Best tablets for small businesses

Boost your company's productivity with the best tablets for small businesses

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Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

Small businesses are famous for their entrepreneurial and innovative spirit, and are often free to act without bureaucracy. That’s one reason small companies take so well to tech, and strive to use as many automated devices and services as possible to streamline their operations and get more done. For all kinds of companies, tablets are optimal work companions when you want to leave your laptop on your desk. Here are our recommendations of the best tablets for small businesses.

How to choose a tablet

When you start shopping for a tablet for yourself and your team, do not get mesmerized by all the flashy products that are available. You’ll be happier with your purchase, and it will serve you better, if you set a few parameters before you start looking. Determine what will be the primary use of the device, how much you are willing to spend on each tablet, which operating system syncs well with your other computer systems and smartphones, and which features and specs mean the most to you.

Companies can use tablets for all kinds of operations including payment processing, field work, and media consumption. You may also want to differentiate between executives and employees who need different types of tablets for their differing roles in the company (primary vs. supplementary, or even rugged devices depending on the work site). Also consider size, battery life, processor, storage, and external ports for accessories.

Tablet features

Businesses will have different uses for tablets. Here are some features to take into account:

Storage: If your business generates a lot of documents, photos, videos, and multimedia assets that you want to keep with you (with or without cloud backup) make sure you buy a tablet that has adequate storage for your needs. Storage is available anywhere from 16GB all the way up to 1TB.

Battery life: Battery capacity can vary quite a bit depending on the size of the device, but you’re generally looking at between 6,000mAh and 8,000mAh, sometimes dipping into the 3,000mAh range for smaller devices. If battery life is important to you, then read some reviews and get an idea of how the capacity translates into hours of real world usage.

Cameras: Tablet cameras are generally considered more of a convenience than a vital feature. Nonetheless most tablets come equipped with front and rear cameras that may prove useful depending on your needs. Front-facing cameras are handy for video conferencing and video chats via Skype, FaceTime, and other services. Rear cameras may be useful for scanning documents.

Wi-Fi: Wi-Fi comes standard for all tablets and most support the fastest Wi-Fi standards available at the time of purchase — the 802.11ac standard, even if your office has an older router.

Processor: Tablet processors vary widely and are often specific to the manufacturer, such as Apple’s iPad A12X chip and the Qualcomm processors that ship with Samsung tablets. You might check out the processor online to see how fast it is and how it compares with others.

Speakers: Tablet speakers are utilitarian as opposed to premium, but sub-par audio can seriously mar the tablet experience. Make sure that the sound quality is decent when you check out the reviews of tablets you’re considering, or better still go to a store like Best Buy, which may have a few demo tablets out and listen for yourself. If you play music, get one with speakers on either side for optimal sound separation.

Stylus: Styluses and tablets go together and certain tablets have styluses that are made especially for them to take advantage of their hardware and software features. If you need one, get a stylus that’s custom-designed for your tablet. Many support multiple pen types that let you to switch between thick pen strokes and thin ones with the click of a button.

Expandable memory: Some tablets include SD card slots, a handy feature that lets you add storage space as needed.

LTE connection: When you’re out in the field, you may not want to use available Wi-Fi for online communications. LTE connectivity can get you online anywhere. You’ll need to add your tablet to your mobile data subscription plan from a wireless provider to get everything up and running.

Once you’ve got a shortlist of requirements, feel free to go crazy evaluating various models that meet the needs of your company. Here are a few we recommend, and check out our list of the best tablets on the market today.

Apple iPad Pro

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Even if you’re not a Mac user, the desirability of the iPad Pro is unmistakable. Apple offers a sweet selection of iPads, including the two iPad Pro models at 12.9 and 11 inches. The larger one, with its 2,732 x 2,048 resolution, which works out to 264 pixels per inch (ppi), looks like a small TV. Besides being great for watching videos, offering iOS multitasking features, and boasting great battery life of up to ten hours, the suite of productivity apps make the iPad Pro an ideal business companion.

