We've done the dirty work, testing and scrutinizing the best smartphones, tablets, laptops, smartwatches and fitness trackers to take the guesswork out of your next gadget purchase. But our work is never done. Every month, we'll update the Engadget Buyer's Guide with the latest and greatest gadgets for every budget and lifestyle.
We've done the dirty work, testing and scrutinizing the best smartphones, tablets, laptops, smartwatches and fitness trackers to take the guesswork out of your next gadget purchase. But our work is never done. Every month, we'll update the Engadget Buyer's Guide with the latest and greatest gadgets for every budget and lifestyle.
If you’re going to buy a MacBook Air, now would be the time: Our favorite ultraportable recently got a spec refresh, along with a $100 price drop. Now starting at $899, the Air comes with Intel’s latest Haswell processors, promising a slight performance kick and longer battery life. All told, Apple says the 11- and 13-inch models can squeeze out nine to 12 hours of runtime, respectively, though in our tests we got nearly 13 hours -- and that was with older processors, too. Aside from the long battery life, we recommend the Air for its sleek design, comfortable keyboard, reliable trackpad and fast PCIe solid-state drives. The only thing you might lament is the relatively low screen resolution, which tops out at just 1,440 x 900 on the bigger model. If rumors are to be believed, Apple might soon release a Retina display version, but don’t hold your breath if you need a laptop now.
Key specs: 11-inch: Up to a 1.7GHz dual-core Intel Core i7 CPU, 4GB to 8GB of RAM, up to 512GB of internal storage, Intel HD Graphics 5000, 11.6-inch (1,366 x 768) display; 13-inch: Up to a 1.7GHz dual-core Core i7 CPU, 4GB to 8GB of RAM, up to 512GB of internal storage, Intel HD Graphics 5000, 13.3-inch (1,440 x 900) display
You sure you want a MacBook Air? Like, really sure? Once reserved for creative pros, the Retina display MacBook Pro is fast becoming a viable option for just about everybody. At 3.46 pounds, the 13-inch version is half a pound heavier than the 13-inch Air, and its battery life is nearly as long, reaching 11-plus hours. Naturally, the graphics are more powerful too, though you unfortunately can’t configure the 13-inch model with a discrete GPU; for that, you’ll need to step up to the 15-inch version, which starts at a pricey $1,999. That compromise aside, you’ll be faced with a tough dilemma: Buy the slightly cheaper, slightly lighter Air, or settle for a few extra ounces and a little less battery life in exchange for better performance? We’ll leave that to you and your wallet.
Key specs: Up to a 2.8GHz dual-core Intel Core i7 CPU, 4GB to 16GB of RAM, up to 1TB of internal storage, Intel Iris Graphics, 13.3-inch (2,560 x 1,600) display
Lenovo’s “Yoga” design is so cool that nearly every other PC maker has since copied it. With a screen that folds into three positions (not counting regular laptop mode), the Yoga remains the most versatile Ultrabook we’ve seen. Even as a regular notebook, the Yoga 2 shines thanks to its comfortable keyboard, slimmed-down design, durable build quality and gorgeous 3,200 x 1,800 display. Be warned, though: The battery life is short compared to competing devices. But who knows? The next time you’re lying in bed, watching Netflix in Tent Mode, you might not even care.
Key specs: Up to a 1.8GHz dual-core Intel Core i7-4500U CPU, 8GB of RAM, up to 512GB of internal storage, Intel HD Graphics 4400, 13.3-inch (3,200 x 1,800) display
The Samsung Series 9, once our favorite Ultrabook, got a big makeover last year. And guess what? It’s still one of the best. As ever, the Book 9 is razor-thin, this time coming in at 0.54 inch thick. With this generation, though, Samsung took a big step up in display quality, upgrading from a 1,600 x 900 screen to a 3,200 x 1,800 panel. The audio quality is surprisingly robust too, and even in a field of long-lasting Ultrabooks, the Book 9 Plus still manages to deliver exceptional battery life (almost nine hours, in our tests). When we first reviewed this, the machine was only available in one configuration, but Samsung has since corrected that, adding a few more spec options. Even so, the $1,400 starting price still feels steep.
