Following the release of the 2022 Apple iPad Air and Samsung’s Galaxy Tab S8 line last year, there hasn’t been a ton of movement in the tablet world. Lenovo announced refreshed versions of the Tab P11 and P11 Pro featuring updated internals and even an 11.2-inch OLED display with a 120Hz refresh rate on the Pro. Apple’s latest tablet is the revamped 10.9-inch iPad, but at $449, it’s more of an upgrade from, rather than alternative for, the less expensive 10.2-inch iPad. While there haven’t been a ton of groundbreaking releases as of late, you still have a bunch of great tablets to choose from if you’re in the market for a new one or are looking for a laptop replacement. Let’s break down what you should consider before deciding on a new device, and our current top picks for the best tablets.
Which OS is right for me?
Before you even start looking at specific devices, consider how your new tablet will fit in with the gadgets you already own, and how you plan to use it. For example, if everyone in your house uses Macs and iPhones, it probably doesn’t make a lot of sense to buy an Android tablet, even if you’ve been tempted by the massive 14.6-inch screen on the new Galaxy Tab S8 Ultra. This goes double for anyone with an extensive library of purchased videos and music that might be harder to access after switching platforms.
Another consideration is the kind of work you’ll be doing. That’s because while most modern tablets are adept at browsing websites or playing games, some operating systems like iPadOS and Windows 11 are better designed to support multitasking and productivity than Android or even Chrome OS. It’s a similar situation for software, because while most popular apps and games are available on both Apple’s App Store and Google’s Play Store, more specialized software may only have proper support on desktop platforms like Windows or macOS.
What size screen should I get?
Figuring out the best screen size for you will also be related to the kind of work (or play) you intend to do. Larger displays make it much easier to view two apps side by side, and big screens also deliver a more immersive movie viewing experience. But at the same time, the larger the tablet, the less likely you’re going to want to move it around. That means you’re not only going to want to take stock of your workspace (i.e., if you have a desk or instead plan to work from a couch or even your bed), you’re also going to want to think about how the device will fit into your everyday routine or commute (if you have one).
Finally, you’ll want to consider any add-ons or accessories you’re planning to use, which can range from detachable keyboards to things like external mics or a stylus. The good news is that many of the best tablets nowadays offer some kind of keyboard accessory, which allows the device to function more like a 2-in-1 instead of simply being a content consumption device. Some tablets also feature things like microSD card slots that support expandable storage, or optional 4G or 5G connectivity, which can be a real boon to frequent travelers. And if you’re planning to use the tablet mainly for work, you might want to grab a USB hub for connecting all your favorite peripherals.
How we test
When evaluating different tablets, there are a few important things we look for above all else: solid performance, a good screen and long battery life. For performance, we run a handful of synthetic tests like Geekbench 6, while also performing a number of real-world use cases such as editing photos and playing games. And with tablets often serving as hybrid devices, we also consider how easy it is to multitask and switch quickly between various apps. The more responsive a device feels, the better.
Because a tablet’s display is such a critical component, we also view a wide range of content to gauge things like brightness, color gamut and dynamic range. It’s important to take into account the difference between various panel types like OLED, which typically produce richer colors and excellent contrast but may not be as bright as a mini LED display. Recently, refresh rate has become an increasingly important spec as 90Hz and 120Hz screens can make scrolling smoother and graphics appear sharper in games.
We also consider a tablet’s design (including things like size, weight and water resistance), its connectivity (WiFi, Bluetooth, NFC, 5G, et cetera) and special features like stylus support or the ability to serve as a secondary display. That’s because, while tablets were often viewed as content consumption devices in the past, higher-end devices like the Surface Pro and iPad Pro are more than capable of replacing a laptop for a lot of people.
Finally, we test battery life by running our standard local video rundown test, which involves playing a single video on a loop from 100 percent until it runs out of juice. Ideally, a tablet should be able to last an entire working day, but longer runtimes are always welcome.
