Staying at home these days means that we are all forced to run much of our life on videos, whether it is work, or for entertainment. For most us, the laptop is still the go-to device for videos. But it is too cumbersome to lug around everywhere, and is not the easiest to accommodate when lying in bed. The phone, handy as it may be, does not afford us enough screen real estate to have a truly immersive experience. What is then left is the tablet, which, save for a handful of brands, was almost written off, till before the pandemic. It is now making a huge comeback. If you are in in the market for one, here is a quick round-up of what is out there, in order of my preference. A point to note: I have intended these as consumption devices (as opposed to input ones) so have not factored in their keyboards, and the usefulness thereof.
APPLE IPAD PRO
Well, the reason the Pro comes in after the Air for me is simple — too high a price. As tablets go, this is undoubtedly the best money can buy. But if you are considering this as a laptop replacement, it isn’t. I would much rather acquire a MacBook Air with much superior speed, multi-tasking features and a full-format keyboard. The OS on the Pro just doesn’t feel as intuitive as a regular laptop, unless of course, all your ‘laptop’ work consists of one-way data consumption, in which case, the Air might just do the job, and for far lesser. Don’t get me wrong, there is no better tablet out there: super looks, almost weightless, eSIM-ready, super battery, rich and smooth graphics, stunning video and above-average sound. But for that price, even all that ammo doesn’t stack up. Rs 71,900
APPLE IPAD AIR
With their latest super-fast A12 chip, slim and lightweight albeit slightly dated design, good battery and a lovely screen with a reliably tuned sound signature, the current generation iPad Air remains the best tablet that one can go for. It’s a bit on the pricey side — you will need to add at least a case and maybe the Apple pencil cost too — but for what it packs, you will be future safe for the next four years easily, and that is a feature that a few other brands can stake claim to. Rs 44,900 onwards
SAMSUNG S6 LITE
I recently acquired this, and I am still not quite sure if I like it. Is it as good a tablet experience as my old iPad? Definitely not. Is it great by Android standards? Well, till Pixel comes out with a tablet, this is as close to a seamless tablet as one can have. The experience isn’t as well-thought out, as either Apple or Pixel devices. Samsung bloatware bars the more-intuitive stock Android features, and it is not nearly as fun to use as OnePlus or RealMe devices (but they are in the phone segment). My sum-up at best is this: decent LCD (not AMOLED, sadly) tablet with a thin bezel and a slick design, LTE-ready, great AKGtuned dual-speaker stereo sound, slightly above-average features overall. The stylus is a definite plus, but it doesn’t have a dedicated dock. The inclusion of ANT+ is a boon for cyclists training indoors with apps like Zwift, but others will have little use for it. Frankly, get one of the abovementioned if you can afford them, else maybe go for the next one below. Rs 28,000 onwards
XIAOMI MI PAD 4
No discussion on anything mobile can be complete without a mention of Xiaomi, but unfortunately, they seem to have ignored the tablet segment, at least in the Indian market. Their last launch was nearly two years ago, and the Mi Pad 4, although pretty sharp and cutting edge back then, has now fallen considerably behind. But they are known for being quick and nimble to expect to see something in the slate space from them soon (Mi Pad 4+ by mid-2020 is the rumour going around) and, if you are brand agnostic, Xiaomi is a good horse to bet on. Rs 21,900
HUAWEI MEDIAPAD MATE 5 LITE
The saddest bit about Huawei is the lack of Google support going forward. They are still stuck with Android OS Oreo 8.0, else this brand would have been the one to watch out for. They pack in the most features at an astoundingly attractive price. Best bit yet, they still manage to be perceived as a premium brand, and not a cheap alternative to a western product. The M5, with its M-pen Lite stylus (although it is still no Apple) and a lovely 2.5D-curved TFT IPS screen, quadspeaker setup (Harman Kardon tuned), quick-charge, GPS, and lots more, was by far the best in its price range, punching way above its weight. The fingerprint reader is a bit dated and the colours appear oversaturated sometimes, but overall, it was a pleasure to use this slate. Bloatware is a bit of an issue, but not as bad as on the Samsung. Rs 22,900 onwards.
LENOVO YOGA TAB 3 PRO
I know this is terribly outdated, and I wouldn’t expect anyone to want to buy it, but I wish Lenovo would update this device. It was quite the design disruptor when it was first launched. Its best features — the sharp 13MP camera, an inbuilt stand, which also housed a rotating camera and a mini projector (which was gimmicky but still fun), and 4-way JBL speakers (not just ‘tuned’), all working on a 10,000mAH battery. If it were not for the now-outdated Intel Atom processor and the Android 5.1 (which will not update beyond Android 6), I would still recommend it. Lenovo has other tablets on the market, but they aren’t anything extraordinary, neither in features nor in price. Rs 19,000