Key specs: Up to a 1.8GHz dual-core Intel Core i7-4500U CPU, 4GB to 8GB of RAM, up to 256GB of internal storage, Intel HD Graphics 4400, 13.3-inch (3,200 x 1,800) display
It took Acer four tries, but the company has finally crafted the perfect Ultrabook. Almost, anyway. Like its predecessor, the S7 is impossibly lightweight, weighing just 2.87 pounds (mind you, that’s with a touchscreen). Despite being so thin and light, though, it still delivers decent battery life. Not best in class, but still a good showing considering there isn’t room inside for a big cell. Other delights include a striking Gorilla Glass lid and a vibrant display, now available in either 1080p or 2,560 x 1,440 resolution. Oh, and if you read our review of the previous-gen S7, you’ll be happy to know this one runs much more quietly. All told, we’re pretty much in love, save for an enormous power brick and oddly placed power button. Other than that, it’s well worth the high price tag.
Key specs: Up to a 1.8GHz dual-core Intel Core i7-4500U CPU, 8GB of RAM, up to 256GB of internal storage, Intel HD Graphics 4400, 13.3-inch (1,920 x 1,080 or 2,560 x 1,440) display
If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Dell’s XPS 12 has been around since 2012, and it remains one of our go-to Ultrabooks. With a screen that flips around inside its hinge, the XPS 12 is almost as versatile as the Lenovo Yoga and, thanks to some spec refreshes, it’s kept up in terms of performance, too. Nowadays, the XPS 12 packs a 55Wh battery (up from 47Wh in the original), allowing it to achieve nearly nine hours of runtime. The machine also rocks an NFC sensor -- something you won’t find in the first-gen model, or most other Ultrabooks, for that matter. Throw in a cushy keyboard and solid build quality, and this is still one of the best ultraportables you can buy.
Key specs: Up to a 1.7GHZ dual-core Intel Core i7-4650U CPU, 4GB to 8GB of RAM, up to 256GB of internal storage, Intel HD 4400 or 5000 Graphics, 12.5-inch (1,920 x 1,080) display
The MacBook Pro has met its match. If you always wanted something as thin and powerful as the MBP, but would prefer something with Windows, the XPS 15 is your best bet. At 4.44 pounds, it’s actually slightly lighter than the 15-inch MacBook Pro, and at 0.7 inch thick, it’s about as thin, to boot. And don’t worry, it can stand up to the Retina display, too: Though it starts with a 1,920 x 1,080 resolution, it can be configured with a sharper 3,200 x 1,800 screen. On the outside, it has the same aluminum and carbon fiber design that we loved on Dell’s other laptops, like the XPS 12 and 13. What’s great, too, is that even with the heaviest-duty specs -- a quad-core Core i7 processor and a 2GB GPU -- the machine still promises a long 11 hours of battery life. Not too shabby.
Key specs: Up to a 2.3GHz quad-core Intel Core i7-4712HQ CPU, 8GB to 16GB of RAM, up to 1TB of internal storage with a 32GB SSD or a 512GB SSD, Intel HD Graphics 4600 or a 2GB NVIDIA GeForce GT 750M GPU, 15.6-inch (1,920 x 1,080 or 3,200 x 1,800) display
It’s not cheap, but if you have deep pockets, the new Razer Blade is the closest thing you’ll find to a no-compromise gaming laptop. At 4.47 pounds and 0.7 inch thick, it’s just about as compact as the 15-inch MacBook Pro, except inside it makes room for a quad-core Core i7 processor, 8GB of RAM and an NVIDIA GeForce GTX 870M GPU with 3GB of dedicated video memory. Aside from the price ($2,200 and up), the one thing we don’t like about the new Blade is that it trades stellar battery life for a sharper 3,200 x 1,800 display. Not that we’re complaining about an improved screen, of course; it’s just a shame it comes at the expense of unplugged gameplay.
Key specs: 2.2GHz quad-core Intel Core i7-4702HQ CPU, 8GB of RAM, up to 512GB of internal storage, 3GB NVIDIA GeForce GTX 870M GPU, 14-inch (3,200 x 1,800) display
Long before it was swallowed up by Dell, Alienware was one of, if not the, biggest names in PC gaming. That means if you’re shopping for a new gaming laptop, you’d be smart to check out the Alienware 17 (there are 14- and 18-inch models as well). As the medium-sized option in the company’s lineup, it offers all the screaming performance you’d expect from a 17-inch gaming rig, not to mention durable build quality, an attractive design and a best-in-class keyboard. If anything, we were a little disappointed by the relatively short battery life. Then again, this is a gaming laptop we’re talking about -- you weren’t really expecting epic runtime, were you?