Best tablet overall: Apple iPad Pro
Powered by the same Apple M2 chips you get in MacBooks, the iPad Pro is the best iPad and one of the most well-built tablets you can buy today. It’s available in two sizes (11 and 12.9 inches) and works with a range of accessories including the Apple Pencil and the extremely useful (but pricey) Magic Keyboard. And thanks to their 120Hz ProMotion mini-LED displays, the iPad Pro’s screen boasts strong brightness and fluid visuals, regardless of whether you’re watching a movie or creating a slideshow presentation. Recent versions of iPadOS have also made Apple’s most premium tablet a much more capable work device, with the addition of new sidebars for quickly switching between apps, a more powerful desktop-like UI for Safari, and various new toolbars throughout.
The main downside is that starting at $800 for a base 11-inch model with 128GB of storage, Apple’s iPad Pros aren’t cheap, and that’s before you tack on any extras like cellular connectivity or a keyboard. But considering there’s a good chance the latest iPad Pro is more powerful than your current laptop, there isn’t really anything you can throw at Apple’s top-of-the-line tablet it can’t handle.
One final note is that if you like the iPad Pro but want something a bit more affordable, there’s also the fifth-gen iPad Air. This one is powered by the M1 chipset, but it has Apple Pencil support and optional 5G connectivity. And with a 10.9-inch screen, it’s basically the same size as the smaller iPad Pro too. The main difference is that the iPad Air’s display isn’t quite as bright and doesn’t support a 120Hz refresh rate. But if you’re ok with that, the 5th-gen iPad Air is essentially an iPad Pro with a less fancy screen that starts at $599 instead of $799.
Display: 11-inch or 12.9-inch mini-LED Liquid Retina panel with ProMotion (120Hz)
Processor: Apple M2
Storage: 128GB to 2TB
Battery life: Up to 10 hours
Camera: 12MP ultra wide front camera, 12MP Wide and 10MP ultra wide rear cameras
Best tablet for Android users: Samsung Galaxy Tab S8
Available in three sizes – an 11-, 12.4- and a huge 14.6-inch model – Samsung’s Galaxy Tab S8 line has the right-sized screen for practically any need. And while Android typically isn’t quite as accommodating to productivity as Windows or iPadOS, Samsung’s Dex mode offers a desktop-like UI complete with multi-window support and a taskbar for potent multitasking.
Samsung’s tablet displays are also some of the best in the business, with support for 120Hz refresh rates and vibrant colors from their OLED panels. And unlike Samsung’s flagship phone line, the Galaxy Tab S8 still comes with microSD card support, though sadly, Samsung couldn’t seem to find room for a dedicated headphone jack. The tablet comes with an S pen stylus as well, and you get a choice of three different covers: a simple folio, a keyboard cover and a keyboard cover with a built-in touchpad, so you can choose the right accessory for your needs.
Truly great Android tablets are few and far between, and Google recently stepped back into the ring with its own Pixel Tablet. While it’s not compelling enough as a tablet to knock the Galaxy Tab S8 out of our top spot, it could be an intriguing option for those that want a device that can be used as both a tablet and a smart display. Admittedly, it shines as the latter, which makes it a good thing that Google includes the base in the $500 price. There’s also an $80 case you can get for the Pixel Tablet, which adds a very useful kickstand that you can use whenever you don’t want to dock the device but still want to prop it up.
We’ll also note that the latest Galaxy Tab S9 tablets have been announced and will be widely available soon. There are a lot of similarities between the S8 series and the S9 slabs, but Samsung added improved dust and water resistance to this year’s models, along with upgraded processors. Once we’ve had the chance to fully review the Galaxy Tab S9, we’ll update this guide with our thoughts.
Display: 11-inch LCD, 12.4-inch or 14.6-inch Super AMOLED
Processor: Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 1
Storage: 128GB to 512GB
Battery life: Up to 9 hours
Camera: 12MP + 12MP ultra-wide dual front camera, 13MP + 6MP dual rear camera
Best tablet for Windows users: Microsoft Surface Pro 9
While most people think of Microsoft’s Surface Pro devices as a line of 2-in-1s, because they don’t come with a keyboard (you need to purchase it separately), that technically makes them tablets. But don’t be fooled, because thanks to Windows 11 and support for a range of 12h-gen Intel processors, Microsoft’s Surface Pros are designed for productivity.
