Today's best-performing tablets

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The first of several cross-platform tests we run, SunSpider gauges the browser's JavaScript performance. And this is where the tablet story begins to get very interesting, with a complete shake-up at the top. Apple's dual-core A6X-based iPad (fourth-generation) was the fastest here, and the only tablet of the two dozen we tested to complete SunSpider in under 1 second. This feat is even more noteworthy considering that the average SunSpider time was 2 seconds. Breaking into the top five on this test were two Windows RT tablets, the Microsoft Surface and the Asus VivoTab RT. The Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 remained a top-five mainstay, and the Barnes & Noble Nook HD tablet, which uses a customized variant of Android 4.0, snuck into the fray.

Tablets equipped with Nvidia's Tegra 3 were for the most part a ways off the radar, with scores hovering at or exceeding the 2-second average. Among the exceptions were Sony's Xperia Tablet S at 1.59 seconds, and Google's Nexus 7 at 1.69 seconds. The Google Nexus 10 required 1.39 seconds to finish the test, and Amazon's Kindle Fire HD needed 1.79 seconds.

Custom page-load test

In our lab's custom-created tests, we time how long a tablet's Web browser takes to load a locally stored Web page of our design, laden with varying text and graphics. The Web page file is approximately 30MB, with tables and large images resized down to thumbnails.

Here, the results once again shuffled somewhat from what we saw on the SunSpider test, a result that makes it difficult to draw broader browser-performance conclusions. Apple's iPad mini vaulted to the top of the leaderboard, followed closely by the fourth-generation iPad. Rounding out the top five were the Google Nexus 10 and the Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 (each equipped with an Exynos processor), plus the biggest surprise of the bunch, the Amazon Kindle Fire HD.

Once again, tablets carrying a Tegra 3 processor were among the slower models at loading our Web page, but the numbers were all over the place. We couldn't simply chalk up the variances to the operating system or the chip clock speed, either. For example, Microsoft's Surface with Windows RT came within sight of the top five, as it took just 10.4 seconds to complete our page load—but the Asus VivoTab RT, another Windows RT tablet, required 23.3 seconds to load the page fully. Acer's Iconia Tab A700 required 11.64 seconds, while Google's Nexus 7 took 15.73 seconds, Toshiba's Excite 10 took 15.55 seconds, and the faster-than-both-of-those (in clock speed, at least) Asus Transformer Pad Infinity TF700 took 19.34 seconds.

Battery life

We test battery life by running a 720p video of "Big Buck Bunny" on a loop until the tablet conks out. We set brightness at 200 cd/m2 (candelas per meter squared), and we keep the tablet in airplane mode, with Wi-Fi disabled.

For this chart, we extended the list to the best ten tablets, in part because three of the top five were all from the same company: Apple. All three current Apple iPads turned in strong battery longevity. In fact, the iPad 2, with its iOS 6.0.1 update, lasted 11 hours, 31 minutes, better than any other tablet regardless of size or operating system. The next-best model was Sony's Xperia Tablet S, which impressed with a battery life of 10 hours, 48 minutes; Google's Nexus 7 followed closely behind, lasting for 10 hours, 12 minutes. Microsoft's Surface with Windows RT made the top-ten cut, as did a pair of custom-Android-OS 7-inchers, Amazon's Kindle Fire HD and Barnes & Noble's Nook HD.

Clustered behind our top ten tablets in battery life were a handful of others that lasted more than 8 hours. Samsung's Galaxy Note 10.1 hit 8 hours, 24 minutes; Asus's VivoTab RT managed 8 hours, 20 minutes; Fujitsu's Stylistic M532 lasted 8 hours, 17 minutes; and Acer's Iconia Tab A700 squeaked in with a time of 8 hours, 11 minutes.

This story, "Today's best-performing tablets" was originally published by TechHive.

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