Key specs: Up to a 3.1GHz quad-core Intel Core i7-4940MX CPU, 8GB to 32GB of RAM, up to 2TB of internal storage with an 80GB SSD, up to an 8GB NVIDIA GeForce GTX 880M GPU, 17.3-inch (1,600 x 900 or 1,920 x 1,080) display
MSI’s 17-inch GT70 laptop was so good the first time around, the company barely made any changes to the 2014 model, dubbed the “Dominator.” As ever, it offers powerful gaming performance, along with a comfortable keyboard and trackpad, and robust audio quality. The only things that have changed are the internals -- we can’t have you chugging along on last year’s GPU, now can we? Though we ultimately recommend this, we’d still caution you about the short battery life and bulky, cumbersome design; while you can take this to your next LAN party, it’s best suited as a desktop replacement.
Key specs: Up to a 3.0GHz quad-core Intel Core i7-4930MX CPU, 8GB to 32GB of RAM, up to 1TB of internal storage plus three 128GB SSDs, up to an 8GB NVIDIA GeForce GTX 880M GPU, 17.3-inch (1,920 x 1,080) display
Let’s face it, Chromebooks aren’t for everyone: Some people will always want desktop apps, with no restrictions on what they can do offline. If you have simple needs, though, and don’t want to spend much on your next laptop, the 13-inch Samsung Chromebook 2 is the Chromebook we recommend. For $400, it brings a full HD screen -- something you won’t find on most other budget laptops, or even most mid-range models, for that matter. It also offers long battery life, a spacious keyboard, comfortable trackpad and a surprisingly premium design, complete with a faux-leather lid. In a field of Chromebooks that look like regurgitated netbooks, Samsung’s new addition actually feels like a proper laptop. For an even lower price, it’s available in an 11-inch edition too, but you’ll be giving up that crisp full 1080p screen.
Key specs: Samsung Exynos 5 Octa 5800 (2.0GHz quad-core A15/1.3GHz quad-core A7), 4GB of RAM, 16GB of internal storage, “integrated” graphics, 13.3-inch (1,920 x 1,080) display.
The Pebble Steel brings all the same features as the popular original, but with a sleek, new metal design. Pebble's active developer community means the watch has apps to control everything from your GoPro to your lightbulbs and your calendar. Plus, the energy-efficient e-paper display means you won't feel tethered to a power outlet. If the $249 price seems a little steep, the original plastic Pebble is still a good buy, at $150.
Key specs: 80Mhz ARM Cortex-M3, Pebble OS (Android and iOS compatible), Bluetooth 4.0, waterproof to 5 ATM/50 meters (with metal band), 1.26-inch (168 x 144) e-paper display
Garmin's Vivofit is a fitness tracker for those with specific goals. Why? Because the always-on display tells you your daily movement to the exact step. As a bonus, the battery lasts for around a year, and the Vivofit is waterproof to boot. And, like other fitness trackers, it monitors your sleep patterns, and also tallies your calorie burn. The result? A rugged fitness companion that you rarely need to charge or take off. What's more, it'll even pair with a heart rate monitor for logging runs.
Key specs: Bluetooth 4.0, ANT+, water resistant to 5 ATM/50 meters, 1.08-inch LCD display
If you want a more affordable fitness tracker that's a little more discreet, the Fitbit Flex is a solid choice. Unfortunately, you’ll see less at-a-glance information than on other devices (just a progress bar toward the day's goal), but a companion app for iOS and Android means you can still get an extensive breakdown of your progress toward your fitness goals. If you decide to take things a step further, Fitbit’s Aria WiFi scale uploads directly to your account.
Key specs: Bluetooth 4.0, water resistant to 1 ATM/10 meters, five LED indicator lights
Ever lost your phone or wallet and had that sudden surge of panic? Now ask a parent how that compares to when a toddler wanders out of sight. That exact scenario is what inspired the FiLIP, a watch created to keep parent and child in constant (virtual) contact. Designed to appeal to young eyes, FiLIP not only lets you locate your little ones via GPS, but also lets them call you (or vice versa) directly from the watch (carrier agreement not included). Additionally, the FiLIP lets you set "safe zones" so kids can still roam free, and you'll only be alerted should they wander too far. Oh, and it tells the time, too.
Key specs: AGPS, 4G, SMS/voice calls, WiFi, IP63 dustproof/water resistant, 1-inch (128 x 128) display
Sony's Core may look like just another fitness tracker, but the tech giant has actually created something unique: a wristband with a twist. Yes, it will track your sleep and physical activity like the rest, but the companion Lifelog app also creates a virtual diary of everything you do with your phone. That means you can see how long, when and where you were shredding zombies in a game, or out taking selfies with friends. The result is a timeline of your life you can play back, rewind and, ultimately, decide to improve upon.
