HotHardware's 2012 Back To School Shopping Guide

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Tablets

Asus Transformer Pad Infinity TF700T

The Asus Transformer Pad Infinity offers a level of performance that is somewhere in the neighborhood of 15 - 20% faster all around, versus the previous generation high-end Transformer Prime. In fact, the Transformer Pad Infinity in many test conditions, especially in terms of graphics performance, is one of the fastest Android tablets we've tested to date. In addition, its battery life actually improved in our light duty web browsing test setup, though your mileage may vary, especially if its rendering more graphics intensive content like HD video or otherwise.


If you're looking for a highly flexible tablet, one that can be used with a keyboard to jot notes in a lecture, but double as a tablet elsewhere, you'll be hard-pressed to top this. We'd offer that $479 for a 32GB tablet with the quality and features of the Transformer Pad Infinity is a reasonably good deal and you'll appreciate its upscale image quality and performance from top to bottom. If you're looking for a 10-inch Android slate, we say go for it. If you're still in doubt, here's our full review.

Google Nexus 7

It's the best 7" tablet under $200, period. We don't really need to say more, but we will. Those looking for a compact tablet really only have a few good options, but this one is the one to top. It ships with Android 4.1, and since it's a pure Google device, it'll get updates more quickly than the rest. 


Google and ASUS put some time and effort into designing this tablet, and it shows. The Nexus 7 is very responsive, and some of the extra widgets and controls found in the OS add to the overall enjoyment of using the tablet. Google says Jelly Bean is the fastest and smoothest version of Android to date. From our tests, we'd have to agree: Jelly Bean was very responsive and we didn't experience any hiccups during our hands-on time with the Nexus 7. Our full review is here.

Apple's iPad

We're talking about the "iPad 3," or, the one with the Retina display. This may come as a blow to Android fanatics, but Apple's new iPad is the all-around fastest tablet on the market right now. Much of the credit goes to the upgraded PowerVR graphics engine with four GPU cores that Apple claims are the bees-knees. Put to the test, the new iPad slid past NVIDIA's Tegra 3 platform in 3D intensive tasks. It didn't consistently provide four times the performance as Apple's Tim Cook so gleefully pointed out during the iPad launch event, but it was never a close race either. What's more, it looked better courtesy of the vibrant Retina display.


If you're already sold on the iOS ecosystem, you can't go wrong with this one. It starts at $499, and our full review can be found here.
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