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Updated November 2022
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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and all opinions about the products are our own. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and all opinions about the products are our own. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.Read more 
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We recommend these products based on an intensive research process that's designed to cut through the noise and find the top products in this space. Guided by experts, we spend hours looking into the factors that matter, to bring you these selections.

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Buying guide for best tablets

When Apple first introduced the iPad, they changed the world — and turned tablets from fictional gadgets from the future into essential everyday companions. Tablets allow for convenient, versatile usage; because they come in a range of sizes, capabilities, and features, they are up to a variety of tasks, from supplementing work to streaming content.

What’s more, tablets have evolved to become incredibly powerful. The best iPad, for example, can rival an average laptop. However, with a crowded market populated by top brands like Samsung, Apple, Lenovo, and Microsoft, there is plenty worth considering and combing through.

Whether you’re looking for the best Android tablet money can buy or and an entry-level model, a good way to find the best buy for your money is to read a comprehensive buying guide that covers all kinds of tablets.

a hand on a tablet
Some tablets come with lock-screen widgets that allow you to access your most common app, like weather or calendars, without having to unlock your tablet.

What to consider in your search for the best tablet

Screen size

Tablets come in a variety of screen sizes, ranging from 7 to 14 inches. Screen size is measured diagonally from one corner to the other. In some cases, the name of the tablet will inform the screen size. For example, the Fire HD 8 features an 8-inch screen.

Similarly, the tablet’s primary use will inform its size. If you want something to act as a laptop replacement, you may want to opt for a larger size. If you want a tablet to intimately enjoy your favorite streaming services, like Netflix or Prime Video, a mid-range or smaller option is likely suitable. For travel, seek out a smaller, lightweight option for top portability.

Also take note of the bezels, which measure the distance from the screen to the edge of the device. Thin bezels allow for a more immersive display.

Screen type and resolution

The best tablets feature AMOLED or OLED displays, which offer high refresh rates and peak brightness. They also boast stark contrast. Entry-level models with LCD screens are adequate for casual use.

Resolutions vary from HD up to around Quad HD. Unlike TVs, tablet resolutions don’t fall into exact categories due to the screen size and pixel density. The top options, like Apple’s iPad line, are consistently rated among the best tablets partly because of their high resolution up to 2,732 x 2,048 pixels, and, in the case of the iPad Pro models, a 120Hz refresh rate. Most quality tablets from Samsung or Lenovo offer resolutions of around 1,920 x 1,200 pixels.

Depending on where and how you’ll be using the tablet, you may want to seek out screens with anti-glare technology as well as IPS panels for wide-angle viewing.

Operating system

The two most popular operating systems are Android OS and Apple’s iOS. While there’s certainly no rule against owning devices from different manufacturers, there are definite advantages to buying a tablet that’s built on the same platform as your smartphone and even your TV or laptop. Setup and usage will be more familiar; some companies also create an elaborate ecosystem that you can easily engage in.

For example, if you’re an iPhone owner, you can set up the iPad Pro so you can answer phone calls from it. Samsung, meanwhile, allows users to share their phone screen on their laptop or tablet, such as the popular Samsung Galaxy Tab S6.

Keep in mind that Android will use the Google Play Store, while iPads employ the App Store. Some older devices may run on Android 10, though their newest operating system is Android 11. Apple’s iOS for tablets is known as iPadOS.

Amazon’s tablets run on Fire OS, which is similar to Android but lacks a few of Android’s features. Most notably, Fire tablets do not include the Google Play App Store, thereby forcing users to navigate the Amazon Appstore.

For those seeking a great tablet for regular work, a Windows operating system may be preferred. While these don’t have the extensive collection of Android apps that populate the Google Play Store, Windows does offer power and efficiency for business. Windows features on tablets from popular laptop and desktop brands like Microsoft’s Surface Go line of options are ideal laptop replacements.

Standard tablet features

Storage

Tablets are basically computers under the hood, and every computer needs file storage for the operating system, apps, and personal files. Storage amounts vary between 16GB and 256GB, with the associated cost increase you’d expect. The “right” amount of storage will vary depending on the user. If you keep most of your stuff in the cloud, you don’t need a ton of space, but if you like to keep a lot of movies or TV shows with you — or you have a large photo collection — you’ll want to invest in a tablet with enough room.