Key specs: Supports Android 4.4 and above, Bluetooth 4.0, NFC, IP58 dustproof/water resistant (one-plus meters), 3 LED indicators
Many dedicated training watches might offer complex statistical analysis of your run, or measure your VO2 max, but the Smart Run from Adidas keeps it (relatively) simple. As you’d expect, it tracks your run, giving you all the metrics you need (pace, distance, splits, etc.) with a heart rate monitor built in, too. What sets the Smart Run apart is its assortment of media features. There's a music player on board, and Bluetooth means you can listen without cables. Adidas has also confirmed that offline Spotify functionality will come later this year. What’s more, the Smart Run is Android-based, so don't be surprised if more apps get ported over in the future.
Key specs: 1.2GHz dual-core Texas Instruments OMAP4430 (ARM Cortex-A9), 3GB storage, Bluetooth 4.0, splash/sweatproof, 1.45-inch (184 x 184) transflective color display
GoPro cameras can be attached to helmets, foreheads, chests, wrists and, well, almost anything. The Black edition can record video right up to 4K quality (albeit only at 15 fps), and offers a selection of viewing angles, high frame rates and other settings to make sure you get the right shot for whatever activity you put it through. Add to this a whole host of (non-wearable) mounts, and you've got one adaptable little camera.
Key specs: 4K/15, 2K/30, 1080p/60 recording options; 12-megapixel photos; microSD; WiFi; Android, iOS and WP8 compatible
For some, Google's Glass is genre-defining. It's a small computer, complete with display, that you wear on your face. The stuff of the future? Truer than you might think, given that it's only now becoming available en masse after a long, semi-exclusive beta period. Google's smart specs let you instantly translate text you look at, find local attractions with your voice and even serve up the latest sport results in the blink of an eye. Just expect to blink at the price a few times, too -- for now.
Key specs: 12GB storage, 5-megapixel photos, 720p video, iOS and Android compatible, Bluetooth, WiFi, bone-conduction audio, color display (equivalent to viewing 25-inch HD screen from eight feet)
The original HTC One was a mainstay in our buyer's guide. So is it a surprise, then, that its sequel has earned a similar spot? It's not a game changer in the way its predecessor was, but the One M8 still blends top-tier specs with stunning looks. It's pretty; it's powerful; and the software has been enhanced in thoughtful ways -- even if features like BlinkFeed and the Zoe camera will eventually be usable on other devices. Just be warned: That bigger display and the BoomSound speakers bounding it make the M8 much more of a handful than its predecessor. Those of you with petite hands should definitely take this thing for a test-drive first. Alas, too, the camera may leave you wanting since there's no resolution bump over the first One, and HTC has done away with optical image stabilization.
Key specs: 5-inch (1,920 x 1,080) IPS LCD display, 2.3GHz quad-core Snapdragon 801, 4MP rear/5MP front cameras, 16GB/32GB expandable storage, Android 4.4
Like HTC, Samsung could be accused of rehashing an old formula, but still, you can't say the new Galaxy S5 isn't an improvement over its predecessor. That said, it's far from the most stylish smartphone you'll ever see, what with its unassuming face and Band-Aid-inspired back. Still, there's enough power under the hood to keep even the most persnickety mobile nerds happy. And then there's the software. As usual, Samsung has included its TouchWiz Android skin, as well as kitted the device out with features like the Flipboard-esque My Magazine, Air View, Smart Stay and Smart Scroll. All told, this is the best TouchWiz has ever looked, but we still wish Samsung had approached the S5 with a lighter touch. The end result is a phone that's absolutely worth paying attention to, even if it's not as thrilling as we hoped it would be.
Key specs: 5.1-inch (1,920 x 1,080) Super AMOLED display, 2.5GHz quad-core Snapdragon 801, 16MP rear/2MP front cameras, 16GB/32GB expandable storage, Android 4.4.2
LG is finally hitting its smartphone stride. Sure, it took some leaps forward with the well-received G2 and the slightly silly G Flex. But the G3? It's easily the finest phone LG has ever made. Part of that is thanks to its top-shelf internals, but it's the savvy blend of thoughtful industrial design and a great Quad HD display that really makes the G3 shine. That's not to say it's devoid of shortcomings -- LG arguably went nuts with all the extra software features, and that delightfully metallic body is actually just plastic. That 5.5-inch screen might also make the G3 unwieldy for some. Nonetheless, we still found it to be one of the most comfortable phones in that screen-size range.