The latest Surface Pro 9 has a beautiful display with a smooth 120Hz refresh rate and improved stereo speakers, while the inclusion of an IR facial recognition camera allows you to log in to the system in a snap. Another nice bonus is that unlike a lot of tablets, the Surface Pro 9’s SSD is user accessible, allowing you to upgrade its storage yourself whenever you want. And thanks to improvements in Windows 11, the Surface Pro 9 is better suited to life as a tablet without ever needing to attach a smart keyboard thanks to larger app icons and more touch-friendly controls.
Display: 13-inch or 15-inch PixelSense touchscreen
Processor: Microsoft SQ3 or Intel Evo i5/i7
Storage: 128GB to 1TB
Battery life: Up to 15.5 hours
Camera: 1080p Windows Hello front camera, 10MP rear camera
Best budget tablet: Apple 10.2-inch iPad
If you just want a simple tablet for a reasonable price, it’s hard to go wrong with the standard Apple iPad. Starting at $329, the basic iPad has a 10.2-inch display with good brightness (500 nits) and a relatively speedy A13 Bionic chip. It’s also the last iPad that still features an old-school Touch ID home button.
After being refreshed last year, the ninth-gen iPad got updated features including Apple Pencil support, improved cameras (in front and back) and double the base storage (64GB, up from 32GB). And just like its more expensive siblings, this budget tablet is available in a WiFi-only model or with optional 4G LTE cellular connectivity. The entry-level iPad is also the cheapest device Apple sells that gives you access to the App Store, which makes it a good multimedia device and a handy way of managing your media library across your other Apple devices at an affordable price.
Display: 10.2-inch Retina display
Processor: A13 Bionic
Storage: 64GB, 256GB
Battery life: 10-14 hours
Camera: 12MP ultra wide front camera, 8MP wide rear camera
Best tablet for kids: Amazon Fire HD 10 Kids Pro
If you’re in the market for a new tablet for your child, the Amazon Fire HD 10 Kids Pro is the easy pick, especially for first time users. Starting at $200, it’s the cheapest tablet on this list, and unlike more adult-oriented fare, it comes with an included “kid-proof” case and a two-year warranty. Amazon says if your kid breaks the tablet, the company will replace it for free.
Other useful add-ins include a free one-year subscription to Amazon Kids+, which unlocks more than 20,000 games, books and apps designed for children. There’s also a handy dashboard for parents that allows you to set time limits, content filters and educational goals. And even though its 3GB of RAM and 32GB of base storage aren’t much, its 1080p display is plenty sharp and it has a microSD card slot for expandable storage. And if you want a slightly smaller and more affordable option, there’s the $140 Amazon Fire HD 8 Kids Pro too.
Display: 10.1-inch 1080p display
Processor: 2.0 GHz octa-core processor
Storage: 32GB, 64Gb (expandable up to 1TB)
Battery life: Up to 12 hours
Camera: 2MP front camera, 5MP rear camera
What is the best brand for tablets?
The best brand for tablets is really the brand you feel most comfortable with. We recommend taking stock of the gadgets you already have — do you live in the Apple ecosystem already? An iPad might be best for you then. Do you have a Samsung phone? If so, a Galaxy Tab will likely be the most convenient choice. There is no one “best brand” for tablets; you’ll find good options made by companies including Apple, Google, Samsung, Microsoft and Amazon.
Can a tablet replace a laptop?
It’s possible for a tablet to replace a laptop, but you’ll need a few accessories to truly make the experience as close as possible to that of a traditional notebook. A keyboard is a must, be it a keyboard case or a Bluetooth accessory that you keep with you. Some keyboard cases, like apple’s Magic Keyboard for the iPad, have a built-in trackpad, which will be more ergonomic than tapping on your tablet’s screen for input. Additionally, you could go one step further and use a wireless mouse that connects via Bluetooth to your tablet. If you’re primarily looking for a tablet to replace your laptop, consider buying a 2-in-1 laptop since those systems typically consist of high-powered tablets that are designed to work well with (and without) keyboards.