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The best tablets you can buy

Want to watch Netflix in bed or browse the web? We have a tablet for everyone

best tablets  apple ipad pro
Jessica Lee Star/Digital Trends

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 tablet 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.

Our pick

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Why should you buy this: The iPad Pro offers the most power and flexibility in the best all-around size. It’s expensive, but worth every penny.

Who’s it for: Anyone who wants the best and has the bank account for it

How much will it cost: $600+

Why we picked the iPad Pro 9.7:

The iPad Pro 9.7-inch boasts the impressive power of its larger sibling with the svelte form factor of the Air 2. That killer combo puts it head and shoulders above the competition. This is a versatile tablet.

It ticks all the boxes as a traditional tablet for entertainment consumption with a great display, long battery life, and the best library of tablet-specific apps and games you can find. It has four speakers for unsurpassed sound quality and volume. Even the cameras are a cut above the rest, with a 12-megapixel main shooter, and a 5-megapixel front-facing camera for Facetime and selfies.

You can also use the Smart Keyboard with it and our favorite stylus, the Apple Pencil. The iPad Pro is perfect for drawing, sketching, or taking notes.

It’s great for productivity in a pinch, too, but we’re not convinced that it’s a true laptop replacement. It is also very expensive. However, this is the best tablet you can buy, hands down.

Our full review

The best Android tablet

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Why should you buy this: It is the closest an Android tablet comes to replicating the iPad Pro, and has a couple size options.

Who’s it for: Anyone looking for an Android iPad alternative.

How much will it cost: $350+

Why we picked the Samsung Galaxy Tab S2:

The Galaxy Tab S2 comes in 9.7-inch or 8-inch varieties and they are some of the slimmest and lightest tablets we’ve ever handled. If you want an Android alternative to Apple’s iPads, this is our suggestion.

The star of the show is the Super AMOLED screen which is sharp and vibrant. Paired with the dual speakers, this tablet is great for watching movies. It’s also good for reading on. Performance is fast and responsive and there are thousands of apps and games to choose from.

There’s also a decent 8-megapixel camera and a basic 2.1-megapixel front facing camera. Battery life is very respectable at 8 hours or more.

A chamfered metal edge adds some flair, but the body is matte plastic and it’s so thin that we worry about durability. There also aren’t as many polished, tablet-specific apps and games on Android as you’ll find on iOS.

Our full review

The best alternative tablet

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Why should you buy this: It’s amazing as a straight tablet, for taking notes/drawing, and is easier to type on than a standard tablet.

Who’s it for: Anyone seeking a tablet with a semi-keyboard or easy note-taking ability.

How much will it cost: $500+

Why we picked the Lenovo Yoga Book:

We were impressed with the innovative design of the Lenovo Yoga Book, so it had to make the list, but it doesn’t fit easily into any category. Ostensibly, it’s a 2-in-1 that combines a solid Android tablet (we don’t recommend the Windows version) with a clever touch-sensitive slate connected with an eye-catching, 360-degree, metal hinge.

The 10.1-inch touchscreen is good and it will work with any stylus, but the really interesting thing here is the capacitive touch panel on the other side of the hinge. It can act as a drawing pad for sketching or jotting notes, and it also has a keyboard mode that lights it up with a full set of QWERTY keys. It’s weird typing on a touch surface, but the haptic (vibration) feedback helps.

General performance is fast and responsive and the battery life is excellent, offering up to 15 hours. It does also have a decent 8-megapixel main camera and a 2-megapixel front-facing camera. The folding action on the hinge is solid and it feels just like a book to hold, which makes it very comfortable to read on. It could be the perfect portable pal for artists, note-takers, and students.

Sadly, it’s not powerful enough to serve as a real laptop replacement and we can’t recommend the Windows version for that reason. However, as a tablet, it’s stellar, and it’s the best Android tablet you can buy that also offers something extra.

Our full review

The best small tablet

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Why should you buy this: The iPad Mini is that perfect meshing 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+

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 a great size and weight to hold comfortably. 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 or price, 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. However, you can’t beat the iPad Mini if it’s a small tablet you want.

