The LTE-enabled iPad Air or iPad Mini are two of the best business tablets money can buy.
Smartphones are a great tool to stay connected and productive on the go, but business users will need a device with a bigger screen to get any real work done. But unlike smartphones, which let you connect to the Web from any location, tablet users must hunt for the nearest Wi-Fi hotspot if they want Internet access.
Most of the time, at least. Some tablets can be purchased with 4G LTE capabilities, allowing you to connect from anywhere with speeds comparable to the high-speed Internet you use at the office. You'll pay for the privilege the same way you pay for your smartphone's data plan.
In addition to requiring users to pay for a monthly plan, LTE-ready versions of these tablets are also more expensive to purchase than their Wi-Fi-only counterparts. Not every tablet comes in an LTE-capable version, either. Still, always-on Web access could be a life-saver for tablet users who work away from the office. Here are five of the best business tablets currently available with 4G LTE functionality. Bear in mind that all pricing refers to the lowest price currently available with a two-year contract through a major U.S. mobile carrier; and pricing varies among individual carriers.
1. For the iOS user: Apple iPad Air
The LTE-enabled iPad Air is a no-brainer for anyone looking for a quality, Web-connected slate. The new flagship iPad is lighter, thinner and faster than ever, with a long battery life. Business users can take advantage of the Apple App store, which is packed with top-tier business and productivity apps. The 9.7-inch iPad Air runs on iOS 7, a recent operating system update with perks for small business owners, including a revamped version of Apple's iWork mobile office suite that comes preinstalled. Great features coupled with best-in-class hardware make the LTE-enabled iPad Air one of the best tablets for business users. But starting at $529, it doesn't come cheap.
2. For the Android user: Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1
The Galaxy Note 10.1 isn't just a great slate – it's also one of the few tablets designed specifically with productivity in mind. A built-in stylus, pressure-sensitive display and useful software features make it a solid 10.1-inch business tablet, and 4G LTE connectivity sweetens the deal. Be warned: major U.S. carriers such as Verizon and AT&T don't yet carry the new 2014 edition of the tablet, which features a faster processor and a sharper display. But the older model remains a good tablet with handy software features such as Multi-Window, which lets you run two apps side by side for easier multitasking. And at $499, the LTE-enabled Galaxy Note 10.1 is slightly cheaper than the LTE iPad Air.
3. For the Windows user: Nokia Lumia 2520
Windows fans in the market for an LTE-connected tablet don't have many options. In fact, the Nokia Lumia 2520 is the only Windows 8 tablet currently supported by major U.S. mobile carriers. It's not a bad tablet: it packs a fast processor, a sharp display and an attractive, high-quality build. But the 10.1-inch Lumia 2520 doesn't run the full version of Windows 8.1; instead, it runs on Windows 8.1 RT, a stripped-down version of Microsoft’s operating system that can't run desktop Windows software. That means users of the Lumia 2520 will have to rely on mobile Windows 8 apps. On the bright side, this is the only LTE-enabled tablet available that runs the full version of Microsoft Office; if that software is a must-have, this tablet is worth a look. It starts at $399.
4. For a smaller screen: Apple iPad Mini with Retina display
The new iPad Mini with Retina display is the best option for business users who want LTE connectivity in a smaller tablet. Aside from the downsized display, the latest version of Apple's 7.9-inch iPad Mini matches the iPad Air with the same blazingly fast 64-bit processor and super-sharp Retina display. And it gives you access to the same robust lineup of business apps found in Apple's App Store. The LTE-capable version of the iPad Mini with Retina display is a premium device, starting at $429.
5. For the budget-conscious user: Samsung Galaxy Tab 3 7.0
In terms of hardware and display quality, the Galaxy Tab 3 7.0 can't stack up to heavy hitters such as Google's new Nexus 7. But this 7-inch Samsung slate has one thing going for it: a low price. At $199, it's one of the cheapest LTE-ready tablets on the market. Those who can afford a more premium slate should look elsewhere, but the Galaxy Tab 3 7.0 is a decent pick for business users on a budget. It's certainly capable enough to run apps, respond to email and browse the Web.
Runner-up: ASUS PadFone X
The PadFone X from ASUS isn't exactly a tablet, but its unique design makes this newly announced device worth talking about. The PadFone X is actually an LTE-ready, 5-inch Android smartphone that docks with a 9-inch, tablet-style dock; just plug your PadFone X into the dock to take advantage of its large HD display. Everything on your smartphone transfers over when you dock it to the tablet – including your data plan, so you can connect to the Web and access files stored in the cloud while using the larger device. ASUS hasn't yet revealed the specs, pricing or release date for the PadFone X yet, but expect it to arrive on store shelves soon. If it's a hit, hybrid devices such as this one could make dedicated LTE-enabled tablets obsolete.