Every time we review a tablet at CNET, we conduct benchmark testing, which gives us an idea of how well it will perform while playing the latest and greatest mobile games. We've used 3DMark to test tablets since 2013 (here's a full explanation of what 3DMark analyzes) but a year down the line, how do the zippiest tablets hold up over time?
One way to see how a slate keeps up is to compare gaming benchmarks from our original product reviews with up-to-date scores. CNET Labs took last year's fastest gaming Android tablets and re-ran them through the 3DMark testing gauntlet to see how the updated scores compare.
Points to remember: benchmark scores vary depending on the unique condition of each device. Gaming benchmarks are usually run on fresh slates, but the amount of apps downloaded, internal storage used, physical condition, as well as many other factors, can all play a role on how a tablet performs. The wear and tear of everyday life and casual use takes its toll on your slate, so keep in mind that though our review units scored a certain way, your device isn't guaranteed to do the same.
For each tablet, I reset and wiped clean all of the data to start off with a clean slate (pun intended). I then downloaded the software updates for each respective model. Since the tablets are a bit old, this process took some time. Finally, I downloaded 3DMark onto each and ran the Ice Storm Unlimited test five times in order to select the best score.
3DMark Unlimited scores
Google Nexus 10
Google Nexus 7
Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 (2014 Edition)
Asus Transformer Pad TF701
Note: The higher scores indicate better performance.
Every tablet, aside from one, saw improved 3DMark benchmark scores. The updated results for the Asus Transformer Pad TF701 and EVGA Tegra Note would even place them on our current list of fastest Android gaming tablets, though the Tegra Note's score was the only one that declined from its original. It seems as long as your manufacturer is consistent with software upgrades -- something Google-branded devices enjoy often -- tablets continue to live up to initial performance expectations.
For those concerned about buying a tablet that will quickly age or become irrelevant in a few months, this information may bring some comfort. Just note that most of these models cost a pretty penny when they were the top in their class -- and some still do. Bargain shoppers can hope for similar results from a budget tablet, but those don't receive the same amount of love from over-the-air updates as much as expensive, high-end models. An investment is necessary if you desire a tablet that will be able to keep up throughout the years.
The Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 (2014 Edition), Asus Transformer Pad TF701, EVGA Tegra Note, and Google Nexus 10 and Nexus 7 were the fastest Android tablets released in 2013, and though they've since lost that bragging right, they still offer good qualities to warrant their purchase. The Note 10.1 (2014 Edition) continues to be one of the best stylus-toting slates, while the Nexus 10's trailblazing 2,560x1,600-pixel resolution screen remains one of the highest in its category. These slates have been been dethroned by faster, newer models, but it doesn't mean they're no longer worthy choices.
Portable gadgets -- just like cars and refrigerators -- need to be taken care of with regular maintenance. By our indication, a little TLC matched with consistent updates can go a long way to help keep your tablet up to speed. Benchmarks, though helpful in forecasting what kind of games your slate can handle, don't indicate smooth and speedy long-term performance as much as regular software updates from your manufacturer.
TL;DR: Don't be lazy, download those software updates for your tablet.