iPad vs. Android: Which Tablet Should You Buy?

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The Rundown

  • Best Android Tablet Overall: Asus ZenPad 3S on Amazon, “The very best in an Android tablet; killer hardware, sleek design, affordable price.”
  • Best Budget Android Tablet: Huawei MediaPad T1 on Amazon, “Perfectly serviceable entry-level Android tablet, with all the specs you need."
  • Best iPad Tablet Overall: iPad Pro 10.5-Inch on Amazon, “Arguably Apple’s best iPad ever, this release offers incredible new features.”
  • Best Budget iPad: iPad 9.7-Inch on Amazon, “The best price-to-performance ratio in an iPad, without too much compromise.”

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iPad: Strengths

The iPhone/iPad ecosystem is a huge strength for the iPad. This includes the App Store, which has over a million apps, many of which are designed with the iPad's larger display in mind. This ecosystem also includes accessories, which go beyond just tablet cases, wireless keyboards and external speakers. You can do everything from hook your guitar into an iPad to converting your iPad into a miniature coin-operated arcade game (minus the need for quarters).

The iPad also tends to be more stable and easier to use than Android tablets. Apple approves each app individually, ensuring that it (mostly) does what it claims it will do and the worst of the bugs are eliminated. Because Apple and app developers only need to support a limited number of devices, it is easier to stamp out bugs. And while Android has made great strides in becoming easier to use, Apple's device tends to be more simple and less overwhelming.

The iPad is also a market leader, with each iPad release continually pushing the industry forward with one of the fastest tablets on the market. In fact, the iPad Pro exceeds the performance of many laptops.

iPad: Weaknesses

The trade off in being more stable and easier to use is having less customization and ability to expand. While it is great that each app is checked by Apple before being released into the app store, and iPad users can rest a little easier knowing that it is harder for malware to get onto their device, this approval process does lock out some apps that would be useful.

The iPad also lacks the ability to expand its storage through microSD cards. There are other options, such as Dropbox, and you can use some external drives with the iPad, but the lack of support for microSD and Flash drives is a definite negative.

Android: Strengths

The biggest strength of the Android is the vast array of devices from which to choose and the amount you can customize your tablet once you make your purchase. And there are some great premier Android tablets from makers like Samsung to go along with hundreds of other lesser-known name brands. Android has also matured quite a bit over the last few years, supporting some features like widgets (small apps that run on your home screen so you don't have to open them) that Apple has stayed away from.

Android's Google Play marketplace has also come a long way in the past few years.  While the lack of supervision means more of those apps will be throwaways without much use, the boost in numbers does provide a lot more variety than Android experienced when the tablet wars began.

Android: Weaknesses

The lack of supervision over Google Play is one of the big downsides to Android. You might know exactly what you are getting when you download name-brand apps like Netflix or Hulu Plus, but when you see some little-known app, you don't quite know what you are going to get. Amazon fixes this by providing their own App Store for the Kindle Fire tablets, but that means the Kindle Fire has a more limited app selection.

Rampant piracy has also done some damage to the Android platform. While it is possible to pirate apps for the iPad, it's much easier on Android. The greater amount of piracy has led some app developers to stick with the iPhone and iPad rather than risk the money it would take to create an Android version of their apps. This is especially an issue for top tier games, which can take more time and resources to build.

The variety of devices can be a good point when shopping for what you want, it has its downside in support. Android operating system updates are not always compatible with all devices, and it can be difficult for app developers to stamp out bugs on all supported devices. This can lead to stability problems in some apps.

iPad: Who Should Buy?

Apple, Inc.

The iPad is a great tablet for those who want to take the experience beyond just media consumption. While the iPad is great for watching movies, listening to music and reading books, it can also be used to make movies, create music and write books. Apple's suite of office applications and apps like iMovie and Garage Band make much of this possible, and a growing number of third-party apps are providing more substance to the app store.

The iPad is also the perfect tablet for those who are a little intimidated by technology. Apple has decided to go with a more simple design, which may mean less customization, but it also means easier to use. This means you can get to the fun of owning a tablet with less time spent learning to use it.

The iPad also shines the area of gaming, especially those who want to take the experience beyond just Angry Birds and Cut the Rope. Apple has challenged the entire portable gaming market with some of the cool games available on the iPad.

Last, the iPad makes a great companion to those who already own Apple product. iPhone users will enjoy iCloud Photo Library, which lets you share photos between devices, and Apple TV owners will love the ability to wirelessly send the iPad's display to their big screen TV.

Android: Who Should Buy?

Samsung Electronics America Inc.

If you're looking to buy an Android tablet, you're probably in one of two main categories: (1) those who want to use the device for watching movies, reading books, listening to music and playing casual games and (2) those who want to customize their experience or love to tweak their device to get the most out of it.

