Tablets have come a long way since their inception. Nowadays, these slick slates are more than just for media consumption, mobile gaming, and browsing the Internet. The best of them are more than powerful and capable enough to be excellent laptop replacements for everyday tasks, productivity, and demanding creative work.
Even something as small as the iPad mini can handle music production and something as thin as the iPad Air 5 can tackle content creation. That combination of power, versatility, and portability has helped cement their place in the portables market.
No matter your need, whether you just want a device to entertain you at the end of a busy workday or you require something more robust for video editing on-the-go, there’s a tablet out there for you. To help you find which device that is, we gathered the best tablets on the market for different needs and budgets.
TL;DR – These are the best tablets
- iPad Pro 11
- Samsung Galaxy Tab S8 Plus
- iPad Pro 12.9
- iPad Air 5
- iPad 10.2
- Samsung Galaxy Tab S6 Lite
- Lenovo Tab P11 Pro
- iPad Mini
- Amazon Fire HD 10
1. iPad Pro 11
It’s hard to argue against the iPad Pro 11’s merit when every other tablet that rivals it couldn’t even come close, not in design and definitely not in power. This may be one of the most expensive tablets out there, but it’s worth every penny, especially now that it’s powered by Apple’s lauded M1 chip – the very same that powers the latest MacBooks and the appealingly clever iMac 24-inch. And, while this tablet’s bigger brother, the iPad Pro 12.9-inch, boasts that coveted XDR display, this one is smaller and, therefore, more portable. Perfect for regular users who prefer portability over pro-level tools.
Still, the iPad Pro 11 has the word “Pro” in its name for a reason; pair it with Apple’s Magic Keyboard and you’ve got yourself a laptop replacement that’s better performing than many laptops out there.
2. Samsung Galaxy Tab S8 Plus
Best Android Tablet
The Samsung Galaxy Tab S8 Plus is simply the best Samsung’s ever rolled out. Boasting an absolutely stunning AMOLED screen with a fast 120Hz refresh rate, quad AKG speakers with Dolby Atmos, and snappy performance, it was practically made for the best media consumption, mobile gaming, and lighter creative workflows. Its 14-hour battery life means this premium product will last you an entire day.
Meanwhile, the included S Pen is as responsive as ever and just the accessory you need for your artwork or designs. It isn’t as fast or as well-supported in terms of apps as the iPad Pro 12.9, which isn’t good news especially considering the price. However, If you’re more of an Android fan, this is the tablet to beat.
3. iPad Pro 12.9
The best tablet for creative work
The 2021 iPad Pro 12.9 may be the priciest iPad out there, but it’s also incontestably the best there is. This laptop replacement tablet is both breathtakingly powerful and stunningly beautiful. This is without a doubt a creative pro’s tool. Thanks to the M1 chip under the hood, it’s got more than enough power to handle video editing and 3D design workflows. Meanwhile its XDR display—which boasts P3 wide color, True Tone, and 1600 nits of peak brightness—ensures your workflow is color accurate and up to the highest quality.
It comes with the right accessories as well, including the duo of pro cameras in the rear, a powerful camera ISP, and highly effective image stabilization – just the ticket for those action sequences. Of course, you don’t need to be a pro to own this iPad. As long as you can afford it, you can’t do better than this.
4. iPad Air
The best thin and light tablet
The iPad Air is the one to get if you’re looking for the thinnest and lightest tablet that will see you through your whole day’s work. This Apple tablet is compact enough to be travel-friendly yet it’s got the screen real estate for productivity and certainly a lot of power as well for some creative tasks – including 4K video editing.
However, it’s most ideal for writers, bloggers, and digital nomads who need a reliable laptop alternative that’s so light you probably won’t even notice that it’s there. Especially when you attach it to a Magic Keyboard, which comes with a surprisingly accurate trackpad. As a bonus, it comes in five attractive colors (including pink, blue, purple, starlight, and space gray) so you can get one that matches your aesthetic.
5. iPad 10.2
The best budget iPadOS tablet
The original iPad is back and better than ever, with much snappier performance, an upgraded front-facing camera for all your FaceTime needs, and a display that now touts Apple’s True Tone technology. In the shadow of the M1 and A15 Bionic chips, the A13 Bionic on this 2021 iPad might seem a tad late to the party.
However, it’s plenty powerful for the rest of the tablet users who mostly rely on their devices for casual, everyday tasks like doing video calls with friends and family, streaming shows and movies, gaming, and sending the occasional email. Luckily, it’s also cheaper than the rest of Apple’s tablet offerings, which means it’s the best value for most people.
6. Samsung Galaxy Tab S6 Lite
The best budget Android tablet
Samsung Galaxy Tab S6 Lite
Android fans, on the other hand, can go even cheaper without sacrificing quality with the stripped-down Samsung Galaxy Tab S6 Lite whose slimmed-down features are made up for by its great value. Not only is this Android tablet very affordable – it’s cheaper than the 2021 iPad – but it also comes with the S Pen stylus at no added cost as well as a number of UI customizations and a battery life that will last you more than a day.
This isn’t by any means a tool for creative professionals, but it offers a whole lot of value for regular users. If you’re looking for an Android tablet that won’t break the bank but will see you through your everyday mobile needs, this one’s an ace.
7. Lenovo Tab P11 Pro
The best tablet for media consumption
You don’t need to shell out a bunch of money on a premium tablet, especially if you’re a regular user who doesn’t really need all that power and are really only looking for a device that you can comfortably watch movies on both at home and on the go. The underrated Lenovo Tab P11 Pro may not be as robust in features and performance as the rest of the popular tablets, but it’s got a few things going for it for media consumption.
This Android tablet comes with an absolutely brilliant 2K OLED screen touting Dolby Vision, an impressive set of speakers with Dolby Atmos, and a battery life that lasts up to 15 hours. Pair it with the optional Lenovo Precision Pen 2 and Lenovo keyboard, and you’ve even got a terrific tool for scribbling your designs and writing your next blog entry.
8. iPad mini
The best tablet for portability
Great things come in small packages, as the 2021 model of the legendary iPad mini proves. In fact, it might be giving the iPad Air 4 a good run for its money, especially with the newer A15 Bionic chip, which boasts a 21% CPU gain over the A14, and the same amount of RAM. This tiny tablet, therefore, packs a punch, and it’s even capable of handling some of your creative tasks – especially with that updated screen.
The only thing that really holds it back is its small, 8.3-inch display, which isn’t very ideal for productivity. Still, there’s a lot of power packed in its premium package, and it’s just the ticket if you’re looking for something extremely portable that you can count on if you need to tackle the occasional work tasks while traveling.
9. Amazon Fire HD 10
The best tablet for reading
Amazon’s Fire tablets might not blow tablet users away, especially next to Apple and Samsung’s premium offerings, but they’re certainly worth a look if you simply need a tablet to consume books, articles, and videos on. The 2021 Amazon Fire 10 HD is the best of these, now touting a faster processor, a brighter display, and 50% more RAM than its predecessor.
It’s not the beefiest tablet around, but it’s great for you’re curling up to the newest work of fiction or tucking into the latest episodes of your favorite shows. Of course, this being a tablet, you can also do video calls, catch up on social media, and even squeeze in some work tasks here and there. And, all for less than $200.
Michelle Rae Uy is a freelance tech and travel writer, part-time production editor, and a full-time traveler from Los Angeles, California. She currently splits her time between Los Angeles, London and the rest of the world. Follow her on Instagram @straywithRae.