With Amazon’s new Kindle Fire HDX 7-inch and flagship Kindle HDX 8.9-inch tablets, the overnight success of Google’s Nexus 7 2013 and Nexus 5 smartphone, what can we expect from tablets based on Microsoft’s OS. Since the introduction of Windows 8.1, there has been a surge of devices based on the new OS.
Microsoft has decided to drop the term ‘RT’ used to refer to the flavour of Windows 8.1 built for tablet with ARM processor. While Window 8.1 (32bit) or Windows 8.1 Pro (64bit) are still used to refer to its OS for tablet based on Intel x86 processors. This may cause some confusion among consumers but the general rule of thumb is if the processor is other than an Intel chip, it is bound to have the cut down version of Windows 8.1. Otherwise, tablets based on Intel processors would have the full version of Windows 8.1 or Windows 8.1 Pro.
On the 22nd of October 2013, Surface 2 and Surface Pro 2 were released. Surface 2 uses the new Windows 8.1 (RT) and Surface Pro 2 uses the new Windows 8.1 Pro 64-bit. These new generation Surface tablets from Microsoft pack some impressive specifications which we will see below.
Top 5 Windows 8.1 Tablets with 10-inch+ Screen
So here is what’s happening in the world of Windows Tablets.
The Windows 8.1 Tablets featured here are as follow:
- Nokia Lumia 2520
- Asus Transformer Book T100
- Microsoft Surface 2
- Microsoft Surface Pro 2
- Dell Venue 11 Pro
Stealing the spotlight from Microsoft Surface 2 is Nokia’s Lumia 2520. The tablet is based on Windows 8.1 (RT) OS with a 10.1-inch screen at full HD resolution, 1920 x 1080 (218 ppi). While the screen is slightly smaller at 10.1 compared to Surface 2’s 10.6 inch, you can hardly notice the difference. It does however make up for it in processing power with a quad-core processor running at 2.2 GHz instead of 1.7 GHz on the Surface 2. However, both Nokia and Surface as with all Windows 8.1 (RT) based devices here comes with only 2GB of memory. You will be restricted to the tile based interface only and metro apps from Windows App Store.
Other notable features are the rear facing camera at 6.7 MP capable of capturing full HD videos at 1080p a 30fps. The front facing camera is 1.2MP with video capture at 720p also 30fps. What it also has going for it is the 4G broadband connectivity that comes as standard. Other connectivity options are N WiFi, WiFi Hotspot and Bluetooth 4.0. That’s not all, the quoted battery life of 11 hours is one of the best in its class. Build quality is great with the tried and tested polycarbonate body giving it the rigidity and light weight a big tablet like this needs. Did we say it also comes with an MicroSD expansion slot for a maximum of 64GB memory.
OS: Windows 8.1 (RT)
Screen: 10.1″ 1920 x 1080 pixels (218ppi)
CPU & Memory: 2.2 GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon™ 800 quad-core processor with 2GB RAM
Dimensions & Weight: 267 x 168 x 8.9 mm, 615 grams
Quoted Battery Life: 11 hours
With the most powerful ARM processor among ARM based tablets featured here, 4G as standard, 11 hours of battery life and super sleek design, this is the best RT tablet you can buy. While it may slightly more than compare to Surface 2 for the 32GB version, the presence of 4G connectivity more than makes up for it. Optional Nokia Power Keyboard with touch pad, extra battery, 2 full size USB keyboard and wrap around design is worth considering.
The Surface 2 is the successor to Surface RT based on the new Windows 8.1 (RT). Like the Nokia Lumia 2520, Surface 2 uses the cut down version of Windows 8.1. But instead of Qualcomms SnapDragon processor, the Surface 2 is based on Nvidia’s Tegra 4 T40 chipset which comes with a quad-core 1.7 GHz Cortex A15 processor couple with a ULP GeForce 72 cores graphics processor.
Notable features are the built-in 2-stage kick stand, microSD slot for up to 64GB memory expansion, 5 MP rear facing camera at 2592х1936 pixels with autofocus and LED flash with Full HD video capture capabilities 1080p at 30fps. It also features a better front facing camera at 3.5 MP also with Full HD video capture 1080p at 30fps, the only device here with a 3.5 MP front facing camera (typically front facing camera resolutions for tablets are up to 1.3 MP). Connectivity comes in the form of WiFi N, Bluetooth 4.0 and USB 3.0 but no 4G.
