We’ve already recapped the best smartphones of 2014, so it’s time to take a look at the same for tablets. 2014 may have been a year of slower tablet sales, but we still saw a lot of awesome innovation. Tablets got faster, lighter and better, and that’s always good news. These are the best tablets of the year.
Our Picks: Best Tablets of 2014
iPad Air 2
The king of tablets held onto its crown for another year with more iterative improvements. The iPad Air 2 is largely the same tablet as last year, but with a faster chip and Touch ID.
The iPad Air is still the best tablet you can buy with its robust app and content ecosystem. Tablets are all about consuming media, something Apple excels at providing. That and a fast, modern operating system make the iPad Air 2 the tablet to beat.
Also Read: 10 Cool Ways to Use Your Old iPad
Finally, a good 4:3 Android tablet. Google and HTC put their considerable design muscle together to make a 9-inch Android slab that hits all the right notes.
What the Nexus 9 lacks in design flair, it makes up for in speed and power. This tablet flies with a 64-bit Nvidia Tegra K1 chip running a 64-bit version of Android 5.0 Lollipop.
The Nexus 9 is the best overall Android tablet you can buy. It’s a Nexus, so no one outside of tech nerds will get it, and that’s a damn shame.
Kindle Fire HDX 8.9
Remember what I wrote about tablets being all about content? Amazon kills it on this. This 9-inch Kindle is less a tablet and more a gateway into Amazonland, a magical paradise of eBooks and on-demand video and online shopping.
If you’re into Amazon content, this is your tablet. It’s fast, HD and loaded with great content personally handpicked by Jeff Bezos. Well, maybe not the last one. But there’s still plenty to do with this version of the Kindle Fire.
Surface Pro 3
Sure, Microsoft is targeting the MacBook Air more than the iPad with this version of its tablet-laptop hybrid. Sure, the 12-inch display hovers just above the size of comfortable use. Sure, there are still barely any apps written for Windows tablets.
All that doesn’t matter, because the newest Surface Pro is a legitimate computer capable of doing far more than an iPad could ever dream of. Microsoft’s strangest child has grown up into a respectable product. It’s not for everyone and it’s not perfect, but damn if it’s not ambitious.
The Shield is the most specialized tablet on this list. It exists to play games first and do tablet things second.
With a Tegra K1, 1080p display and an external controller, this is the gaming tablet we always wanted. That and quick Android updates make the Shield worth considering for gamers with some spare cash.
iPad Mini (Second Generation)
I’m still not sure what Apple was thinking with the iPad Mini 3. Instead of giving it a spec bump like the iPad Air 2, it added only Touch ID to the Mini 3.
Apple did have the decency to cut the price of the iPad Mini 2 by $100 to a shockingly affordable $300. Considering that last year’s model still holds up well, the iPad Mini 2 is the best version of the iPad Mini released in 2014.
Were there any tablets we didn’t mention that should have made the list? Let us know in the comments.