Tablets offer a nice middle ground between a smartphone and a laptop, and many people love them for that. And when it comes to picking out an upgrade for a tablet user, you want to make sure you’re choosing correctly, so we sought out the best tablets available today to help you do just that.
What to Look for in a Tablet
There are a few things to consider when selecting the right tablet.
- Operating System: This is a big one, as there are quite a few tablet operating systems (or OS) out there. When it comes to what OS you should prioritize buying, it’s worth taking into account what the person you’re shopping for is already using. And not just what’s on their current tablet, but on their phone and computer as well. Someone with an iPhone is likely to get the most use out of an iPad for example, while someone with an Android phone may appreciate a ChromeOS or Android option more.
- Size: A straightforward category, but it’s extremely important. There’s a fine balance between a tablet being too big and too small, and it will depend a lot on how a person uses their tablet. Frequent readers or travelers will want something smaller and light as that’s easier to carry, while those who mainly use their tablets as workstations or entertainment devices will prefer larger screens.
- Performance: A slow tablet is pretty frustrating to use, so we made sure all the ones we picked for this list offer solid performance for their price tags.
- Features: Stuff like pen styluses, removable keyboards, and fast-charging are all excellent bonus features to be included in a tablet. Predictably, you see more of this stuff as you go into higher-end tablets, but options on the lower-end of things can surprise you.
Best for Most People: An iPad
The iPad line is what most people first turn to when considering a tablet, and for good reason. Not only is iPadOS arguably the best tablet OS out there, but the line also covers multiple price ranges, use cases, and all the tablets in the line are high quality. It’s for that reason we can’t just recommend one iPad—we have to recommend three.
- iPad: The latest iPad is impressively powerful, but more importantly, it has one of the best tablet OSes on the market for a low price. This device can do it all, and for most tablet users, this is the tablet to buy. The screen measures at 10.2 inches, and the tablet is compatible with the first-generation Apple Pencil (Apple’s advanced stylus, sold separately).
- iPad Air: But what if the person you’re shopping for wants some more power under the hood? That’s where the iPad Air comes in. With the A14 Bionic processor, this tablet is powerful enough for more intense loads like video and photo editing, along with running smoother for general use as well. The screen is larger at 10.9 inches and displays colors more accurately. On the whole, the iPad Air is everything that’s great about the normal iPad but better. It’s even the first non-pro iPad compatible with the second-generation Apple Pencil and Magic Keyboard.
- iPad Pro (11-inch/12.9-inch): The final iPad we’ll be recommending, and this one aims to be more than just a tablet. The iPad Pro was built to be a legitimate laptop replacement, and on that front, it largely succeeds. The A12Z Bionic processor inside means it can handle the most intense apps on the App Store with grace, and accessories like the Magic Keyboard (11-inch/12.9-inch) and Apple Pencil (second generation) only cement its place as a laptop replacement even more. In turn, the iPad Pro is the most expensive of all the iPads, but it definitely justifies that price if the person you’re shopping for will make full use of all its features. There are two versions of the iPad Pro: one with an 11-inch screen and one with a 12.9-inch screen.
Best Android Tablet: Samsung Galaxy Tab S7
Android tablets can be hit or miss, but the Galaxy Tab S7 has proven itself a hit. While there isn’t much competition for Samsung in the high-end Android tablets arena, this is definitely the best Android tablet you can buy today.
Besides that, the S7 just offers a great tablet experience with solid performance and all the modern features you’d expect like fingerprint scanning and fast-charging. The tablet comes with Samsung’s S Pen, which is an advanced stylus that’s great for drawing, handwriting, and general menu navigation. It even connects to the back of the S7 for easy charging and storage.
Overall this is one of the best dedicated Android tablets we’ve seen in a while, and for avid Android users, it’s definitely the tablet to buy. The normal S7’s screen measures at 11 inches, but if you want to go a step further, the Galaxy Tab S7+ offers a 12.4-inch display that also displays colors more vividly.
For Windows Fans: The Surface Line
Microsoft’s Surface line has always been well-known for its 2-in-1s—laptops that can easily switch into a more tablet-like form factor. But over time, these devices have only walked the line towards being full-on tablets more and more, and these are the two worth considering as tablets this holiday season.
- The Surface Go 2: The Go 2 strikes the closest thing to a tablet the Surface line has to offer. The keyboard/touchpad attachment is easy to remove, and the 10.5-inch display is great for portability. It’s also the lightest Surface on the market currently, so holding it in your hand for extended periods won’t be a massive pain. While the Go 2 starts at under $400, that can go up significantly if you choose to opt for the processor or memory upgrades. The base model comes with 4 GB of RAM, which is a bit rough for Windows, so we’d recommend going with the 8 GB option as a general rule. While Windows isn’t built to be a tablet OS, it certainly works as one, and for diehard Windows users, the Go 2 strikes a good balance between laptop and tablet.
- The Surface Pro 7: Takings things a step up from the Go 2, the Pro 7 features a 12.3-inch screen, a more powerful processor (with the ability to spend more on an even more powerful chip), and on the whole, a design that takes things a step closer to a laptop than a tablet. For the Windows lovers in your life that also need something of more substantial power, this is the tablet to buy.
Best ChromeOS Tablet: Lenovo Ideapad Duet
We fell in love with the Ideapad Duet while reviewing it, and the reasons are pretty straightforward: This tablet offers an insane value. This 2-in-1 Chromebook can act as both a standard laptop and a tablet, thanks to its easy-to-remove keyboard. The performance is phenomenal, and the battery life outpaces other ChromeOS devices as well. The screen measures at 10.1 inches, so it’s not bothersome to take out of the house.
While ChromeOS still isn’t ideal for tablets yet, it’s enough to be functional. And the support for various (but not all) Android apps only takes it a step further. It’s hard to find a better overall package for the price on ChromeOS, and for that reason, it gets our pick as the best of the best.
Best on a Budget: Amazon Fire HD 8
For a lot of people, a tablet is a simple gateway to streaming or reading apps, and in that case, you don’t need some of the more high-end options already presented. The Fire HD 8 doesn’t impress with cool features or powerful hardware, but rather, it’s an inexpensive tablet that specializes in entertainment. And at the price, that’s more than fine—great even. Having an option on the lower-end like this is great to see, and as long as the user isn’t looking for the hottest tablet on the market, they’ll likely be very happy with their new tablet.
If you want to take a step up, then the Fire HD 8 Plus has an extra gigabyte of RAM and introduces wireless charging (charging dock increases the price by about $30). The screen on both is the same size though at eight inches.