The best tablets
- Tablets are ideal for kids, travelers, and professionals — it just depends on which one you buy.
- The best tablet for most people is Apple’s 2019 10.2-inch iPad, but we’ve also included a number of other excellent tablets that are best for different uses.
When I was a kid, and our family went on a long car ride, my parents would keep us entertained by making us play games like, “I Spy,” “Don’t Hit Your Brother,” and “Who Can Stay Quietest the Longest.” These days, though, kids are just as likely to have a tablet screen in the backseat, watching movies or playing games while wearing headphones.
Tablets have contributed to the parental bliss of silence in the car like few other inventions.
Beyond that, tablets are interesting pieces of technology, giving you a nice mix of computer processing capabilities and entertainment on a touchscreen.
If you already own a laptop and a smartphone — and you don’t have the need to entertain kids in the backseat — you may wonder whether you also need a tablet. Depending on how you use your current pieces of tech and based on what else you’d like to do, a tablet can be a great addition.
We’ve picked the best tablets you can buy in several different categories, including ones that are best for kids, professionals, and travelers. We’ve tested all but one of these tablets personally, so you can trust our recommendations. If you need more guidance before you choose, read the last slide for everything you should know about buying a tablet.
Here are the best tablets you can buy:
- Best tablet overall: 2019 Apple 10.2-inch iPad
- Best budget tablet: Amazon Fire HD 8
- Best iPad Pro: 12.9-inch
- Best for kids: Amazon Fire 7 Kids Edition
- Best small tablet: 2019 Apple iPad Mini
Updated on 10/23/2019 by Malarie Gokey: Added the new 2019 iPad. Removed old products. Also updated prices, formatting, and links. We are currently testing the new Samsung Galaxy Tab S6, and it will likely be our pick for the best high-end Android tablet. We will update this guide again soon with our thoughts.
SEE ALSO: The best iPads you can buy
The best tablet for most people
The 2019 10.2-inch iPad is a great tablet for people on a budget, and it supports the Apple Pencil.
Apple’s iPads have always been the best tablets you can buy, but the high price tags made it tough to find an iPad on a budget. All that has changed with the 2019 10.2-inch iPad. It costs a mere $330, but it offers nearly all of the same high-end specs and features as the top-of-the-line iPad Pros. It just has an older processor.
If you own an aging iPad or iPad Mini, the new 10.2-inch iPad is an excellent upgrade. Obviously, if you have an iPad Air 2 or an iPad Pro, you don’t need to get the new one. The entry-level iPad is for anyone who has always wanted an iPad, but couldn’t afford the $500+ price tag. It’s an absolute steal at $329.99.
The screen is sharp, the A10 processor is very capable (even though it’s not the iPhone 11’s A13 chip), the battery life should be great, and you can even buy things on it with Apple Pay, thanks to the Touch ID fingerprint sensor.
Best of all, it supports the Apple Pencil, an incredible stylus with virtually no lag. You will have to pay $100 extra for the Pencil, but if you like to take notes or draw on your iPad, it is well worth it. Naturally, any Bluetooth keyboard also works with the iPad, so if you want to use it as a quasi-laptop, you can pick up a great keyboard.
You simply can’t beat those specs at that price point. Comparable Android tablets cost hundreds of dollars more, and the iPad still has a better app library and accessory support.
The aluminum build looks and feels premium, and the 10.2-inch screen size makes it a very portable device that’s easy to stow away in your bag. It’s quite light, too, so you can happily binge-watch Netflix in bed on your new iPad. Tech nerds will say it’s a boring old design, but it’s tried and true. Plus, the aluminum build is durable. — Malarie Gokey
Pros: Incredible price for an iPad, powerful A10 processor, slick aluminum design, Touch ID for security and Apple Pay, gorgeous screen, supports the Apple Pencil, iOS 11
Cons: Not the latest A11 processor found on the iPhone X
The best budget tablet
The Amazon Fire HD 8 is super affordable, but it still delivers a good set of features that you’ll enjoy using for watching videos and running apps.
Normally, you get what you pay for when it comes to technology. Once in a while though, you receive more than what you expect with a bargain-priced piece of tech.
The Amazon Fire HD 8 is going to surprise you with its sub-$100 price tag and great performance. This certainly isn’t a tablet that’s going to compete with high-end iPads, but it has a good set of features for those who need only the basics from a tablet.
