The best tablets are small enough to come with you wherever you go and big enough to prevent you from squinting to see. They come with a bunch of great features that position them nicely in between cell phones and laptops. In most cases, they can perform the functions of both devices!
Are you considering buying one? If so, there's a lot you should know before you jump in and buy. In this guide, we'll rank and compare the best tablets on the market, taking a look at their specs, features, and price. Then, I'll explain everything you need to know before making the purchase. We'll also discuss tablets useful for a variety of budgets and purposes.
In This Guide
The Best Tablets: Our Top Picks
Tablets have become increasingly popular in the recent years. It's been estimated that about 286 million tablets are forecasted to be bought and shipped in 2018, according to Statista. Combining the utility of a laptop with the ease and simplicity of a phone, tablets are extremely useful for reading, working, gaming, or just surfing the web--all on one large, beautiful display.
iPad Pro Review
- Two sizes and long battery life
- Hundreds of thousands of applications
- Vivid retina display and resolution
- Works with WiFi and cellular data
- Multi-touch screen and other features
- Smaller size variety than Samsung
- Not powerful enough for heavy-duty computing
iPad Pro Specs
Apple's iPad Pro features two different sizes including the 9.7-inch and 12.9-inch screen. iPad Pro specs include a 2048 x 1536 screen resolution for the 9.7-inch screen Apple tablet and a 2732 x 2048 screen resolution for the 12.9-inch Apple tablet, which is better than the Microsoft Surface 4 tablet.
This best tablet also offers over a million applications built specifically for the iPad Pro touchscreen (on top of regular apps) with up to 10-hours of battery life.
iPad Pro Features
Unfortunately, the iPad Pro doesn't have many size variations and it is not as powerful as the Microsoft Surface Pro or Samsung Galaxy TabPro with its mobile iOS operating system. If you need to used professional software on your tablet, you may want to go with a more powerful best tablet.
The iPad Pro cost, however, is cheaper than Microsoft's Surface Pro tablet and Samsung's TabPro S.
Microsoft Surface 4 Pro
- Powerful computing capabilities
- Optional keyboard
- Large screen and battery life
- Thin and versatile
- Multi-touch screen
- Not as many apps as the iPad Pro or Android
- Type cover sold separately
Microsoft Surface Pro 4 Specs
The Microsoft Surface 4 tablet has a Windows 10 operating system and an optional keyboard, making it an extra powerful tablet computer. If you need to work with professional software like Microsoft Word and Adobe Photoshop on the go, this tablet is for you.
You can run and switch back and forth between multiple programs at once with ease. The latest Microsoft Surface 4 tablet has a large 12.3-inch screen. It's also thin and versatile with amazing color contrast; Microsoft Surface 4 specs provide 2736 x 1824 resolution and nine hours of battery life.
The only downside to this tablet is that it doesn't offer nearly as many applications as iOS or Android operating systems. It also doesn't offer much size variation.
Additionally, the Microsoft Surface 4 price does not include the cost of the type cover for a computer-like experience, making versatility a little more expensive than you may have bargained for.
It is one of the most expensive tablets on the market, but its power is worth the price if that's what you're looking for.
Samsung Galaxy TabPro S
- Optional keyboard
- Type cover included
- Large screen
- Thin and versatile
- AMOLED display
- Landscape view
- Battery life issues have been reported
Samsung Galaxy TabPro Specs
Samsung Galaxy TabPro S also runs on the Windows 10 operating system, making it more powerful than the iPad Pro's mobile Apple iOS. Similar to the Microsoft Surface 4, this tablet has an optional keyboard you can attach for laptop-like use.
If you want to use it as a tablet, however, you may have some issues. There have been reports of loading problems when trying to scroll in portrait mode instead of landscape, which it seems this tablet is really made for.
