Samsung beats Apple’s iPad Air to fastest tablet title

Tech Blog_fastest Tablets

Speed is essential when it comes owning the latest premium tablet. Where’s the fun in spending £400 on the latest iPad if it’s not going to make short work of all those graphically gorgeous apps? Battery life and storage space are important too, but nothing beats processing power for tablet bragging rights.

That’s why we were surprised to see the iPad Air outpaced by Samsung’s Galaxy Note 10.1 (2014 edition) in our expert lab testing. In fact, Apple-made tablets were roundly trounced by Android devices. Read on below for the full results.

Tablet reviews – our verdict on all the latest tablets

Which tablet is the fastest_main

According to our benchmarking tests, the Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 (2014 edition) isn’t just the fastest tablet money can buy. Aside from Microsoft’s Surface Pro 2, which has innards that are more akin to a laptop, it’s the fastest tablet we’ve ever tested. That’s largely thanks to its 1.9GHz quad-core processor, which is well-equipped to handle all your video streaming, web browsing and 3D gaming needs.

What do the results mean?

We use the industry-recognised Geekbench software to accurately assess a tablet’s speed. This is designed to test multi-core performance by replicating a series of everyday tasks. Each of these tests is given a score, which are then combined and weighted to calculate a final numeric score.

What does this actually mean? Well, a higher score means a faster tablet, so if one device has double the score of another it should be twice as speedy. This will come in handy when you’re quickly flitting between watching BBC iPlayer and making a quick note with Google Drive.

According to our results, the iPad Air (2856) is over five times faster than the iPad 2 (502) – although this power won’t fully translate into day-to-day tasks like web browsing or email.

Geekbench speed tests aren’t everything, but they do offer a great indication of how a tablet will perform in real life. As well, as how it compares with similar products like phones and tablets. That’s why we use them to generate a star rating to indicate how powerful the processor is. This is alongside a series of our own speed tests to put these tablets through their paces – including video streaming from YouTube and transferring large amounts of data. We then use these results to generate a test score.

Here’s our league table below for the raw Geekbench scores:

Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 (2014 Edition): 2856
Apple iPad Air 16GB 2687
Google Nexus 7 (2): 2675
Amazon Kindle Fire HDX 8.9: 2667
Advent Vega Tegra Note 7″: 2612
iPad mini with Retina display 16GB: 2512
Tesco Hudl: 1926
Amazon Kindle Fire HD 8GB: 807
Apple iPad 2 16GB: 502

All tablets tested were wi-fi only models.

For more information on how we test have a look at this page http://www.which.co.uk/technology/computing/guides/how-we-test-tablets

Should you buy a Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 (2014 edition) on speed alone?

Well, not exactly. Speed benchmarks are undeniably important when buying a top-end tablet, but so are other factors like battery life, storage space and pricing. Despite their premium mantra, our testing found that Apple’s iPads aren’t as fast as many of their cheaper Android competitors. The iPad mini with Retina display (£319) proved slower than both Google’s Nexus 7 (£199) and the Advent Vega Tegra Note 7″ (£129).

Even more significantly, the iPad 2 (£329) was by far the most pedestrian tablet in our testing. It finished well behind more affordable alternatives like the Tesco Hudl and Amazon’s Kindle Fire HD 8GB – both of which cost £200 less to buy. Given the iPad 2 is almost three years old, this finding comes as no surprise, but it’s important to bear in mind if you’re in the market for a new tablet.

Although most manufacturers’ flagship devices can swiftly multi-task across apps, more dated products will be futureproof for a much shorter amount of time. Choose between an iPad Air and a Galaxy Note 10.1, and you’ll end up with a great tablet either way. Choose between a similarly-priced Kindle Fire HDX and an iPad 2, and you could regret investing in the Apple product.

More on this

The tablet storage mark-up scandal – read all about it
Tablet Best Buys – our top-rated tablets
Choose the best tablet – our interactive guide

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42 replies

  1. It’s already been established that the Note 10.1 was one of the Samsung devices involved in the benchmark cheating scandal. Samsung coded into its firmware that the CPU would perform at a higher level while certain benchmarking programs were being run.

  2. Take benchmarks with a grain of salt.

    1. These are multi-core scores. Take a look at single core which most apps are coded for.
    2. Samsung along with the others cheat on benchmarks.
    3. Put the benchmarks down and actually use the device. You’ll notice the Note 10.1 lags badly.

