While shipments are still far from their peak five years ago, tablet sales have seen a bit of a resurgence recently. This can be put down to several factors, including Apple’s constantly improving and growing line of iPads, and the fact that slates are moving ever closer to laptop replacements, or at the very least preferred consumption devices for many.
There are plenty of tablets available today, however there are a few top options that undoubtedly come out on top. To help you decide which is best suited for your needs and budget, here are our top tablet picks in the following categories.
In numbers Price: $760 on Amazon TechSpot Metascore: 87 User Reviews: 8.8 Great | Differentiating Features Good | Most Have It Average | Competitors May Be Better It’s a known fact that in the world of tablets, you can’t beat an iPad. And right now, the 3rd generation of the iPad Pro represents the best iPad ever made for a wealth of reasons. The tablet certainly earns its Pro moniker: the 8-core, A12X Bionic chip is a powerhouse, allowing you to burn through the most processor-intensive games and apps without a hitch—Apple claims it’s faster than 92% of all laptops sold in the year prior to its release. And by some measures, they may be right. There’s also an M12 coprocessor, Neural Engine, and a new graphics chip that supposedly makes it a match for the Xbox One S. While the large 12.9-inch Pro is great, it's overkill unless you intend to do a huge amount of typing and multitasking. The 11-inch version will likely be the better choice for most people—the fact it’s $200 cheaper is also a bonus. Like the second-gen iPad Pro, the ProMotion screen technology brings a buttery smooth 120Hz refresh rate, which makes scrolling through web pages a joy. But there are some changes in the new models beyond just the hardware. As it did with its phones, Apple has ditched the home button and Touch ID in favor of smaller top/bottom bezels and Face ID, which works no matter what the iPad’s orientation. The Liquid Retina LCD resolution is bumped up to 2388 x 1668 (264 ppi), which looks gorgeous, and it comes with a wider aspect ratio than its predecessor. You also get a USB-C connector instead of the usual Lightning port, so you can charge your iPhone using the iPad, and there's the 2nd-gen Apple Pencil—sold separately—which attaches magnetically to the side and is so responsive that it’s like using a real pencil. Being the best in class does come at a cost: $799 for the 11-inch model and $999 for the 12.9-inch version—and those are just the starting prices. That might be a bit steep for someone who wants a tablet only for occasional, light use. Buying the Pro’s optional Smart Keyboard isn’t going to make it a straight laptop replacement, because of both hardware and software limitations, but then again it's also the software that differentiates and makes the iPad the best on this form factor. For lovers of slates, there’s none better. For those who want a serious tablet but either can’t or won’t spend $800, the 2nd-gen iPad Pro 10.5 is an excellent option that can be found for as low as $499. You get the lovely 120Hz ProMotion screen found in the new iPads, along with the still-powerful A10X Fusion chip and support for the smart keyboard and Apple Pencil (1st gen). It might be Touch ID rather than Face ID, not feel as premium, and have a slightly smaller display that isn’t quite on par with the successors, but many will consider a $300 saving worth the minor compromises.
The best tablet you can buy. Amazing performance. Face ID. 120Hz refresh rate display. Improved Apple Pencil.
Impressive battery life.
Expensive. Still not a direct laptop replacement. Pencil and Smart Keyboard sold separately.
Good | Most Have It
In numbers Price: $820 on Amazon TechSpot Metascore: 83 User Reviews: 8.8 Great | Differentiating Features Good | Most Have It Average | Competitors May Be Better Let’s be honest; if you want a tablet for productivity reasons, a Windows slate is going to be the best choice for most people. And at the top of this category is Microsoft’s Surface Pro 6. As with the iPad Pros, if you hope to use this device as a laptop replacement, you’ll need to buy the separate keyboard cover, which starts at $129.99—expensive, but it’s an excellent piece of hardware. Another similarity to Apple’s slates is that Surface Pen isn’t included, either. The 12.3-inch screen (2736 x 1824, 267 ppi, 3:2 aspect ratio) is gorgeous. Not only does it improve on its predecessors, but it’s also one of the best tablet displays you’ll find outside the iPad Pros. You can spec the Surface Pro 6 up to an 8th-gen quad-core Intel i7-8650U, 16GB of RAM, and 1TB of storage, all housed inside a premium body. It can handle most tasks you throw at it, and there’s plenty of onboard storage space for all your work. The battery is another plus point, offering up to 13.5 hours use. There are some caveats: other than the black color option, the latest Surface Pro’s design is identical to the previous model—even the ports remain, so no USB Type-C, and Windows 10 Tablet Mode isn’t great. But it’s still a premium piece of kit that’s great for working on the move or enjoying in its tablet form. While Lenovo’s third-generation ThinkPad X1 tablet offers the same 8th-gen quad-core CPUs (Kaby Lake-R), up to 16GB of RAM, and 1 TB of storage as Microsoft’s machine, it does surpass it in some areas: there’s a higher resolution display (3000 x 2000), USB Type-C, Thunderbolt 3, a fingerprint reader, and a keyboard and pen that comes included. It also has LTE options, too, though that might eventually come to the latest version of the Surface Pro as well. While it does offer more features, the ThinkPad is behind the Surface Pro when it comes to build quality, and while both machines are expensive, you’ll usually find Microsoft’s is the cheaper of the two, especially at the base specs. The battery life and speakers on the ThinkPad aren’t great, either. Ultimately, though, the ThinkPad may be the better choice for enterprise users who will take advantage of the extra bells and whistles, though several reviewers recommend the Surface Pro over Lenovo’s device.
