Tablets are all the rage in tech these days for a number of reasons, as consumers continue to increasingly buy them. The larger screen sizes and improving battery life make them ideal for content consumption, particularly when it comes to viewing photos.
The sheer volume of photo-related apps for tablets is growing almost daily, and the popularity of Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and Snapchat has made mobile photography a social activity. Whether it be viewing and sharing apps, or using the tablet as a digital photo frame, the market now offers tempting options.
The iPad is still at the top of its class, offering a sharp Retina display with 3.1-million pixels—a million more than on an HDTV—on the larger 9.7-inch model. Though the iPad mini doesn’t have Retina (the newer model expected later this year may feature it), the 7.9-inch display and smaller frame make it more of a one-handed viewing experience.
In either case, options abound with apps for these tablets, ranging from photography, editing, sharing and even cartooning. With iCloud’s Photo Stream feature, photos taken on an iPhone or iPod touch can be synced over to an iPad as well, where the larger display comes in handy for precise edits using an app like Photoshop Touch, for example.
Photo Stream is also particularly useful when the iPad streams photos over to an Apple TV within a home network for viewing on a big HDTV. The iPhoto app is also handy for slideshows, though there are plenty of alternatives in the App Store.
MSRP: iPad (4th generation) starts at $499.99; iPad mini starts at $329. apple.com
Amazon Kindle Fire HD
Much of what the Kindle Fire HD offers when it comes to photos starts with the Cloud Drive service that gives users 5GB of free storage with reasonable pricing plans for more. Photos can easily be added to the cloud via a web browser, and it includes the option to upload Facebook photos and albums as well. Regardless of whether it’s from the cloud or dragged and dropped from a computer, images can easily be added to the Kindle Fire HD.
The 7-inch HD model is particularly mobile, while the 8.9-inch model adds a bit more heft, albeit with one of the best displays of any tablet. A pixel density of 254 ppi helps, as do the rich, saturated colors that make photos stand out.
Though Android-based, Amazon curates the apps that can run on the tablet, so there isn’t unfettered access to Google Play here, limiting the bevy of photo-related apps available. Video-streaming options do abound, and the top social networks are easy to find, making photo sharing a pretty seamless activity. 7.0-inch: 16GB, $199.99; 32GB, $229.99. 8.9-inch: 16GB, $269.99; 32GB, $299.99. amazon.com
Considered the “purest” Android tablets available, the Nexus models are almost entirely branded around Google. The Nexus 7 was the initial standout because of its 7.0-inch form factor, low price and solid specs; yet, its true staying power owes much to the fact it’s usually first in line for any Android updates. The Nexus 10 takes it all a little further with a beautiful 2,560×1,600-resolution 10-inch display and the highest rated pixel density at 300 ppi.
This makes swiping through photo albums all the more enjoyable because of the display’s vibrancy. The openness of the operating system, free of any restrictions from manufacturers, means that the full gamut of Google’s ecosystem is on hand here, complete with any photo-related app imaginable in the Play store.
Battery life is solid on both tablets, and the 10-inch can double as a high-res digital photo frame playing back slideshows. The downside is that there are no microSD card slots for expansion or file transferring, but a direct link to a Google Drive account can mitigate that omission. Nexus 7: 16GB, $199; 32GB, $249; 32GB with HSPA+, $299. Nexus 10: 16GB, $399; 32GB, $499. play.google.com
Samsung Galaxy Note 8.0
The Galaxy Note line of smartphones are known for their unique form factors and the S Pen, a stylus that allows a user to write, scribble or doodle on the display. The pen’s presence on a tablet does add an extra element of creativity to what can be done with photos, since notes, signatures and doodles can be scribbled onto photos and saved as separate image files.
The 8.0-inch, 1,200×800-pixel display is augmented by impressive specs for a tablet at this size, something which the price reflects. It even has a 5 megapixel camera on the rear that can shoot 1080p video, except there’s no LED flash and performance is mixed at best. Alternatively, there’s always the microSD card slot to transfer photos over from a better camera. 16GB, $399.99. samsung.com
Microsoft Surface Pro
The Surface Pro is part tablet, part PC, in that it runs on a full version of Windows 8 (unlike the Surface RT model), meaning that users could ostensibly run any desktop photo-editing application they want, not just those designed for mobile. The clip-on keyboard can be complemented by a mouse for precise editing when needed, or even by the included stylus right on the 10.6-inch, 1080p touch screen.
The major catch to all that power is internal storage and battery life. A microSD card slot (up to 64GB) helps the cause but isn’t the most convenient solution, while battery life is comparable to midrange laptops. The fact it has two 720p cameras (front and rear) is a nice touch, but not a particular selling point as far as photos are concerned. 64GB, $899.99; 128GB, $999. microsoftstore.com
Asus MeMo Pad HD 7
As an inexpensive option, the MeMo Pad HD 7 is a tablet that has far more in common with the Nexus 7 than any other tablet, possibly because Asus manufactured both of them. The jacket-pocket-friendly form factor makes this one of the most portable tablets available, and it has an affordable price. The 7.0-inch, 1,280×800 backlit display is nice—and perfect for browsing or sharing photo albums on popular social networks.
Running the latest version of Android (4.2) helps keep it current, and the option for a 5 megapixel camera in the rear (in addition to the 1.2MP front camera) can let users shoot and share their photos right from the device over Wi-Fi. On top of the microSD card slot (expandable to 64GB), Asus also throws in its own WebStorage cloud storage free for one year. 8GB, $129.99; 16GB, $149.99. asus.com
Sony Xperia Tablet Z
At 0.27 inch thin, the Xperia Tablet Z is the thinnest and lightest 10-inch tablet available, though it’s not always easy to tell because of its straight-edged design. The 10.1-inch, 1,920×1,200 display has a pixel density of 224 ppi, which isn’t quite up to the level of competing tablets of this size, but it’s still vibrant, nonetheless.
Being water resistant means users have the rare privilege of viewing photos while lounging in a pool or hot tub. And, the 8 megapixel rear camera provides the rarity of snapping photos while in the water (though it may not necessarily snap photos when submerged). A built-in IR blaster enables the tablet to act as a remote control for TVs and other home theatre devices, plus performing easy wireless streaming to a Sony Bravia HDTV. 16GB, $499.99; 32GB, $599. sony.com