The best tablets you can buy


The best tablets you can buy

Tablets may be fading in popularity, but there are still some great devices out there. If you’re in the market for a new tablet, then we’re here to help you cut down that short list and snag the right one for you.

Apple’s iPad range still dominates the scene, but there are some innovative alternatives running Android and Windows. We also have top picks for the budget-conscious and for kids. These are the best tablets you can buy right now.

At a glance

Product Category Rating
Apple iPad (2018) Best overall 4/5
Samsung Galaxy Tab S3 Best Android tablet 3/5
iPad Mini 4 Best small tablet 3.5/5
iPad Pro 10.5 Best premium tablet 4.5/5
Fire HD 10 Best cheap tablet 3.5/5
Fire HD 8 Kids Edition Best kids tablet Not yet rated
Surface Pro 4 Best Windows tablet 4/5

Apple iPad (2018)

Our pick

Apple iPad 2018
Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends
Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

Why should you buy this? The iPad boasts a vibrant display, silky-smooth performance, and long battery life, all at an affordable price.

Who’s it for? Everybody who wants a tablet.

How much will it cost? $330

Why we picked the Apple iPad (2018):

The iPad has dominated the tablet scene for years now, and the sixth-generation iPad (2018) is the culmination of all of Apple’s experience. There are no bells and whistles here. If you want innovation, keep looking. This is a solid, accessible all-rounder that delivers a really good tablet experience at a reasonable price. It replaces last year’s iPad at the top of this list, adding support for the Apple Pencil (sold separately for $100) and a newer processor — it’s identical in every other respect.

The bright 9.7-inch display is perfect for watching videos. It feels slim and light to handle, with Apple’s usual high standards shining through in build quality, though the thick bezels are beginning to look dated. Inside, there’s Apple’s A10 processor with an embedded M10 co-processor and 2GB of RAM, but all you really need to know is that it runs smoothly. Whether you’re skipping in and out of apps, browsing the web, watching a movie, or playing the latest games, the iPad delivers lag-free performance.

If you must take photos with your tablet, there’s an excellent 8-megapixel rear camera with an f/2.4 aperture that’s fast and capable of capturing plenty of detail. The 1.2-megapixel selfie camera has an f/2.2 aperture, which is adequate for FaceTime at 720p, but little else.

The battery life is fantastic. You can expect more than 10 hours of HD video playback from a single charge, and with normal use on Wi-Fi, you might reasonably expect to go a week between charges.

If you’re looking for weak spots, then we direct you toward the single bottom-firing speaker. Beyond that, there are no glaring flaws here, and we think it’s the best tablet you can buy without having to spend a lot more money.

Our full Apple iPad (2018) review

Samsung Galaxy Tab S3

The best Android tablet

samsung galaxy tab s3  1
Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends
Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

Why should you buy this? The Samsung Galaxy Tab S3 is the closest an Android tablet comes to replicating the iPad Pro, and it boasts an absolutely gorgeous display.

Who’s it for? Anyone looking for an Android-based iPad alternative.

How much will it cost? $450.

Why we picked the Samsung Galaxy Tab S3:

Despite some odd design flaws, the Galaxy Tab S3 is a quality gizmo with an absolutely gorgeous display. There’s no tablet in the world with a screen capable of rivaling the S3’s 9.7-inch Super AMOLED, and it supports HDR content (which companies like Netflix and YouTube are making increasingly available these days). Even viewing non-HDR content on the S3’s 2,048 x 1,536-pixel display is an absolute joy.

The Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 processor (the same chip that powered popular flagship smartphones like LG’s G5 and Samsung’s own Galaxy S7 Edge) works fine, despite its relative age, and 4GB of RAM is more than enough to keep the tablet humming happily. The included 32GB of onboard storage is a bit disappointing, but it can be expanded via MicroSD card if you’re looking to download lots of stuff.

The tablet’s speakers are respectably loud, and it’s got cameras on both the front and back — the rear-facing 13-megapixel camera is capable of recording 4K video at 30 frames per second, while the front camera is good enough for selfies and video chat, but little else.

This time around, Samsung has paired its custom TouchWiz interface with Android 7 Nougat, and it works like a charm. Split-screen functionality is better than ever, with lots of neat tricks to learn over time. Despite a bit of bloatware that the tablet won’t let you delete, the software here is generally very good.

The battery lasts an exceptional 10-plus hours, and the included stylus pen interacts smoothly with the tablet’s screen. The downside is the physical design of the Tab S3. Most people use tablets in landscape orientation (sideways), but the S3 seems to be designed more for use in portrait. Also, the fingerprint sensor is frustratingly unreliable and often requires multiple attempts (regardless of how you’re holding the device).

