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Tablets started out in a sort of gray area — bigger than a phone, but not quite a computer either. They’ve since grown out of their awkward phase, gaining the ability to do pretty much anything a laptop can do (especially with a connected keyboard), and even rivaling them or outperforming in some specs. Games and graphics are detailed down to the smallest nit, while video and photo software runs fast, and design applications – particularly with a compatible pen – pick up every nuance and stroke to craft your perfect project.
Tablets are also great for watching movies on. Unlike gaming or photo/video editing though, watching movies isn’t necessarily going to require the latest and greatest processing speeds. Instead, what’s going to be more important are things like resolution, screen size, color, brightness, aspect ratio, sound, and battery life. A lot of these can overlap, and quickly become confusing when searching for the best tablet for streaming, so we’ve helped to break some of them down
What Are the Best Tablets for Movies?
Here are a few features to keep in mind when shopping for the best tablets for streaming movies and TV shows on.
Resolution: This is one of the main measurements you’ll always find listed in a tablet, since it’s among the most important. Resolution simply means the number of pixels that are able to be displayed on the screen, and is always listed as width x height. Generally, the higher the pixel count, the better quality the image will be. But that also depends on…
Screen Size: Bigger isn’t always better. If your big screen’s got a low resolution, the image quality suffers, and can appear blurry since the pixel density (measured as pixels per inch, or ppi) is lower. On the flip side, a too-small screen with a super high resolution might be uncomfortable to watch movies on, forcing you to zoom in to see any action. The best tradeoff is a sizable screen with a proportional resolution quality. This also affects price too, as getting one of the newer highest-res screens cost more, and it isn’t worth it if you’ll have to squint to see whatever you’re watching.
Aspect Ratio: Aspect ratio is simply the width to height comparison. The most common format you’ll find is 16:9 – a width of 16 units and height of 9, creating more of a widescreen effect. In the last decade or so, it’s become the standard for movie watching and digital TV as well. You may also find, and prefer, a 4:3 aspect ratio, which produces a fuller picture that fills up the screen more.
Refresh Rate: Screens update with new images each second, and the number of times they do this is known as the refresh rate. It may appear to our eyes that we’re seeing unbroken images, but behind the screen, it’s actually changing pretty fast — sometimes up to 240 times each second. A low to mediocre refresh rate is around 60Hz, while 120-144Hz is noticeably better, and anything beyond that is speedy. So for impeccably smooth visuals, go for something with a decently high refresh rate.
Sound: It’s easy to get distracted by beautiful displays and overlook audio, but if you won’t be hooking this up to bigger external speakers or headphones, then don’t forget about sound. As tablets have evolved, their built-in speaker capability has gone from tinny and too-soft to booming with impressive bass. The amount, and the placement of speakers inside varies between tablets, and while they still may not meet the needs of an ardent audiophile, they’ll be more than enough to accompany any movie.
1. Apple iPad, 10.2-Inch
The 8th Gen of Apple’s iPad retains the easy-to-use interface of previous generations, with updates to make it even more streamlined.
The A12 Bionic chip is a step up from the A12 Fusion chip, significantly boosting speed and performance when using large apps like video editing software, and cutting lag during games to near-zero. The retina display looks gorgeously smooth, and the 8MP back camera takes professional-looking shots.
Bottom-firing, stereo speakers do a nice job for their size, while battery life extends up to 10 hours, and charges up through a USB-C port instead of a lightning port.
This is also one of the last iPads being manufactured that still has an actual “Home” button to press, as well as a headphone jack to plug into. This means bigger bezels that can take away from screen size, but if you prefer a physical button, now’s the time to get one.
2. Amazon Fire 10
Fueled by the 30% faster Octa-core (at 2.0GHz), the Fire Tablet’s 10.1-inch 1080p full HD display makes it an ideal way to watch movies on the go without a bulky screen weighing you down. At only 17.8 ounces, it’s super lightweight and portable too, making it great for watching movies and shows on the go.
While the touchscreen may be smaller than some of the others here, the resolution is still crisp and colorful at 1920 x 1200 with 224ppi. But battery life is where it really shines: this can extend up to 12 hours, and charge up fully in only three to four hours. Alexa is included, as is Bluetooth 5.0 and 2GB of RAM, along with 32GB or 64GB of storage and room for more (up to 512) on an SD card.
As expected from Amazon, movies are just the beginning, and the Fire provides access to endless media and entertainment. Audiobooks, apps, games, and millions of songs are instantly a touch away, and there’s even picture-in-picture viewing so you never miss a shot.
3. Microsoft Surface Pro 7
The 12.3-inch screen on the Surface is a perfect size to work and watch movies, while still being portable (at 1.7 pounds), either for around the house or commuting.
The 10th-Gen Intel Core processor is over double the speed of previous Surface tablets, and the PixelSense display not only makes graphics look great, but senses the lighting conditions in the room and adjusts accordingly.
There’s both a USB-A as well as a USB-C port, and a battery life that extends to 10.5 hours while charging up fast – around 80% in about an hour.
This runs on Windows 10, and includes 128GB of Flash Memory, a Surface Pen, and a carrying sleeve too.
4. Samsung Galaxy View2 Tablet
If you just want to cut right to the chase and go for a big screen tablet, they don’t get much bigger than this.
Samsung’s 17.3-inch touchscreen display shines bright in full HD, with quad speakers that exceed expectations too, going beyond what you’d predict from a tablet.
The processor here isn’t super fast, plus the stand is a bit awkward and doesn’t fold out all the way, which limits the angles you can place it at. But there’s a lot packed in to this beast, including a 5MP 1080p camera, as well as 64GB of built-in memory (but an SD card slot lets you expand up to 400GB).
And with a 12000mAh battery, you can focus on the film you’re watching, even long ones, without worrying if you’ll need to plug in.
This can also turn into a makeshift mini TV with the appropriate app, and is equally awesome for news, games, and web browsing too.