Runs Windows 10 and all productivity/office applications you need. 8th-gen quad-core CPU. 13.5 hours battery life. One of the best non-iPad Pro tablets out there.
No USB Type-C. Cover and keyboard not included. Similar to previous models.
Just as good for business
Good | Most Have It
In numbers Price: $249 on Amazon TechSpot Metascore: 85 User Reviews: 9.6 Great | Differentiating Features Good | Most Have It Average | Competitors May Be Better If you want a tablet that’s mainly used for occasional web browsing, watching some Netflix in bed, and social media, you’re unlikely to want to spend $500 - $800 on an iPad Pro. Instead, buy a 2018 iPad 9.7, which at $329 is less than half the price of the top models. With its classic iPad design, the device resembles the very popular Air 2, though it features the more powerful A10 Fusion processor. You also get a great 2048 x 1536 Retina display that gives the same 264 ppi as the Pros, though it isn’t laminated and lacks an anti-reflective coating. Other reasons to opt for the 9.7-inch iPad include a 3.5mm headphone jack, ten hours of battery life, and Apple Pencil support. But some differences between the Pro models include the camera—which is 8MP with HD video, as opposed to 12MP and 4K—the general performance, and fewer features. This is by far the best value iPad Apple offers. If you’re a casual tablet user, or want a child-friendly powerful slate, you won’t find a better mix of price and performance. For a tablet that’s less than half the price of the iPad 2018, there’s the Amazon Fire HD 10 (2017). It starts at just $150 and runs the company’s Android-based Fire OS. That low price still gets you a 10.1-inch 1920 x 1200 screen (224ppi), 2GB of RAM, and a 1.8GHz quad-core CPU. It also comes with 32GB of onboard storage that’s expandable by another 256GB via microSD, all of which is pretty impressive for that low price point. The latest Fire 10 features hands-free Alexa, allowing it to work in the same way as Amazon’s many Echo devices. But you can only access Amazon’s App store, so no Google services—unless you’re willing to sideload them. The Fire HD 10 (2017) is without doubt a cost-effective device for those who use tablets sparingly for content consumption, or if you want something cheap for your kids, and it’s even more useful if you have a Prime subscription.
Good value and entry level price for an iPad. Retina display is excellent. Apple pencil support.
A10 Fusion processor still offers great performance.
Thick bezels compared to newer Pro models. Lacks some features.
Good | Most Have It
Average | Competitors May Be Better
In numbers Price: $648 on Amazon TechSpot Metascore: 75 User Reviews: 8.8 Great | Differentiating Features Good | Most Have It Average | Competitors May Be Better There are tons of Android tablets out there. A large number of them fall into the cheap and nasty category. The Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 is neither of these things. Probably the best part of Samsung’s device is the screen. With 2,560 x 1,600 pixels (288 ppi) packed into a vivid, 10.5-inch Super AMOLED screen, no other Android tablet can beat it in this area. It’s a bit disappointing to find 2017’s Snapdragon 835 powering everything. Along with the 4GB of RAM, it can’t keep up with the more expensive iPad 10.5-inch in synthetic benchmarks, but the hardware is still more than capable of keeping Android and its apps running smoothly. Rather than charge an extra $99 for the peripheral, Samsung includes its S Pen with the tablet. Sadly, though, it pales in comparison to Apple’s version, and you probably won’t use it that much. Still, not having to buy it separately is appreciated. You also get Samsung’s DeX with the Tab S4, which gives it a desktop-style interface. It’s not too bad when used with the $149 optional keyboard cover, but you’re not going to want to replace your laptop just yet. Probably the biggest problem with the Tab S4 is Android itself—the world’s most popular operating system still doesn’t translate well to tablet form. And at around $650, it’s about the same price as an iPad Pro 10.5. But if you must have an Android slate, there are none better. Even though there are a slew of dirt-cheap Android tablets to pick from, including the Amazon Fire 10 in our budget category, for something a lot more substantial look for Samsung’s previous flagship tablet: the Galaxy Tab S3. There aren’t a huge number of differences between the S3 and its successor, but you’re likely to find the older model for several hundred dollars less. The 2048 x 1536 resolution of the 9.7" AMOLED is still lovely to look at, and the S-Pen remains part of the price. The processor does drop right down to a Snapdragon 820, though—the same SoC used in the Galaxy S7. But the Tab S3 continues to be one of the top Android slates around.
Most other Android tablets can't touch it. Gorgeous display. Pen is included.
Aging SoC. Android OS still found lacking when it comes to tablets. Should be cheaper.
Good | Most Have It
Masthead photo credit: Daniel Korpai