  3. Benchmarks are a very useful metric, but they don’t tell the whole story even in terms of perceived ‘speed’.

    Real-world performance for things like page scrolling are pretty bad still in Android, and it’s this more than anything else that’ll colour your perception of ‘performance’ in a tablet. Smooth scrolling down a long web page makes a tablet feel powerful and fast, and Android’s juddery scrolling and laggy page swipes make even the Note feel underpowered next to an iPad.

    That fact that it might (in theory) be able able to play a film or a game faster than it’s actually possible to play or watch it is actually a completely irrelevant factor if you think about it.

    Benchmarks are a useful yardstick, but never ever think they’re the whole story and try devices you might want to buy in the flesh doing things you’ll actually want to use them for. My company designs mobile apps and tests on all current (and past) devices, and I can assure you, all Android tablets feel pretty archaic next to a current iPad in terms of real-world perceptible performance.

    1. I like the way iSheep get hurt and the way they become angry when another device beats the crap out of iGadgets. But you know what bros, when things change, they just do that inconsiderately.
      Apple once dominated the smartphone world, things started to change some fellows denied such a possibility, but, well need i say anything on what is happening right now in this sector?
      It shouldn’t surprise anyone when this happens with the tablets.
      But anyway, let nobody talk so much about lagging in android and remain lagged in those days of Gingerbread and ICS. Things are changing pretty faster here than anyone ever thought of.
      btw we are talking about Note 10.1 (2014 EDITION), not Note 10.1.

    2. i have a nexus 7. and get none of that scrolling lag your talking about…
      I think you butthurt iDrones heard something about android devices 5 years ago and havent
      forgotten.

  4. Thing with fastest and all the rest is will that be of any concern to people after a tablet? I put the Sony Xperia Z tablet at the top of my list, it isn’t full of bloatware like you’ll find on the Samsung tablets and it does what I need it to do, extra storage capacity, load apps for testing etc. The only bad thing is the price, Sony should look at dropping it slightly.

    As for the Note 10.1 2014 it is full of things that won’t even get used. Half the devices storage is used by the OS, yes you can expand it but why Samsung, why?

    The best tablet is the one that does what you want it to do, a bonus if it is priced right. Consumers get sucked in by sales speak and names but as above, the best tablet is the one that does what you need at a price to suit your budget. Which? are just as guilty. “The iPhone is the best phone we’ve ever tested” “The iPad Mini is the best tablet at that size” and now this doesn’t show why it is the best and does a mass of processing power matter.

  5. Complete poppycock.

    Geekbench isn’t a graphical test so it doesn’t test the whole system, CPU _ and GPU_, or even test the CPU fully.

    This is like claiming some car car is the fastest only because it has faster tires. Even worse in this case because Samsung is well known to have been found faking benchmarks. Read the highly cited Anadtech’s excellent coverage of this for example.

    Which continues to show just how little they understand technology.. not to suggest something else less reputable.

  6. I read all your comments with interest and you all clearly know a lot, so please help!!! I want to buy a tablet for the following reasons: 1. to show presentations and pictures on 2. take notes on 3. manage my calendar. My gaming is limited to simple things like angry birds, so i don’t need real gaming power. Email, presentations and photos. I like the idea of a micro sd slot to expand storage. I want it to be compatible with a macbook air and a blackberry Z10….ipads are overpriced and I would rather stick to a budget of £200. Not too heavy would be great and I love the 8 inch sizes, but somewhat flexible to size, as long it fits in a handbag! Any suggestions? I would be ever so grateful, as all the articles I read contradict each other and I feel as lost as when I started this process. Thanks :)

  7. I don’t use a tablet so I’m not biased, but there is no mention of real world issues like malware which is much worse on Android. Virus / malware detection software should be stated as a must and be included as part of the benchmarking.

  8. My tablet never gets mentioned. I got a Dell Pro 8 something. It came with full Office . Meant getting used to Windows 8 but otherwise I love it. Much faster than my laptop.

  9. As an app developer I own both, and I’m afraid this is utter tosh – the Samsung is so slow in actual use it’s painful. Having been a Which subscriber for many years I’m begin to notice a trend for tabloid like headlines, which is bad enough, but far more worringly when I have direct experience of a comparison such as this I wonder if the advice is really any good.

    1. I have also been a subscriber to Which since the 80s. In recent years I have wondered about the veracity of some reports and reviews, not only in relation to technology, but in general, having used and had direct experience of many of the products reviewed by Which.

