Alternatives to the iPad 4, how the cheaper iPad compares to Android tablets

Apple has finally put the old iPad 2 to out to pasture, and its affordable alternative to the iPad Air is now the fourth-generation iPad with Retina display. So let’s see how Apple's cheaper iPad fares against some of its Windows and Android tablet rivals.

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  • iPad retina Apple iPad 4
  • Amazon Amazon Kindle Fire
  • Archos Archos 101 XS2
  • Asus Asus Transformer Book
  • Lenovo Lenovo Yoga Tablet 10 HD+
  • Microsoft Microsoft Surface 2
  • Samsung Samsung Galaxy Tab 3 10
  • More stories
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Apple iPad with Retina display

Price: from £329.00, More info

For a long time, the aging iPad 2 was Apple’s ‘affordable’ alternative to the iPad Air. But at £329.00 with its pre-Retina resolution of just 1024x768, the iPad 2 really wasn’t good value for money. Thankfully, the iPad 2 has now gone to the great Apple Store in the sky, and has been replaced by the fourth-generation model – the iPad With Retina Display.

Prices start at £329 for a wifi-only model with 16GB of storage. The Retina display is the big selling point with this model, of course, providing a colourful and finely detailed image with 2048x1536 resolution. It’s a little heavier than the iPad Air, but at just 652g and measuring 9.4mm thick it’s still very light and portable, while its A6 processor can handle most apps and games with ease. Just remember that, like the iPad Air, it uses Apple’s new Lightning connector, so it won’t work with older docks and devices that use the original 30-pin connector.

It’s a shame that Apple couldn’t trim the price down to £299, as we reckon that’d blow most of the iPad’s Android rivals out of the water. However, the iPad With Retina Display is certainly better value than the old iPad 2, and a great introduction to the iPad for first-time buyers.

Display: 9.7-inch IPS screen, 2045x1536 resolution

Tech Specs: iOS 7, Apple A6 processor, 1GB memory, 16GB storage, front camera – 1.2MP, rear camera 5MP

Dimensions: 241.2 x 185.7 x 9.4 mm, 652g

Read our review of the iPad with Retina Display

Read our review of the iPad Air

Read our iPad Air vs iPad 4 comparison review: Which iPad should you buy?

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Next Prev iPad retina

Price: from £329.00, More info

For a long time, the aging iPad 2 was Apple’s ‘affordable’ alternative to the iPad Air. But at £329.00 with its pre-Retina resolution of just 1024x768, the iPad 2 really wasn’t good value for money. Thankfully, the iPad 2 has now gone to the great Apple Store in the sky, and has been replaced by the fourth-generation model – the iPad With Retina Display.

Prices start at £329 for a wifi-only model with 16GB of storage. The Retina display is the big selling point with this model, of course, providing a colourful and finely detailed image with 2048x1536 resolution. It’s a little heavier than the iPad Air, but at just 652g and measuring 9.4mm thick it’s still very light and portable, while its A6 processor can handle most apps and games with ease. Just remember that, like the iPad Air, it uses Apple’s new Lightning connector, so it won’t work with older docks and devices that use the original 30-pin connector.

It’s a shame that Apple couldn’t trim the price down to £299, as we reckon that’d blow most of the iPad’s Android rivals out of the water. However, the iPad With Retina Display is certainly better value than the old iPad 2, and a great introduction to the iPad for first-time buyers.

Display: 9.7-inch IPS screen, 2045x1536 resolution

Tech Specs: iOS 7, Apple A6 processor, 1GB memory, 16GB storage, front camera – 1.2MP, rear camera 5MP

Dimensions: 241.2 x 185.7 x 9.4 mm, 652g

Read our review of the iPad with Retina Display

Read our review of the iPad Air

Read our iPad Air vs iPad 4 comparison review: Which iPad should you buy?

 

Amazon Kindle Fire HDX 8.9in

Price: from £329.00, More info

Amazon’s Kindle started life as a simple reading device for e-books, but the latest Kindle Fire models have grown up and turned into proper tablets that can give their Apple and Android rivals a real run for their money.

There’s a 7-inch version of the Kindle Fire HDX that costs £199.00 and is a direct competitor for the iPad Mini, but the 8.9-inch model starts at £329 and offers 16GB of storage just like the iPad With Retina Display. It only costs another £40 to increase that to 32GB – an option that’s not available with the iPad With retina Display – while another £70.00 will get you a model with 3G/4G connectivity for mobile broadband.

