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If you haven’t spent very much time with a tablet, it can be hard to figure out where it fits in your tech life. Is it a larger version of your phone, or a smaller, more portable version of a laptop? The truth is, depending on your needs, a tablet can be either (or both!)
A tablet’s flexibility is its best asset. If it’s paired with “professional” accessories like a stylus or keyboard, it can be used for writing or sketching. When used on its own, a tablet is basically a large screen for web surfing, video streaming and gaming.
It may seem redundant, but a tablet can slowly take over certain tasks that you used to do on your smartphone or computer. You may even begin to favor it over either device for certain tasks like photo editing, or reading and responding to e-mails.
We’ve rounded up some of the most popular and versatile tablets. Whether you’re looking for a better way to watch movies in bed, or don’t want to lug a laptop around every time you need to get work done, you’ll find what you’re looking for here.
Tablet Buying Guide: What Are the Best Tablets to Buy?
There are many factors to think about when choosing the best tablet for you; below are the most important ones, which we considered while we were researching this list.
Screen Size and Resolution: A tablet’s screen is its most important feature: The larger the screen, the more information you can see at once. Its resolution (how many pixels the screen has) determines how sharp videos, pictures, and text will look.
Storage: If you plan on downloading a lot of media or apps, you’ll want to get a tablet with a lot of storage. Some tablets let you upgrade their storage down the line, but that’s not always the case. All of the tablets we’re recommending have at least 16GB (gigabytes) of storage, which is enough to hold thousands of songs, dozens of apps, and at least 10 hours of full HD video.
Operating System: Like phones and computers, tablets run an operating system, which determines its features, and the types of apps it can run. You should make sure the software you need is compatible with the tablet you want before making a final decision.
Battery Life: A tablet’s tech specs don’t matter if its battery only lasts a couple of hours. We made sure to choose tablets that get at least seven hours of battery life — some get over 10 hours per charge.
Creation vs. Consumption: The big debate in the tablet world is whether they’re meant for consumption (watching videos, reading articles, using apps) or creation (making videos, writing articles, building apps). Think about how you want to use your tablet; is it a device you want to pick up when you’re hanging out after work? Are you using it to get work done? Or is it a little bit of both?
Cellular: All of the tablets in our guide support the two big wireless technologies: WiFi, to connect to the internet, and Bluetooth, to connect to accessories like keyboards, headphones, speakers, and styluses. But some tablets also support cellular connectivity, which allows them to access the internet through a cell phone provider’s wireless network, like a smartphone.
Cellular connectivity can be activated through any major U.S. carrier, and requires a monthly fee. If you often find yourself working out of the house, but don’t want to be confined to a coffee shop (or deal with hotel WiFi), it may be worth the extra cost.
1. iPad Pro (5th Gen)
The word “iPad” has been synonymous with tablets for over a decade, and the fifth-generation version of the iPad Pro is the best and most powerful option for most people.
You’ll get a wide, 12.9-inch screen on this option with a Liquid Retina display that boasts vivid pictures for streaming, gaming or building presentations. The colors and contrasts are accurate and you’ve got True Tone that automatically adjusts lighting according to your environment.
You’ve also got Apple’s M1 chip, which is the same chip newer Macbooks use, so you know your iPad can multitask and handle the load of heavy apps just as well as most laptops. There are multiple storage options available too, ranging from 128GB to 2TB, depending on your usage and the number of documents, pictures, apps and games you need your new tablet to hold.
The camera specs are great too: you’ve got two camera lense on the rear including a 12MP wide-angle lens and a 10MP ultra-wide-angle lens. Both these lenses, including the front 12MP camera, should be able to record clear 4K video with ease.
Other features include four in-built speakers, and support for the Apple Pencil and Magic Keyboard, so you can covert this tablet into a functional 2-in-1 device.
2. Amazon Fire Tablet
Amazon’s Fire 10+ Tablet is a great basic tablet for content consumption. It has a 10.1-inch, 1920 x 1200 FHD display for all your video and gaming needs. It only has up to 64GB of internal storage, but you can add more (up to 1TB) by inserting a MicroSD Card.
Battery life is decent, and Amazon says it can get up to 12 hours per charge. That’s enough time to watch a handful of full-length movies or read a good chunk of a book. These tech specs make the Fire 10 Tablet a great choice for casual uses like streaming videos, reading, browsing the web, and posting on social media.
This tablet runs Android, which means you can download a wide variety of apps, but not many of them are geared toward productivity. You can download a text editor for writing, but you won’t find apps for high-resolution photo or video editing here.
If you need a small tablet to use on an airplane, or browse the internet on your couch, the Fire 10 Tablet is a great choice. That’s doubly true for Amazon Prime members, because all of your Prime Video, Prime Music, Kindle, and Audible libraries will be immediately downloaded when you log into the tablet for the first time. If you live in Amazon’s world, this is a great way to access all of its content in one place.
3. Microsoft Surface Pro 8
The Surface Pro 8 is Microsoft’s latest solution for bridging the divide between tablets and traditional computers.
Its 13-inch screen has a resolution of 2880 x 1920, which is both large, sharp and useful, especially if you’re using it as a 2-in-1 device. Storage runs as high as 1TB, and even the RAM is customizable up to 32 GB, depending on your app usage and if you’re using this convertible tablet for heavy video editing.
Microsoft says the Surface Pro 8 can get up to 16 hours on a single charge, which is pretty impressive, but again, your experience will vary based on how you use the tablet. There are multiple ports too, including USB inputs, Thunderbolt ports and even a headphone jack for your audio.
Its best feature, however, is that it runs the full version of Windows 11 that you’d find on a PC laptop or desktop. That means you can use the desktop version of apps instead of ones specifically made for tablets, including a full web browser and any Windows-compatible games. Your performance will vary based on the game, specs of your machine, and in-game settings, but you still have that option if you want it.
This strength is a double-edged sword, though. On one hand, running the latest versions of Microsoft Office and Photoshop the day they’re released instead of waiting for a specific iOS or Android version is great. But it also means these versions of the apps weren’t necessarily designed with touch in mind, so you may run into some compatibility issues. It also means less tech-savvy users may have a harder time using the Surface Pro 8. Still, the ability to use your tablet as a non-compromised computer can be really useful.
While the Surface Pro 8 works just fine as a tablet, you can pair it with the Surface Pen, which is a high-performance stylus, and a Surface Pro Type Cover, which is a keyboard with a trackpad. Both of these let you use this tablet more like a traditional computer or productivity tool.
Microsoft has done a valiant job of making Windows a desktop and mobile operating system, and the Surface Pro 8 is proof of that. It’s a tablet you can use for all of your leisure needs, and a full-on laptop for getting work done. It’s a best-of-both-world approach with surprisingly few compromises.
4. Samsung Galaxy S8+
Samsung tablets make some of the top choices for Android users, and you can’t go wrong with the Samsung Galaxy Tab S8+.
It’s got a clear, 12.4-inch AMOLED display meaning you’ll get clear brightness and contract on your pictures and visuals. There are two storage options available as well (128GB or 256GB) and if you’re looking for a laptop replacement, you’ll be able to use this Samsung tablet with an external keyboard as well.
Battery life is said to run all day too, although if you’re streaming video or using graphics-heavy apps, know your battery life will be lower. That said, the built-in Snapdragon processor means you’ll be able to multitask or game on this tablet with minimal lag time and freezes.
There is also an ultra-wide rear camera that records in 4K and a front camera with automatic framing. Each tab also comes with the S Pen included so you can design, take notes, edit or create on your new Samsung S8+.