The fact that the Samsung Galaxy TabPro S price includes a type cover makes it a little easier to buy than the Surface 4 tablet. It's less expensive and does most of the same things. Samsung Galaxy TabPro S specs include a 12-inch AMOLED screen at 2160 x 1440 resolution.
Although the Samsung Galaxy tablet claims to provide 10.5 hours of battery life, there have been issues reported. You should bring your charger if you want to use your Samsung Galaxy TabPro S for an extended period of time.
Amazon Fire Tablet Review
- Extremely affordable
- Thin and sleek
- Compatible with Amazon's Alexa
- Millions of movies, music, apps and more
- Low screen and camera resolution compared to others
- Not as powerful as Microsoft Surface 4 or Samsung Galaxy TabPro S
- Only up to 8 hours of power
Amazon Fire Tablet Specs
The Amazon Fire Tablet is one of the best cheap tablets with an Android mobile operating system. As a result, it is not nearly as powerful as tablets like the Samsung Galaxy TabPro S or the Microsoft Surface 4.
It does, however, give you access to millions of movies, music, TV shows, e-books, apps, games and more with Amazon own app-store. It is also compatible with Amazon's Alexa for voice control, similar to Apple's Siri.
Unfortunately, Amazon's Fire Tablet specs are less impressive than all tablets I've mentioned so far. It doesn't have much size variation (8 or 10 inches), doesn't have a great screen or camera resolution (800 x 1280), and only lasts up to eight hours.
If you are looking for an inexpensive tablet for something other than professional use, this is the best option. There is also an Amazon Kids Tablet out right now.
Nvidia Shield Tablet
- Extremely affordable
- Optimized for gaming
- Has positive performance results
- Sleek design
- Limited storage
- Low screen resolution compared to others
Nvidia Shield Tablet K1 Specs
The Nvidia Shield Tablet K1 has an Android operating system that is optimized for gaming. It provides positive performance and a sleek design that will fit easily into your purse or small bag. If you're into gaming, the Nvidia Shield Tablet K1 will give you access to more games than any other Android on the market.
On the downside, this 8-inch tablet is not as powerful as tablets like the Microsoft Surface 4 and Samsung Galaxy. The Nvidia Shield Tablet K1 price is much more affordable, however. It has limited options for storage, but you can insert a Micro SD to fix the issue.
Additionally, Nvidia Shield Tablet K1 specs include a 1920 x 1200 LCD screen and a 10-hour battery life.
Key Considerations When Choosing a Tablet
There are various considerations you'll need to think about before you decide on the best tablet for you. Here's what you need to know.
1. Which operating system do you want?
An operating system is a software your tablet and its applications will operate on. Some operating systems, like Android, are used with various brands while others, like Apple iOS, are exclusive to one brand. You should pick an operating system based on what you plan to do the most with your new tablet. Operating system options include:
- Apple iOS: All versions of the Apple iPad and Apple iPad Air run on the mobile Apple iOS operating system. In fact, the iPad was the first touchscreen tablet ever created back in 2010, according to Statista. It's known for providing hundreds of thousands of applications at your fingertips and more specifications than other tablet's operating systems. It is not as powerful as Windows tablets, however, because it is not a PC operating system. It does, on the other hand, have a processor that's better than a quad-core processor.
- Samsung or Google Android: The best part of the Android device mobile operating system is that it operates with different brands, including Samsung and Google (unlike Apple iOS). As a result, there is a larger selection of sizes, colors, internal storage, external MicroSD card storage with a MicroSD slot, and features available for you to consider. Android tablets also offer a more customizable experience than Apple and Windows and give you thousands of apps from their app stores. They do have less tablet compatible apps than iOS, however, with the Google Play Store.
- Windows: Windows is an extremely powerful operating system for Windows Tablets that works with an array of brands including Microsoft, Samsung, and Dell. It's the operating system that turns a tablet into a tablet PC computer. Windows has been running PCs forever and now gives certain tablets the power to support the same programs and usage as tablet PCs.
