The 6 best tablets in 2021 for every size and budget, from the powerful iPad Pro to Amazon’s kid-friendly Fire tablet

Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky

  • The 10.2-inch Apple iPad is still the best tablet, thanks to its balance of performance and price.
  • Remember to check out those featured in the ‘what we considered’ section for the full picture.
  • Also expect the new 2021 iPad Pro and Amazon Fire HD 10 to join this list once they’ve been tested.

Tablets have become a necessity for a lot of people, despite there being less of them out there than smartphones or laptops. Thanks to the advances in functionalities a lot of them have acquired over the years, they’ve become quite vital to most folks, playing a variety of roles – from being a secondary laptop or screen for work to the main device people rely on for their daily computing demands.

It isn’t a surprise, therefore, that now there’s a tablet for pretty much everyone. The newly released iPad Pros, fitted with Apple’s highly praised M1 processor and that stunning XDR display, target creative professionals seeking the absolute best. Meanwhile, something like the Amazon Fire HD 10 is best for budget users who don’t really need to pay for all that power. There are tablets for kids as well, with the Fire HD 8 Kids being the ultimate choice if you want the best value.

As for the rest, the most highly recommended tablet for most people is almost always going to be Apple’s standard iPad 10.2, which is affordable enough while offering the best set of features and apps.

To help you decide which tablet is best for you, we gathered the best tablets for every type of user including those with premium tastes and those who prefer things small and portable.

Here are the best tablets

The best tablet for most people

ipad 2019 10.2 cyber monday deal

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 is a breath of fresh air in a sea of premium tablets. While all the others seem to be getting more expensive, it offers an incredible balance of price, performance, and features – the best out of any other tablet we’ve tested, in fact. 

Starting at $330, the 10.2-inch iPad is a great inexpensive option as a general purpose tablet. It may run on the same A12 processor that spun the wheels in the 2018 iPhone XS series, but this chip is still a very capable processor that will see you through your needs. That is, if your needs mostly consist of running undemanding apps, streaming videos, sending emails, browsing, and playing games designed specifically for iOS.

The 10.2-inch iPad is also perfectly suitable as a lightweight productivity tablet especially when paired with a Bluetooth keyboard or keyboard case to type up documents, messages, and emails. If taking notes or drawing is a criteria, the 10.2-inch iPad also supports the first generation of the Apple Pencil, which is good for general use. 

For more intense productivity where you think a mouse would be beneficial or for more involved creative tasks where support for a more precise stylus is necessary, Apple’s iPad Air or Samsung’s Galaxy Tab S7 would be a better choice. However, for general usage, the 10.2-inch iPad already offers a lot more for less.

And finally, Apple’s iPads are normally 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

Amazon Fire HD 10

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

Amazon’s Fire Tablets have come a long way from being a glorified e-reader. While previous iterations of the Amazon Fire HD 10, for example, were sluggish, its more recent models have improved quite a bit in terms of performance.

Based on our own experience with previous generations of the Amazon Fire HD 10, as well as reviews of the 2019 model from PCMag and Tom’s Guide, it’s an ideal and inexpensive tablet for simple video streaming, browsing the web, and naturally, ticking another book off your reading list. 

Boasting a 10-inch screen with 1080p resolution and a 2.0 GHz octa-core processor that gets the job done for running basic apps, the Amazon Fire HD 10 is certainly an excellent budget proposition. If you have a bit of flexibility in your budget, a 64GB storage is also on hand for just a little more – something you should consider if you plan on utilizing those two 2MP cameras located in front and in the back.

Like all of Amazon’s tablets, the Fire HD 10 is also a terrific option for kids, thanks to its extensive parental controls, kid-friendly features, and availability of apps designed specifically for kids – though the smaller and cheaper Fire HD 8 or Fire HD 7 may better suit smaller children. 

Just bear in mind that Amazon’s tablets are restricted to Amazon’s own app store and don’t support Google’s Play Store so app selection will be more limited. 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. You can check the app selection in Amazon’s own app store before buying to make sure it has the apps you’ll want to run here.

The best high-end Android tablet

Samsung Tab S7

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. Scratch that, this new release improves on its predecessors in a lot of ways, making it perhaps the best Samsung tablet release yet. Make no mistake: this is a high-end Android tablet that can go toe-to-toe with Apple’s iPad Pro on nearly every level.

The Galaxy Tab S7 is a stylish, well-made tablet with a metal frame and back. The keyboard case is sturdy and turns your tablet into a quasi-laptop – although, while it does moonlight as a laptop and does a heck of a job at it, it is a tablet first and foremost.

This tablet showcases Samsung’s knack for making astonishingly beautiful screens, boasting a stunner of a 11-inch LTPS LCD 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. 

When used with the included Samsung’s S-Pen stylus, you’re getting a terrific experience, whether you’re creating designs or simply scribbling your thoughts. The S-Pen itself 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 perfectly as well. 