The screen may be slightly smaller than the 9.7-inch Retina display of the iPad, but its 2560x1600 resolution outguns both the iPad and even the 27-inch display of the ridiculously expensive top-of-the-range iMac. It’s no surprise, then, that it provides excellent image quality whether you’re reading ebooks, browsing the web or watching some streaming video.

The smaller screen has also allowed Amazon to slim the tablet down to less than 8mm thick and a weight of just 374g, compared to 469g for the iPad Air. The Fire HDX still manages to provide good performance, though, with a 2.2GHz quad-core processor that responds quickly and smoothly. But while Amazon’s Fire operating system is based on Android, the Fire HDX will only allow you to download apps from Amazon’s own app store – which currently offers just a fraction of the many apps that are available for the iPad or more conventional Android tablets.

Display: 8.9-inch screen, 2560x1600 resolution

Tech Specs: Fire OS 3, 2.2GHz Snapdragon 800 processor, 2GB memory, 16/32/64GB storage, front camera – 0.9MP, rear camera – 8MP

Dimensions: 231 x 158 x 7.8mm, 384g

Read our comparison with reading a book on an iPad or Kindle with reading an actual book

Read our comparison review of the iPad mini vs Kindle Fire HD 8.9

 

Archos 101 XS2

Price: from £179.99, More info

The white plastic casing of the Archos 101 XS2 lacks the elegance of the iPad With Retina Display, but it’s a good, affordable choice if you’re looking for an Android tablet rather than a Windows or iOS device.

Prices start at just £179.99 for a model with 8GB of storage, but there’s also a 16GB model that includes a keyboard cover for £249.99. The thin, cramped keyboard didn’t strike us as terribly useful, but that’s a common problem with compact keyboards designed for tablets. There’s also a micro-SD card slot that will allow you to add up to 64GB of extra storage, along with an HDMI port for connecting to a TV or monitor.

The 10.1-inch screen only has a resolution of 1280x800 so it’s no match for the 2048x1536 resolution of the iPad With Retina Display. Even so, its IPS panel is still bright and colourful, and works well for web browsing and streaming video.

Despite its low cost, the 101 XS1 packs in a decent amount of power, with a quad-core processor that feels smooth and responsive when switching between apps. It also includes dual-band wifi, GPS, and front and back cameras. Archos even throws in a copy of the OfficeSuite Pro software that provides compatibility with Microsoft Office documents. 

Display: 10.1-inch IPS screen, 1280x800 resolution

Tech Specs: Android 4.2, 1.6GHz Rockchip 3188 processor, 2GB memory, 8GB or 16GB memory, front camera – 2MP, back camera - 2MP

Dimensions: 270 x 168 x 12mm, 650g

Read: How to get Microsoft Office on the iPad

 

Asus Transformer Book T100

Price: from £299.00, More info

Asus makes a range of conventional Android tablets, but its Windows-based T100 has been getting great reviews thanks to its competitive price and a convertible design that allows it to double up as both a tablet and a laptop.

At first glance, the T100 looks like a compact Windows laptop, but you can separate the 10.1-inch screen from the keyboard and use it on its own as a tablet.

The tablet section on its own weighs just 550g – a full 110g lighter than the iPad With Retina Display – and even with the keyboard attached it only weighs about 1.1kg, so it’s very light and portable in both tablet and laptop modes. Battery life is good too, at around 11 hours.

The screen’s 1366x768 resolution is fairly modest, but it’s fine for web browsing and streaming video. Its 1.3GHz Atom processor is also fairly basic, but the T100 runs the full version of Windows 8.1 so you can use Microsoft Office and other Windows apps if you need to. And, unlike the iPad, the T100 includes a USB 3.0 port so that you can quickly transfer files, and a memory card slot that lets you add some extra storage.

The T100 cost about £350 when it was launched earlier this year, but we’ve seen it selling online for around £299.00, which is great value if you’re looking for an affordable tablet or laptop that can run MS Office.

Display: 10.1-inch IPS screen, 1366x768

Tech Specs: Windows 8.1, 1.33GHz Intel Atom processor, 2GB memory, 32GB storage, 1.2MP webcam

Dimensions: tablet – 263 x 171 x 10.5, 550g; keyboard 263 x 171 x 13.1, 520g

 

Lenovo Yoga Tablet 10 HD+

Price: £299.99, More info

Lenovo makes a number of different tablets running both Android and Windows, but we like the smart design of its Android-based Yoga tablets best. There’s an 8-inch model, priced at £149.99, and larger 10-inch Tablet 10 that costs £199.99, but the top-of-the-range is the Yoga Tablet 10 HD+ at £299.99.