Cameras

Inspect the camera if you intend on taking and editing plenty of pictures. If you plan on using video chat or conferencing, an HD front camera is essential. You can use a tablet camera to take pictures, but holding one up for just the right angle can get pretty awkward and unwieldy, so most people use them for video conferencing services like Zoom or FaceTime.

WiFi

WiFi is a standard feature for all tablets; they’re not that useful without an internet connection. That said, it’s important to get a tablet that supports the fastest WiFi speeds available, so make sure the one you buy supports the 802.11ac WiFi standard. (If you have an older router, that’s OK, too. Tablets are backward-compatible with older WiFi standards like 802.11n.)

Processor

Every tablet needs a central processing unit (CPU) to run. Most tablet manufacturers make their own CPUs, so it’s often difficult to compare, say, the iPad’s A12X chip with the Qualcomm Snapdragon processors found in many Samsung tablets. To get a sense of how different tablets actually perform, watch video reviews and see them in action.

Speakers

While tablet speakers can’t hold a candle to headphones or a pair of proper speakers, built-in speakers still matter. Most tablets have two speakers for achieving a stereo effect, but newer options may feature four speakers built in around the edge of the device, ideal for those playing music or streaming content. While almost all tablets will allow you to connect Bluetooth headphones or earbuds, some include a headphone jack for a wired connection.

Ports

Consider what devices you may want to connect to your tablet. Most tablets feature at least a USB-C port, which allows for a variety of devices to be connected. Some even have a USB hub that will multiply the number of ports you can use. Memory card slots, including microSD, and headphone jacks are also common.

a tablet
DID YOU KNOW?
Both Google and Apple offer built-in security software, so you can track the location of your tablet in the event that you get separated from it. Just keep in mind that it’s not automatic, so you’ll need to set it up in the Settings app to activate it.
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Premium features and upgrades

2-in-1 design

Some devices blur the line between laptop and tablet. Touchscreen laptops range in size from around 10-inches up to 15 inches and allow for the keyboard to be removed so the unit can operate just like a tablet. This may be useful for those who need a versatile device where they may want to scroll like on a phone but also type like on a laptop.

The 2-in-1 design may also allow you to use the keyboard as a stand to prop up the device.

Chromebooks are popular and affordable 2-in-1 laptops. Made by the top brands, Chromebooks are designed to be lightweight and portable, operating like a touchscreen laptop as needed. Chromebooks, though, run on ChromeOS and require WiFi connectivity to be most useful.

Stylus

Styluses have been available for tablets from the beginning, but new innovations are giving the available options a boost. Now, it’s possible to get a stylus that’s custom-designed for your tablet. Proprietary styluses, like the Apple Pencil or Samsung S-pen, include advanced features. For example, many of them let you use the top end as an on-screen eraser, while others support multiple pen types and allow you to switch between thick pen strokes and thin ones with the click of a button.

Kid-friendly

If you’ve got little ones, it’s important to keep an eye on their device usage and put parental controls in place to keep them from going places online that they shouldn’t. While you can use parental control software for this on any tablet, we recommend buying a kid-friendly tablet instead.

Tablets made for kids often include ultra-durable construction so they can be dropped, and they focus on making it easy for parents to keep kids safe. Amazon in particular offers several different Fire tablets geared for youngsters that come with educational content and entertainment suitable for kids.

Expandable memory

Much like laptops, some tablets include Secure Digital (SD) card slots for adding more SD and microSD memory cards. Expandable storage is an incredibly convenient feature because it gives you an option if you ever find yourself running out of storage space. You can even keep extra cards handy and swap them in as needed.

LTE connectivity

If you’ll primarily be using your tablet at home, WiFi connectivity will be enough. But if you want to access the web from your tablet when you don’t have access to WiFi, you’ll need one with an LTE radio. With LTE connectivity, tablets can get online anywhere. Just keep in mind that you’ll need to add your tablet to your mobile data subscription plan from a wireless provider like Verizon, AT&T, or T-Mobile.

Color

While color doesn’t affect functionality, it does add some style. Apple and Samsung in particular offer tablets in a range of colors, including pink, blue, and even rose gold.

a tablet
Did You Know?
Your tablet’s screen is responsible for the majority of its battery drain. If you’re not satisfied with your tablet’s battery life, consider lowering your screen’s brightness, or better yet, set your screen to auto-dim.
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Essential accessories

For the best experience, make sure your tablet is always protected and powered up with these peripherals.

