Tech 10: Terrific Tablets For 2014

Talkin' Tablets

Speed, design and innovation continues to be defining factors driving the 2014 tablet market. Thanks to mobile chipmakers such as Intel and Qualcomm and their power-sipping processors, tablet user expectations have changed. Apple and Google have shrunk in size and weight of their tablets introducing mini versions, which don't skimp on features and include HD displays.

On the innovative front, Samsung Knox security technology -- that works on both handsets and tablets -- allows companies to create virtual partitions on Android devices that insulates corporate-managed apps and data from potential attack or falling into the wrong hands should the device be lost or stolen.

What follows is 2014's head-turning Tech 10 tablets that are helping 2014 shape up to be an intriguing year for tablets.

10. Pocket Windows: Lenovo ThinkPad 8

With Lenovo's ThinkPad 8 Windows mini tablet, you get great design coupled with an uncompromising Windows experience. The ThinkPad 8 starts at $400 and includes all the Microsoft staples and an OS that can run core office productivity apps, such as Adobe Photoshop. It comes with Intel's Atom 1.46Mhz processor, 64 GB of storage, USB 3.0 port, 8.3-inch, 1,920-x-1,200 display, and 5MP and 2MB front-facing cameras.

9. Budget: Asus MeMO Pad HD 7

The Asus MeMO Pad HD 7, with a starting price of $150, is an affordable high-performance tablet that sports 16 GB storage, a 7-inch, 1,280-x-800 display, a 1.2GHz quad-core MediaTek MT8125 CPU and rear-facing 5-MP camera, in addition to its 1.2-MP front lens. And when it comes to battery life, the MeMO has been tested by several third-party labs to last an impressive 9 hours during continuous web surfing over a Wi-Fi connection.

8. Notebook Replacement: Asus Transformer Pad Infinity

Conventional wisdom tells us the laptop "killed" the desktop. But now, tablets such as Asus' Transformer Pad Infinity may soon have notebooks running scared. Asus' latest model sports a 10.1-inch, 2,560-×-1,600 pixel display, runs Nvidia's Tegra 4 quadcore 1.9GHz processor, and comes with a detachable keyboard called a Pad + dock. The TF701T, configured with 32 GB of storage, starts at $425; with the QWERTY docking station, $122.

7. Pen-Based Computing: Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1

For those that gravitate toward pen-based tablet use, the Galaxy Note 10.1 (2014 Edition) offers enhanced drawing and handwriting capabilities. Priced at $550, the Note 10.1 bundles pen-friendly features such as the S Note app, letting you easily sync your missives and scribblings with business-friendly apps, such as Evernote, for later retrieval. The tablet has a 2,560-x-1,600-pixel screen, a 1.3GHz Quad-Core Exynos 5420 chip, an 8-megapixel rear camera and 2-megapixel front camera.

6. Ruggedized: Toughpad FZ-A1

As tablets continue to find themselves in more inhospitable places, Panasonic's line of ruggedized Toughpads is increasingly the tablet of choice. The 10.1-inch Toughpad FZ-A1, with 16 GB storage and Verizon's LTE wireless built in, is priced at around $1,700. It's not cheap, but does offer maximum protection against not only dustand drops, but also comes with data and device security features, such as U.S. government-grade FIPS 140-2-compliant security for data encryption.

5. Unadulterated Android: Google Nexus 10

Some OEMs that make Android tablets have a nasty habit of baking unwanted apps and services into their devices and locking out key Google features. To guarantee the best Google Android experience and ensure you buy uncompromising hardware there is one easy tablet choice: Google's own Nexus 10 tablet, starting at $400 for the 16-GB model. The 10.1-inch, 2,560-x-1,600 pixel display is the highest resolution tablet display on the market now—beating out Apple's Retina displays. Another talking point is the tablet's 1.7GHz ARM Cortex A15 dual-core processor for great performance.

4. Mini Android: Samsung Galaxy Tab Pro 8.4

Apple's iPad mini is a clear choice for most tablet buyers. But if you're firmly aligned with the Android camp, then Samsung's 2.3GHz quad-core Android 8.4-inch, 2,560-x-1,600 display Galaxy Tab Pro tablet is probably more your speed. The tablet has a price tag of $400 and is well-built. It ships with loads of nifty Samsung software features, along with smooth and speedy performance in a sleek package (0.73 pounds) similar to Apple's iPad mini.

3. Mini: iPad Mini With Retina Display

The iPad mini may be small but it packs a lot into the pint-sized chassis, including a superfast A7 chip, a 7.9-inch HD Retina 2,048-x-1,526-pixel display, 5-megapixel rear-facing camera, FaceTime HD camera, 4G connectivity and an impressive nine to 10-hour battery life. A 16-GB model starts at $400 without a cellular modem, and $530 for models that do have them.

2. Workhorse: Surface Pro 2

Priced at $900, more than most laptops, the Surface Pro 2 matches most all the same features as a notebook. The tablet packs impressive specs, such as a 10.6-inch full-HD display, (Haswell) 1.6GHz dualcore Intel Core i5 processor, 4 GB or 8 GB of RAM, and hard drive options of 64 GB to 512 GB. Throw in a $120 Microsoft Touch Cover 2/keyboard and you'll never need to lug your laptop around with you ever again. Standout features include Windows 8.1 OS and a preinstalled copy of Office 2013.

1. Premium: iPad Air

Apple, the standard bearer for tablets, updated its full-sized iPad Air model this year with a dual-core A7 chip, making it one of the fastest and most powerful tablets available this past year. The iPad Air also sports an impressive 9.7-inch Retina display, 1 GB of RAM and ships in either a 16-GB or 128-GB option. The $500 iPad Air weighs in at a hair less than 1 pound and features the richest app ecosystem available via Apple's App Store.