Finding the best tablet can be a tricky task. They all have relatively colorful screens, a wide range of apps and promises of long-lasting battery life. So, we've done the work to test and review these slates, to see which ones are worth your money.
Some tablets are positioned as content consumption devices, such as the Amazon Fire tablet line and the entry-level iPad, while others are designed to replace your laptop, such as the Surface Pro 7 and iPad Pro.
- The best laptop in 2020: Best laptops for every budget
- Not an Apple fan? We've got the best Android tablets too
- iPad Pro vs. iPad: Which tablet is right for you?
To help you decide which tablet is right for you, we test all of the top devices in our lab and in the real world. In general, Amazon tablets are great for kids and anyone on a tight budget. iPads are best for students and creative pros. And those who care most about productivity should check out Microsoft’s Surface line or other Windows-powered tablets.
Keep in mind that if you want a keyboard, this accessory often does not come standard. And the same thing goes for a stylus or pen. So you’ll want to keep these extra costs in mind when shopping. Here are the best tablets right now.
What are the best tablets?
The iPad is synonymous with tablets for a reason. While it's not as cheap as the Amazon Fire 7, Apple continues to update and perfect its entry-level tablet, which now has a bigger screen than ever. When you buy the basic iPad, you're guaranteed to get a great screen and strong audio.Apple's also opened its regular iPad up to support its other accessories, so you can draw with the lag-free Apple Pencil and type with the Smart Keyboard folio.
The iPad Pro is the best tablet for those who want a device for work and play. Available in both 11-inch and 12.9-inch versions, the iPad Pro offers a vibrant and smooth ProMotion display with a 120Hz refresh rate. On the inside, Apple’s A12Z Bionic processor is faster than many Windows laptops, so you won’t experience any lag as you multitask. Last but not least, the new iPad Pros offer a new ultra-wide camera (for more versatility when shooting photos) and a LiDAR scanner (for advanced AR performance).
For parents or those on a budget, the Amazon Fire tablet line offers some great options.. While their Amazon content-first interface may be off putting to those who don't live in the Prime world, their prices can't be beat and Amazon's slowly updating them to USB-C, which it's got in the Fire HD 10 and added to the Fire HD 8 2020.
You also check out the new Microsoft Surface Go 2, which erases the memory of the lackluster original by lasting longer, thinning its bezels and providing a faster processor option. All of that, plus a kickstand that's as strong as the one used to prop up its big brother, the Surface Pro. And it runs Windows 10, arguably the most capable operating system on any tablet today.
The best tablets you can buy today
The iPad is the best tablet for most because Apple continues to make small tweaks that make a great slate even better, while still maintaining a relatively affordable price. The iPad makes its screen a bit larger by trimming its bezels down (and increasing its height and width ever so slightly), all the while increasing both battery life and display brightness. And, finally, Apple added Smart Keyboard Cover support, so you don't need to futz with Bluetooth keyboards.
The A10 Fusion processor that powers the iPad isn’t the fastest, but it provides enough performance for handling most tasks and playing the most popular Apple Arcade games. The over 10 hours of battery life is another highlight. The entry-level iPad’s design is aging at this point, but when it comes time to buy a new tablet, there's more than a few reasons why I always start the conversation by recommending the iPad.
Apple's iterative improvements have helped the iPad win the Tom's Guide Award for best tablet, and the incoming iPadOS 14 update looks to be a big deal, making the iPad more like a MacBook and deliver long-awaited Apple Pencil features.
For a lot of customers, price makes the big difference, so Amazon could have coasted when it comes to the $50 Fire 7 tablet. Fortunately, the most recent iteration of the company's cheapest slate packs a snappy quad-core 1.3 GHz processor, which helps you navigate apps and browse the web faster than you'd expect from a tablet this cheap. And while previous Fire tablets made you tap to activate Alexa — which made no sense, it's meant to be summoned with your voice — the Fire 7 finally added voice triggers for the digital assistant.