      I am now beginning to wonder whether Which is overstretching itself in trying to be all things to all people given the vast plethora of consumer goods on the market which in every area are becoming ever more sophisticated and complex.

  10. These pads are all worth buying. Speed is not everything, Consideration should be given to the quality of the applications and what use you want to put your purchase to. Benchmarks should run a selection of the available apps and video tests and time them against an internet reference clock. That way fiddling could be avoided. (If, it existed.)

    1. Which are only really interested in Apple, Samsung and Google and threw in the Tesco Hudl to make it look ‘balanced’ and avoid charges of bias.

  11. I was an ipad 1 owner and wanted a bigger screen, highest res for graphics, microSD for putting vids, photos, music and apps on. I also wanted more RAM available.

    I also wanted a tablet that pushed the envelope. The reviews last year were very very anti – Samsung. Almost viciously so. The specs for the Note 10.1 2014 were untouchable IMHO. I waited for the ipad Air to launch to assess the specs. Personally weight is not a big deal to me, since one of the first things one does is add a case. Generally, the Air specs were underwhelming.

    I bought the 2014 Note and it is a mother of a tablet. It is fast, despite the fake benchmark scandal. The screen is great as is the microSD. The stylus is excellent, particularly scrapbooker. Multi – view excellent. Apps are variable. For grandkids games and angry birds stuff it is good. Good under the bonnet updating, good forums. My only regret is that the 12.2 Note Pro wasn’t available.

  12. I notice that u didn’t test the xperia tablet, bit strange as this is a direct competitor to the one’s that u have tested shame as i’m very interested in tablet never mind will have to rely on other sites tests!

    1. It was on my shortlist. Goodish screen 294 ppm vs 299 for the Note and Nexus 10. Good weight and cpu but poor camera, no Spen, lower ram and a curious emphasis upon water and dust proofing. I just thought it didn’t cut it enough. The price was fantastic compared to the Note of course but I knew that I would bite that bullet.

      Can’t remember if it had micro SD expansion. Does It?

  13. Really, Which? As others point out several phone manufacturers detect the Geekbench testing kit and deliberately skew the results to make themselves look better than they actually are. You need to find a way of testing real world performance and give us results we can believe.

    1. Also, Geekbench is one of dozens of benchmarking programs and the Note 10.1 only won by cheating. The Air wins most other benchmarking test (per andandtech) and even beats the Note in Google’s own Octane test designed to determine the speed of mobile devices. I am positive that the Note 10.1 is a great device, but running a single benchmarking app does not prove that any device is the fastest.

  14. I agree with the general sentiment of most posters so far. Who says that “speed is essential”? Over user ability for example?

    I would appreciate it if Which? resources were put to better effect.

    1. For the “Tablets speed test” to get top billing in this week’s Which? update is another example of some curious logic. The vast majority of the comments reflect the fact that raw speed is but one factor in an overall judgement.
      Why tablets receive this separate story is beyond me. Can we now expect a report on cars that simply reports their top speed?
      Daft
      Who sanctioned this waste of time and effort?
      And why no Surface RT – you have it as a best buy with 77%.

  15. given this , why does the BBC continue to focus on ipad apps and services ? e.g . an e-book accompanying the recent jon snow Grand Canyon programme. android devices are in the ascendency because they are more open and you can have cross functionality between many machines without involving the dreaded iTunes store.

  16. I would like anyone making comments to declare their interests if appropriate
    It seems some replies are hidden arguments from one or other manufacturers or implicit ads
    If a dealer is replying he should state this
    Secondly I agree with point about Which , seems they are loosing there focus on actual users needs
    Ie ease of use , reliability , build quality on any technology or product and does it work

    I own an IPad 2 and a Dell PC both are excellent at what I want although I would like IPad to have a USB port to easily download music photos and PC seems always to under attack

    As an aside BBC iPlayer is fantastic as shown by commercial studios copying idea , don’t knock what the government BBC management seem to want which is run down Internet availability and iPlayer development as non core BBC What do they know when they diminish the Russian service a relatively unbiased access for people who want variety to State propaganda disguised as independent TV and Radio

    Grumpy

    1. BBC iPlayer is great & should continue to be developed – not diluted so that the government’s commercial pals can take over & charge us a fortune.

