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Compare the best tablets

Whether for work or play, the right slate is out there.

Although the idea for a tablet was proposed back in the 1960s, it wasn’t until Apple introduced the iPad in 2010 that these portable and easy-to-use computers launched to the top of sales charts worldwide. The iPad is a major player still, but plenty of other products are worth considering in this competitive market space.

Top tablets in 2021

NameAvg. price
Operating systemScreen size(in)Resolution (px)StorageEstimated battery lifePurchase
Amazon Fire HD 8
Amazon Fire HD 8
Fire OS81280 x 80016GB, 32GBUp to 10 hoursBuy now
Lenovo Tab 4 8
Lenovo Tab 4 8
$129.99Android 7.181280 x 80016GBUp to 6.5 hoursBuy now
Apple iPad (2018)
Apple iPad (2018)
$289.00iOS 129.72048 x 153632GB, 128GBUp to 10 hoursBuy now
Apple iPad mini 4
Apple iPad mini 4
$399.00iOS 127.92048 x 1536128GBUp to 10 hoursBuy now
Microsoft Surface Go
Microsoft Surface Go
$514.99Windows 10101800 x 120064GB, 128GBUp to 9 hoursBuy now
Asus ZenPad 3S 10
Asus ZenPad 3S 10
$499.77Android 6.09.72048 x 153632GB, 64GBUp to 10 hoursBuy now
Onyx Boox Max2
Onyx Boox Max2
$749.99Android 6.013.32200 x 165032GBUp to a monthBuy now
Apple iPad Pro 10.5
Apple iPad Pro 10.5
$597.00iOS 1210.52224 x 166864GB, 256GB, 512GBUp to 10 hoursBuy now
Samsung Galaxy Tab S4
Samsung Galaxy Tab S4
$829.75Android 8.110.52560 x 160064GB, 256GBUp to 8 hoursBuy now
Microsoft Surface Pro 6
Microsoft Surface Pro 6
$829.99Windows 1012.32736 x 1824128GB, 256GB, 512GB, 1TBUp to 13.5 hoursBuy now
Data obtained February 2019. Prices are subject to change and should be used only as a general guide.

What is a tablet?

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A tablet is a handheld computer that’s larger than a smartphone but smaller than a laptop. These wireless devices feature a touchscreen and a variety of software applications, and they’re designed to be portable, convenient and easy to use.

The first detailed proposal for a notepad-style computer was made by American computer scientist Alan Kay in 1968. His plans for the Dynabook imagined a portable device that weighed about two pounds and gave children easy access to digital media.

The Dynabook never got past the concept stage. But several leading tech companies, including Microsoft, unsuccessfully attempted to launch tablets until the arrival of Apple’s iPad in 2010.

Think of a tablet as device that’s somewhere between your phone and your desktop computer. Like your phone, tablets use mobile operating systems and are built for mobility. But like a desktop PC or laptop, you can also type longer documents, store files and stream videos.

Their touch-sensitive screens allow you to use your finger or a stylus to interact with the information you see. And you can wirelessly connect a keyboard or mouse to the tablet.

Why should I consider a tablet?

You might wonder why you need a tablet when you’ve got a drawer full of tech gadgets at home. But these lightweight devices offer benefits that best your smartphone, laptop and desktop:

  • They’re portable. Tablets are thin and lightweight, taking the portability of laptops to the next level.
  • They’re easy to use. If you struggle with new technology — or you’re buying for a technophobe — tablets offer a simple and intuitive user interface designed for novices to use right out of the box.
  • They’re practical. You don’t always need the processing power and bells and whistles of a laptop or PC. Tablets are a convenient way to check emails, browse the web and stream your favorite shows. And they offer a larger screen, longer battery life and more storage than your smartphone.
  • They’re functional. Popular tablets allow you to customize your device by downloading a variety of apps to play games, boost your brain power, check the weather or compile documents.

Who shouldn’t consider a tablet?

Despite their advantages, tablets might not be for everyone. You could find that you’re able to get with just your phone — after all, you already take it with you everywhere. And newer smartphones with large screens may be enough to overcome the drawbacks of a smaller screen.

Then, you might be one of those who feel that the computing power of a tablet isn’t enough. If so, stick with the bigger screen and larger storage capacity provided by a conventional laptop or PC.

What tablet types are available?

Tablets vary widely in shapes and sizes, but they generally fall into four categories.

  • Slates. Slate tablets are often the best-known type of tablet, featuring an integrated touchscreen. Slates include the Apple iPad and Google Pixel.
  • Convertibles. Also called a hybrid or two-in-one PCs, convertibles are slimline laptops with removable keyboards. Convertible tablets, including the Microsoft Surface Pro, are designed to offer the increased power and performance of a laptop along with the convenience and portability of a tablet when you remove the screen.
  • E-readers. Originally designed for reading e-books, e-readers include tablet-like features, such as color touchscreens and access to a range of apps. Popular e-readers are the Amazon Kindle and Barnes and Noble Nook.
  • Kids’ tablets. As with similar tech devices, you’ll find tablets designed specifically for younger users. Unlike the light and slim designs favored by traditional tablets, these devices are rugged and durable. They’re also often cheaper than “grown up” tablets for easier replacement. You’ll find a kids’ version of the Amazon Fire HD.