Our full review

The best giant tablet

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Why should you buy this: If you want to try and use iOS as a laptop replacement or need an extra big screen, this tablet can outperform some laptops.

Who’s it for: Power users and big screen seekers with deep pockets

How much will it cost: $950+

Why we picked the iPad Pro 12.7-inch:

It’s not the first huge tablet we’ve seen, but the iPad Pro 12.7-inch is the first giant tablet worth buying. It offers all the benefits of a smaller iPad, with a gorgeous design, a great range of apps and games, and solid battery life, but there’s more; that extra screen real estate makes it perfect for split-screen multitasking and serves as a canvas for digital artists.

Watching movies, playing games, and reading magazines is a joy on this display. But confining its use to Netflix in bed or morning news at the breakfast table would be a shame, because it’s packing some serious power. Combined with the Apple Pencil, this is a great device for designers and artists. You could also snag a keyboard and use it as a laptop replacement, provided you’re happy with Apple’s productivity suite.

The huge screen obviously cramps portability, but there aren’t many tablet activities that don’t benefit from the extra size. If your tablet stays at home anyway, then the iPad Pro 12.7-inch is just more of a good thing.

The price is enough to give many people pause and there’s no denying you could buy a decent tablet and a budget laptop for the same money. Regardless, this is the king of giant tablets.

Our full review

The best cheap tablet

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Why should you buy this: Amazon’s FireOS isn’t our favorite operating system, but it does get the job done at less than $100.

Who’s it for: Anyone with a limited budget.

How much will it cost: $70+

Why we picked the Fire HD 6:

There’s a lot of choice at the budget end of the tablet market, but you will not find a better deal than the Fire HD 6 and Fire HD 8 from Amazon. Performance is decent, battery life is good, and they are extremely easy to get to grips with.

The specs in these tablets are far from world-record-breaking, but if you just want something for web browsing, watching the odd movie, and casual gaming, they offer unsurpassed value for money. Amazon does offer an even cheaper tablet, in the shape of the $50 Fire, but there are too many compromises to make it worth recommending.

If you want something really portable, the HD 6 is perfect, but the HD 8, currently on offer at $90, is probably the best deal on the market right now. You’ll want Amazon Prime membership to take full advantage of the ecosystem, but even adding that cost on top, the complete package Amazon is offering here is impressively cheap. Prime also gives you access to TV shows, movies, ebooks, and music.

The limited choice in the Amazon Appstore is a definite drawback, performance is limited, and the cameras are so bad they might as well not be there. But you will not find anything better at this price.

Our full review

The best kids tablet

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Why should you buy this: It’s a dedicated kids tablet that works out of the box. There just isn’t any good competitiors in this space. We recommend it above any other kids tablet.

Who’s it for: Young children with parents on a budget

How much will it cost: $80

Why we picked the Fire Kids Edition:

Truth be told, the kids tablet market is not brimming with quality. We would hesitate to recommend the basic Amazon Fire tablet for adults, but the Kids Edition has some important additions that make it well worth considering for young kids.

The Amazon Fire Kids Edition comes with a protective case and a two-year replacement warranty that covers accidental damage. If junior dunks it in the sink or jumps up and down on it, Amazon will replace it no questions asked. It also comes with a year’s subscription to Amazon FreeTime, which is a curated collection of kid-friendly books, TV shows, movies, games, and educational apps that you can tailor for your child’s age. Rounding out the package are some of the best parental controls we’ve ever used.

For young kids, this is an unbeatable deal and it makes things very easy for parents. You can hand this off to your child with minimal setup and have peace of mind that it’s safe for them.

As tablets go, the Amazon Fire is very limited. It’s quite slow, the 7-inch display has a disappointingly low screen resolution, and the blocky, plastic design is forgettable. As a first tablet for young kids, it makes a lot of sense, but for older kids, around ten years-old and up, we’d recommend something like the Fire HD 6, HD 8, or even the iPad Mini 4, if your budget allows.

The best Windows tablet

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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+

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, 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 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 get 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 out of the box they 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 specific Windows-only apps, it may be overkill.