If you’re devoted to Android devices, the Tab S3 is a good choice. Unfortunately, it’s not quite the natural progression we had hoped for from the S2, and there are some annoying issues most people won’t be able to get past. It’s worth a look, but the price tag is pretty unbecoming.

Our full Samsung Galaxy Tab S3 review

iPad Mini 4

The best small tablet


Why should you buy this? The iPad Mini is that perfect merger of power and portability. You can take it anywhere and read or watch shows on it with ease.

Who’s it for? Anyone who wants a smaller tablet.

How much will it cost? $400-plus.

Why we picked the iPad Mini 4:

It doesn’t quite hit the high notes of Apple’s bigger iPads, but the iPad Mini 4 still benefits from an attractive metal design, a fast processor, and a great app and game library.

You’ll find the 7.9-inch display is a pleasure to read on, and it’s size and weight make it comfortable to hold. It’s good for watching movies or gaming, too, though you’ll probably want headphones to go with it. Battery life is solid, offering a good 10 hours between charges.

Portability is the reason to pick the iPad Mini 4. If you want an iPad and need something smaller in size, then this is it.

Unfortunately, it’s not just the size that has been scaled down here — the iPad Mini 4 is not as lightning fast as its bigger siblings. It’s also expensive, more expensive than the 2017 iPad. But you can’t beat the iPad Mini if it’s a small tablet you want.

Our full iPad Mini 4 review

iPad Pro 10.5

The best premium tablet

best tablet

Why should you buy this? The iPad Pro 10.5, the middle child of Apple’s iPad Pro product family, is a productivity powerhouse.

Who’s it for? Creatives, tablet enthusiasts, and power users.

How much will it cost? $650.

Why we picked the iPad Pro 10.5:

Apple added a wrinkle to prospective iPad buyers’ plans when it launched the iPad Pro 10.5, a midsized bridge between the iPad Pro 12.9 and the iPad Pro 9.7. But the Cupertino, California-based company’s decision turned out to be quite a good one.

The iPad Pro 10.5 is significantly more portable than its 12.9-inch counterpart. Narrower screen edges, lightweight aluminum, and an ultra-thin design contribute to a body that’s about the size of the iPad Pro 9.7.

Speaking of the screen, it is one that’s hard to beat. It’s 2,224 x 1,668 pixels in resolution and benefits from Apple’s ProMotion technology, which boosts the refresh rate to a buttery-smooth 120Hz.

Sluggish performance is a rarity on the iPad Pro 10.5, thanks to its powerful A10X Fusion processor. And the iPad’s 64GB of internal storage (up to 512GB, depending on the model) supplies more than enough room for movies, music, photos, and apps.

Despite all the improvements, the iPad Pro 10.5 doesn’t compromise on battery. It lasts up to 10 hours on a charge, and even longer if you turn down the screen brightness.

If there’s a downside, it’s that the iPad Pro 10.5’s accessories aren’t cheap. The Apple Pencil stylus, an arguable selling point, costs $100. The Smart Keyboard, a keyboard case for the iPad Pro 10.5, is $160.

But even still, the iPad Pro 10.5’s aesthetics, raw power, and long-lasting battery life earn it a place in the pantheon of high-performance tablets. For the price, there’s nothing better.

Our full iPad Pro 10.5 review

Fire HD 10

The best cheap tablet

Amazon Fire HD 10 review (2017) bottom left
Dan Baker/Digital Trends
Dan Baker/Digital Trends

Why should you buy this? The Fire HD 10 may be too Amazon-centric for some, but Prime subscribers and Alexa users will appreciate its ease of use.

Who’s it for? Amazon enthusiasts on a budget.

How much will it cost? $150.

Why we picked the Fire HD 10:

Amazon’s Fire HD 10 (2017), a refresh of last year’s HD 10, doesn’t bring much new to the table. The improvements that are here, however, are enough to warrant a wholehearted recommendation.

The Fire HD’s all-plastic body belies its impressive speakers. They’re arranged in right-left stereo configuration and optimized with Dolby Atmos to deliver loud, crisp sound on movies, TV shows, and Amazon’s Prime Music streaming service.

But the real star of the show is Alexa. The Fire HD 10 is the first Amazon tablet with hands-free support for the retailer’s voice assistant, and it works spectacularly well. Asking questions about popular movies, nearby restaurants, and the weather pulls up visual results on the Fire HD 10’s screen (even when it’s locked). That’s just the tip of the iceberg: Alexa on the Fire HD can also control smart home devices, order pizza, call an Uber, and perform many of the same tasks as Amazon’s Echo speakers.

Just as impressive as the Fire HD 10’s Alexa integration is its battery life. It lasts for about 10 hours of mixed-use including reading, gaming, and streaming. Switch power-saving features like Smart Suspend on and you can extend it even further. The Fire HD 10’s Fire OS software, a customized version of Android, isn’t for everyone. But folks immersed in the Amazon ecosystem will appreciate For You, a recommendation engine that puts videos, apps, games, and movies from the retailer’s library on your home screen.