OS: Windows 8.1 (RT)
Screen: 10.6″ 1920 x 1080 pixels (208 ppi)
CPU & Memory: 1.7 GHz quad-core Cortex-A15 processor with ULP GeForce (72 cores) and 2GB RAM
Dimensions & Weight: 274.6 x 172.5 x 8.9 mm, 675.9 grams
Quoted Battery Life: 10 hours
This is the successor to Surface. With the dual angle kick stand and that ‘if you want it done properly, do it yourself’ move from Microsoft, they are pulling all the stops out on this one as usual. Surface 2 also with Office 2013 RT with Outlook so that should cover all your productivity app needs. At this price, it’s reasonable, second only to Asus Transformer T100 below.
The Transformer range is already well known among Android tablet users. Asus churned out many Android tablets with the Transformer name in the past and is still doing so. The new Transformer Book T100 is a Windows 8.1 tablet however incorporating the same idea, a detachable keyboard that comes standard. But while keyboards for their Android range helps increase the battery life of the tablets with its built in battery, the keyboard here doesn’t come with built in battery. It does however come with USB 3.0 and mini HDMI keyboard.
In terms of specification and price, the Transformer Book T100 is aimed at the budget end of tablets. With a full version of Windows 8.1, the numbers does look a little low. It comes with a 10.1-inch screen running with the lowest resolution among the tablets reviewed here at 1366 x 768 (Microsoft’s recommended minimum for Window 8), the tablet is powered by an Intel Atom Bay Trail 1.33GHz quad-core processor and 2GB of RAM.
Storage options starts from 32GB, with the only other option being the 64GB. Connectivity comes in the form of WiFI N, Bluetooth 4.0, USB 3.0 and micro HDMI. The quoted battery life is at an admirable 11 hours. With a full version of Windows 8.1, you not only have access to Microsoft’s App Store but full fat desktop applications that you can download and install.
OS: Windows 8.1 (Full Version)
Screen: 10.6″ 1366 x 768 pixels
CPU & Memory: Intel Atom Z3740 1.33GHz with Intel HD Graphics and 2GB Memory
Dimensions & Weight: 263 x 171 x 10.5 mm, Tablet at 550 grams [LIGHTEST], Tablet and Keyboard 1.07kg
Storage: 32GB, 64GB
Quoted Battery Life: 11 hours
With the keyboard as standard and Microsoft’s Office Home and Student 2013 suite included, this is an affordable tablet that could double up as a laptop for light weight users. Who says netbooks are dead, Asus the original netbook king is bringing it back to life with the Transformer Book T100. Did you get the hint with the word ‘Book’?
The bigger sibling of the Surface 2, based on the full fat Windows 8.1 Pro 64bit, Microsoft Surface Pro 2 used desktop class processor. Based on the Intel i5 processor running at 1.5GHz with memory starting from 4GB going up to 8GB depending on the storage size you choose. If you pick a 64GB or 128GB internal storage, you get 4GB of RAM. If you go for the 256GB or 512GB storage, the device comes with 8GB of memory.
With the full version of Windows, you do get the whole Windows 8.1 experience, with access to desktop apps and not just restricted to metro apps and tile based interface. The operating system being the ‘full-fat’ version does take up a lot of storage space on the device. So if you opt for the 64GB version, be warned that there will be as little as over half of that for your apps and content. A Surface Pro pen is included but the dual angle Kick stand is optional.
Notable features are desktop class performance, with full desktop OS and ability to run all desktop applications and a huge list of storage options. If you are a light to middle weight user, you might be able to ditch both your desktop and laptop, working solely on the Microsoft Surface Pro 2 with the optional keyboard. Yes it might be a little on the heavy side as a tablet at 907 grams and cost more than your average tablet but that is a small compromise for the money and space you would save on just the one device.
Unlike the Surface 2 and other tablets featured here, the Surface Pro 2 does not have a powerful rear or front facing cameras. These are only 1.2 MP with 720p video capture capabilities at 30fps. For connection there is WiFi N, Bluetooth 4.0 and USB 3.0 but no 4G. The reported battery life is not as good compared to the other tablets here, only 7 hours.
OS: Windows 8.1 Pro 64 bit (Full Version)
Screen: 10.6″ 1920 x 1080 pixels (208ppi)
CPU & Memory: 1.6 GHz i5 processor with 4GB RAM for 64GB and 128GB storage, 8GB RAM with 256GB and 512GB storage)
Dimensions & Weight: 274 x 173 x 13.5 mm, 907 grams
Storage: 64GB, 128GB, 256GB, 512GB
Quoted Battery Life: 7 hours
This is the most expensive tablet in the line up. It does have all the specification and power of a full size laptop. There are plenty of storage options and a full HD screen but it is the heaviest and biggest tablet in comparison to the rest.
