Top 10 Tablets for Business

While tablet computing platforms like Microsoft’s Windows XP Tablet PC edition have been in use for many years, they were always niche devices used for very specific applications. With the release of Apple’s iPad in 2010, the popularity of tablets with both consumers and now businesses has exploded – we are living in a “Post-PC” world. However, while the iPad is still a good choice for business, there is now a wide variety of other tablets, running both Android and Windows 8 Pro, for businesses to choose from. In this slideshow you’ll see ten of the best tablets for business currently available, along with a preview of a couple of new tablets coming to Canada soon.

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Mobile OS’s for Business

We would be remiss if we didn’t start this article by briefly going over the main tablet operating systems available on today’s business tablets.

Apple iOS
Being the OS that the iPad uses, iOS is the most popular tablet OS, and it has the widest selection of business applications available. It’s a very secure OS, with each application being sandboxed, preventing malicious code from spreading, so there is a minimal need for additional security solutions.

Android
Google’s Android OS is available on a variety of tablets with different form factors and price points. While historically it has been seen as a lot less secure of an OS that iOS, there are security solutions that can address this issue.  Android is widely supported by leading mobile device management solutions, making it easy to allow Android tablets be part of your organizations BYOD initiative.

Windows 8 Pro & Windows RT
Both versions of Microsoft’s new OS use a touch-optimized interface and run apps developed for it. This new UI is ideal for tablets, and the default apps that come with Windows 8 work great on a touch screen. Since there is a common interface spread across devices, if your organization develops any custom applications for the Modern UI, you’ll only need to make one for desktops, notebooks and tablets.

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Apple iPad 2 (pictured) & iPad with Retina display

The iPad is the tablet that could be considered to have started the “Post-PC” revolution, and it is the most popular tablet on the market. For business, the iPad is becoming more widespread both as a company owned asset, and as an employee owned device supported by a BYOD device policy. The iPad is widely supported by leading mobile device management solutions, so it is easy for an IT department to manage, and iOS is easy to use, so there is little or no learning curve when rolling iPads out to employees. iOS is also the most popular tablet OS, so there is a wide selection of business applications already available for it, and larger organizations can also develop custom apps for use on their iPads. The iPad hardware itself, especially the current 4th generation iPad with Retina display, is thin, light, powerful, and the 2048 x 1536 Retina display is gorgeous to look at. The iPad has great battery life, with up to 10 hours of use from a single charge.

iPad 2 Specs: 9.7” IPS 1024 x 768 screen, Dual-core A5 CPU, 16 GB storage, 241.2 x 185.7 x 8.8mm, 601g (1.33 lbs), Wi-Fi & 3G models available. $399 for Wi-Fi, $529 for 3G model

iPad with Retina Display specs: 9.7” IPS 2048 x 1536 screen, Dual-core A6X CPU, 16/32/64/128GB of storage, 241.2 x 185.7 x 9.4mm, 652g (1.44 lbs), Wi-Fi & LTE models available. Starting at $499 for Wi-Fi, $629 for LTE model

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Acer Iconia W7 W700P

While the Acer W7 is one of the largest devices on this list, it’s also one of the most powerful and could be considered more of a convertible Ultrabook than a tablet. It runs Windows 8 Pro, and since it has an Intel Core i5 CPU it can run more demanding applications than other tablets, such as video editing software or CAD. It has a big (for a tablet) 11.6” IPS 1080p screen, and is well made, with an attractive aluminum body. There are also a lot of ports on the W7, including HDMI out and a full-sized USB 3.0 port. Its size has allowed Acer to use a big battery, giving the W7 around six hours of battery life, which is excellent for such a powerful tablet. The W700P model with Windows 8 Pro which we looked at has a two year warranty, and Acer includes a lot of accessories with the tablet in the box. There is a desktop dock that adds three USB 3.0 ports, an excellent Bluetooth keyboard case (pictured), a capacitive stylus, and a HDMI to VGA dongle. Most other vendors would charge extra for all these accessories.