      I’m writing this on a Galaxy Note 10.1 (2014). It’s the first tablet I’ve bought/used & I’m very pleased with it. The tech spec is equivalent to a reasonable laptop. Also, for example, you can copy files between it and, say, a laptop via usb or sdcard. My wife tells me you can’t do that on her works ipad.
      I’m unconnected with Samsung, Apple, etc.

  17. As an owner of the Note 10.1 2014 as well, let me say straight away that I have no association with any brand type or manufacturer. I am now retired but did work for a software company on Tyneside, UK.

    The thing that makes me laugh though, when the reviews slate a Samsung device for lag and slowness, Apple fans accept the critique and defend speed and condemn lag and slowness.

    Here is a review that reverses that judgement, now that the firmware updates have sorted the lag out, and suddenly Apple fans start crowing that speed is not the be all and end all.

    I was a fan of the ipad and will always be grateful to Jobs and Apple for kicking it all off. However, the sheer brute force of the Samsung tech devs has changed the perspective completely. Roll on the 12.2 Note.

    1. As many people have commented thus far, this is just one of dozens of benchmarking apps (most of which the Air comes out faster in according anandtech). The fact that Samsung is known to have been cheating on the benchmarking programs (per Ars Technica and Anandtech) makes this one victory all the more hollow.

  18. I’ve only recently subscribed to Which for reviews on household appliances etc. but when it it comes to computers I consider myself an expert. This review is totally misleading, and it’s premise that speed is the most important facet is totally wrong. Also no mention that Samsung were caught red handed cheating on these benchmarks. I’m dropping my subscription to Which, if they are so wrong on something I know a lot about then I can’t trust reviews on things I know little. My advise to people is to get some hands on with these tablets, a 1GHz iPad is far more responsive to a 1.9GHz tablet running Android.

  19. I have read much information about ‘Tablet’ PC’s concerning the OS, Speeds, Memory- plus expansion, Connectivity….Etc. but never about accessibility to it’s innerds. How does one open up these devices to access the Battery and Connectors should they fail!
    You pay an significant amount of money for something apparently unrepairable!
    Does onyone have any thoughts on this matter?.

    1. For tablets, leave well alone, otherwise warranty invalidation will surely follow. The pc/laptop flexibility isn’t really there for tablets, other than mounting microSD cards.

  20. Not sure what everyone else is doing, can only assume it’s the love Apple hate Android crowd. We have both an iPad 3 and a Note 10.1 2014 Edition, and whilst ilike both, in my experience the Samsung easily matches the iPad in real world use. And just to be clear, my laptop is a mac book pro, which I love, so definitely not anti – Apple.

  21. I’m not an expert on vacuum cleaners or fridges, but I am an expert on computers. When you get a totally misguided review on something you are an expert in it makes you wonder how good the advice from Which is on those other things we know little about. I can say that I’ve bought really duff vacuum cleaners which were best buys, and a best buy coffee maker that had a basic design fault that caused it to be withdrawn. And recent reviews on computer equipment is embarrassingly banal. So, sadly, I no longer see Which as a source of good independent expert reviews – they’ve been shown up to be too superficial and uninformed especially in those areas where members of the public may already have specialist knowledge, like computers…..

  22. All apple gear is overpriced. 64gb micro sd cards are cheap as chips but apple want you to pay well over the top for extra memory. This is the only reason I won’t buy their otherwise brilliant tech. It’s a shame really!

  23. I love my Kindle Fire HD, ‘it’s great’. Not quite as good as my wife’s I Pad 2.
    I only wish my kindle was able to get as many Apps as a I pad, i.e. Virgin Anywhere.

  24. Of not much interest to me I’m afraid. As a pensioner my budget doesnt stretch to the cost of Apple or Samsung tablets. Amazon list about 50 different manufacturers of tablets. Is it too condescending for Which to test some of these or is it all about a competition between Apple and Samsung? Its the equivalent of only ever testing Rolls Royces and Lambourghinis in the motoring section.

  25. All that has been said is more than likely down to personal taste. I have looked at and tested most of the flagship 10 inch tablets and bought the Samsung note 10.1 2014 lte. It gave me what I wanted at a good price. The only reason I did not buy the Sony z2 is because the colour and the screen was not as good as the Samsung. If Sony could improve the colour and screen, I would say its the best I tested by some way.
    The only comment I have about Apple products is that they are good but way over priced.
    Just looking good is of little consequence to me.

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