Just don't expect any frills that come with more expensive tablets. The Fire 7 tablet’s sub-HD screen is not sharp enough for anyone used to an iPad, and its lock screen is filled with ads unless you pay extra. Still, it's a great pick for kids looking for a media consumption device.
Sometimes, it takes a second try to make a thing go right. The Surface Go 2 takes aim at all the flaws of the predecessor and knocks them all down. First of all, thinner bezels make way for a bigger screen, arguably the most important part of a tablet. The Surface Go 2 has a 10.5-inch display, compared to 10 inches for the previous model.
The biggest upgrade is the Surface Go 2’s 11 hours and 39 minutes of battery life, which is over 5 hours longer than the original Surface Go.. Microsoft also answered my prayers for a laptop with a great webcam. The 5-megapixel 1080p camera in its top bezel is great for the era of online video calls, and its second front camera sensor adds Windows Hello biometric login. Finally, get the Surface Go 2 with the 8th Gen Intel Core m3 upgrade, it's a little pricier at $629, but it's definitely the model for multitaskers.
Read our full Microsoft Surface Go 2 review.
Android tablets don't have the strongest track record, but on hardware, Samsung's caught up with the iPad with the Galaxy Tab S6 Lite. This excellent tablet has a ton of battery life — lasting over 12 hours on a single charge — and offers a sleek design with a bright screen and solid sound. This all ties together for a tablet that's great for consuming content on. The Galaxy Tab S6 Lite's thin bezels help it stand out from the mid-range tablet crowd even further, making it look more like the iPad Pro than the iPad. Oh, and the S-Pen stylus, which offers low-latency drawing, is included by default, and it snaps to the top of the Tab S6 Lite, so you're less likely to lose it.
Performance-wise, though, the Tab S6 Lite won't be blowing people away if they try to multitask. There's also the matter of Android tablet apps, which still could use more love and care from their developers.
Read our full Samsung Galaxy Tab S6 Lite review.
The Amazon Fire HD 8 is a great tablet for certain needs. Its bright screen and epic 13+ hours of battery life make it great for consuming content, and its reversible USB-C port is a feature we wish was in the cheaper Fire 7 tablet. On top of that, this $90 tablet is good enough at everything else — decent audio, OK performance — for its price that I can't deny how many will find it a great value. I also found its front camera surprisingly crisp when I snapped some selfies while writing the review, as more expensive laptops have much worse webcams.
That being said, anyone who wants the completeness of the Google Play Android app store or the iPad's iOS app store might feel a little ticked off at Amazon. The lack of Google's own apps, which you need to sideload to use, is frustrating to folks who don't like to use inferior web-based versions of those apps.
Read our full Amazon Fire HD 8 review.
If you want the best tablet money can buy, the choice is easy. The 12.9-inch iPad Pro's giant, gorgeous display, thin size and excellent endurance makes it the floating screen that keeps going and going and going. And now that Apple's finally added cursor support and given the iPad a touchpad in the iPad Pro Magic Keyboard, it's finally becoming more like a laptop, which many have clamored for it to become for years.
The iPad Pro also benefits from the A12Z Bionic chip, whose speed rivals or beats premium laptops, as well as a new LiDAR sensor that beefs up augmented reality performance. When you add the price and heft of said Magic Keyboard, the iPad Pro is more expensive than the MacBook Air and almost as heavy. We also wish Apple threw in a longer charging cable. But overall the iPad Pro is worth the splurge.
Read our full iPad Pro (2020, 12.9-inch) review.
If your only experience with Amazon Fire tablets has been the very affordable Fire 7, you might not have expected the 2019 Fire HD 10. Surprisingly fast with an octa-core processor, the Fire HD 10 sports a bright and colorful Full HD screen that is great for binge watching your favorite Amazon Prime shows. Even better, this tablet lasts for more than 13.5 hours on a single charge.
But, for as much as the Fire HD 10 gets right, its Amazon-first Fire OS operating system still could use a little more from outside the Amazon world. For example, this Android-based tablet still doesn't allow you to install Google's own apps, so you're forced to use web apps for Gmail and YouTube.