If you're looking to carry out a ton of heavy duty professional tasks on your tablet, Windows is perfect for you. If you're just looking to be social and take up some free time, however, Android devices or Apple iOS devices will do the trick. Windows has a lot fewer application options than iOS and Android.
Related: For more information, check out our guide on Android vs. iOS where we compare each operating system in greater detail.
2. How much memory do you need?
All tablets come with your choice of internal storage in gigabytes. The more storage you need, the more expensive the tablet will be. You should choose how much storage you want based on how much you plan to use your tablet and what you plan to use it for. For example, will you be buying a lot of music and apps? Will you be taking a lot of pictures?
These things can use up your storage quicker than expected. If you'll be using your tablet a lot, you may want to go with a high storage limit like 16 GB of RAM. If you don't need much storage, you can go with a lower number like 4 GB. They usually offer 4 GB, 8 GB, and 16 GB of RAM.
Some tablets like the Amazon Kindle Fire HD and the Nvidia Shield K1 don't offer much storage; luckily, they do provide a MicroSD slot for you to insert a MicroSD card for alternative storage on your device. The Amazon Kindle Fire HD runs on an Android Fire operating system.
Related: Storage on tablets is usually larger than mobile phones but smaller than laptops. If you need extra space, look into an online backup.
3. What tablet sizes are out there?
Tablet sizes range from 5.3-inch screens to 12.9-inch screens. Which one is right for you? Again, think about what you'll be using your best tablet for.
Also, how is your eyesight? Do you prefer a bigger screen with more room for your eyes to work with? Will you be doing a lot of streaming on Netflix or Hulu? Do you need something that fits in your purse or small bag?
These questions will help you determine what's best for you. Keep in mind, however, that some operating systems offer a better size selection than others. For example, Samsung Android tablets offer 5.3, 7, 7.7, 8.9, and 10.1-inch screen options in comparison to Apple iOS iPads offering just three sizes: 12.9, 9.7m, and 7.9-inches. Some have dual-core processors and other have quad-core processors. A dual-core processor is slower than a quad-core processor.
If you're looking for kids tablets, you should definitely go for a smaller size. You can see who we recommend in our buyer's guide.
4. How is the application selection?
Application selection is a big deal in the world of tablets. Apple iOS is known for the best application selection with hundreds of thousands of iPad applications for you to choose from. It even comes with built-in word applications, iMovie, Garageband, and more.
If you want a ton of applications, an Apple iPad may be your best bet. Android comes in second with the Google Play Store. The Amazon Fire HD, however, also provides access to millions of applications, TV shows, music, games and more with its own app store via Android's platform.
Learn More: If you're buying a tablet for your teen or child, you might want to consider setting up parental controls. We'll walk you through the steps, and recommend some great apps to use in our How-To guide.
5. What are the display and battery life?
The screen resolution of your tablet is the quality of your tablet's screen; it will determine how clear or grainy your viewing will be. This is important. Again, contemplate what you will be doing the most on your tablet to determine how important screen resolution is to you. If you plan on streaming movies and videos, you're going to want the best screen resolution available. You should look for a super AMOLED display or Retina display for the best viewing on a tablet.
The iPad Pro has the best screen resolution of all tablets on the tablet market with retina display at 2732 x 2048 for the 12.9-inch screen. On the other hand, the Samsung Galaxy Tab S3 has a Super AMOLED display. Battery life is also important when buying a tablet. You don't want it to die if you need it on the go, right? Some tablets last 6 hours while others last up to 13.
6. Do you need to purchase data?
Do you want to pay monthly for cellular network data on top of the price tag on your new tablet? A tablet data plan ensures that you have an Internet connection through your cell phone provider. If not, you can go with a tablet that only works with WiFi. If you're not sure which one you want, think about this.
Where will you be using your tablet the most? Are you buying it for traveling and work on the go or do you need it simply for streaming and surfing when you're lounging around at home? If you'll be using your tablet mainly in a place with WiFi, you probably don't need a cellular data plan. Check out our guide on ways to reduce your mobile data usage if you're worried about using too much data.