Key specs: 5.5-inch (2,560 x 1,440) IPS LCD display, 2.5GHz quad-core Snapdragon 801, 13MP rear/2.1MP front cameras, 16GB/32GB expandable storage, Android 4.4
Google has said the Nexus hardware line will live on, so don't buy one of these because you think it'll make a great collector's piece. No, buy it for the promise of unadulterated (and frequently updated) Android, along with a spec sheet that still manages to hang with a new crop of competitors. Your friends won't ooh and ahh at this thing like they would've last year, but who cares? You'll still have a device running Android L before anybody else. The kicker: It's a little pricier, a little slower and packs a lousier camera than the OnePlus One. Then again, you'll have a much easier time laying claim to one from the Google Play Store. Decisions, decisions.
Key specs: 4.95-inch (1,920 x 1,080) IPS LCD display, 2.26GHz quad-core Snapdragon 800, 8MP rear/1.3MP front cameras, 16GB/32GB non-expandable storage, Android 4.4
Motorola will be flying a Lenovo banner soon enough, and rumor has it that it's got a new flagship in the works. Why would we include the nearly year-old Moto X, then? Well, it might look a little long in the tooth compared to some of these other models, but there's still no better choice if you're in the market for a phone that's uniquely you. Want to craft a truly heinous X with a white face, neon green rear and metallic red trim? Shine on, you crazy diamond. The X isn't the speediest phone on this list, but it still has enough oomph to keep up with all but the most arduous tasks you throw at it. And then there's the fact that stand-out features like Active Notifications and the always-listening touchless controls haven't yet been replicated on other smartphones. Even after a year, the X still warrants consideration.
Key specs: 4.7-inch (1,280 x 720) AMOLED display, 1.7GHz dual-core Qualcomm MSM8960 Pro, 10MP rear/2MP front cameras, 16GB/32GB non-expandable storage, Android 4.2.2 (upgradeable to 4.4 KitKat)
If you're looking for respectable power on a budget, you might be tempted to go for the bargain-basement Moto E. Don't. For just $50 more, you can nab yourself the E's significantly more capable bigger brother... which just so happens to be one of our favorite mid-range devices. The screen, the camera and the silicon are all well above average for a phone in this price range, though the base model Moto G does lack LTE support and expandable memory. Then again, if you don't mind a little nickel-and-diming, you could very easily wind up with a device that ticks all the right boxes without having to shell out a fortune.
Key specs: 4.5-inch (1,280 x 720) IPS LCD display, 1.2GHz quad-core Snapdragon 400, 5MP rear/1.3MP front cameras, 8GB/16GB non-expandable storage (8GB expandable storage on 4G LTE version), Android 4.3 (Android 4.4 KitKat on the Google Play edition)
For better or worse, Samsung's original Galaxy Note helped jump-start the phablet craze, and the third model in the trilogy is its finest outing yet. The wide frame might make it a little awkward to clutch, but the combination of an impressive display, long battery life and surprisingly thoughtful S Pen features means that the Galaxy Note 3 should be the phablet of choice for avid jotters and those who think finger-touching is strictly passé. Let's just hope you're a fan of that faux-leather trim festooning the rear cover -- we'll see if that oddball design choice survives for much longer.
Key specs: 5.7-inch (1,920 x 1,080) Super AMOLED display, 2.3GHz quad-core Snapdragon 800 (LTE version), 13MP rear/2MP front cameras, 16GB/32GB/64GB expandable storage, Android 4.4
Let's be honest here: Apple will pull back the curtain on some new iPhones soon, and you're almost certainly better off waiting to buy one of those. If you absolutely have to have an iPhone right now, though, you may as well make it the 5s. It's very much a known quantity with its elegant design, 64-bit A7 processor and that Touch ID sensor embedded in the home button. Though it might no longer be fresh, that doesn't detract from the fact that the 5s is Apple's best smartphone to date. Just, you know, don't get too jealous when your friends start walking around with those shiny new models before the year is out.
Key specs: 4-inch (1,136 x 640) IPS Retina display, Touch ID, A7 chip with M7 motion coprocessor, 8MP rear/1.2MP front cameras, 16GB/32GB/64GB non-expandable storage, iOS 7
Let's take a moment and just forget about the unflinching regularity of phone upgrade cycles. If you're just looking to get a cheap, reliable smartphone, you could do much worse than the iPhone 4s. Yes, it's old and none too fancy, but it is free with a contract and is guaranteed to get a taste of iOS 8 when it hits later this year.