Acer Iconia W7 W700P Specs: 11.6″ Full HD LCD multi-touch display (1920 x 1080), 1.70GHz Core i5-3317U CPU, Intel HD Graphics 4000, 4GB DDR3 RAM, 128GB SSD, 295 x 191 x 11.9mm, 907g (2 lbs.), 2-year limited warranty. $1049

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Acer Iconia W5 W510P

The Iconia W510P is powered by Intel’s Clover Trail Atom CPU. While it’s not as powerful as the Core i5 in the Acer W7, so it can’t run more demanding applications, the W5 still runs a full versions of Windows 8 Pro, so has no problem running legacy Windows 7 applications. For running desktop applications, like Office 365 or CRM software, the 1.5GHz Z2760 CPU is more than capable. The Iconia W510P is made mostly from plastic, but is still well made, and has an attractive aluminum and white finish. It’s only 9.9mm thick, and weighs just 1.27 pounds, making it one of the lightest tablets available. It has a 10.1” 1366 x 768 resolution screen, and there are lots of ports on the tablet, including a micro USB, micro HDMI and microSD slot. Like the W7, Acer includes accessories that other vendors would sell separately; in this case there is a keyboard dock that converts the tablet into a small notebook. The W5 already has around 7.5 hours of battery life, which is pretty good, and the battery in the keyboard extends it up to a stellar 12+ hours. The dock also has a full-sized USB 2.0 port, and allows you flip the keyboard behind the tablet to turn it into a stand for presentations.

Acer Iconia W5 W510P Specs: 10.1″ HD LCD multi-touch display (1366 x 768), 1.80GHz Intel Atom Z2760 CPU, Intel GMA 3650 Graphics, 2GB DDR3 RAM, 64GB eMMC SSD, 258.5 x 186.5 x 9.9mm, 576g (1.27 lbs.), 1-year limited warranty. $799

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Samsung ATIV Smart PC Pro 700T

The Samsung Smart PC Pro 700T is available as both a consumer model with Windows 8, and a business model with Windows 8 Pro, even though both versions are confusingly named ‘Pro’ (so take care to purchase the right model when looking at this tablet). The Windows 8 Pro model, with TPM hardware security, is only available from business resellers. The 700T, like the Acer W7, is more of an Ultrabook competitor, especially when paired with the optional $150 keyboard dock. It’s powerful enough to run a wide range of Windows applications, from Office to Photoshop, but this power comes at a price – it weighs 1.96 pounds,  and 700T’s battery life isn’t the greatest, only lasting around 4.5 hours. The 700T has a full-sized USB 3.0 port, microSD slot, micro HDMI out, and Samsung’s pressure sensitive S Pen stylus, which uses Wacom technology. The S Pen is perfect for applications that support inking, like Microsoft OneNote, and you can use it to annotate documents and images, which helps immensely when collaborating with colleagues on the same project. The S Pen is also works well with Windows 8’s built-in handwriting recognition text input.

Samsung ATIV Smart PC Pro 700T Specs: 11.6″ Full HD LCD multi-touch display (1920 x 1080), 1.70GHz Core i5-3317U CPU, Intel HD Graphics 4000, 4GB DDR3 RAM, 128GB SSD, 304 x 189.5 x 11.9mm, 888g (1.96 lbs.), 1-year limited warranty. $1299

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Google Nexus 10

The Nexus 10 is an Android tablet that is currently only available for purchase directly from Google. It’s built by Samsung, and while it’s mostly plastic, it still feels very solid, and has a nice soft-touch finish on the back. It has a powerful dual-core Exynos 5 Cortex A15 CPU, and is available with both 16GB and 32GB of storage. Unfortunately, there is no microSD slot to expand this capacity. The real star of the show, though, is the 2560 x 1600 screen, which is as sharp as the Retina display found in the iPad 4. A screen with such a high DPI makes even the smallest text crisp and clear, great for viewing documents like large spreadsheets, since when sized to fit the full screen the cell contents are still readable. The Nexus 10 runs the latest version of Android, Jelly Bean 4.2, which brings some additional security features to the OS. Since the Nexus 10 is part of Google’s Nexus line-up, it will always be updated to the latest version of Android before other tablets. The Nexus 10 is also the only tablet currently supported by Ubuntu, being the official development device for the new tablet version of this popular Linux distro, and while this OS is not ready prime time, you can evaluate it for potential use in your organization on the Nexus 10.

Google Nexus 10 Specs: 10″ PLS multi-touch display (2560 x 1600), 1.70GHz dual-core Exynos 5 Cortex A15 CPU, Quad-core Mali T604 Graphics, 2GB RAM, 16GB or 32GB of storage, 263.9 x 177.6 x 8.9mm, 603g (1.32 lbs.), 1-year limited warranty. 16GB model $409, 32GB model $509

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Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1

