The best tablets straddle the line between a laptop and a mobile phone in size and computing power. Some of the most powerful options, like the Apple iPad Pro, can outrun most desktops, while others are a little less meaty and are best for reading and media consumption.
How you use the tablet determines the features that will matter the most. Artists may need more storage capacity and a quick refresh rate to keep up with sketches or photos. Students might need a tablet with quick internet and a bright screen for late-night viewing. No matter what you need the tablet for, there’s a tablet out there that can do it. Check out our guide to the best tablets to find the perfect option for you.
— Best Overall: Apple iPad Air
— Best for Kids: Amazon Fire HD 8 Kids Tablet
— Best for Sketching: Wacom Cintiq 22 Drawing Tablet
— Best for Students: Samsung Galaxy Tab S7+
— Best Budget: Amazon Fire HD 10 Tablet
How We Picked the Best Tablets
We looked at a variety of criteria when choosing the best tablets, including speed, size, and build.
Build and Durability: Plastic and metal are the two options. While plastic will save a few dollars, metal makes the tablet look more expensive and adds durability.
Available Apps: The apps available to use with the tablet’s operating system may broaden or limit its use based on the system. We opted for tablets that are able to offer a wide variety of apps, but made exceptions for those designed for ultra-specific purposes.
Computing and Internet Speed: A laggy tablet can be more annoying than helpful. We looked for tablets that balance computing and internet speeds with the price.
Size: Some tablets are large enough to replace a laptop or even a desktop. Others are only a step above a mobile phone in size. We factored in portability and screen size as we evaluated the size of the tablet to find models that meet the widest range of needs.
Storage Capacity: Most people need at least 32 GB to prevent lagging or limiting what they can do with their tablets. The models on our list had at least 32 GB, but many have much more.
Related: The Best iPads to Stoke Your Creativity
The Best Tablets: Reviews & Recommendations
Best Overall: Apple iPad Air
Why It Made The Cut: The iPad Air offers fast networking, strong audio, an excellent camera, and access to Apple’s vault of apps, making it the best tablet for most people.
— Dimensions: 7 inches L x 9.74 inches H x 0.24 inches D
— Operating System: Apple iPadOS
— Max Storage Capacity: 256 GB
— Fast internet and processing speed
— Thin, light, and durable design
— Outstanding webcam
— Supports Apple Pencil
— Average battery life is about 10 hours
— Expensive accessories
The Apple iPad Air balances quality and speed with the price. A hard metal frame gives it a quality and durability that outclasses the price tag. It comes with a 10.9-inch screen and display that has Apple’s impressive color options for a truly gorgeous viewing experience.
A 12-megapixel main camera is coupled with a 12-megapixel front camera, both of which match the iPad Pro’s much more expensive design. If you’re doing Zoom meetings for work or school, you’ll look a whole lot better on this tablet than the less expensive base iPad model with its 12 megapixel Ultra Wide front camera.
The Air comes in a WiFi-only or LTE model, with the LTE adding on more than $100. You’re looking at excellent internet speeds, and it comes with up to 256 GB of memory, so you pack it with apps or downloads. The Air supports Apple Pencil for creatives who want to draw or those who prefer to take or add handwritten notes. Overall, it’s a fantastic tablet for the price. However, despite impressive performance everywhere else, the iPad Air is only average when it comes to battery life. You’ll also have to fork out quite a bit for accessories. If you're looking to save a little money and don't need a new model, check out this refurbished 4th Generation iPad Air.
Best for Kids: Amazon Fire HD 8 Kids Tablet
Why It Made The Cut: The Fire HD 8 makes the best tablet for kids because it offers excellent viewing, one year of Amazon Kids+, and a two-year replacement guarantee.
— Dimensions: 9.6 inches L x 6.1 inches H x 1 inch D
— Operating System: Fire OS (Android based)
— Max Storage Capacity: 32 GB
— Durable, rubberized case
— One free year of FreeTime Unlimited
— 2-year replacement guarantee
— Built-in parental controls
— Limited content without subscription after the first year
The Kids Edition of the Amazon Fire 8 packs a lot into a reasonably affordable package. And it’s that package that makes this tablet a standout. It includes a rubberized bumper case to protect the screen from the inevitable falls that happen with kids.