Related: For a cheaper alternative to a data plan, a Tablet SIM card will do the trick.
7. How are its front-facing and rear cameras?
You may want to check out the rear camera and front-facing cameras on your tablet before you buy. The Samsung Galaxy Tab S3 has one of the best front-facing cameras on the tablet market.
8. Does it have any extra features?
Extra tablet features might include a stylus pen for drawing and compatibility with the Google Chromecast or another streaming device. You can get a stylus pen for the iPad Pro, the Microsoft Surface Book and Surface Pro 4, and the Samsung Galaxy Tab S3. You can use the Google Chromecast and other devices with the iPad Pro
Tablet with SIM Card Slot and WiFi
Whether you'll be using your tablet for business or entertainment purposes, staying connected to the internet wherever you are is crucial. All tablets can connect to WiFi, so there are no issues if you're within the range of a network you can connect to, such as your home, school or work internet.
If you know you'll be frequently out of range, however, consider a 3G-enabled tablet, which will allow you to use a SIM card to connect to the internet. It's not always the case, but keep in mind that most tablets with a data plan will cost extra, in addition to the monthly cost for a data plan. This is balanced out by some cell phone carriers like US Mobile that offer low-cost SIM Cards and data plans that make using your tablet on-the-go a snap.
Pro Tip: You can also use Bluetooth technology, USB cables and HDMI ports (if your tablet has one) to connect to other devices and transfer files.
Wi-Fi Only Tablets
Various tablets like the Google Nexus, run on WiFi-only. With WiFi tablets, you don't have to worry about purchasing a tablet data plan. This makes life a lot easier (and cheaper). It's a great option for those who know they'll only be using their tablet in places with WiFi.
Here are some the three best WiFi-Only Tablets:
- Samsung Galaxy Tab A T580
- Apple iPad Air 2
- Google Nexus
Tablets on a Budget
Cheap tablets are not as clear and versatile as more expensive tablets, as you could have probably guessed. If you're looking for something on the cheaper side, I would go with the Amazon Fire HD Tablet. It is smaller than most tablets but two inches bigger than the Nvidia tablet. It has almost the same price tag as popular WiFi-only tablets, except it isn't WiFi only.
The Amazon Fire will give you access to millions of TV shows, movies, applications, games, and more on a quad-core processor; it's a great option for home use.
It wasn't easy choosing the best tablets out there. I researched tablet specs and analyzed reviews of various tablets including the Asus Zenpad, Lenovo Yoga Book, and the iPad Mini before coming to a decision on the absolute best options for you.
In the end, I believe the iPad Pro and the Microsoft Surface Pro 4 are the two best tablets out there right now.
The iPad Pro's application selection and seamless capabilities are unbeatable, even compared to the iPad Mini. On the other hand, Microsoft Surface Pro 4's power and computing capabilities are incomparable.
If you're looking for an amazing, user-friendly tablet for a little less money, go with the iPad Pro. If you need power and professional capabilities, however, the Microsoft Surface 4 is your best bet.
Read More: The Buyer's Guide to Activity Trackers
Now that you've heard about the best tablets, you're ready to make a commitment. The tablets listed above will make it easy for you to research, email, stream, work, listen to music, and play games on the go. Read through the considerations at the beginning of this article and choose a tablet that is suitable for you.
Keep in mind that many cell phone carriers, like T-Mobile, offer special deals when bundling your tablet service with your existing cell phone plan. To find out if your cell phone plan allows for the addition of a tablet, check out our buyer's guide to cell phone plans. For certain providers like Apple or Samsung, you might even get discounts or offers on smartwatches. Take a look at our buyer's guide to smartwatches for rankings, comparisons, and analysis.
Leave me a reply in the comments if you have used any of the tablets in this article; we'd love to hear about your experience.