- Apple’s 10.2-inch iPad is the best tablet for most people.
- But the cheaper Amazon Fire HD is worth considering for those mostly interested in watching video.
- Samsung’s Galaxy Tab S7 is a great choice for Android users, as it comes with the excellent S Pen.
There aren’t nearly as many tablet options as there are smartphones, but there’s a tablet for pretty much anyone.
You’ll hear it from us, and you’ll hear it from most tech authorities – the most highly recommended tablet for most people is almost always going to be Apple’s standard iPad. At its $329.00 full retail price, it’s affordable enough while offering the best set of features and apps. And if there’s ever a deal on Apple’s standard iPad, it’s pretty much a no-brainer for anyone in the market for a tablet.
Still, there are other worthwhile options, especially when it comes to lower price ranges that might be more suitable for certain users, like kids, or using a tablet exclusively as a video streaming device where power and features don’t really matter.
And there’s the opposite end of the spectrum: powerful tablets that are better suited for professional users who can justify paying a premium for better performance. For example, the newly announced iPad Pros offer the same M1 processor found in Apple’s newest MacBooks, but most people probably don’t need laptop-grade performance in their tablet.
Here are the best tablets
- Best tablet overall: Apple 10.2-inch iPad
- Best budget tablet: Amazon Fire HD 10
- Best high-end Android tablet: Samsung Galaxy Tab S7
- Best tablet for professionals: Apple iPad Pro 11-inch and 12.9-inch
- Best for kids: Amazon Fire 7 Kids Edition
- Best small tablet: 2019 Apple iPad Mini
The 10.2-inch iPad is a great tablet for the vast majority of tablet users, and it supports the Apple Pencil.
Pros: Incredible price for an iPad, slick aluminum design, Touch ID for security and Apple Pay, great screen, supports the Apple Pencil
Cons: Light on entry-level storage, no expandable storage
Apple’s standard 10.2-inch iPad offers the best balance of price, performance, and features out of any other tablet we’ve tried.
Starting at $330, the 10.2-inch iPad is a great inexpensive option as a general purpose tablet for running normal apps, streaming videos, playing games, and browsing the web. It runs on the same A12 processor that spun the wheels in the 2018 iPhone XS series, but it’s still a very capable processor.
The 10.2-inch iPad is also perfectly suitable as a lightweight productivity tablet. It can be paired with a Bluetooth keyboard or keyboard case to type up documents, messages, and emails without any issue. For more intense productivity where you think a mouse would be beneficial, your best bet will be a tablet with mouse support, like Apple’s iPad Air or Samsung’s Galaxy Tab S7.
If taking notes or drawing is a criteria, the 10.2-inch iPad supports the first generation of the Apple Pencil, which is fine for general use. If note-taking or drawing is a primary driver for getting a tablet, however, we’d recommend again looking at the iPad Air that supports the second generation Apple Pencil for a more precise and responsive feel, or Samsung Galaxy Tab S7 that includes the excellent S Pen.
And finally, Apple’s iPads are generally the best tablets to buy in general largely because of the wider availability of apps that are specifically designed for iPads. On top of that, as with any Apple product, Apple’s physical stores are good resources for repairs, and users have a clear idea of where to bring their iPad if something goes wrong.
The best budget tablet
The latest Amazon Fire HD 10 (2019) is super affordable, but it still delivers a good set of features that you’ll enjoy using for watching videos and running simple apps.
Pros: Low price point, performs basic functions of a tablet well, offers expandable storage with a memory card slot, good for kids, works especially well for those with Amazon Prime accounts
Cons: Not a high performer, slow at charging, restricted to Amazon’s app store, no access to Google Play Store
Based on our own experience with previous generations of Amazon’s Fire HD 10, as well as reviews of the current model from PCMag and Tom’s Guide, Amazon’s Fire HD 10 is an ideal and inexpensive tablet for simple video streaming and browsing the web. It has a 10-inch screen with 1080p resolution and a decent processor for running basic apps.
Amazon’s tablets are also excellent options for kids due to their extensive parental controls, and features and apps for kids. The Fire HD 10 is a good option, but the smaller and cheaper Fire HD 8 or Fire HD 7 may better suit smaller children.
Note that Amazon’s tablets are restricted to Amazon’s own app store and don’t support Google’s Play Store, which means app selection will be more limited than a typical Android tablet or iPad. Most popular streaming apps can be found in Amazon’s app store, except for YouTube’s dedicated app. There’s a workaround where you can watch YouTube videos from the web browser, however.
The best high-end Android tablet
Samsung’s Galaxy Tab S7 is as stylish as it is powerful, you can use it as a laptop in a pinch, and it comes with the superb S Pen stylus.
Pros: Gorgeous screen, fast processor, S-Pen stylus is included, and powerful speakers
Cons: Expensive compared to most Android tablets
Samsung has been making excellent Android tablets for years, and its recently launched Galaxy Tab S7 continues that tradition. It’s a high-end Android tablet that can compete with Apple’s iPad Pro on nearly every level.
