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The best gaming tablets for 2021

The idea that gaming is something you can only do on a souped-up, multicolored PC — or on the box under your TV — is dead. Mobile gaming has arrived, luring millions of people with a wide range of challenges from matching three fruits in a row to colonizing planets. The best Android and iPhone games vary widely, but sometimes the lack of smartphone screen real estate can cramp your style. If portability is still a prime factor, then split the difference with the best gaming tablets.

While the emerging category of dedicated gaming phones may be starting to heat up, the idea of specialized gaming tablets seems to have died with the Nvidia Shield. The best gaming tablets today are somewhat though not entirely distinct from our best tablets, but they have a few standout features that make them optimal for gamers as well as overall tablet users.

Best gaming tablets at a glance

Best overall: Apple iPad Pro (11-inch)

The iPad Pro 2021 on a table, showing the screen.

Two things that set the iPad Pro head and shoulders above the crowd when it comes to gaming are the enormous, sharp, and smooth 120Hz display and the completely unrivaled raw processing power. We’ve highlighted the 11-inch model as the best pick because it’s a little more affordable and manageable, but if you want to get lost in something like Civilization VI, then the 12.9-inch model is even better. Pairing this tablet with some of the best iPad Pro games will be enough to keep the most demanding of gamers happy. Apple’s tablets stand apart from the Android crowd because of the level of polish and the optimization of many apps, and nowhere is this difference starker than with games. This is also a great-looking tablet, with convenient Face ID built in, and a host of fun augmented reality apps and games. Battery life is good enough to keep you gaming on the go for hours. The obvious downside is the high cost.

Read our full iPad Pro review

Best Android gaming tablet: Samsung Galaxy Tab S7 Plus

Samsung Galaxy Tab S7 Plus keyboard in use.

If you’d prefer an Android device to an iPad, then you won’t do better than the Galaxy Tab S7 Plus from Samsung. It boasts a lightning-fast Snapdragon 865 Plus processor backed by 6GB RAM and 128GB that is expandable up to 1TB. There’s a stunning 12.4-inch Super AMOLED display that you’ll never tire of looking at. It also has AKG and Dolby Atmos audio, 10,090mAh battery life, and a stylish design. Samsung’s special Game Booster promises a lag-free gaming experience and a partnership with Discord brings live chat features to the Game Launcher. The Galaxy Tab S7 Plus has S Pen support, too, which is great if you like to write notes by hand or sketch but also doubles as a remote control.

Read our full Samsung Galaxy Tab S7 Plus review

Best small gaming tablet: Apple iPad Mini 6

Lifestyle image of someone using the iPad Mini.

Games work just as well on smaller screens, and there’s a big space for a small gaming tablet in many lives. The new iPad Mini fits that gap pretty perfectly. It’s a big upgrade from the last iPad Mini, and the 2021 model sports a new bezel-less design to bring the tiny iPad series into the modern era. It isn’t just more beautiful though, as the addition of an A15 Bionic processor also means it’s just as capable as its bigger siblings. Processing speed is very important in gaming, and this new chip means the iPad Mini is able to keep up with the most powerful tablets in the world.

Of course, the major feature of the iPad Mini is its relatively small size. The 8.3-inch Liquid Retina screen is great, but it is small. As such, if you’re not a fan of a smaller screen, then this isn’t the tablet for you. But if you need something that can be easily tucked away, the iPad Mini 6 is excellent. It’s not the cheapest option available, but it’s not the most expensive either.

Read more about the iPad Mini 6 (2021)

Best budget gaming tablet: Samsung Galaxy Tab A7

Samsung Galaxy Tab A7 tablet sat on a tabletop with a potted plant behind, and its box to the side.

While it’s not the most powerful tablet around, the Samsung Galaxy Tab A7 offers more than enough to enjoy tablet gaming. The Snapdragon 662 at its core can struggle with some of the more demanding games out there but should handle most tablet games without much issue. The 10.4-inch LCD display is clear and crisp, and it’s lightweight and slim, so it won’t weigh you down during long gaming sessions. 32GB of storage is a little limited for games, so the 64GB model is recommended — though there is room for a microSD card as well, in case you need the extra space.

With a price under $300, this is a great tablet to grab, especially when you can often grab it on a deal. But if your budget can stretch a little further, we recommend the basic iPad (2021) rather than the Galaxy Tab A7. But at this lower price, it’s hard to beat the Tab A7.

Best gaming tablet for kids: Amazon Fire HD 10 Kids Pro tablet

A young boy uses the Fire HD 10 Kids Pro to video chat.

Amazon has upgraded its Kids offerings and now offers the Pro model as well. Specifically designed for kids between 6 to 12 years old, the Fire HD 10 Kids Pro comes with one year of access to Amazon Kids+, a comprehensive warranty, and a colorful (and less cutesy) kickstand case to boot. It has the same 10.1-inch display and hardware as the non-Pro model, and it, unfortunately, doesn’t have access to the Google Play Store either, so the number of available games is limited. However, there are still plenty to choose from on the Amazon App Store.

It’s great for books, videos, and apps as well as games, making this a strong choice if you’re looking to get a big-screen kids’ device for work and play. Kids can even make video and voice calls over Wi-Fi to pre-approved contacts or install apps like Zoom or Minecraft.

Worth considering:

Apple iPad Air 4 (2020)

An iPad Air 4 in hand.
Andrew Martonik/Digital Trends

Check out the latest iPad Air if you prefer a smaller, portable screen on their tablet but appreciate the features of an iPad Pro. Its compact screen allows for quicker hand or finger movements during your gameplay, making it a great option. Plus, you can choose between 65GB and 256GB of storage. This iPad also supports the Smart Keyboard Folio for more serious work. It’s a standard size at 10.9-inches and uses an upgraded A14 Bionic chip to outperform its previous models. 

Many users will appreciate that the Apple iPad Air 4 has a USB-C connection to connect and charge rather than the Lightning cable of older, standard iPad models. This new connection makes charging your iPad even faster and more reliable.

Read more in our full iPad Air (2020) review

Frequently asked questions

How do gaming tablets differ from other tablets?

Most tablets can be used for playing simple games, but if you are an avid gamer who spends long hours playing high-processing games, you’ll need a tablet that can match your usage needs. So, if you play games with heavy files sizes, look for tablets offering ample storage space. Take, for instance, the Apple iPad Pro that offers up to 2TB storage, which is more than enough for most heavy games. Another difference could be the processing power. Most heavy games require a powerful processor for seamless play so look for tablets like the iPad Air and the Samsung Galaxy Tab A and S series that offer super-fast loading and lag-free gaming.

Does battery capacity matter in a gaming tablet?

Battery life is one of the most underrated features in a gaming tablet. No matter how powerful of a device you buy, if it lacks a good battery life, you can’t fully enjoy it. So, if you are looking to play or stream games continuously, look for gaming tablets with at least 6-8 hours of battery life. Devices like the Apple iPad Pro, iPad Air 2020, Amazon HD Fire 10 boast 10-13 hours of performance on a single charge, making them excellent options for uninterrupted heavy gaming.

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