The HD+ bit refers to the 1920x1200 resolution of the Yoga’s 10.1-inch IPS screen, which isn’t in quite the same league as the iPad’s Retina display but still provides a really attractive and sharp image. Performance is good too, as the tablet includes a quad-core processor running at 1.6GHz, along with a healthy 2GB of memory and 16GB of storage. Battery life is a particular strength – not quite 18 hours as Lenovo claims, but still providing a good 10 hours of wifi use.

The Tablet 10 HD+ weighs a very portable 626g, but it’s a little chunkier than many of its rivals because of the cylindrical bulge that runs along the lower edge of the tablet. This allows you to fold a small stand out from the back of the tablet, and the stand can be adjusted so that it keeps the tablet upright for watching video, or tilts it at a low angle so that you can type onto the screen keyboard.

Display: 10.1-inch IPS screen, 1920x1200 resolution

Tech Specs: Android 4.3, 1.6GHz Qualcom Snapdragon processor, 2GB memory, 16GB storage, front camera – 1.6MP, rear camera – 8MP

Dimensions:  261 x 180 x 9.1 mm, 626g

 

Microsoft Surface 2

Price: from £359.00

More info: http://www.microsoft.com/surface/en-gb/products/surface-2

Microsoft seems to be changing tack with the new Surface 3, presenting it as a rival to conventional laptops such as the MacBook Air. However, the Surface 2 is still available, and is priced at a point that makes it more of a competitor to the iPad.

Its £359.00 starting price is slightly more expensive than the iPad With Retina Display, but its 32GB of storage is twice that of the iPad, and it also has a

larger 10.6-inch display with 1920x1080 resolution that provides a bright, colourful image.

Despite the large screen, the Surface 2 weighs about 676g and measures 9mm thick, so it’s very similar to the iPad With Retina Display in terms of size and weight. However, it has a micro-SD slot – that the iPad lacks – so that you can add extra storage, as well as a USB 3.0 port for transferring files from other devices. Microsoft also includes a copy of Office RT for creating and editing Microsoft Office documents.

Based on a snappy 1.7GHz Tegra processor, the Surface 2 does provide good value for money. However, it’s important to remember that the Surface 2 doesn’t run the full version of Windows. Instead, it runs Windows RT, a slimmed-down version of Windows designed specifically for tablets. This means that it can run the special version of Office RT that was written especially for the Surface, but it can’t run other Windows programs and games unless they have also been rewritten for Windows RT – which kind of defeats the point of buying a Windows tablet in the first place.

Display: 10.6-inch screen, 1920x1080 resolution

Tech Specs: Windows RT 8.1, 1.7GHz nVidia Tegra 4 processor, 2GB memory, 32GB storage, front camera – 3.5MP, rear camera – 5MP

Dimensions: 275 x 173 x 9mm, 676g

Read our comparison of the Surface Pro 3 versus the MacBook Air

Read our Microsoft Surface Pro 3 vs iPad Air comparison

 

Samsung Galaxy Tab 3 10

Price: from £279.00

More info: http://www.samsung.com/uk/consumer/mobile-devices/tablets/tablets/GT-P5210ZWABTU

Prices for the Galaxy Tab 3 currently start at around £279, but Samsung has already announced the launch of the Tab 4 so you may well be able to pick up some bargains on the Tab 3 once the new model has arrived.

The Tab 3 is an Android tablet that is available in both 7-inch and 10-inch models, and there’s even a special Kids version available too. However, we like the sleek, slim design of this 10-inch version, which is almost as slim and light as the iPad Air at just 8mm thick and 510g in weight.

Its 1280x800 screen is relatively modest, but the image quality is perfectly adequate for web browsing and watching streaming video. The Tab 3 includes 16GB of storage as standard and there’s a micro-SD card slot that will let you add up to 64GB of extra storage.

Like Apple, Samsung likes to do things its own way, so in addition to all the usual Android apps, the Tab 3 includes the Samsung Hub, which is its own version of the iTunes Store. You can also use the Tab 3 as a remote control for a Samsung TV, and Samsung includes 50GB of storage on Dropbox as well – although this is only free for two years, after which you’ll need to pay for it yourself.

Display: 10.1-inch TFT screen, 1280x800 resolution

Tech Specs: Android 4.2, 1.6GHz Intel Z2560 processor, 1GB memory, 16GB storage, front camera – 1.3MP, rear camera – 3MP

Dimensions: 176.1 x 243.1 x 7.95mm, 510g

Read our iPad mini 2 vs Samsung Galaxy Tab S 8.4 comparison

Read our iPad Air vs Samsung Galaxy Tab S 10.5 comparison review

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