Both models have comparable specs and are available in storage capacities of 64GB, 256GB, 512GB, and 1TB. The 11-inch model weighs in at a little over one pound, while the larger iPad Pro is about 1.3 pounds. Both feature an A12X Bionic chip with 64-bit architecture, 12-megapixel main camera, 4K video recording at 30fps or 60fps, 7-megapixel front-facing camera, FaceTime audio and video, Wi‑Fi (802.11a/b/g/n/ac), Bluetooth 5.0, Face ID, and Apple Pay. You can also opt for cellular connection support if you need it. Apple’s companion hardware, available separately, includes the Smart Keyboard, Apple Pencil, AirPods, and more.

Apple’s iPad is a full pro-level deal and it doesn’t come cheap: The 11-inch model starts at $700 and the 12.9-inch model starts at $999.

Microsoft Surface Pro 6

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This two-in-one computer tablet has everything you need for versatility in the workplace — at your desk or on the road. Extremely lightweight but powerful with a unibody magnesium design, the Microsoft Surface Pro 6 is super speedy and armed with an 8th generation Intel Core processor and Windows 10 Home operating system. The 12.3-inch display has a 2,736 x 1,824 resolution, which translates to 267 ppi and a 3:2 aspect ratio with 10-point multi-touch.

The Surface Pro 6 comes in storage capacities of 128GB, 256GB, 512GB, or 1TB with 8GB or 16GB of RAM. It has all the connections you’d ever need with USB 3.0, 3.5mm headphone jack, microSDXC card reader, Mini DisplayPort, Surface Type Cover port, and Surface Connect port. It offers up to 13.5 hours of local video playback with an Intel UHD Graphics 620 in both models. This unit takes security seriously with a TPM 2.0 chip for enterprise-grade protection and Windows Hello face sign-in. The Windows Hello front-facing authentication accompanies a 5-megapixel camera with 1080p Skype HD video, 8-megapixel rear-facing autofocus camera with 1080p full HD video, dual microphones, and 1.6W stereo speakers with Dolby Audio. Connect with Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac and compatible Bluetooth Wireless 4.1.

The Microsoft Surface Pro 6 starts from $900 for the most basic configuration and goes up beyond $2,000 for the top model.

Samsung Galaxy Tab S4

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The Galaxy Tab S4 is a lovely, no-nonsense, 10.5-inch Android tablet designed for high achievers that promises PC productivity in a tablet format. It’s available in gray or black and weighs just a smidgen over one pound, so it’s easy to throw into a backpack. Its Super AMOLED, 2,560 x 1,600 resolution screen at 287 ppi is glorious to behold. Unlike the Apple iPad, the Galaxy Tab S4 ships with its own S Pen with a 0.7mm tip and 4096 pressure levels. Its Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 processor and 4GB of RAM are capable enough to muscle through most productivity apps you may need on the job, and games you can relax with.

The tablet is loaded: It features front and rear cameras, rated at 8 megapixels and 13 megapixels respectively, and supports Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac, Wi-Fi Direct, Bluetooth 5.0, USB 3.1, and UHD 4K video recording with playback at 3,840 x 2,160 at 30 fps. It has four speakers and a 7,300mAh fast charging battery. Alongside the Samsung DeX interface, the Galaxy Tab S4 can operate like a PC, complete with a taskbar, multi-window capability, and drag-and-drop gestures — something available on a tablet for the first time. With an external monitor, you can use the Android interface on the tablet with Samsung DeX on a larger screen for the ultimate in multi-tasking — or watch the monitor and use the tablet as a touchpad, digitizer, or touch keyboard.

From $650, the Samsung Galaxy Tab S4 ticks a lot of boxes, but it lacks the raw power of our first two entries.