The Kids Edition also includes a one-year subscription to FreeTime Unlimited, Amazon’s curated programming for kids that includes thousands of games, videos, books, and more. But the ultimate parental favorite has to be the two-year replacement guarantee that only comes with the kids’ version of the Fire. The other major difference between the Kids Edition and the regular Fire is the built-in parental controls. It’s designed for easy monitoring and access to all of your kid’s content and history, making it super simple to cut down on screen time or block specific content. The only downside to this model is that once that free year of FreeTime expires, the available content goes way down unless you’re willing to pay for a yearly subscription.
Best for Sketching: Wacom Cintiq 22 Drawing Tablet
Why It Made The Cut: The Cintiq 22’s large screen and responsive stylus provide ample space for creatives to develop and enhance their work, making it the best drawing tablet.
— Dimensions: 16.2 inches L x 10.4 inches H x 0.7 inches D
— Operating System: Windows
— Max Storage Capacity: N/A
— Large enough to act as a second monitor
— Highly responsive stylus
— Pen has 8,192 pressure sensitivity, giving more control
— VESA mounting
— Not easily portable
The Wacom Cintiq 22 Drawing Tablet’s large display area provides ample space for sketching or editing. The display's slight texture gives it a good feel as you move the stylus over its surface.
The included stylus gets huge points for responsiveness. It feels good in the hand and includes sensitivity up to a 60-degree angle. The pen has 8,192+ pressure sensitivity, giving users tons of flexibility to control the pen’s output in Photoshop. However, this tablet isn’t designed for portability. It’s more of a desktop model that you connect to your laptop or desktop. The VESA mounting can also be tedious to set up. Read a full review of the Wacom Cintiq Pro 16 here.
Best for School: Samsung Galaxy Tab S7+
Why It Made The Cut: Android's easy connectivity to Google Classroom and Google Docs makes it an ideal choice for students. Plus this model’s gorgeous display and 5G connectivity bump it to the best tablet for school.
— Dimensions: 7.09 inches L x 11.02 inches H x 0.24 inch D
— Operating System: Android 10
— Max Storage Capacity: 256 GB (Can upgrade to 512 GB at a higher price)
— Durable, high-quality build
— Comfortable S Pen feels natural
— Bright Super AMOLED display
— S Pen easily falls out of the case
The Samsung Galaxy Tab S7+ brings a high-quality build into the classroom. Yes, it costs a pretty penny, but students get a tablet that’s easy to use with Google Classroom and Google Docs. You can download the Microsoft Word app if teachers or professors want assignments through a different system.
This Samsung tablet comes with the S Pen, a stylus with a textured surface that gives it a nice glide across the display. And that Super AMOLED display is bright, with gorgeous deep colors that are just as good for viewing as they are doing research. The S7+ also comes in a 5G option, if you can get access to it on campus. However, keep tabs on the S Pen when you’re on the move. It easily gets dislodged. Amazon also carries a refurbished version of the same model.
Best Budget: Amazon Fire HD 10 Tablet
Why It Made The Cut: The Fire HD 10 Tablet works well for media consumption, web browsing, and general email communication at a price that makes it the best tablet for the money.
— Dimensions: 9.73 L inches x 6.53 H inches x 0.36 D inches
— Operating System: Amazon Fire OS
— Max Storage Capacity: 32 GB
— Speedy processing at a budget-friendly price
— Great storage
— Acts as Alexa interface
— Good display
— Few apps
This budget-friendly Amazon tablet brings speed and a good display to the table at a price that won’t make you wince. Of course, it’s catered toward Amazon, which does pose some limitations. But overall, you can stream all of your favorites, browse the web, and email to your heart’s desire without paying a fortune.
The Fire HD 10 runs on Amazon Fire OS, which is based on Android technology. However, rather than being Google-centric, it’s Amazon-centric. You can even set it up as an Alexa interface. While this tablet is a great choice for anyone on a budget, Amazon Prime members will get the best bang for their buck. The downside for everyone is that there’s a very limited number of apps available in comparison to an Apple or Android tablet.