The Tab S7 is a stylish, well-made tablet with a metal frame and back. The keyboard case is sturdy and it turns your tablet into a quasi-laptop. Although this tablet doubles as a laptop, it is a tablet first and foremost.
Samsung sure knows how to make astonishingly beautiful screens. The Tab S7 has a gorgeous 10.5-inch Super AMOLED screen. I watched lots of Netflix and Prime Video on the tablet, and I was really impressed by the clarity, color reproduction, and intensity of the brilliant screen. The tablet’s 128GB of storage gives you ample space for downloads, and it’s expandable with a microSD card.
Every Tab S7 comes with Samsung’s S-Pen stylus, which is great for drawing and feels like a real pen. I love to draw on tablets, and I was impressed by the lack of lag on the Tab S7. Palm rejection works well, and it’s a great tablet for drawing or note-taking.
It is an expensive price to pay — especially for an Android tablet, but if you want the best iPad Pro alternative, this is it.
The best tablet for professionals
Apple’s iPad Pro comes in 11-inch and 12.9-inch sizes with specs that are so high-end they surpass some laptops.
Pros: Gorgeous screens, new design with smaller bezels, excellent specs, high-end performance, Pencil is superb for drawing, two screen sizes, now comes with mouse support
Cons: Very expensive, accessories are extra
Apple recently announced updated iPad Pros that are the first to include its M1 processor. This is the same chip that runs Apple’s newest MacBook computers, bringing big gains in power and battery life.
Additionally, the new iPad Pros come equipped with a Thunderbolt connector for more accessory compatibility, optional 5G connectivity, and up to 2TB of storage. The 12.9-inch model also features a Liquid Retina XDR display powered by mini-LED technology for enhanced brightness and clarity. The iPad Pro is available for preorder on April 30, with shipping expected in mid-May.
We look forward to reviewing the 2021 iPad Pro. But in the meantime, we still like that the 2020 iPad Pro has slim bezels, a stunning sharp screen in two sizes, and a powerful processor.
You can get it in 11- and 12.9-inch screen sizes to suit your preferences. The 12.9-inch screen is great for digital artists who need room to roam, while the 11-inch model offers a little more portability.
Regardless of the model, the 2020 iPad Pro is a powerhouse. The A12Z Bionic processor is so high-powered it can surpass some laptops. Apple’s entry-level model comes with 128GB of storage, but you can get up to 1TB if you want to spend a whole lot of money. Apple no longer sells the 2020 iPad Pro, but you can still find it through retailers like Amazon.
We recommend picking up the new Apple Pencil if you like to take notes or draw. It may cost $129, but the new version charges wirelessly and magnetically attaches to your iPad for easy storage.
Apple’s Keyboard will also cost you a pretty penny, so we recommend going for a third-party case and keyboard. — Malarie Gokey
The best tablet for kids
If you feel a little nervous handing your mobile devices to your kids, the Amazon Fire 7 Kids Edition tablet comes with a tough case to keep it safe.
Pros: Great price for a tablet designed for kids, includes a tough exterior case that will protect the tablet if the child drops it, includes a two-year replacement warranty for any damage that occurs
Cons: Doesn’t contain powerful components, tablet runs slower than most models
The Amazon Fire 7 Kids Edition provides a tough case that will protect the tablet, even if the child drops the tablet (as long as it’s not dropped in a toilet). Laptop Mag says parents can feel comfortable allowing their children to use the Fire 7 because of the two-year accidental-damage warranty it comes with.
Although the sound quality of the Amazon Fire 7 Kids Edition tablet is below average, Wired says the small size of this tablet with a 7-inch screen works great for young children.
There’s a lot of children’s content on the Amazon tablet, along with several features for setting up parental controls, which is great. You will have to download the content through apps before accessing the content, but the tablet’s simple interface works great for kids to operate on their own.
This admittedly isn’t the most powerful tablet, as it features below-average processor speed and less-than HD resolution on the screen. But, kids aren’t likely to complain, or even notice.
The Amazon Fire HD 8 Kids Edition is a slightly bigger option with better performance, and it’s barely more expensive at $140. Still the Fire 7 Kids Edition is more portable and its performance is just fine for kids while costing $40 less.
The best small tablet
The iPad Mini is essentially a smaller replica of the standard 10.2-inch iPad. Just watch out for its higher price tag.
Pros: Compact, good performance, sharp screen, works with the Apple Pencil
Cons: Dated design, expensive for what it is
The 2019 iPad Mini is Apple’s small tablet that’s powered by the capable A12 Bionic chip, and it supports the first-generation Apple Pencil, which makes the Mini a great tablet for note taking or drawing.
The Mini‘s 7.9-inch Retina display has a sharp 2,048 x 1,536-pixel resolution, too, so you can really enjoy watching videos, reading, and creating on the screen.