How to choose an operating system

You’ll find three main players when it comes to a tablet’s OS.

Apple iOS

Apple’s latest operating system, iOS 12, runs on Apple devices only. It’s designed to be clean and intuitive to use. It’s also linked to iTunes and the App Store, which offers more than 2 million apps to choose from.

Google Android

Google’s Android 9.0 OS runs across several brands of tablets — even Amazon’s Fire OS is based on Android — providing you with ample options when choosing your hardware. It’s relatively easy to use and integrates with Maps, Gmail and other Google apps. It also connects to Google Play’s more than 2 million apps.

Microsoft Windows

Arriving on the tablet scene much later than its two competitors, the Windows 10 operating system is available on Microsoft’s range of Surface Pro tablets and on products from other brands. It offers a computing experience that’s similar to the one you’re used to on your PC.

Your smartphone OS will likely play a role in determining the tablet you choose. For example, if you already use an iPhone, you’re already part of Apple’s ecosystem, which means you may prefer the iPad. You can integrate your iTunes account, Apple chargers and media found on your other devices. It’s a similar story for Android phones and Android tablets.

How to compare tablets

The typical cost of a tablet ranges from $100 to $1,500, depending on brand, model and performance. Aside from the operating system and device type, you’ll want to weigh size, storage and other important factors when choosing a tablet.

  • Screen size and resolution. A 7-inch screen is considered small, while an 8.9-inch or bigger screen is large. Smaller screens may be better for portability, but larger screens are well suited for gaming and streaming. The higher the display resolution — in pixels per inch — the sharper your content will be.
  • Storage space. If you’ll primarily use your tablet to surf the web, stream videos and conduct basic tasks, 16GB or 32GB of storage space may be more than enough. However, if you’ll using the device professionally or to store a sizable media library, you may need more space. Many Android and Windows devices include micro SD memory card slots, so that you can expand your storage.
  • Battery life. Determine how portable your device really is by looking for a tablet that lasts a full day before you need to recharge it.
  • Processing power. Processing speed is measured in gigahertz — abbreviated GHz. But unless you run heavy-duty software, you may not care about which CPU the tablet use.
  • Camera. If you’ll use the tablet to take still photos or chat by video, check the quality of the tablet’s front- and rear-facing cameras. The more megapixels your camera, the better the quality of your display.
  • Apps. Your choice of OS determines the app store you’ll use — and, therefore, the range of apps available. Check out the apps available for Apple, Android and Windows tablets before choosing a device.
  • Connectivity. Some tablets allow you to connect to the Internet through Wi-Fi only. Others connect you through Wi-Fi or a cellular network. Wi-Fi-only tablets are typically cheaper, but they may not be convenient for your needs.
  • Cost. Prices generally range from $80 to $1,500, but high-end convertibles can push past the $2,000 mark.

Compare tablets from leading brands

Which tablet is best for me?

The best tablet for you depends on what you’ll use it for, the OS you want to use and your budget. Here’s how five popular models compare.

The goodThe bad
Apple iPad
  • Improved processing power
  • Impressive battery life
  • Affordably priced
  • Supports Apple Pencil
  • No smart keyboard
  • Camera falls short
  • No expandable storage
Microsoft Surface Pro 6
  • Good battery life
  • Easy-to-use keyboard
  • Very good overall design
  • Micro SD storage expansion
  • Only one USB-A port
  • Keyboard sold separately
Samsung Galaxy Tab S4
  • Large and crisp display
  • Comes with a stylus
  • Excellent battery life
  • Expensive
  • DeX interface is a work in progress
  • Cramped keyboard
  • Limited app availability
Lenovo Tab 4 8
  • Affordable price point
  • Good battery life
  • Reasonable build quality
  • Value for money
  • Poor camera quality
  • Dual-band Wi-Fi not available
  • Display resolution could be higher
Amazon Fire HD 8
  • Intuitive user interface
  • Affordable
  • Good battery life
  • Good speakers
  • Slow to charge
  • No USB-C
  • Lack of Google Play apps

After you have a better idea of the type of tablet you want to buy, weigh the benefits and drawbacks of your options to find a device that’s right for your habits, lifestyle and needs.

Bottom line

Tablets come in a range of sizes and price points. Think about what you’ll use your device for before deciding on a model.

How did we choose these products?

To choose our list of top tablets, we compared price, OSs, size, portability, battery life and overall features.

Frequently asked questions

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