Things to Consider Before Buying a Tablet
Apple vs. Android
Apple and Android each have their own operating system. Apple gets bonus points for the intuitive nature of its designs and the sheer number of available apps. Android isn’t far behind with The Google Play store, but Amazon tablets, which run Android software, only have access to a fraction of the Android apps.
Android offers some versatility that Apple doesn’t. Androids work better for transferring files from your computer to your tablet. You can use a microSD card to back up, store, or transfer files from the tablet to a laptop or vice versa. Androids also come in a wider price range to fit different budgets, whereas Apple models are on the pricey side.
We’d like to point out that not all tablets fall into the Apple or Android category, including one on our list. These tablets can still work well. However, since Apple and Android dominate the market, these alternative options should be compatible with Apple, Android, or both to carve out their niche in the market.
Screen size is largely a matter of choice, with larger models weighing more and being less portable. Tablets range in size from seven to 22 inches, which is as big as a monitor. In general, the larger the screen, the more expensive the tablet.
Do you prefer a larger screen while reading or sketching, or do you need a smaller screen for portability? For those who want to use a tablet instead of a laptop, a larger screen will make it easier to read and edit documents. Creatives may also benefit from a larger screen so they can see the fine details of their work.
Cellular or WiFi-Only
Many tablets have a WiFi-only version, while others offer the use of WiFi or cellular data. It’s really up to you. If you need to have access to the internet from anywhere, opt for a model that can tap into your cellular data. If not, save a few dollars and stick to WiFi.
Q: How long should a tablet last?
A tablet should last about four to six years, depending on how it’s used and treated. If you use a good case and protect the tablet from falls and spills, you can extend its life. Users who put their tablets to the test with heavy everyday use may want to look at a model with lots of memory or expandable memory. Otherwise, you may fill the memory, slowing the performance long before you hit four years of use.
Q: What is the best tablet to buy for a child?
The Amazon 8 Fire is a great option for children because it has access to Amazon’s media library but includes strong parental controls. Parents can monitor their child’s access and activity from their Amazon account.
Q: How much does a tablet cost?
Tablets can cost anywhere from $100 to over $1,000. At the top of the price range are tablets that can, in some cases, replace a laptop or desktop. The Apple iPad Pro, for example, has the M1 chip, which outperforms most laptops and desktops on the market. Screen size, memory, and processing speed all factor into the tablet’s price. At the lower end of the price range are tablets that work best for browsing, emailing, and watching streaming content.
Q: How many gigabytes do I need for a tablet?
For internet browsing and checking email, you only need about 8 GB. However, that’s about all you’ll be able to do. To play even a simple game or watch a downloaded movie, you’ll need at least 16 GB. The more apps you put on the tablet, the more GBs you’ll need, too. To be safe, look for at least 32 GB — and get a tablet with more if you want to use your tablet for more than the basics and a few simple games and apps.
Q: Can a tablet replace a phone?
A tablet can replace a phone in some circumstances, but there are times when you might miss the portability of a phone. If you communicate using apps like WhatsApp, Slack, and Zoom, you can do all of your communication using a tablet. However, if you regularly text and call as your main mode of communication, a tablet will leave you less than satisfied and out of touch with your people.
Q: Which tablet brand is best?
Arguments about the best tablet abound, with the two most common sides being Apple and Android. Truthfully, they’re pretty neck and neck, and each caters to a different type of user. Apple is the most user-friendly with the most app options, but their tablets are pricey. Android puts out powerful visuals and lets you expand your memory, but its app choices are more limited. It always comes back to personal preference.
Related: The Best eReaders to Conquer Your Book List
Final Thoughts on Tablets
The Apple iPad Air offers the perfect combination of features, performance, and build for most people. It’s also much more affordable than the Apple iPad Pro yet won’t lag behind in performance except for those with the most demanding needs. If you’re tight on cash and the tablet acts as a backup rather than a primary device, the Fire HD 10 Tablet can certainly meet your viewing, browsing, and email needs.
Related: Best Tablets for Note-Taking
This post was created by a non-news editorial team at Recurrent Media, Futurism’s owner. Futurism may receive a portion of sales on products linked within this post.