Key specs: 3.5-inch (960 x 640) IPS Retina display, 1GHz A5, 8MP rear/VGA front cameras, 8GB non-expandable storage, iOS 7
Everyone likes phablets, right? That's the sort of rhetorical question nearly every phone maker has asked within the past two years, and Nokia is no exception. Enter the Lumia 1520, the company's biggest (and, some could argue, best) Windows Phone to date. Your eyes don't deceive you: The 1520 is indeed pocket-strainingly large thanks to its 6-inch screen. On the plus side, that means plenty of space for all of those blinking, winking Live Tiles, to say nothing of the 20-megapixel PureView camera fitted around back. It's a surprisingly sturdy smartphone to boot, even if that glossy plastic finish does make it something of a fingerprint magnet. If you're digging what Microsoft has to offer with Windows Phone, the Lumia 1520 is an impeccable choice... unless you just can't physically manage it.
Key specs: 6-inch (1,920 x 1,080) IPS LCD display, 2.2GHz quad-core Snapdragon 800, 20MP rear/1.2MP front cameras, 16GB/32GB expandable storage, Windows Phone 8
What's that, you say? You'd like a top-tier Windows Phone that doesn't make you second-guess your daily pants choices? That'll be the Lumia Icon (or the Lumia 930 if you live outside the US). You're essentially looking at a device that squeezes nearly everything we like about the gargantuan 1520 into a smaller, denser, slightly less attractive package. A 1080p screen? Check. A 20-megapixel camera? Check. Strong specs and a battery to match? You see where we're going with this. Really, the only caveat is a little carrier-exclusivity issue: The Icon is a solid buy, but you'll have to pledge allegiance to Verizon if you want to get your hands on one here in the States.
Key specs: 5-inch (1,920 x 1,080) ClearBlack OLED display, 2.2GHz quad-core Snapdragon 800, 20MP rear/1.2MP front cameras, 32GB non-expandable storage, Windows Phone 8
You've got to give it to Nokia: It's been a long time since it's been on top of the mobile heap and it's not afraid to take a risk on a wild-eyed concept. Case in point: The Lumia 1020 further refined a concept that began with the 808 PureView way back when, and it's since become famous for blurring the lines between smartphones and full-blown cameras. All that photographic prowess comes at a price, though: The phone has a sizable little hump on its rear end where that 41-megapixel sensor lives. It occasionally makes holding the thing a little awkward, but that's a small price to pay for the kind of image quality this phone affords.
Key specs: 4.5-inch WXGA (1,280 x 768) PureMotion HD+ AMOLED display, 1.5GHz dual-core Snapdragon S4 Plus, 41MP rear/1.2MP front cameras, 32GB non-expandable storage, Windows Phone 8
Nokia can peg much of its success over the past decade to churning out super cheap, functional phones for the rest of the world. The Lumia 520 is what happened when Nokia took that tried-and-true formula and applied it to a Windows Phone. A Windows Phone! For about $60! There's almost no reason not to pick one up, so long as you know what you're getting. In this case, that means a mediocre display and some disappointing battery life. That may not sound like the most compelling argument, but c'mon -- this thing definitely has its uses. Dying for a smartphone on an extreme budget? Need a spare smartphone that isn't heinous? The Lumia 520 is definitely one to keep an eye on.
Key specs: 4-inch (800 x 480) IPS LCD, 1GHz dual-core Snapdragon S4 Plus, 5MP rear camera, 8GB expandable storage, Windows Phone 8
Our opinion hasn't changed here: The BlackBerry Z30 is still the best BlackBerry 10 device on the market. Then again, it's not like we're exactly spoiled for choice here. The Z30 does do a lot of things right, though: It's a remarkably comfortable handset to use, and that 2,880mAh battery means you'll be running native BB10 and Android apps for hours on end. Oh, and let's not forget that BlackBerry 10 has improved dramatically since those early days. We know giving up that tried-and-true physical keyboard is like pulling teeth, but the Z30's clean lines, soft-touch rear and expansive (by BlackBerry standards) screen will welcome you to this brave, new, all-touch world with open arms.
Key specs: 5-inch (1,280 x 720) Super AMOLED display, dual-core 1.7 GHz Qualcomm MSM8960T Pro, 8MP rear/2MP front cameras, 16GB expandable storage, BlackBerry OS 10.2
BlackBerry fans can be awfully particular about those classic physical keyboards, which makes the Q10 an absolute no-brainer for those still faithful to Waterloo. BlackBerry 10 as a platform has grown by leaps and bounds since we got our first taste of the OS and the compact Q10 makes a great home for it -- especially thanks to those nicely scalloped QWERTY keys. Temptation abounds, alas: You should definitely pass over the Q5 in favor of this little ditty if you've got the means, but the BlackBerry Classic and the truly curious Passport are barreling down the pipeline as you read this. Neither of them has a firm launch date attached yet, and until they do, the Q10 remains our full-keyboard-toting pick.
