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TR's July 2015 mobile staff picks


Our top options for on-the-go computing
— 10:58 AM on July 6, 2015

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Welcome to  the July 2015 edition of The Tech Report's mobile staff picks, where we recommend our favorite tablets, convertible PCs, laptops, and phones. With summer in full swing and school just around the corner for many, it's time for an update.

 First, a brief recap of the developments in the mobile hardware market since our last mobile picks update in November. Intel just announced quad-core variants of its Broadwell mobile CPUs, which are trickling into systems as we speak. Higher-end versions of these chips with Iris Pro 6200 IGPs look to offer a major step up in the integrated graphics performance race, but not many computers are available with them yet. Entry-level laptops with AMD's Carrizo mobile chips are also just starting to hit the market, too. 

The most interesting development in mobile computing may be the arrival of Nvidia's G-Sync variable-refresh-rate tech for laptops. Given the benefits G-Sync offers for gaming on the desktop, it's good to see it arrive in gaming laptops, as well. As a result, we've picked out a couple of gaming machines for this edition of the guide. While a desktop PC is a better value for most, we understand that  some people–especially students–might not want to haul around a tower and its associated peripherals.

As with our other main system guide, our staff picks update is sponsored by Newegg. We'll be using links to their product pages throughout this guide when it's possible. You can (and should) support our work by using these links to purchase the products we recommend. A big thanks to Newegg for their continued support.

If you like this article, don't miss the rest of our guide series: our main System Guide, in which we detail the best PC components and explore some custom builds; our how-to-build-a-PC guide, where we walk readers (and viewers) through the PC assembly process; and our peripheral guide, where we pick the best monitors, mice, keyboards, and accessories to make your PC experience even better. 

Without any further ado, let's get down to business.

Tablets

Product Specs Starting price

Google Nexus 7 (2013)
Operating system: Android 5.1.1
Display: 7" 1920x1200 (323 ppi)
Processor: Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 Pro
RAM: 2GB
Storage: 16GB
Battery life: 10 hours (web), 9 hours (video)
Connectivity: 802.11n, Bluetooth 4.0
Thickness: 0.34"
Weight: 0.64 lbs
$149.99
(16GB)

Dell Venue 8 7000
Operating system: Android 5.0.2
Display: 8.4" 2560x1600 (359 ppi)
Processor: Intel Atom Z3580
RAM: 2GB
Storage: 16GB or 32GB
Battery life: 9.8 hours
Connectivity: 802.11ac, Bluetooth 4.0
Thickness: 0.24"
Weight: 0.67 lbs
$349.99
(16GB)

Apple iPad mini 2
Operating system: iOS 8
Display: 7.9" 2048x1536 (326 ppi)
Processor: Apple A7
RAM: 1GB
Storage: 16GB or 32GB
Battery life: 10 hours (Wi-Fi), 9 hours (LTE)
Connectivity: 802.11n, Bluetooth 4.0, LTE
Thickness: 0.3"
Weight: 0.73 lbs
$299.99
(16GB)

Apple iPad Air 2
Operating system: iOS 8
Display: 9.7" 2048x1536 (264 ppi)
Processor: Apple A8X
RAM: 2GB
Storage: 16GB, 64GB, or 128GB
Battery life: 10 hours (Wi-Fi), 9 hours (LTE)
Connectivity: 802.11ac, Bluetooth 4.0, LTE
Thickness: 0.24"
Weight: 0.96 lbs
$499.00
(16GB, Wi-Fi)

Google Nexus 7
Google's Nexus 7 is officially discontinued, but you can still buy the 16GB version from existing stock. That's a pleasant surprise, since the Nexus offers a lot to love for $149. The high-PPI display, decent amount of RAM, and long battery life all work in the N7's favor, and since it's a Nexus device, Google continues to roll out Android operating system updates for this slate, as well. Buy one while you can.

Dell Venue 8 7000
For the moment, our high-end Android tablet pick is Dell's Venue 8 7000. We praised the Venue's build quality, screen, battery life, and responsiveness in our review. Dell has since updated this super-slim slate to Android 5.0.2 Lollipop. Intel's RealSense camera is just OK, but so are most tablets' cameras, to be honest. Either way, the Venue 8 7000 provides a premium Android experience for a plenty reasonable $350 with 16GB of onboard storage, or $400 for 32GB. If that's not enough room, both versions can be expanded with a microSD card. 

iPad mini 2
For a small iOS tablet, we don't think there's a better pick than Apple's iPad mini 2. Yeah, there's a newer iPad mini 3 available, but the only extra feature on that tablet is the Touch ID fingerprint sensor. We're not convinced that's worth the $100 upcharge.

Another benefit of sticking with the mini 2 is that stepping up to 32GB of onboard storage will only cost you $50 more than the 16GB version's $300 starting price. Since iPads don't come with upgradeable storage, that's worth keeping in mind. Otherwise, the mini 2 features the same Retina display that we've come to know and love, and it offers full access to Apple's vast App Store ecosystem.

Apple's iPad Air 2
Apple's iPad Air 2 is the biggest and most powerful iOS device you can buy right now. Between the slim body, the beautiful Retina display, the fast-acting Touch ID fingerprint sensor, and unparalleled app ecosystem, we think your dollars are best spent here. It's also the only iPad so far that will be able to take advantage of the split-screen multitasking feature arriving with iOS 9 in the fall. The Air 2 is among the more expensive tablets out there, starting at $500 for the 16GB version, but there's arguably not a better large tablet on the market.