Perfect tablets are a rare find at the sub-$200 price point, and the Fire HD 10 isn’t one of them — its screen isn’t as sharp or vibrant as we’d like, and the hardware struggles under heavy loads. But you won’t find a better tablet at this price.

Our full Fire HD 10 review

Fire HD 8 Kids Edition

The best kids tablet

best tablet

Why should you buy this? When it comes to parental controls, the Fire HD 8 Kids Edition is second to none.

Who’s it for? Young kids who need supervision.

How much will it cost? $130.

Why we picked the Fire HD 8 Kids Edition:

Amazon’s refreshed Fire 8 HD Kids Edition (2017) makes its long-running line of kid-friendly tablets even better.

An 8-inch, high-resolution screen (1,280 x 800 pixels) delivers bright and vibrant colors, and a thick rubber case around the tablet’s frame cushions against accidental drops. The tablet’s 32GB of internal storage (expandable via MicroSD) offers more than enough storage for books, games, and other media, and the beefy internal battery guarantees 12 hours of charge.

When it comes to parental controls, the Fire HD 8 Kids Edition is second to none. Its Fire OS software, a customized version of Android, lets parents manage usage limits, set educational goals, and restrict access to age-inappropriate content. And the recently launched Parent Dashboard supplies parents with discussion questions related to the books their kids are reading.

The improvements don’t stop there. The Fire HD 8 includes fee-free access to Amazon’s FreeTime Unlimited, a library of more than more than 15,000 kid-appropriate games, apps, educational content, books, and videos from PBS Kids, Nickelodeon, Disney, and others. Every purchase is backed by Amazon’s two-year, no-questions-asked replacement policy: If the Fire HD 8 breaks, Amazon will replace it.

Simply put, there is no better tablet for young kids who still need parental supervision. If you want something larger for your kids, there’s also a Fire HD 10 Kids Edition now for $200.

Surface Pro 4

The best Windows tablet


Why should you buy this? We don’t love Windows 10 as a pure tablet, but the Surface is a very good laptop replacement that puts touch first.

Who’s it for? Anyone seeking a Windows tablet that can serve as a laptop.

How much will it cost? $900-plus.

Why we picked the Surface Pro 4:

The original Surface Pro was flawed, but it had a major impact on the market. Microsoft has refined the design since then, and the Surface Pro 4 is as close as you can get to a hybrid device that serves equally well as a tablet and as a laptop.

You’ve got a gorgeous 12.3-inch screen, a thoughtful design, and a choice of internal specs that range from basic to lightning fast. It is by far the most configurable device on our list. The pixel-packed display and loud speakers make it a pleasure to watch movies on. There’s also an 8-megapixel main camera and a 5-megapixel front-facing camera.

The Type Cover and Surface Pen are excellent accessories and, combined with the full version of Windows 10, help make this a great choice for creative professionals, students, and everyone in between. This is real portable productivity.

On the downside, battery life is bit disappointing and the Surface Pro 4 can be eye-wateringly expensive if you opt for top-end specs.  Still, it’s our favorite 2-in-1 PC.

Our full Surface Pro 4 review

How we test

The tablets we test serve as our daily drivers, so we use them extensively to put them through their paces. That means watching movies, gaming, testing out lots of apps, reading, working on them, and even taking photos and shooting video with them (which is impossible to do without looking stupid). We love new, innovative features, but we can also appreciate classic design done well. Ultimately, we look for tablets that will fulfill the needs of most people, so their ability to serve up entertainment is paramount.

Which OS is best for you?

If your top consideration is entertainment, and you’re likely to use a lot of apps and games, then we recommend Apple’s iOS as the best platform. There are a lot of polished apps made specifically for the iPad and you have access to all the top subscription services and an extensive content store. It’s also slick and accessible, so anyone can come to grips with it quickly.

Android has a larger selection of free apps and games, though they’re generally less polished, but that might be a tradeoff you’ll accept. Things are a little complicated by manufacturer UIs, or in the case of Amazon, forked versions of the platform. They can delay Android updates and make the user experience quite different. Amazon’s tablets, for example, run a version of Android called Fire OS and they initially only have access to the limited subset of apps and games that are available in the Amazon Appstore, not the full list that you’ll find in Google’s Play Store.

If you like the idea of accessing the same apps you have on your Windows PC, and you want a business device that ties seamlessly into your Microsoft services, then a tablet running Windows 10 is going to be tempting. It’s powerful, but it’s also relatively expensive to get decent hardware for a good user experience. If you’re not a business user, or you don’t need to run Windows-only apps, it may be overkill.

Editors’ Recommendations

Published at Mon, 06 Aug 2018 22:34:22 +0000


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