Key specs: 3.1-inch (720 x 720) Super AMOLED display, 1.5GHz dual-core Snapdragon MSM8960, 8MP rear/2MP front cameras, 16GB expandable storage, BlackBerry OS 10.2
After a couple years of playing it safe with iPad designs, Apple pulled out all the stops with the iPad Air. It's one of the lightest full-size tablets on the market, weighing in at just one pound. It's one of the fastest, too: Apple's own dual-core A7 processor sometimes outperforms the high-end quad-core chips used in rival devices. You also get to download a free, fairly powerful suite of Apple productivity apps, and Office is available if you'd prefer to go the Microsoft route. Buyers may not like the proprietary Lightning connector, and they could miss both the memory card slot and multi-window app support offered on other devices. Still, the new iPad is ideal for gamers and anyone else who wants a big, fast tablet without the usual bulk.
Key specs: Dual-core A7 processor, 1GB of RAM, 16GB to 128GB of storage, 1.2-megapixel front and 5-megapixel rear cameras, 9.7-inch (2,048 x 1,536) display
The Transformer Book T100 remains a value champ among larger Windows tablets, even several months into its shelf life. As of this writing, around $350 will get you a quad-core slate that runs desktop Windows apps, lasts for up to 11 hours on a charge, carries 64GB of storage and comes with its own keyboard dock. The T100 doesn't have the performance needed for more demanding apps, but it could still be ideal for anyone who wants a tablet that can double as a basic laptop.
Key specs: 1.33GHz quad-core Atom processor, 2GB of RAM, 32GB or 64GB of storage, 1.2-megapixel front camera, 10.1-inch (1,366 x 768) display
Microsoft claims that the Surface Pro 3 is good enough to replace both your laptop and your tablet. And you know what? In many cases, it's right. We're not the biggest fans of the keyboard (a pricey $130 option), but there's no denying the flexibility here -- the Pro 3 is the only tablet in our guide that's powerful enough to create professional-grade media, not just consume it. It's certainly our pick for a pen-toting tablet, since you can begin scribbling notes simply by clicking a button on the stylus. The Pro 3 also directly addresses some of the ergonomic gripes we had with its ancestor; it's thinner and lighter despite having a larger display. It's still more expensive than mobile OS tablets, but you'll likely get what you pay for.
Key specs: Core i3, i5 or i7 processor, 4GB or 8GB of RAM, 64GB to 512GB of storage, 5-megapixel front and rear cameras, 12-inch (2,160 x 1,440) display
Sony's original Xperia Tablet Z was a mainstay in our buyer's guide for good reason: It had one of the sleekest designs of any tablet on the market, and its performance held up well over time. The Xperia Z2 Tablet maintains that good reputation, and then some. It's even thinner and lighter than its ancestor without sacrificing its waterproof shell, and its performance has taken a big leap forward through an upgrade to a Snapdragon 801 processor. It also runs Android 4.4 KitKat with a light, unobtrusive interface. The battery life and cameras won't impress, but the Z2 is still a solid choice.
Key specs: 2.3GHz quad-core Snapdragon 801 processor, 3GB of RAM, 16GB or 32GB of storage, 2.2-megapixel front and 8.1-megapixel rear cameras, 10.1-inch (1,920 x 1,200) display
The Nexus 7 isn't the most powerful small tablet on the block, but it boasts exceptional bang for the buck. It's fast, carries a sharp display and supports wireless charging. More importantly, it's the standard-bearer for stock Android. It's no longer the only tablet running Android 4.4 KitKat, but it should get future updates quickly. There are certainly cheaper alternatives in this size class, but the Nexus continues to represent a great bargain.
Key specs: 1.5GHz quad-core Snapdragon S4 Pro processor, 2GB of RAM, 16GB or 32GB of storage, 1.2-megapixel front and 5-megapixel rear cameras, 7-inch (1,920 x 1,200) display
How times have changed. While the original iPad mini trailed some competitors in performance, the iPad mini with Retina display occasionally comes out ahead -- this is really the iPad Air in concentrated form. It has the highest-resolution display of any small tablet outside of the Galaxy Tab Pro 8.4 and Galaxy Tab S 8.4, and the A7 processor still manages some category-leading performance. It even has a 128GB storage option that's extremely rare for tablets this size. Just be prepared to pay a premium for all this high-end tech: The new mini is one of the most expensive devices in its class, and it doesn't include extras like a keyboard dock or stylus.