While the Note 10.1 doesn’t have the super-high resolution display screen of the Nexus 10, it does have a couple of unique features that make it stand out from other 10” Android tablets. Like the Windows 8 ATIV Smart PC Pro, the Note 10.1 supports Samsung’s pressure sensitive S Pen stylus. The S Pen works great in graphic design apps, like the included tablet version of Photoshop, and it is also works with Samsung’s own S Note application, that can be used, for example, to take handwritten notes, annotate documents, and draw out network diagrams. The S Pen also works great with applications like Microsoft OneNote for Android, and Evernote. While it ships with an older version of Android, 4.0, it has been recently updated to Android 4.1, Jelly Bean, which is both faster and more secure. The Note 10.1 also has unique (for Android) “multiscreen” capabilities, allowing it to run two applications at once in a split-screen mode, allowing for easier multitasking on the tablet. The screen isn’t as high-resolution as some of the other tablets in this list, but is still a respectable 1280 x 800, and the 32GB of storage can be expanded with the onboard microSD slot. It also has good battery life, the 7,000mAh battery giving it around 8 hours of use.

Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 specs: 10″ PLS multi-touch display (1280 x 800), 1.40GHz quad-core Exynos 4 Cortex A9 CPU, Mali 400MP Graphics, 2GB RAM, 32GB of storage, 262 x 180 x 8.9mm, 603g (1.32 lbs.), 1-year limited warranty. $499

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Microsoft Surface RT

The Surface is Microsoft’s first in-house tablet, designed to be a showcase for Windows 8. It has an ARM based CPU, specifically a quad-core Nvidia Tegra 3, which is the same kind of processor found in Android and iOS tablets, and runs Windows RT, a version of Windows 8 specifically designed for low-powered tablets like the Surface. While Windows RT runs the new Modern UI applications, it unfortunately cannot run legacy x86 (Windows 7) applications in its desktop mode, making the Surface more suited to being a companion device, rather than being a true business notebook replacement. It does come with Office 2013 RT  licensed for home use — it needs to be licensed separately for business use. The Surface is beautifully designed, and is made from what Microsoft is calling VaporMg, a magnesium alloy “three times lighter” than aluminum. Consequently it weighs only 1.5 pounds, and is just 9.4mm thick. It also has an innovative metal kickstand built into the tablet, and optional keyboard covers that attach magnetically to the bottom, making it easy to use on a desk like a small notebook. While the RT version of Windows does limit its business application compatibility somewhat, for companies with Microsoft Software Assurance on their Windows 8 desktop licenses, Windows RT devices can be licensed as a companion device at no extra charge, for accessing your corporate desktop through a Remote Desktop connection.

Microsoft Surface RT specs: 10.6″ 1366 x 768 ClearType HD Display, 1.3GHz quad-core NVIDIA Tegra 3, 2GB RAM, 16GB or 32GB of storage, 275 x 172 x 9.4mm, 680g (1.5 lbs.), 1-year limited warranty. 32GB model $499, $599 with Touch keyboard cover, 64GB model $599, $699 with Touch cover

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Microsoft Surface Pro

The Surface Pro, the Surface’s bigger brother, doesn’t use an ARM processor, and runs the full version of Windows 8 Pro, so it can run the full range of Windows applications. It’s available with either 64GB or 128GB of storage, though with the amount of space Windows and the pre-installed apps take up, the 128GB model is the best choice if you need additional storage capacity. Running an i5 CPU allows the Surface Pro to run even the most demand Windows applications, and like the other i5-based tablets in this list, the Surface Pro is a viable alternative to an Ultrabook when paired with one of Microsoft’s optional keyboard covers. The downside to all this power is battery life – the Surface Pro only runs for about 4 hours. While it’s thicker than the Surface RT, at 13.4mm, and weighs in at 2 pounds, it is more compact than the Acer W7 and Samsung Smart PC Pro, due to its smaller 10.6” screen. The screen is a full HD 1920 x 1080 resolution, which makes everything incredibly crisp, but menus and buttons are a little too small for easy touch input with your finger when in desktop mode. The Surface Pro also has a pressure sensitive pen, using Wacom technology, making it a great choice for graphics professionals, and also useful when using applications like OneNote. Like the Surface RT, the Surface Pro is also made from the same premium materials and can be used with Microsoft’s magnetic keyboard covers; however there is no bundle available with the keyboard included for the Pro.