Amazon Fire HD 10

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Let’s face it, some entrepreneurs and small business folk are going to use their tablets for almost everything, and even substitute them for laptops when on the road or working at home, but others will have lesser needs and more limited budgets. The Amazon Fire HD 10 serves nicely with a decent IPS (in-plane-switching), 10.1-inch, 1080p LCD display with over 2 million pixels at 224 ppi. This lets you see any document, video, or image at a wide viewing angle — bright but without glare. It’s an Android tablet, but runs Amazon’s tweaked version, called Fire OS, so doesn’t have full access to Google’s Play Store, which limits the apps and games available.

The Fire HD 10 comes packed with 32GB or 64GB of storage, so you don’t have to fret over storage space. You can even expand your storage by up to 256 GB using a MicroSD card. The Fire HD 10 features a 2-megapixel rear-facing camera for taking photos or shooting 720p video. The front-facing VGA camera is adequate for Skype conference calls. With up to 10 hours of mixed-use battery life, the tablet gives you more flexibility and is compatible with Alexa for quick access to information, your calendar, and your smart office. Show Mode can deliver a hands-free Alexa experience with a home screen that’s optimized for visibility across the room, in addition to Alexa calling and messaging.

The Amazon Fire HD 10 is cheap, starting from just $150, but it does lock you in to Amazon’s limited app store and it lacks processing power.

Google Pixel Slate

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The Google Pixel Slate, with its simple design and rounded edges, comes only in a midnight blue color, but it is a tablet through and through. According to Google, the Pixel Slate is seven millimeters deep, 202 millimeters tall, and 290 millimeters wide and weighs 1.6 pounds. From its 12.3-inch Molecular Display of 6 million pixels to its dual front speakers, the Google Pixel Slate can function optimally in whatever work mode suits you. You can collaborate online or work offline with Google Docs, Sheets, and Slides or read and respond to Gmail and connect with Duo Cam.

The tablet’s split screen multitasking feature enhances a productive working environment with automatic, hassle-free updates. Pixel Slate runs Chrome OS with auto updates to ensure the latest security and newest features, but also supports Android apps. You can re-create a desktop experience by adding à la carte elements like a monitor, mouse, and keyboard. And when you need a break, you can watch movies, play music, and play games without a Wi-Fi connection. Regardless of whether you work at home, in a coffee shop, or at the office, your tablet stays secure, because you must unlock it with your finger via Pixel Imprint. The tablet’s security chip stores your information, device passwords, and operating system on your tablet, not in the cloud. The Pixel Slate also lets you use Google Assistant, so a “Hey Google” gets you music, control over your home or office, and more.

If you favor Google’s cloud services in your office, then the Pixel Slate could be for you, but it’s quite expensive, starting from $800 for the most basic model.

HP Chromebook X2

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The HP Chromebook X2 detachable tablet, which is fairly loaded for a Chrome OS two-in-one, offers 4GB of RAM, 32GB of storage, and a 7th-gen Intel Core m3-7Y30 processor. The tablet has a distinctive look — it’s not a gray plastic or metal slab, but has a ceramic white case on the back to go with the chrome trim around the edges and black bezels up and around the front. The backing is made via a special anodized electrodeposition (AED) process that coats the underlying aluminum and provides strength, durability, and scratch resistance.

The HP Chromebook X2 also includes the keyboard and pen — a neat package that can get even better with additional storage via a MicroSD card slot. There are also front- and rear-facing cameras, and a quite impressive 12.3-inch, 2,400 by 1,600-pixel display at 235 ppi. It runs at the same 3:2 aspect ratio as Microsoft’s Surface. Two front firing speakers hark back to the Surface Pro and feature Bang & Olufsen tuning, along with HP Audio Boost 2’s amplifier. Battery life is excellent, ensuring that a charged battery lasts through an entire day’s work before conking out.

This could be ideal if you want something that can easily double as a laptop, but with Chrome OS, it will only really suit businesses that use Google’s services. Originally starting from $600, you should be able to find the HP Chromebook X2 for less now.

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