Key specs: Dual-core A7 processor, 1GB of RAM, 16GB to 128GB of storage, 1.2-megapixel front and 5-megapixel rear cameras, 7.9-inch (2,048 x 1,536) display
If you value a tablet's price-to-performance ratio above all else, you can't ignore the 7-inch Kindle Fire HDX. For $229, you're getting a small tablet with performance that humbles the Nexus 7 -- and, for that matter, many larger competitors. Features like Mayday live support and Second Screen media streaming are nice to have, too. The only catch, as is usually the case with Kindle Fire tablets, is the heavy emphasis on Amazon's content ecosystem. If you regularly use competing services (including Google Play), you're better off getting a tablet running regular Android. Consider the 8.9-inch model if you need more screen real estate.
Key specs: 2.2GHz quad-core Snapdragon 800 processor, 2GB of RAM, 16GB to 64GB of storage, HD front camera, 7-inch (1,920 x 1,200) display
Hold on, you may say -- what happened to Dell's Venue 8 Pro? We still think that's a good device, but Acer's Iconia W4 is now our 8-inch Windows tablet of choice. It lasts much longer on a charge than its Dell counterpart, offers a smarter control layout and supports HDMI video out that the Venue lacks. You won't even pay much more to get these features, since it's easy to find Acer's tablet selling for a modest $250. While you won't get the Venue's pen support or the Lenovo ThinkPad 8's high-res screen, the Iconia is well-rounded compared to its peers.
Key specs: 1.33GHz quad-core Atom processor, 2GB of RAM, 32GB to 64GB of storage, 2-megapixel front and 5-megapixel rear cameras, 8-inch (1,280 x 800) display
Samsung only just released its well-received Galaxy Tab Pro series at the start of 2014, so it was surprising to see the company ship another high-end tablet line, the Galaxy Tab S, just a few months later. However, a quick hands-on with the newer models will tell you why. Whether you're getting an 8.4-inch or 10.5-inch edition, the Tab S has one of the best-looking screens you'll see on any tablet -- it's extremely bright and vivid (even when outdoors), yet produces deep blacks that you'll notice in dimmer lighting. It also has some of the best battery life we've seen from any slate, and the thinner, lighter body is that much easier to hold when reading that long book. You will take a bit of a performance hit versus the Tab Pros, but this should definitely be on your short list if you're a frequent movie watcher. Our pick is the 8.4-inch model, since it offers all the Tab S features in a smaller, cheaper package; if you do a lot of multitasking or just want a big display, however, the 10.5-inch variant is also a fine choice.
Key specs: 1.9GHz Exynos 5 Octa processor, 3GB of RAM, 16GB of storage, 2.1-megapixel front and 8-megapixel rear cameras, 8.4-inch (2,560 x 1,600) display
ASUS had a sleeper hit last year with the MeMO Pad HD 7. It wasn't the most powerful tablet by any means, but it delivered better performance and software than devices costing twice as much. For that reason, we're recommending the new MeMO Pad 7 -- it builds on that successful formula with a more powerful Atom processor, refined software and a better front camera. There's no big revolution here, but it's a reliable choice among sub-$200 slates.
Key specs: Quad-core 1.33GHz Atom processor, 1GB of RAM, 16GB of storage, 2-megapixel front and 5-megapixel rear cameras, 7-inch (1,280 x 800) display
We liked the original Kindle Fire HD from 2012, so last year's refresh is virtually a shoo-in for the budget category. Apart from the exterior, you're not getting anything new. At a lower $139, however, it's quite the steal; you're getting a slate with solid performance, a pleasing display and healthy battery life. The 8GB model will do the job if you want a basic device for Amazon Instant Video streaming or Kindle books, and a $169 16GB variant is available if you have a small personal media collection. Just be aware that there are no cameras, and you're (officially) stuck grabbing software from the Amazon Appstore.
Key specs: 1.5GHz dual-core OMAP 4470 processor, 1GB of RAM, 8GB or 16GB of storage, 7-inch (1,280 x 800) display
You might wonder why Barnes & Noble's Nook HD has returned to our list after a long hiatus. Simply put, it's a good value these days. It's affordable and boasts a sharper display than most devices in its class. And unlike the Kindle Fire HD, you're not locked into the manufacturer's ecosystem -- you can download any app you like from Google Play. The base 8GB Nook HD doesn't afford much space for offline media, but you can spring for the 16GB model (or a Nook HD+) if you need more.
Key specs: 1.3GHz dual-core OMAP 4470 processor, 1GB of RAM, 8GB or 16GB of storage, 7-inch (1,440 x 900) display