Tablets may be fading slightly in terms of 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 one 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.
Apple iPad (2018): Best overall
Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends
Why should you buy this? The iPad boasts a vibrant display, silky smooth performance, and long battery life, all at an affordable price.
Who’s it for? Everybody who wants a tablet.
Why we picked the Apple iPad (2018):
The iPad has dominated the tablet scene for years now, and the sixth-generation iPad (2018) is the culmination of all of Apple’s experience. There are no bells and whistles here. If you want innovation, keep looking. This is a solid, accessible all-around device that delivers a really good tablet experience at a reasonable price. It replaces the previous year’s iPad at the top of this list, adding support for the Apple Pencil (sold separately for $100) and a newer processor — it’s identical in every other respect.
The bright 9.7-inch display is perfect for watching videos. It feels slim and light to handle, with Apple’s usual high standards shining through in terms of build quality, though the thick bezels are beginning to look dated. Inside, there’s Apple’s A10 processor with an embedded M10 co-processor and 2GB of RAM, but all you really need to know is that it runs smoothly. Whether you’re skipping in and out of apps, browsing the web, watching a movie, or playing the latest games, the iPad delivers lag-free performance.
If you must take photos with your tablet, there’s an excellent 8-megapixel rear camera with an f/2.4 aperture that’s fast and capable of capturing plenty of detail. The 1.2-megapixel selfie camera has an f/2.2 aperture, which is adequate for FaceTime at 720p, but little else.
The battery life is fantastic. You can expect more than 10 hours of HD video playback from a single charge, and with normal use on Wi-Fi, you might reasonably expect to go a week between charges.
If you’re looking for weak spots, then we direct you toward the single bottom-firing speaker. Beyond that, there are no glaring flaws here, and we think it’s the best tablet you can buy without having to spend a lot more money.
Our full Apple iPad (2018) review
Samsung Galaxy Tab S4: Best Android tablet
Why should you buy this? The Samsung Galaxy Tab S4 is the closest an Android tablet comes to replicating the iPad Pro, and it boasts an absolutely gorgeous display.
Who’s it for? Anyone looking for an Android-based iPad alternative.
Why we picked the Samsung Galaxy Tab S4:
Despite some odd design flaws, the Galaxy Tab S4 is a quality gizmo with an absolutely gorgeous display. There is no tablet in the world with a screen capable of rivaling the S4’s 10.5-inch Super AMOLED, . It also supports HDR content (which companies like Netflix and YouTube are making increasingly available these days). Even viewing non-HDR content on the S4’s 2,560 x 1,600-pixel display is an absolute joy.
The Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 processor (the same chip that powered popular flagship smartphones like Google’s Pixel 2 and Samsung’s Galaxy S8) works well, despite its relative age, and 4GB of RAM is more than enough to keep this tablet humming happily. It comes with 64GB or 256GB of internal storage, but it can be expanded via MicroSD card if you’re looking to download lots of stuff.
The tablet’s four speakers are respectably loud, and it has cameras on both the front and back — the rear-facing 13-megapixel camera is capable of recording 4K video at 30 frames per second, while the 8-megapixel front camera is good enough for selfies and video chat.
Samsung has paired its custom Experience interface with Android 8 Oreo, and it works like a charm. Split-screen functionality is better than ever, with lots of neat tricks to learn over time. Despite a bit of bloatware that the tablet won’t let you delete, the software here is generally very good. There is also Samsung’s DeX interface, which kicks in when you attach a keyboard dock to give you a desktop feel that works best if you add a Bluetooth mouse, though it does have some odd quirks.
The 7,300mAh battery will easily get you through a busy day and beyond and it can be charged up in less than two hours. The included S Pen stylus interacts smoothly with the tablet’s screen and will please notetakers and artists. The downside here is the high price — if you’re primarily after a laptop experience, then Samsung’s Chromebook Pro or Microsoft’s Surface Go are both cheaper and might suit you better.
If you’re devoted to Android devices, the Tab S4 is a good choice. It’s a solid step up from the Tab S3, but that high price might give you pause.
Our full Samsung Galaxy Tab S4 review
iPad Mini 5: Best small tablet
Why should you buy this? The iPad Mini is that perfect blend 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.
Why we picked the iPad Mini 5:
It took a long time for Apple to update the smallest of its iPads, and the iPad Mini 5 is outwardly identical to its predecessor, but inside there are some important changes. You’ll find the powerful A12 Bionic processor in this tablet, which makes performance silky smooth whether you’re playing a game, editing a photo, or sketching.
The 7.9-inch display is a pleasure to read on, and Apple has added support for the first-generation Apple Pencil. 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. There’s also an 8-megapixel main camera and a 7-megapixel front-facing camera.
Portability is the main reason to pick the iPad Mini 5. If you want an iPad and need something smaller in size, then this is it.
Unfortunately, the design is a bit dated now. It’s also expensive, more expensive than the 2018 iPad. But you can’t beat the iPad Mini if it’s a small tablet you want.
Our full iPad Mini 5 review
iPad Pro 11- or 12.9-inch: Best premium tablet
Why should you buy this? The iPad Pro is a productivity powerhouse that comes in two sizes.
Who’s it for? Creatives, tablet enthusiasts, and power users.
Why we picked the iPad Pro:
With slimmed-down bezels and flat edges, Apple’s redesigned iPad Pro is a beautiful device that manages to pack in maximum screen real estate without being too unwieldy. The home button is gone, replaced by Face ID, and Apple’s proprietary Lightning port has finally given way to USB-C, which gives you far more accessory and peripheral options. Although both models feature the same internal components, the iPad Pro comes in two sizes, offering an 11-inch or 12.9-inch display.