Households that make the most of their Prime membership, though, should definitely consider the Fire HD 10. It’s definitely the best tablet from Amazon.
The Apple iPad Air 2019 is a surprising mix of most of the best features of the regular (non-pro) iPads. Its A12 Bionic processor delivers speedy performance for multitasking, fantastic battery life gives you nearly 12 hours of web-surfing on a charge and its bright, colorful display makes colors practically pop into the air in front of it.
Apple also gave the iPad Air support for the Smart Keyboard cover, for all the prolific typists out there. But with all these perks come two drawbacks. Firstly, the combined price of the Air and Apple's Smart Keyboard Cover is a fairly steep $668. And while you get a decent keyboard, we wish the iPad Air supported the newer Apple Pencil 2nd Gen. The first-gen Apple Pencil awkwardly sticks out of the Lightning connector.
If you're willing to pay iPad prices, but would prefer to live outside of Apple's walled garden, you should definitely consider the Samsung Galaxy Tab S6. This sleek slate sports a bright and vivid Super AMOLED screen, and it's got a neat slot on its back panel for magnetically attaching its S Pen stylus. Plus, unlike Apple and its Apple Pencil, that pen is included, so you're not shelling out extra cash. And while the Galaxy Tab S6's BookCover Keyboard is similar in price to Apple's Smart Keyboard Cover, it includes a touchpad, which Apple only includes in the much more expensive Magic Keyboard.
We just wish Samsung hadn't found Apple's fountain of courage and removed the headphone jack from the Tab S6. And while the Galaxy Tab S6's nearly 9 hours of battery life is good, it doesn't touch the 11:58 time from the iPad or the 13:45 from the Amazon Fire HD 10.
How to choose the best tablet for you
Start by thinking about the operating system you live in, which means opening your pocket and thinking about how much you rely on your smartphone. iPhone owners may jump straight to the 7th Gen iPad or iPad Pro, and they'd be right to do so — iMessage integration and the shared app ecosystems across iOS and iPadOS are an ideal combination. But if the iPad Pro is too expensive and the 7th Gen iPad isn't powerful enough, the iPad Air's faster CPU makes it the iPad to definitely consider, though I can't blame budget-conscious shoppers for going with the regular iPad.
Android folks have a wider set of options, but since Android apps aren't thriving on tablets as much as anyone would hope, this is a good time to consider all of your options. Yes the Galaxy Tab S6 has a fantastic screen and Android apps, but isn't Windows 10 a more capable platform? If you're nodding your head "yes," then the Surface Go 2 is the best tablet for you. That all being said, if you've got a big enough family, and you're all living in the Amazon Prime ecosystem, go for the Fire 7 if you're trying to fit to a budget, and the Fire HD 10 if you are tired of devices that don't have USB-C.
How we test tablets
First, we run as many benchmarks as that tablet will allow, to see how fast they are in ways that can be compared directly against competitors. We say "will allow" as some tablets, like Amazon's Fire slates, have trouble with side-loaded Android apps. We then use colorimeters and light meters to measure how colorful and bright these tablets’ screens can get. After that, we put them through our in-house battery test, which times how long it takes — while surfing the web with brightness at 150 nits — to drain a tablet of a charge.
After that, we do the same things you do — browse the web, watch YouTube, play games, compose emails — and then a lot more. We try and write some (or all) of our tablet reviews on the tablets we're testing, if there's a keyboard for it that is. Nobody wants to write a magnum opus on a glass screen, trust me.
Then, we keep our eyes on the next incoming tablets. Walmart just revealed two Onn Pro tablets, though they're not iPad Pro competitors (outside of having USB-C). We look forward to testing out the 8-inch Onn and 10.1-inch Onn, and give Walmart points for running Android 10.
They're like Amazon Fire tablets in that they're chock full of Walmart buttons and online store navigations, which would appeal to those who do a lot of shopping at Walmart. We look forward to testing them and giving them full reviews.