We've brought together some of the most popular tablets on the market to see how well suited they are to the needs of a photographer. This round-up isn't a like-for-like comparison of specs, but rather we've taken each device on its own merits and considered its pros and cons. Jon Devo tries them out
Tablets at a glance:
With limited editing tools available for these tablets a large screen may not be a priority, but sharp screens that show faithful colours are great for showing your portfolio
Lightroom is available for iOS and soon Android, while Photo Mate R2 for Android reads many file types. Meanwhile, Windows’ new Surface Pro tablet runs desktop software
While the iPad’s storage is limited to the amount offered by the model you purchase, the other tablets considered here have Micro SD slots allowing their storage to be expanded
The Surface 2’s display can be calibrated easily using a Microsoft set-up wizard. The other tablets need third-party software in order to make adjustments to their colour reproduction
Adobe Photoshop Touch, which allows for basic photo editing, is available for Android and iOS only. However, Microsoft’s Surface Pro 3 runs the desktop version
With Wi-Fi enabled and viewing images during work, the Yoga 8 lasted 18 hours, the Surface 2 lasted 14 hours, both iPads managed over 10 hours and the Samsung tablets offered 12 hours
Compared to the hundreds of available paid for and free iOS and Android apps, there are only a handful of photography-related apps in the Windows Store for the Surface 2 tablet running Windows RT
Galaxy TabPRO 12.2
Price: £499 l 32GB (Wi-Fi only)
Samsung’s 12.2in Galaxy TabPRO is a heavyweight tablet, benefiting hugely from 3GB RAM quad-core processing, its 2560 x 1600-pixel-resolution LCD screen and the operating system’s ability to run multiple open windows simultaneously. Aside from its obvious screen size advantage, one of the biggest features that gives the Galaxy TabPRO an edge over some of the competition is the integration of USB 3.0 into its Micro USB port, delivering faster charging and faster file transfer.
The only major drawback is the sheer size of the tablet. At 734g and more than 12in (30cm), it’s almost half the weight – and not far off the size – of a 13in (33cm) MacBook Pro Retina. It’s also more than half the price, without providing anything close to half of the functionality or spec performance of a MacBook Pro Retina. Being a behemoth, it has a built-in 9500mAh capacity battery that will last about two days before recharging.
Score: 4 out of 5
Price: £399 l 16GB (Wi-Fi only)
With its high-definition screen, the lightweight (469g) iPad Air is possibly the most attractive all-round option for photographers, striking a perfect balance between portability, function, performance and display quality. The screen has a 2048 x 1536-pixel (264ppi) resolution and produces crisp and faithful colour.
Being part of the Apple ecosystem, this tablet comes with some solid back-up and sharing functionality via the iCloud, including My Photo Stream, which enables you to automatically upload new photos to all your connected idevices. There is also Apple community functionality that allows you to view other people’s photo streams. Using the iPad Air connected to Wi-Fi and viewing images all day, its 8820mAh battery should give up to ten hours’ use.
Score 5 out of 5
Microsoft Surface 2
Price: £439 l 64GB (Wi-Fi only)
This is something of a wild card here, as it exists in a paradigm outside of Android and Apple. The 10.6in (27cm) Surface 2 has a standard 1920 x 1080-pixel-resolution screen with scratch-resistant glass and runs an upgraded version of Windows RT, which can run two apps on the screen at once.
Its neat integration with the Windows ecosystem will suit photographers who already take advantage of its features, including Microsoft’s SkyDrive. However, it’s unfortunate that unlike the Surface Pro models offered by the company, and despite having a 4GB dual-core i5 processor, the Surface 2 is shackled by its inability to run Windows desktop PC programs. If you want to run applications such as Photoshop and Lightroom, you’ll have to pay at least £639.95 for the pleasure. Here you’re stuck with an extremely limited range of photo-viewing apps, with basic editing options.
Score: 3 out of 5
Galaxy Tab S 10.5
Price: £399 l 16GB (Wi-Fi only)
Displaying video and stills on the Samsung Galaxy Tab S’s 288ppi 2560 x 1600-pixel-resolution screen is the real strength of this tablet. Weighing 467g, it has a brilliantly bright Super AMOLED screen that is crisp and vibrant.
I was particularly impressed with the colour reproduction on this tablet: it supports 94% of the Adobe RGB colour gamut, which is 21% more than standard LCD screens, producing accurate results if left in basic mode. It comes with preset display options, including a photo mode in the settings, but these modes result in heavy and unnatural levels of saturation and colour bias. Otherwise, the rich black tones and sharpness produced by this tablet are as impressive as it gets, beating Apple’s iPad Air and even its larger stablemate, the Galaxy Tab Pro 12.2. It’s possible to see a superb amount of detail when viewing full-resolution images close-up on this 10.5in (26cm) screen.
Score: 5 out of 5
iPad mini Retina
Price: £349 l 16GB (Wi-Fi + Cell)
This is the most portable option in our round-up, weighing only 331g and measuring 7.9in (20cm) diagonally. Its 2048 x 1536-pixel-resolution screen matches that of the iPad Air, meaning it has a denser pixel-per-inch ratio – 326, to be precise. Couple that with its ability to run an abundance of iOS apps, including a well-equipped version of Adobe Photoshop Express, and it’s an attractive option.
In terms of greyscale and colour reproduction, I would describe the retina as highly neutral. Although when viewed beside the Galaxy Tab S, it looks slightly washed out, lacking the punch and sharpness of Samsung’s tablet, most tellingly in the blacks. The iPad mini should give you up to ten hours’ use if connected to Wi-Fi all day and viewing images, even with the brightness set
Score: 4 out of 5
Lenovo Yoga Tab
Price: £169.99 l 16GB (Wi-Fi only)
Included for the budget-conscious, the Lenovo Yoga 8 has a unique design. Weighing 404g, Lenovo has incorporated the battery into its kickstand enabling it be viewed in various orientations without additional attachments. Probably the best thing about this tablet is its staying power. Despite having only a 6000mAh-capacity battery, power depletes very slowly and should give you two to three days of use before a recharge is needed. Its 8in, 1280 x 800-pixel-resolution HD (189ppi) display isn’t quite as impressive as those of the other tablets here, but it isn’t too far off in terms of colour reproduction, just lacking the sharpness and depth in tones, particularly in blacks.
The inclusion of a Micro SD slot is a bonus and should make transferring files from cameras to computer much easier. However, on the Yoga I experienced a couple of read issues with some Micro SD cards despite the fact that they worked with other devices.