galaxy Tab 2 lack some version of the Tegra 3.) But we also saw some notable variations in performance--variations whose root causes could lie in different processor speeds, different types of system memory, and different versions of the Android operating system.

Interestingly, among this selection of tablets, Google's budget-priced Nexus 7 was highly competitive. The Nexus 7 is the first tablet to use Nvidia's cost-cutting Kai reference platform, and it's the first tablet to ship using Google's Android 4.1 Jelly Bean operating system. It posted largely impressive results despite carrying a price-performance-optimized version of the Tegra 3, a 1.2GHz quad-core processor dubbed the T30L (the CPU runs at 1.3GHz in single-core operation). Those are the same frequencies as on the new Acer Iconia Tab A700, but Nvidia can't comment on whether everything about the Tegra 3 inside the Nexus 7 is the same as on the A700. The benchmark results below might reflect subtle system-on-chip fine-tuning differences, since the Acer slightly outperformed the Nexus 7 on several tests.

Apple's third-generation iPad continued to lead the tablet field significantly on our GLBenchmark 2.1.4 graphics tests. In that evaluation, it was nearly twice as fast as its rivals on the Egypt Offscreen test, and nearly three times as fast on the Pro Offscreen test.

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Melissa J. Perenson

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