Apple’s iPad Air tablet is the gold standard to which all other tablets are compared. It used to be that nothing else could come close to offering the wealth of features and lightweight design that are the iPad’s trademarks. Then, Microsoft launched Windows 8 and by taking some pretty drastic steps here and there, Microsoft has enabled its partners to build tablets that are just as unique and robust as the iPad.
Microsoft has been able to shore up its own iPad rival and convince its own partners to make their own by building on top of the solid foundation that was Windows 8, its latest and operating system for tablets, desktops and portables. In recent months the company has made Windows 8 more compact, so that it can be installed on tablets that don’t have a low amount of storage and still leave room for users to save their photos, videos and pictures. The company has also added toggles that allow users to hide the Start Screen if they choose and started giving away subscriptions to its Office 365 productivity suite.
Read: Windows 8.1 Review
The biggest change of all didn’t even come from Microsoft itself. Many device makers have decided to use Intel processors in their Windows 8 tablets, giving owners the ability to install apps from the Windows Store or on to the Desktop. That means users get to hang on to their essential apps like iTunes.
Here are 5 Windows tablets that are perfect alternatives to the iPad Air.
You’d think Microsoft’s own Surface 2 tablet would be easy to forget about. The 10-inch tablet is a looker. Premium materials, sharp lines, rear and front-facing cameras and gorgeous display are all present here. So is a full-size USB port for connecting to printers and just about any other accessory one can think of.
The Surface 2 doesn’t just rival the iPad Air in terms of hardware, it’s the cost savings that users will appreciate. As of yesterday, anyone in the United States can pick up a Surface 2 with 32GB of built-in storage for $349.99. That’s $100 less than the tablet’s original price and $150 less than what Apple sells the iPad Air for. Included in that base price is a copy of Microsoft Office.
Read: Surface 2 Review
There are some drawbacks: it’s one of the few Windows 8 tablets still being sold that doesn’t allow users to install apps to the Desktop. Windows Store apps are available to replace classic Windows apps like iTunes, though, so it’s not too big of a problem.