The new kids on the block

The tablet market is no longer divided into “Apple” and “others”. With the release of Tesco’s budget Hudl and Microsoft’s revamped Surface 2, the market is hotting up in time for the Christmas splurge

Microsoft Surface 2
From £359

Microsoft desperately wants to get a slice of the tablet market, surprising some observers by launching the self-branded Surface tablet last year. Critics didn’t immediately hate it (although most turned cold after the initial buzz), and consumers just didn’t seem to pay any attention at all, with sales on the slow side, to be charitable. The Surface 2 promises to iron out some of the negative feedback. This version is thinner, lighter and faster (obviously) and packs a better battery. There is also a pro version, but that will set you back an eye-watering £719.

Samsung Galaxy Note 8
£339

Wherever lucrative electronics are, Samsung will not be far away. The Korean giant has mastered the art of elbowing its way into niches dominated by other players (Sony in TVs, Apple in phones). It has seen less success in the tablet market, although users are coming around to its increasingly competitive devices. The Note 8 is thin, packs a surprisingly large amount of screen real estate and has some impressive specs to boot. It is, however, more expensive than the seven inch iPad Mini, which is its main rival in the segment.

Google Nexus
From £199

Google has tentatively danced around the edges of the tablet hardware market for years but with the new Nexus 7 it really lays its cards on the table. While the firm’s previous tablets have focused on catering for the entry-level section of the market, this device is a direct shot across Apple’s bows. It features a display that puts the iPad Mini in the shade and packs a punch in the hardware stakes, too. At just £199 for the 16GB option, it’s also significantly cheaper than the iPad Mini – this is a real contender.

Tesco Hudl Tablet
£119

This budget offering from Tesco is among the more interesting additions to the tablet landscape since the iPad launched back in the pre-historic days of 2010. Backed by the supermarket behemoth, the Hudl tablet is available to Clubcard savers for a measly £60, or £119 to the less financially astute of us. It has a seven inch screen – putting it in the same category as the iPad Mini and the Google Nexus 7 – and, while it lacks the fire-power of its more expensive rivals, it’s more than capable of playing video, browsing the web and... Well, doing your Tesco shopping on.

Asus FonePad
£179

The Asus FonePad is one of the more left-field tablets, featuring a seven inch shell into which a smartphone is docked. The “tablet” element doesn’t function without the phone, which holds the processor. At £179 without a contract, it’s cheap as chips if you’re on the lookout for both a phone and a tablet. However, it makes little sense for anyone who already owns a smartphone.

Sony Xperia Tablet Z
From £399

Sony isn’t the electronics pioneer it once was, but the Xperia Tablet Z is a glorious – and surprising – return to form. Its build quality rivals that of its Apple rival and it is reassuringly packed with high-end innards, including the quad core Snapdragon S4 Pro processor. It’s thin, light and it’s also waterproof, should you want to watch films in the bath. And why wouldn’t you?