The Best Android Devices of First Half 2014

What is an Android Device?

It’s very likely that you already know what a smartphone is, and that companies like Apple and Google are quite important to the mobile industry today. Google in particular produces one of the most popular operating systems for smartphones and tablets, called Android. And any device that you buy that comes with Android is commonly called an Android device.

Currently there are quite a number of companies and manufacturers that produce Android devices in a variety of form factors, including Sony, Samsung, Google, and Ouya. Often times it’s not clear as to which Android devices are worth your time, so we’ve compiled a list of devices that offer the most bang for your buck.

The best phone: Xperia Z1

The Xperia Z1 is an Android smartphone from Sony that combines great hardware, solid and clean design, and software that makes Android that much more enjoyable to use. The device is mostly of a black color, with gray accents around the edges. On the inside it includes a 2.2 GHz quad-core processor (great for multitasking), a 5-inch 1080p screen, up to 14 hours of talk time on one charge, Android 4.3 Jelly Bean, and an impressive 20.7 megapixel camera, allowing you to take some of the sharpest and highest-resolution photos that you can imagine. It’s a very capable, premium-quality smartphone, and sells for a price of around $599.

The best phablet: Galaxy Note III

Samsung currently produces the world’s best-selling series of smartphones, right behind Apple’s iPhone. They also produce a series of popular Android tablets, but a rather unique series of theirs is the Galaxy Note. It’s a so-called “phablet”, combining the best parts of both a smartphone and tablet. It has Samsung’s signature white bezel design, a 5.7-inch size, a 1080p display, Android 4.3 Jelly Bean, an included stylus pen for note-taking and art, up to 25 hours of talk time, and over 2 weeks of stand-by time when connected to a 4G network. It has all of the normal functionality of a phone while including the bigger screen of a tablet, and it sells for around $770 off contract.

The best 7-inch tablet: Nexus 7 2013

Google, in cooperation with ASUS, has produced an Android tablet that can be considered the quintessential Google device. Anything with the Nexus name on it is designed to give you the most pure Google experience, with no special additions made to Android. The Nexus 7 in particular is a 7-inch tablet that includes a very sharp 1080p screen, a quad-core processor which allows for great multitasking, Wi-Fi compatibility, and optional 4G LTE access. The best part of the Nexus 7 is that it’s a great bargain at only $229. Despite the low price, it is powerful enough to run pretty much any app or game on the market.

The best 10-inch tablet: Note 10.1 2014

If the ordinary Galaxy Note III wasn’t enough for you, you might want to take a look at the Galaxy Note 10.1. It is essentially a bigger version of the Note III, sporting a 10.1-inch display, Android 4.3 Jelly Bean, a quad-core processor, 8 megapixel back camera, included stylus pen, and a resolution of 2560×1600 pixels. This means that the screen’s resolution is even higher than 1080p, and higher than even most computer monitor displays. Despite all this power, it weighs in at a mere 1.2 pounds and will cost you around $527 for the 16 GB model, and $567 for the 32 GB model.

The best smartglass: Google Glass

One of the more unique ways to use Android is Google Glass, which is essentially a wearable computer that you put on like a pair of glasses. The actual display occupies a small corner of your eye, and is navigated primarily through voice commands. It can take photos and record videos through its built-in discreet camera, set alarms and reminders, play audio and video, show you weather and traffic information, and so on. It is available in both transparent lenses and prescription lenses, and is currently on limited availability (invite only). It is expected to cost around or over $1,000, so it’s certainly not a budget device. It’s very cool nonetheless.

The best game console: Ouya

Android devices don’t only come in the form of phones, tablets, and glasses. Another area being explored is in the living room. More specifically, as a gaming console. The Ouya is an Android-powered console that fits in the palm of your hand and connects to your TV through an HDMI port. Included with the console is a gamepad controller with a button layout similar to an Xbox controller with its asymmetrical dual analog sticks, d-pad, four main buttons, and trigger buttons. The Ouya store sells a variety of games specifically optimized for the console, and the best part is that the main console costs only $99, making it good for the budget-conscious consumer.

The best mini PC: Google Chromecast HDMI Streaming Media Player

Gaming may be a fairly common living room activity, but even more common is watching TV shows and movies. If you have a collection of shows and movies on your smart devices or computer, it can sometimes be a pain trying to show it on the big living room screen. One potential solution is Google Chromecast, a very cheap $35 solution for streaming your media collection directly to your TV. It looks like a USB flash stick, but is actually designed to be plugged into an HDMI port. It doesn’t require any other parts or external power; just plug and play. Install the app on your phone, tablet, or PC, and start streaming all of your media.

The best camera: Galaxy S4 Zoom

If you’re someone who loves to take photos, and want to spend some money on higher quality cameras without having to carry around more than a smartphone, Samsung offers the Galaxy S4 Zoom, a variant of the regular S4 with a built-in optical zoom lens. The back of the camera looks quite similar to a dedicated camera, and while it may add a little weight and bulk to the phone, it nonetheless works quite well. It’s a 16 megapixel camera with 10x optical zoom, and besides the upgraded camera it’s mostly standard smartphone components with a 4.3-inch screen, Android 4.2 Jelly Bean, and a dual-core processor. The cost currently hovers around $350 or so.

The best smartwatch: Samsung Galaxy Gear Smartwatch

Finally, probably one of the most interesting uses of Android is in the Samsung Galaxy Gear. It’s part of a relatively new category of devices called smartwatches, which are essentially like smartphones or tablets except in a much smaller size that fits comfortably on your wrist. The Galaxy Gear in particular isn’t really meant to be used by itself. It’s more of a companion to your existing Galaxy phone or tablet, and can notify you of incoming calls and allow you to act upon them. It’s certainly not the cheapest device at about $299, but it’s nonetheless a nice bit of engineering.