Our fifth laptop comes from Dell, the Venue 11 Pro the bigger sibbling of it’s successful Venue 8 Pro. There are two entirely different versions of the Venue 11 Pro. While others give you a choice of storage sizes, Dell does it differently, The 64GB storage version is built on Intel Atom Processor, the Z3770, a quad-core processor running at 2.4GHz, 2MB Cache memory, Intel HD Graphics and 2GB of RAM powering Windows 8.1 (32bit).
While the tablet with 128GB storage comes is built on Intel Core i3-4020Y, a dual core processor running at 1.5GHz (or Intel® Core™ i5 4210Y/Intel Core i5-4300Y 1.6 GHz dual core), 3MB Cache, Intel GT2 Graphics and 4GB of RAM powering Windows 8.1 Pro (64bit). For connectivity Dual band WiFi N, NFC and Bluetooth 4.0 as standard on the 128GB version, WiFi N and NFC only on the 64GB version. A trial version of Microsoft Office 2013 is preloaded but you can add either a Home and Business or Professional edition for a price.
Notable features are the rear facing 8MP camera and the front facing 2MP camera, not many tablets goes as far as 8MP, while smartphones have gone further but typical tablets hover around the 5MP mark for rear facing. and 1.3MP for front facing. But the quality of its output is yet to be seen. In the audio front, it does feature SRS premium audio and adaptive noise cancelling using either 2 or 4 mics (depending on 64GB or 128GB storage).
With up to 256GB of configurable internal storage (although we can’t see this when customise our tablet), 128GB of expandable memory using the MicroSD slot, not to forget the USB 3.0 slot capable of supporting an external USB hard drive, there is plenty of storage options. Typical of Dell, the Venue 11 Pro is not short on customisable options and accessories. You have the optional Tablet Keyboards (Mobile with rechargeable battery or Slim), a Tablet Dock or a Dell Active Stylus to complete your setup. Oh, and true to Dell tradition, the battery is swappable with additional battery packs available to buy.
Dell Venue 11 Pro 64GB
- Intel® Atom™ Processor Z3770 (2MB Cache, 2.4GHz, Quad-Core)
- Windows 8.1 (32Bit) English
- 10.8 inch (27.4cm) FHD (1920 x 1080) touch panel
- 2GB DDR3 SDRAM at -1MHz
- 64GB eMMC flash drive
- Intel HD Graphics
- 1.57 lbs
Dell Venue 11 Pro 128GB
- Intel Core i3-4020Y Processor (3MB Cache, 1.5 GHz, Dual Core), Intel® Core™ i5 4210Y processor (3MB Cache, 1.5 GHz Dual -Core)
Intel® Core™ i5 4300Y processor (3MB Cache, 1.6 GHz Dual -Core)
- Windows 8.1 Pro (64Bit) English
- 10.8 inch IPS Display with FHD (1920 x 1080) resolution with 10-pt capacitive touch
- 4GB DDR3 SDRAM at -1MHz
- 128GB Mobility Solid State Drive
- Intel GT2 Graphics
- 1.76 lbs
OS: Windows 8.1 (32bit) for 64GB, Windows 8.1 Pro (64bit) for 128GB version.
Screen: 10.8″ 1920 x 1080 pixels
CPU & Memory: 2.4 GHz quad-core Intel Atom Z3770 processor with Intel HD Graphics and 2GB RAM (for 64GB storage edition)
1.5 GHz dual-core Intel Core i3-4020Y processor ,Intel® Core™ i5 4210Y processor (3MB Cache, 1.5 GHz Dual -Core)
Intel® Core™ i5 4300Y processor (3MB Cache, 1.6 GHz Dual -Core) with Intel GT2 Graphics and 4GB RAM (for 128GB storage edition)
Dimensions & Weight: 297.7 x 176.8 x 10.2 (5130 model) 297.7 X 176.8 x 12.2 (7130/7139 model) weighing 797 (7130) /835 (7139) grams
Quoted Battery Life: 8-10 hours
Of the 5 tablets reviewed above only two are based on Windows 8.1 (RT), the Nokia Lumia 2520 and Surface 2. All other tablets are based on the full version of Windows 8.1 either 32bit or 64bit. While we have looked mainly at 10-inch + tablets, there is a shift among manufacturers to introduce yet another line with 8-inch screens. These of course helps keep the cost down, provide for a wider market and to compete with Android tablets out there. Examples of smaller 8-inch tablets are Acer Iconia W4, Lenovo Miix 2, Toshiba Encore or Dell Venue 8 Pro. Do you have one of the tablets reviews above, we would love to hear from you.
Other Windows 8.1 tablets to look out for:
- HP Spectre 13 X2
- Sony Vaio Tap 11