You can choose between 64GB or 256GB of storage and three color options: Silver, Space Gray, or Gold). If you want to keep the price down, you can get the Wi-Fi-only version, but there is also a Mini with both cellular and Wi-Fi connections.
Our main gripe with the iPad Mini is that it’s a smaller version of the $330 10.2-inch iPad with nearly the same specs, and yet it costs $70 more. That higher price casts a shadow over the iPad Mini, as it’s hard to justify paying extra for something smaller, especially if it’s a year old already. Still, it’s the best small tablet there is.
How to pick the right tablet for you
Operating systems for tablets
As with smartphones and laptops, you can choose among a few different types of operating systems with tablets. Picking the right OS will enhance your enjoyment of the tablet you select.
- Apple’s iOS: For many people, the name iPad is synonymous with tablets. Although the iPad wasn’t the first tablet on the market, it’s credited with making tablets popular and invigorating the tablet market in 2010. The iPad runs Apple’s iOS operating system, which also powers the iPhone. iOS has a great interface and works equally well on a smartphone or tablet screen. There are tons of special apps made for the iPad, which makes it an excellent investment. However, because only Apple-branded iPads can run iOS, you’ll pay more for them versus tablets with other operating systems.
- Google’s Android: You also may be familiar with the Android operating system, managed by Google. Android powers many different kinds of smartphones. It’s also very user-friendly and offers tons of apps. There are numerous Android tablets to choose from, and they range in price from under $10 to around $600 and up.
- Amazon’s Fire OS: Fire OS is a special ecosystem, rather than an operating system, as it runs on top of Android. Basically, it brings Amazon’s services to the forefront of the OS and you download apps from Amazon’s app store. Amazon also has special software for kids on its kid-friendly tablets. These Fire tablets are much more affordable than any other kind of tablet.
- Microsoft’s Windows: Microsoft has tweaked the Windows operating system to make it far more user-friendly than older versions of Windows, meaning it works equally well with a traditional desktop computer or a touchscreen tablet. When running Windows on a tablet, you’ll have access to a lot of traditional software, but you’ll find a significant lack of apps compared to Apple or Android. However, since these tablets run Windows, they can be used as full laptops.
What to look for in a tablet
Tablets have a lot of different strengths, depending on the one you choose. Think about what you want to do with the tablet, and you’ll be able to find one that’ll perfectly meet your needs.
- Battery Life: Completing a really long car trip in successful silence may depend on whether your tablet has a long battery life. Battery life typically can range anywhere from 4 to 12 hours, depending on the tablet model and screen size. Seven hours is about average.
- Connectivity: Different tablets allow you to make a connection to the Internet in a few different ways. Most will offer Wi-Fi connectivity, allowing you to connect to your home or work network. Others also include the ability to connect to a cellular network, much like a smartphone, and access the Internet through the cell network. However, you must have a cellular account with a monthly fee to use it.
- Fast Processor: Look at the CPU and GPU chips included in your tablet. Newer, more powerful chips will give you faster performance levels. Some Windows tablets even have laptop-level processors inside, so you can use them as portable PCs. However, you will pay more for more power.
- Keyboard: Most tablets are able to connect to a physical keyboard for typing, making it easier to input data into the tablet versus using the digital keyboard on the screen. Some tablets are 2-in-1 devices, meaning the keyboard/screen configuration looks more like a laptop because the two are connected. You then can fold up the keyboard to make it work like a tablet.
- RAM: RAM is the amount of memory used to operate software and apps. This is different from the type of memory used for data storage. The more RAM you have available on the tablet, the better it will perform, but the more you’ll have to pay.
- Screen Resolution: Tablets that can display more pixels will have a sharper image that looks great. If you want to watch movies on the tablets, having a resolution of at least full HD quality (1,920 x 1,080 pixels) will be very desirable.
- Screen Size: The size of the tablet’s screen marks the most important feature for most people. Larger screens work better for things like watching movies, drawing, or playing games. Of course, screen size plays a direct role in the size of the tablet, too. So if you want a smaller tablet, you’ll want a smaller screen.
- Storage: Tablets have an interior solid state drive (or SSD) for storing apps, movies, games, and more. You may be able to add more storage through a Micro SD memory card, although not all tablets have a memory card slot. Some tablets rely on cloud storage for extra storage. You may want extra storage for movies, books, and games.
- Stylus: Some people love having a stylus for working with the tablet, especially if they’re drawing by freehand. Not every tablet can make use of a stylus, and some stylus pens don’t work as well as others. So if you need one, do your homework to find a tablet that can take full advantage of the features of the stylus.
Check out our guide to the best iPads you can buy
Apple is the uncontested king of tablets. The word iPad is synonymous with the word tablet. Chances are if you own a tablet at all, you have an iPad.
We’ve tested nearly every iPad that has been released over the past three years, and these are the absolute best iPads you can buy. You can also check out the best iPad cases for every type of person and read why we love the Apple Pencil.