Insider Picks reporter Brandt Ranj tested the new Fire HD 8 and couldn’t believe how good it was for the price. If you have an Amazon Prime subscription, you get access to tons of popular TV shows, movies, and music on the tablet. The app selection is also very good, and if you read Kindle ebooks, this tablet is just the perfect size.
CNET says the Fire HD 8 is one of the best cheap tablets you can buy, although PC Mag says this tablet doesn’t work as well unless you have a subscription to Amazon Prime services. But it’s still a good value among tablet options.
The Amazon Fire HD 8 also offers good parental controls, so it’s a great tablet to give an older kid.
One Amazon buyer calls this tablet an amazing value that will perform all of the basic functions most people need from a tablet. However, a few other Amazon reviewers say the Fire HD 8 doesn’t last very long.
Pros: Extremely 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: Can’t compete with powerful iPads, battery charges very slowly, display size of just 8 inches
The best iPad Pro
Apple’s new iPad Pro comes in 11-inch and 12.9-inch sizes with specs that are so high-end they surpass some laptops.
The new iPad Pro is a work of art — it has slimmed down bezels, a stunning sharp screen in two sizes, an absurdly powerful processor, and tons of great accessories to go with it, including the Apple Pencil.
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 is great for most people’s needs. Both iPad Pros have really high screen resolutions: 2,388-by-1,668 pixels (11-inch model) and 2,732-by-2,048 pixels (12.9-inch model).
Regardless of which model you buy, the iPad Pro is a powerhouse. The A12X Bionic processor is so high-powered it can surpass some laptops. Apple’s entry-level model comes with 64GB of storage, but you can get up to 1TB if you want to spend a whole lot of money.
We recommend picking up the new Apple Pencil if you like to take notes or draw. It may cost $129, but it is worth it — The Pencil is the best stylus I’ve ever used, and the new version even 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.
There are three downsides to the iPad Pro, as we see it: It’s expensive, it won’t replace your laptop, and you have to pay extra for the keyboard and the stylus. Otherwise, it’s a great tablet that’s well worth the cost — if you have the money. — Malarie Gokey
Pros: Gorgeous screens, new design with smaller bezels, excellent specs, high-end performance, Pencil is superb for drawing, two screen sizes
Cons: Very expensive, not a laptop replacement, accessories are extra
The best tablet for kids
If you always 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.
Kids aren’t always the most careful when it comes to taking care of electronics. Just search YouTube for video of kids dropping smartphones in the toilet, and you’ll see the tip of the iceberg of what kinds of destruction children can cause.
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, says one Amazon customer, but the tablet’s simple interface works great for kids to operate on their own.
However, a few Amazon reviewers say the tablet runs so slowly that using it can be a frustrating experience. This admittedly isn’t the most powerful tablet, as it features below-average processor speed and less-than HD resolution on the screen.
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, only a 7-inch screen, tablet runs slower than most models
The best small tablet
The new iPad Mini is finally here, and it may not have the new design, but it has all the new specs and it supports Apple’s excellent Pencil stylus.
When the first iPad Mini came out, I wanted it immediately. I’d never liked big tablets, and its small size seemed perfect. I’m not alone in my love of small tablets, but for years, Apple has left the iPad Mini series to languish without an update — until now.
The 2019 iPad Mini is Apple’s budget-friendly small tablet. It may not have the fresh new design we were hoping for — those thick bezels are still there along with the home button — but it has all the latest specs we wanted in this update.
It’s powered by the ultra-powerful A12 Bionic chip, and it supports the first-generation Apple Pencil. We’re thrilled Apple gave the Mini Pencil support, as it’s the best stylus we’ve ever used, and it 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.
Pros: Compact, affordable, new processor, sharp screen, works with the Pencil
Cons: Old design with bigger bezels
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.
Here are the best iPads you can buy:
- Best iPad overall: 2018 9.7-inch iPad or 2019 10.2-inch iPad
- Best mid-range iPad: 10.5-inch iPad Air
- Best small iPad: 7.9-inch iPad Mini
- Best iPad Pro: 11 and 12.9-inch iPad Pro
- Best iPad stylus: Apple Pencil
- Best iPad keyboard: Logitech K780