Other noteworthy features here are the 128GB of storage to give you ample space for downloads, a microSD card slot if you ever need to expand your memory, and that fast performance made possible by the Snapdragon 865 Plus, one of the best chips for Android devices, powering it.

The Galaxy Tab S7 comes with a steep price tag, starting at $649.99 for its base configuration. However, if you want the best iPad Pro alternative, this is it.

The best tablet for professionals

iPad Pro Keyboard 4

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

The recently released iPad Pros for 2021 are set to be a game-changer, touting the same much-lauded M1 processor that runs Apple’s newest MacBook computers and brings big gains in power and battery life.

Additionally, these 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.

We are currently testing the 2021 iPad Pro lineup. In the meantime, the 2020 iPad Pro still has its merits, including those slim bezels, a stunning sharp screen in two sizes, and a powerful processor. It also comes in 11- and 12.9-inch screen sizes to suit your preferences, with the 12.9-inch screen ideal for digital artists who need room to roam and the 11-inch model better for portability. (You may also more easily get a deal on a previous-generation model.)

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

Fire HD 8 Kids Edition Lifestyle 2

If you feel a little nervous handing your mobile devices to your kids, the Amazon Fire HD 8 Kids Edition tablet comes with a tough case to keep it safe.

Pros: Better performance, rugged build, parental controls built-in, longer battery life, two-year worry-free guarantee, a plethora of apps, more affordable than ever 

Cons: Doesn’t contain powerful components, tablet runs slower than most models

When it comes to kids, it’s not advisable to just hand them your pricey tablet. That’s why tablets for kids exist, because not only are they built to withstand all the abuse a toddler can muster, but they’re also cheap enough that you won’t feel bad when they are eventually destroyed.

Take the Amazon Fire HD 8 Kids Edition, for example. It comes with a tough kid-proof case that’s designed to protect it from drops and bumps as well as keep crumbs and other messes away. 

Amazon is so confident that this case will do the job that it offers a two-year worry-free guarantee. That way, if you’re dealing with a mini Hulk, you can rest assured that Amazon will replace the device for free. We only wish it also offered some level of water-proofing.

It takes more than a rugged build to be a great kids tablet, and the Fire HD 8 Kids Edition knows that. It comes with a whole lot of kid-friendly content and apps so that your kids can play educational games, watch their favorite shows, and even read books to their heart’s content – or at least until you say so. 

Amazon bundles it with a year’s worth of free Amazon Kids+ access to save you money. After that, it’s $2.99 a month, which really isn’t bad considering that your kids will be entertained for hours and you’ll get a much deserved break when you need it.

While its predecessor is a little sluggish, the newest Fire HD 8 Kids Edition offers better performance without costing you a lot more. That’s without mentioning its longer battery life of up to 12 hours, more storage (that is also expandable up to 1TB, thanks to its microSD card slot), and USB-C port for faster charging.

The Amazon Fire HD 8 Kids Edition is a slightly bigger option with better performance than our previous choice, the Fire 7 Kids Edition, and it’s barely more expensive at $140.

The best small tablet

iPad Mini 2019

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.

What else we considered

iPad Air Wide

There are a lot of amazing tablets out there, and just because they didn’t quite make our list above, that doesn’t mean they’re not equally worthy of consideration when you’re looking for your next tablet. 

In fact, there are a couple of tablets we’ve tested that we wish we could include, but have opted not to. That’s mostly because they couldn’t quite compete in terms of value – even though when it comes to performance and features, they are still top-notch.

It was hard not to include, for example, the iPad Air 4, which was released in October 2020. This stunning tablet from Apple is thin and lightweight, and it comes in three appealing colors on top of the usual space gray and silver. 

It also delivers impressive performance, thanks to Apple’s latest A14 Bionic chip, and that beautiful 10.9-inch Liquid Retina display that’s simply terrific for media consumption. That’s without mentioning its compatibility with the second generation Apple Pencil and the Magic Keyboard, both of which turn it into a highly capable creative and productivity tool.

Unfortunately, it’s also neither the best value of the iPads nor the most powerful. However, it’s the way to go if you have a bigger budget but don’t necessarily need the sheer power that the iPad Pro offers.

Then there’s the Samsung Galaxy Tab S7 Plus, which is as premium as you can get in the Android tablet scene. This “Plus” version of the Galaxy Tab S7, our current
“best high-end Android tablet” pick, comes with an even more beautiful Super AMOLED display with 2,800 x 1,752 resolution, as well as an in-screen fingerprint sensor and a longer battery life, making it a superior prospect.

Sadly, it’s also the pricier one, starting at $850. While that price is cheaper than the iPad Pro, the fact that the Tab S7 is cheaper still makes the S7 Plus less appealing for most people – even those looking for something premium. 

However, if you do want the best of the best and have deep pockets, it’s definitely worth the upgrade

How to pick the right tablet for you

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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

ipad air and ipad mini 2019

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.

Read the original article on Business Insider