Android tablets will appeal to those who mostly want to consume entertainment because the initial price tag can be significantly cheaper. This means more money for the good stuff, and the cheaper 7-inch tablets like the Google Nexus 7 and Kindle Fire are more than capable of running Netflix, Hulu Plus, playing music and reading books.

Android also provides a more customizable experience. So if the first thing you do when you get a new smartphone or gadget is to hit the settings to get it just right, you might be the perfect Android user. Home screen widgets might intimidate some people, but they can be both useful and pretty cool.

And just as the iPad can interact with other Apple devices, Android tablets can be a great companion to those who already own an Android smartphone.

Best Android Tablet Overall: Asus ZenPad 3S

Asus ZenPad 3S
Courtesy of Amazon.com

This Asus tablet showcases the very best an Android tablet has to offer: killer hardware and a sleek design at an affordable price point. This tablet rivals market leaders Samsung and Apple, while making some bold innovations of its own.

The first thing you notice when you pick up a ZenPad is that it's super thin. In fact, the bezel is just a quarter of an inch thick, making it the thinnest tablet on the market. The ZenPad’s thin profile is complemented by a sleek silver and white frame that just barely outlines the gorgeous 9.7-inch screen. The whole thing weighs just under one pound and is constructed with premium anodized aluminum. Other features include a fingerprint sensor for security, an 8MP camera, a USB-C port and dual five-magnet speakers that provide powerful sound at a high volume.

Once you turn the device on, you are greeted by a vibrant 2K IPS screen with 2048 x 1536 resolution. At 264 ppi, the screen resolution rivals the iPad, and is enhanced with VisualMaster technology. The sharp graphics are powered by a 2.1 GHz processor, 4GB RAM and Android 6.0 Marshmallow OS.

Interested in reading more reviews? Take a look at our selection of the best Android tablets

Best Budget Android Tablet: Huawei MediaPad T1

Huawei MediaPad T1
Courtesy of Amazon.com

A budget of $100 won’t buy even the most basic of iPads, but it can get you a perfectly serviceable entry-level Android tablet. The MediaPad T1 from Chinese electronics giant Huawei has everything you need for surfing the Web and watching movies.

The seven-inch tablet has a screen resolution of 600 x 1024 pixels with on-cell IPS, meaning it can reproduce 90 percent of Adobe RGB for sharp contrast and bright colors. The screen is built with a 178-degree wide-view angle, so you can share the viewing experience with someone seated at a different angle.

Performance is geared for a budget price, but delivers the specs you need to perform most tasks. The T1 has a Spreadtrum SC7731G chip with a 28nm quad-core 1.2 GHZ ARM and operates on Android 4.4 KitKat. Other features include a 2MP camera, a battery that can browse the Web for eight continuous hours and a lightweight metal unibody case.

Best iPad Tablet Overall: iPad Pro 10.5-Inch

Arguably Apple’s best iPad ever, the 10.5-inch iPad Pro is everything its 12.9-inch sibling is but in a smaller, more compact package that appeals to both pro and consumer types. Featuring a 2224 x 1668 resolution 10.5-inch Retina display, Apple added some incredible new features with this generations release, including True Tone for automatically selecting the appropriate brightness based on ambient light. Powered by the A10X Fusion Chip, the 10.5-inch iPad Pro runs buttery smooth, launching the apps downloaded via Apple’s App Store nearly instantaneously. Weighing 1.03 pounds, the iPad is full of hardware niceties, including a 12-megapixel camera with 5x digital zoom, 4K video recording, four-speaker audio for a best-in-class sound experience, as well as extras such as Touch ID, 802.11ac connectivity with MIMO for superb connectivity and 10 hours of battery life.

Interested in reading more reviews? Take a look at our selection of the best IPad

Best Budget iPad: iPad 9.7-Inch

Apple’s release of the 2017 iPad represented an opportunity for Apple to integrate a less expensive option into their lineup appealing to budget-conscious shoppers. With 32GB of internal storage (128GB also available), the 2048 x 1536 9.7-inch Retina display is paired with Apple’s A9 chip for excellent performance along with 10 hours of battery life for nearly all-day use. Weighing 1.03 pounds, the iPad has replaced the iPad Air 2 in the company’s lineup performance-wise, while the body still feels very similar to the original iPad Air. Even so, the A9 processor runs slightly faster than the iPad Air 2 and that’s noticeable across the hundreds of thousands of available iPad apps. Notably, Apple was only able to get two speakers on this iPad, although they sound great across apps, video and music. At the end of the day, this is the best price-to-performance ratio iPad Apple has ever offered without compromising too much to get there.