If your company's new year's resolution is to cut down on the mass of hardware you're sending your team out with every day, you're probably considering a switch to tablets.
While some tablets feature manageable price tags, the market is still dense, and the consumer market winners are still not exactly the best option for CTO's and IT departments to include in their annual budget.
In the interest of giving an overview of the market at the moment, here is a roundup of our tablet recommendations for the business world as it stands today. The requirements for consideration were either a 4-star rating from TechRadar or a hands on review experience that left our editors wowed.
No matter if you rely on Windows, Android, or even iOS, there's something worth recommending. It's only a matter of figuring out what your priorities are.
10. Samsung Galaxy Tab Active
Remember when I brought up the Panasonic Toughpad? If you want an Android tablet with that kind of durability, with the added bonus that it isn't engineered with the intent to replicate a brick, have we got the tablet for you. Our testing included submerging the Tab Active deep in three-feet of water for 30 minutes, exposing it to -4-degree or 140-degree temperatures, as well as drops from up to four feet. Those are the kinds of test that no iPad owner in their right mind would ever consider, since Apple places durability very near the bottom of the list of their priorities. Also, the Tab Active's ten hours of battery life made it memorable, and in the upper tier of that conversation about tablets.
The Samsung Galaxy Tab Active will run you $699.99 (about £450, AU$850.00), a deal that definitely comes at the price of a significantly less dynamic screen than Samsung offers in their Tab Pro line.
- Read our Samsung Galaxy Tab Active review
9. Samsung Galaxy Tab Pro 12.2
We've already gone over the best tablets from Samsung, the Galaxy Tab S line, but there's this older and larger tablet that's still being sold, and worth discussing.
It wasn't our favorite Tab Pro, that went to Samsung's 10.1" device, but the 12.2"'s marquee feature, a big & bright display, is driven by stellar 1.9GHz Quad and 1.3GHz Quad core processors, 3GB of RAM, and impressive battery life.
All that power, though, is somewhat stripped of its potential thanks to Samsung's annoying Magazine UX premise. Everybody's used to manufacturers messing with Google's platform in order to put a differentiating feature on the spec list, a mistake that could leave you wondering how good things could have been with a stock Android experience. The 12.2 is due to receive Android 5.0 Lollipop in the future, but there is no official timeline for that, only speculation about Q1 or Q2.
Unfortunately, the Tab Pro 10.1, which TechRadar awarded a 4.5/5 star review, was replaced by the Tab S line, making the 12.2 the only Tab Pro model that Samsung itself is selling anymore. It will run you $545 (around £549/AU$995), and clearly you're paying for screen real estate.
- Read our Samsung Galaxy Tab Pro 12.2 review
8. Amazon Fire HDX 8.9
Just like there must be someone out there for the Panasonic Toughpad FZ-M1, it's easy to envision the use case that the Amazon Fire HDX (starting at $379, £329, AU $468) was built for. Anybody or any team that will be presenting music and video frequently might see a lot of value in this machine.
Not that the Amazon Prime store - which the HDX 8.9 comes with a free month trial of service with - has a library that towers over all others, but if you need a media presentation device, here we've got a brilliant screen and quality speakers for which to present said content.
Aside from being a monitor for Amazon's servers of stuff, their Fire tablet line is still hampered by a lackluster app store. The device can view Word, Excel, and PowerPoint files, though.
The HDX 8.9 starts at at $379 (£329, AU $468) for the 16GB, Wi-Fi only version featuring "special offers" (pre-roll ads that greet you when booting up the device, just like on Amazon's eReaders). If you can get around those ads, the Fire HDX 8.9 is competitively priced in the market, much like everything Amazon pushes. At the top end it goes up to $595 (£489) for the 64GB, LTE, ad-free model, but Amazon isn't pushing that model at their customers
- Read our Amazon Fire HDX 8.9 review
7. Google Nexus 9
If you're running a small business, there's a fair chance your team runs on Google as much as it runs on your Keurig machine. If that's the case, the tablet you need to review before making a decision is the Nexus 9 (starting at $399, £319, about AU460). An 8.9-inch revision/upgrade of last year's Nexus 7, it's not the best machine, but it's the best for Google's suite of solutions.
Of course, that's thanks to it being the first and for-now-only tablet on the market that's running Android's wonderful new 5.0 Lollipop interface, which introduces the world to the concept of Material Design. Other tablets, like the Samsung Galaxy models, will be getting it, but not until a later time. And of course, a Nexus device is the best way to experience the pure unmodified Android experience, without any of Samsung or another manufacturer's bloatware or "solutions."
Lollipop, in a macro sense, is important in current war for tech supremacy between Google and Apple. A war which many believe comes down to a single question: can Apple introduce the best features from Android before Google matches Apple's design skills?
Lollipop allows your tablet to sit closer to the web interface of Google's apps, lowering the learning curve for any employees used to the traditional experience.
The hardware is OK, but nothing stunning. Feature wise, though, it's got some notable upgrades from the Nexus 7. Google had HTC produce the tablet, allowing their phone line's Boomsound audio speakers to be brought over, useful for front facing audio when you're presenting a video, and a high resolution screen that holds up to most standards.
We've got some gripes about the machine, such as a lack of expandable storage and a rise in price. The entry level machine suffers from the same flaw as most Apple mobile devices on the market, a measly 16 GB hard drive. That model will sell for $399 (£319, about AU460) while we recommend the 32 GB option, selling for $479 (£399, about AU$552).
- Read our Google Nexus 9 review
6. Dell Venue 11 Pro 7140
The Venue 11 Pro 7000 balances portability and performance with Intel's Broadwell-based Core M processor at an entry price of $700 (£437 and AU$800) in a travel-friendly package. Business users will appreciate security features like drive encryption, integrated TPM, and certification for FIPS and HIPAA.
For some, a 10.8-inch display may be too small for maximum production, but if that's not a major issue, then this is a solid device. With a full HD screen and endless optional accessories to match any need, the Venue 11 Pro offers excellent flexibility for the business user.
- Read our Dell Venue 11 Pro 7000 review