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 the best tablets 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.
Dell Venue 11 Pro 7140
Dell isn't known for their tablet computing, even though Venue 11 Pro was a wonderful machine for the enterprise, followed by this late-2014 revision which belongs in the same sentence with Surface Pro 3.
In our hands on review, the 7140 (starting at $699, £430, AU$795) was a delight to use, fast and incredibly responsive, with a soft-touch plastic and magnesium alloy body that made it easy on the hands.
It's an ideal device for the travelling power user in the enterprise, thanks to a functional 9-hour battery life, Dell's industry-leading security tools, and a weight of 1.55 lbs, making it lighter than either of Microsoft or Lenovo's best-of-class Windows tablets.
With all of these positives, a competitive price and near-silence from the 7140 mid-performance, Dell finally has something to brag about.
- Read our Dell Venue 11 Pro 7140 review
Panasonic Toughpad FZ-M1
While Panasonic's Toughpad FZ-M1 ($2,099, £1,183, AU$2,358) is intended only for extreme work environments, it is the only Windows tablet worth mentioning if your team has such rugged needs. If your team has to execute in busy, hectic, and downright disastrous chaos, this is the tablet for you.
This beast runs Windows 8 through the worst conditions, thanks to a chunky and durable body, and an almost undentable screen. For a lot of people, that last part alone is worth the sacrifices inherent. Built for any situation, with a display you can read in almost any situation (its highest brightness levels hit 500 cd/2), this tablet makes a lot of sense if you're tired of treating your devices like precious fine china.
In terms of the FZ-M1's performance, our experience was solid, thanks to a dual-core Intel Core-i5-4320Y vPro processor clocked at 1.6GHz, 8GB of RAM (though we admit the machine defaults at a standard 4GB), and a 128GB SSD. The one area in which the FZ-M1 didn't perform like a road warrior was in battery duration, going kaput after six hours.
If you've had to deal with numerous device repairs with a team that relies on Windows, the FZ-M1 can even be downgraded to Windows 7, this is a device you cannot overlook. Even with a high end starting price.
- Read our Panasonic Toughpad FZ-M1 review
Microsoft Surface Pro 3
The Surface tablet series is posed to be a no-questions-asked easy choice for anybody looking to hunker down on real work, without needing a whole laptop. Bill Gates himself may be willing to admit that Microsoft missed the boat on smart phones, but the company's dedication to the tablet shows a focus on evolving the nascent form, rather than slowly iterating, as are their competitor's instincts.
The Surface is made to be the mobile companion to a life already lived inside of the Microsoft ecosystem, and since the Pro 3 thrives while running Windows 8.1, teams can expect to not lose any of their precious apps on the go, a problem that sunk the Windows Phone line out of the gate. As powerful as the Pro 3 is, though, our testing did show it can become too-hot-to-handle on occasion, and the battery isn't exactly something to sing about.
The Pro 3 (starting at $799, £521 and AU$988) continues Microsoft's assertion that they will replace the laptop by improving their input accessories, with a clearly improved Type Cover and their new Surface Pen. The keys on the cover feature with deeper travel and stronger feedback, a wider glass trackpad that actually clicks, and a new hinge that allows for much more comfortable use, this year's model could have enough to sell users on Microsoft's vision of the tablet future. The Surface Pen, though, in its first year, does seem more gimmick than solution, using a Bluetooth trick to launch apps with the click of its top.
Since the machine has so much going for it, the unit does come in at a premium price: the 64GB model with Intel Core-i3 runs $799 (around £521/AU$988), and the Surface Pro 3 maxes out at 512GB with a Core-i7 for $1,949 (around £1272/AU$2409). Additionally, when comparing comparably specced Surface Pro 3's and iPad Air 2s, the Surface Pro 3 is $300 more expensive, and that's without buying a Type Cover or Surface Pen.
- Read our Microsoft Surface Pro 3 review
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
Samsung Galaxy Tab S
Samsung's Tab S line, though, is where the South Korean-based manufacturer earns their highest marks from us. Made in both 8.4- and 10.5-inch form factors, these machines sing thanks to reliably long battery life and a screen meant to consume all the internet and video you could think of.
Of course, though, a half a star is missing from what could have been a flawless 5-star review, and it's the same reason Samsung always misses the mark. Weak design leading to a product that doesn't actually feel right.
The Wi-Fi Tab S 8.4-inch will set you back $399 (£319/AU$479.00), whereas the Wi-Fi Tab S 10.5-inch comes in at $499.99 (£399/AU$599.00).
- Read our Samsung Galaxy Tab S review