Tablet case

We always recommend getting a case for any tablet you own to keep it safe from damage and to protect its resale value. Tablet cases are affordable, and many have kickstands that add to their versatility. Although lots of tablet cases are neutral shades like black and gray, you can find some fun colors and prints as well.

Screen protector

It’s important to protect your tablet’s screen. Screen protectors keep tablet screens scratch-free, and they make it a lot easier to wipe off dirt and fingerprints, too.

Power bank

If you take your tablet with you to places where there isn’t always power, it’s important to get a power bank so you can recharge on the go as needed. Take note of how many milliampere hours (mAh) any power bank you look at has.

a man using a tablet next to a dog
Testing tablets
We spent 9 hours researching tablets, then tested our top picks from Apple, Amazon, and Samsung. We used the testing results to make our picks.
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How much do tablets cost?

Inexpensive

Budget and refurbished tablets start around $50 to $100. Tablets in this price range have smaller screens and less powerful processors and tend to skimp on features like file storage and camera quality. If you’re buying a kids’ tablet or a tablet for short-term use, many of the best buys can be found here. You can get a good deal for less than $100, including the Amazon Fire HD 8.

Mid-range

Most tablets cost between $100 and $400. Tablets in this price range come in a variety of sizes and are offered by most top companies. Samsung’s Galaxy Tab A series is a budget-friendly option in the middle of the range. Some older Apple tablets are available as well.

Expensive

High-end tablets start at $400 and can get as expensive as $1,400. Most options in this range come from Apple, including their latest Apple iPad mini and iPad Air. Samsung’s high-end tablets, such as the Samsung Galaxy Tab S7 Plus, also fall in this range. You can also find the Microsoft Surface Pro 7 here.

a tablet and a keyboard
DID YOU KNOW?
If you want a keyboard that’s got the same aesthetics as your tablet, look into the options offered by the manufacturer, such as Apple’s line of smart keyboards. If that doesn’t matter to you, or if you need a full-size keyboard, any Bluetooth model will do.
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Tips

  • Think about storage. Storage space can really drive up the price of a tablet. Sometimes, to get the next size up, you’ll have to pay more than $100. Conversely, microSD cards and other external storage are all pretty cheap. If you need a lot of file storage space and don’t want to spend a ton, consider buying a tablet with expandable storage along with an extra microSD card or two.
  • Consider battery life. Tablet batteries last a while, but they don’t last forever. It’s important to have a backup plan for instances where recharging isn’t an option. Our favorite fix for that is a portable battery, a gadget that’s easy to carry around and always good for an extra charge (or three).
  • Avoid refurbished tablets. While buying a refurbished tablet can sound like a great way to save a little money, it’s usually not worth the risk. Because there are no recognized standards for refurbishing, you never know what you’re getting — or if anything was done to improve the machine at all. It’s especially risky with tablets because battery life can degrade over time, so it’s possible that a refurbished tablet could come with a battery that’s not holding a full charge anymore. Save yourself the headache and buy new.
a tablet in the kitchen
If you’ve got a must-have app, check to make sure the tablet you buy supports it. Most mainstream apps are available for both iOS and Android — but not all of them.

FAQ

Q. How long do tablet batteries usually last?

A. The best tablets offer fairly impressive battery life, with many options exceeding 10 hours on a single charge. How long you can use the tablet on the battery will depend on the tasks. In standby mode, most tablets can last a few days without needing to be recharged, while streaming content will run through the battery more quickly. Multitasking for work may drain the battery the fastest.

Q. Should I buy a screen protector for my tablet?

A. In the early days of tablets, screens were prone to scratches, which made screen protectors vital. Since then, the glass used in tablet screens has gotten stronger and more scratch-resistant (although definitely not scratch-proof). With some basic precautions and the right case, your screen will likely only face minimal scratches. If you’ll be frequently traveling with your tablet, though, you may want to invest in some extra protection.

Q. Can I send text messages from a tablet?

A. Yes — sort of. Text messages come in two flavors: SMS and internet-based messages. SMS messages require a cellular data (LTE) connection, while web-based messages only need a connection to the internet. For example, third-party messaging apps like Facebook’s WhatsApp or Apple’s Messages send data over the web and work well on tablets. In contrast, tablets aren’t usually able to send SMS messages to other devices.

 

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