Speaking of the screen, it’s hard to beat. The 12.9-inch model sports a 2,732 x 2,048-pixel resolution, while the 11-inch model packs 2,388 x 1,668 pixels. Both benefit greatly from Apple’s ProMotion technology, which boosts the refresh rate to a buttery-smooth 120Hz.
If you need a lot of raw power, then the iPad Pro is the tablet for you. Featuring Apple’s A12X Bionic processor, there are eight cores here and a neural engine for speedy machine learning. The result is unparalleled speed, whether you’re editing images in Photoshop or commanding armies in Civilization VI. Storage goes from 64GB all the way up to 1TB, but the price rises steeply with it.
Just like previous models, Apple suggests you’ll get 10 hours of mixed use from a charge, or 9 hours if you opt for the model with cellular connectivity. The Apple Pencil attaches magnetically and charges wirelessly now, but it will cost you an extra $130. That’s on top of an inflated price tag for the iPad Pro itself. The Smart Keyboard has also gone up in price this year, to $180 for the 11-inch model or $200 for 12.9-inch.
Beyond the steep price and the limitations of iOS for people seeking a desktop replacement, we’re disappointed Apple removed the headphone jack. But even with all that considered, the iPad Pro’s aesthetics, raw power, and long-lasting battery life earn it a place in the pantheon of high-performance tablets. You won’t find anything better.
Our full iPad Pro review
Fire HD 8: Best cheap tablet
Who’s it for? Amazon enthusiasts on a budget.
Why we picked the Fire HD 8:
Amazon’s Fire HD 8 (2018), a refresh of last year’s HD 8, doesn’t bring much new to the table. The front-facing camera has jumped from 0.3 megapixels to 2 megapixels and there’s hands-free support for Alexa now, but it’s the low, low price that earns this tablet a wholehearted recommendation.
The LCD screen, with its 1,280 x 800-pixel resolution is far from the sharpest, and the viewing angles aren’t great, but it’s good enough to watch movies and read on. The fact is that compromises are inevitable to hit this price.
The Fire HD’s all-plastic body is colorful and durable. You’ll also find stereo speakers optimized with Dolby Atmos that deliver reasonably loud, crisp sound on movies, TV shows, and Amazon’s Prime Music streaming service.
Alexa works well on this tablet. Asking questions about popular movies, nearby restaurants, and the weather pulls up visual results on the Fire HD 8’s screen (even when it’s locked). That’s just the tip of the iceberg: Alexa on the Fire HD can also control smart home devices, order pizza, call an Uber, and perform many of the same tasks as Amazon’s Echo speakers or the Echo Show.
Battery life is impressive, too. It lasts for about 10 hours of mixed-use including reading, gaming, and streaming. The Fire HD 8’s Fire OS software, a customized version of Android, isn’t for everyone. But folks immersed in the Amazon ecosystem will appreciate For You, a recommendation engine that puts videos, apps, games, and movies from the retailer’s library on your home screen.
You won’t find a perfect tablet for less than $100, but the Fire HD 8 is an impressive package. Sure, the screen isn’t as sharp or vibrant as we’d like, and the hardware struggles under heavy loads, but there is no better tablet at this price.
Our full Fire HD 8 review
Fire HD 8 Kids Edition: Best kids tablet
Why should you buy this? When it comes to parental controls, the Fire HD 8 Kids Edition is second to none.
Who’s it for? Young kids who need supervision.
Why we picked the Fire HD 8 Kids Edition:
Amazon’s refreshed Fire 8 HD Kids Edition (2018) makes its long-running line of kid-friendly tablets even better, though there’s a disappointing lack of strong competition in this category.
An 8-inch screen with a 1,280 x 800 pixel-resolution delivers bright and vibrant colors, and a thick rubber case around the tablet’s frame cushions against accidental drops. The tablet’s 32GB of internal storage offers enough space for lots of books, games, and other media, and there’s a MicroSD card slot for expansion if you run out.
When it comes to parental controls, the Fire HD 8 Kids Edition is second to none. Its Fire OS software, a customized version of Android, allows you to manage usage limits, set educational goals, and restrict access to age-inappropriate content. The Parent Dashboard also offers insight into what your kids are doing on their tablet and encourages interaction with discussion questions related to the books your kids are reading.
The Fire HD 8 Kids Edition also includes fee-free access to Amazon’s FreeTime Unlimited, a library of more than more than 15,000 kid-appropriate games, apps, educational content, books, and videos from PBS Kids, Nickelodeon, Disney, and others. Every purchase is backed by Amazon’s two-year, no-questions-asked replacement policy: If the Fire HD 8 breaks, Amazon will replace it.
Simply put, there is no better tablet for young kids who still need parental supervision. If you want something larger for your kids, there’s also a Fire HD 10 Kids Edition for $150.
Our full Fire HD 8 Kids Edition review
Surface Pro 6: Best Windows tablet
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.
Why we picked the Surface Pro 6:
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 6 is as close as you can get to a hybrid device that serves equally well as a tablet and as a laptop. It is the 2-in-1 to beat.
You’ve got a gorgeous 12.3-inch screen with a resolution of 2,736 x 1,824 pixels, 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, but we found it lags way behind the iPad Pro when it comes to gaming.
Microsoft has improved the battery life, which was an issue in past models, so you can expect to get through a full day of mixed use before needing to plug in.
The Type Cover and Surface Pen are excellent accessories and, combined with the full version of Windows 10, help make this a great choice for creative professionals, students, and everyone in between. This is real portable productivity.
On the downside, Windows 10 tablet mode still needs work and the Surface Pro 6 can be eye-wateringly expensive if you opt for top-end specs. Still, it’s our favorite 2-in-1 PC.
Our full Surface Pro 6 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 come 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 they initially 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 Windows-only apps, it may be overkill.
Shiv has over 8 years experience working on Internet of Things and an avid user of Drones