Microsoft Surface Pro specs: 10.6″ 1920 x 1080 ClearType HD Display, 1.70GHz Core i5-3317U CPU, Intel HD Graphics 4000, 4GB DDR3 RAM, 64GB or 128GB SSD, 274 x 173 x 13.4mm, 907g (2 lbs.), 1-year limited warranty. 64GB model $899, 128GB model $999, keyboard covers sold separately

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HP ElitePad 900 G1

With the release of Windows 8 and a more powerful Atom CPU, HP finally has a business tablet worth looking at. The ElitePad 900 is powered by the same Z2760 CPU as the Acer W5, and also has 2GB of RAM and 32GB to 64GB of storage. While it runs Windows 8 Pro, the low-powered Atom processor is still only suitable for running productivity apps like Office 365, but it also helps give the ElitePad up to 10 hours of battery life. It has 16:10 aspect ratio 10.1” 1280 x 800 screen, is 9.2mm thick, weighs 1.5 pounds, and has an attractive machined aluminum chassis that meets Mil-spec levels of durability, befitting its HP premium business “Elite” series heritage. The screen also supports pressure sensitive pen input, though the compatible stylus for this is sold separately by HP. The ElitePad is pretty barren when it comes to expansion ports; there is just a headphone jack and a propriety power and dock connector, so out of the box there aren’t many options for connecting external devices. The reason for this is that HP offering Expansion Jackets that slides over the tablet, and while they are sold separately, they do add useful functionality to the ElitePad, at the cost of making the tablet slightly bigger. For example, the ElitePad Expansion Jacket adds two full-sized USB ports, a microSD card slot, HDMI out, and has a compartment for an optional extra battery, extending the ElitePad’s battery life up to 18 hours!

HP ElitePad 900 G1 Specs: 10.1″ HD LCD multi-touch display (1280 x 800), 1.80GHz Intel Atom Z2760 CPU, Intel GMA 3650 Graphics, 2GB DDR3 RAM, 32GB – 64GB eMMC SSD, 261 x 178 x 9.2mm, 680g (1.5 lbs.), 1-year limited warranty. 32GB model is $649, 64GB model is $739

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Lenovo ThinkPad Tablet 2

Last year Lenovo got into the business tablet market with their Android-powered ThinkPad Tablet. However, at that time the selection of business applications for Android tablets was slim. With the release of Windows 8, Lenovo has decided to switch to Windows on their new ThinkPad Tablet 2. The ThinkPad Tablet 2 uses Intel’s Z2760 Atom CPU, has 2GB of RAM and runs Windows 8 Pro, allowing it to run any Windows application. It has a 10.1” 1366 x 768 screen, and is very thin and light, at 9.8mm thick and 1.25 pounds. It’s a very handsome tablet, and has a nice black soft-touch finish to the back and sides. Despite being so thin, Lenovo has managed to pack in a lot of ports. It has a full-sized USB 2.0 port, mini HDMI out, microSD slot, and uses a standard micro USB port for charging. It also has amazing battery life for such a compact device, up to 10 hours. There is a pressure-sensitive pen on select models, and unlike the HP ElitePad or Surface Pro, there is a slot to store the pen on the tablet. While Lenovo doesn’t include any other accessories in the box, there is a wide variety available, including a Bluetooth keyboard dock with the famous Lenovo red Trackpoint button for cursor control. Since this is a business model, the one year warranty can be easily upgraded to two or three, and includes accidental damage protection.

Lenovo ThinkPad Tablet 2 specs: 10.1″ HD LCD multi-touch display (1366 x 768), 1.80GHz Intel Atom Z2760 CPU, Intel GMA 3650 Graphics, 2GB DDR3 RAM, 64GB eMMC SSD, 262.6 x 164.6 x 9.8mm, 565g (1.25 lbs.), 1-year limited warranty. 64GB starts at $679

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Upcoming business tablets

Along with the ten tablets showcased in this slideshow, there are a couple of new tablets coming soon to Canada that will also be great for business use. Samsung is releasing a smaller version of the Note 10.1, the Note 8. It has almost identical specifications to the Note 10.1, just in a smaller form factor with an 8” screen. As it is more compact, it will probably be priced a little lower, though no release date or pricing had been announced yet. Sony has a new 10” tablet coming out soon, the Xperia Tablet Z, and while there isn’t much in its specs or version of Android (Jelly Bean) to differentiate it from other 10” Android tablets, it does have one unique feature – water resistance. It can be submerged in up to three feet of water for 30 minutes, so no need to worry if you accidentally drop it in the snow. It’s coming in the ‘spring’ and should be $499 for 16GB model and $599 for the 32GB. Lastly, if you are looking for something higher-end, and a true business notebook replacement, then Lenovo has their 11.6” ThinkPad Helix. It is a convertible tablet with a full ThinkPad keyboard, and will come with up to a Core i7 CPU, 8GB of RAM and a 256GB SSD. However, there is a price to be paid for all this power and flexibility – the Helix will start at $1499.

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Alex Davies
IT professional & freelance tech writer. Founder of The Art of the Gadget. PC gamer, indie comics fan & cinephile. Sometimes curmudgeon.