How the top iPad Air alternatives compare with Apple's latest tablet

The iPad Air enters the market facing more-viable competition than any of its predecessors. We go down the list of its top competitors and detail the advantages and disadvantages of each.

Tim Stevens' iPad Air review is up and -- big surprise! -- it's more iPad. An evolution as opposed to a true revolution in tablets. As such, it's entering a much more competitive market than any iPad before it. There are quite a few viable -- and most times cheaper -- alternatives to the iPad Air. And more are still coming.

That said, Apple still kills it when it comes to app availability and quality, and the iPad Air epitomizes high-end tech. Also, the iOS interface -- although not nearly as customizable as some of its competitors -- is fast, simple, and often problem-free.

Still, if you aren't dead set on an iPad purchase, here are a few large-size alternatives, with their advantages and disadvantages compared with the iPad Air in tow.


The Surface 2 may win the value argument against the iPad Air. Josh Miller/CNET

Microsoft Surface 2 (starts at $449 for 32GB)
Advantages versus iPad Air: Price starts at $50 less for twice the storage space; comfortable keyboard accessory with an included touch pad; free full Office 2013 included; deep photo-editing options.

Disadvantages versus iPad Air: App support is dismal compared with iOS; gaming performance not quite as impressive.


Gaming performance, customer service, and a robust media ecosystem are the Fire HDX 8.9's strong suits. Pictured above is the Kindle Fire HDX 7. Josh Miller/CNET

Amazon Kindle Fire HDX 8.9 (starts at $379 for 16GB)
Advantages versus iPad Air: Available with 64GB for $20 less than the iPad Air, which has 16GB; unbeatable synergy with your books, movies, TV shows, and music; unparalleled personal customer service with video-chat-enabled Mayday feature; display runs at a higher resolution with more pixels per inch.

Disadvantages versus iPad Air: The heavily curated app store results in plenty of missing apps; costs an extra $15 to remove ads; design doesn't hold a candle to the Air's high-end look and feel.


James Martin/CNET

Asus Transformer Pad TF701 (price is unannounced)
Advantages versus iPad Air: Higher resolution and brighter screen; Android 4.3 is a much more open and customizable OS than iOS.

Disadvantages versus iPad Air: Some top apps not available on Android; despite the TF701's power, iOS versions of games tend to look better


The Galaxy Note 10.1 displaying its biggest advantage over the iPad Air. Josh Miller/CNET
Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 2014 Edition (starts at $549 for 16GB)
Advantages versus iPad Air: The S Pen stylus is a more natural way to interface with a touch screen; its 2,560x1,600 resolution is higher; plenty of fun and useful camera options; the TouchWiz UI is extremely customizable.

Disadvantages versus iPad Air: Starts at $549 with only 16GB of storage; a high learning curve to using the stylus.

Read the full CNET Review

Apple iPad Air

The Bottom Line: Functionally, the iPad Air is nearly identical to last year’s model, offering only faster performance and better video chatting. But factor in design and aesthetics, and the iPad Air is on another planet. It’s the best full-size consumer tablet on the market. / Read full review

About the author

Eric Franklin is a section editor covering how to and tablets. He's also co-host of CNET's do-it-yourself and how-to show, The Fix and is a 20-year tech industry veteran.

 

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