Best tablet 2018: from slim and stylish slates, to productivity powerhouses

Apple’s iPad may be the best tablet for many, but it might not be the best tablet for you

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New tablet hunters should be on high alert right now. That's because Amazon Prime Day 2018 is taking place and it is delivering some amazing tablet deals. In addition, the deal-a-thon is causing many other online retailers to drop their own sweet tablet deals, too, meaning there are some stunning slates available for some super discounted price points right now.

So let’s cut to the chase. The best tablet in the world right now is the standard 9.7-inch iPad. It’s usurped our previous preference, the 10.5-inch iPad Pro, because it does almost as much for a lot less cash. 

However, while the iPad is the best all-round tablet, that doesn’t mean it’s the best one for you. Indeed, there are currently a dump truck-load of tablets on the market and, despite the Android side of that slowing down as of late, there are still a fantastic quantity of propositions out there.

All of which means that making the right decision when buying a new tablet a tricky experience. To help you find the perfect tablet for you, both in terms of usage scenarios and budget, we've rounded up the absolute best tablets on the market today, as well a provide you with some key buying advice.

How to choose the best tablet for you

More than ever before, choosing a tablet is about choosing an ecosystem. If you plump for a Kindle Fire you’re electing to join Amazon’s ecosystem, which is based on Android but does its own proprietary thing with its own proprietary App Store. 

Go for Android and you’re betting on Google, even though Google’s enthusiasm for tablets is tepid. If you go for an iPad you’re embracing Apple, and if you buy a Windows tablet you’re going down the Microsoft road.

There are pros and cons of each. Apple and Amazon are the safest for kids, and Apple the most secure. Android has arguably the worst user experience, and Windows fewer really good tablet apps. But it really comes down to what you want to do, and what apps you intend to do it with.

As far as the hardware goes, screen size is paramount. 7 inches is too small when smartphones are just a fraction smaller; 13 inches adds bulk and weight without significantly improving on a slightly smaller screen. On-board storage is usually risible, so look out for expansion options and/or good cloud storage.

The best tablets on the market today

1. Apple iPad 9.7 (2018)

The 2018 iPad is the sweet spot in Apple’s current lineup: Pro features without the Pro price.

Specifications
Weight: 469g
Dimensions: 240x169.5x7.5mm
OS: iOS 11
Screen size: 9.7
Resolution: 2048x1536
CPU: Apple A10 Fusion
RAM: Unknown
Storage: 32/128GB
Battery: Unknown
Rear camera: 8MP
Front camera: 1.2MP
Reasons to buy
+It’s the best value iPad+Apple Pencil support+It’s almost an iPad Pro
Reasons to avoid
-Compelling new, but hardly an essential upgrade

The new king of our best tablet roundup, the new 9.7-inch iPad is simply a cracking all-rounder.

The iPad is nearly an iPad Pro. Its screen is 9.7” compared to 10.5” or 12.9”; its processor is an A10 Fusion compared to an A10X Fusion; its camera is 8MP with HD video compared to 12MP and 4K; and it supports the Apple Pencil. But the big difference is in its price. 

The cheapest iPad Pro is £619, or £769 for the 12.9-inch model. The iPad starts at £319. It’s not a direct rival to the pricier Pro models, but you really need to be sure you need the marginally better camera, display and speakers if you’re going to spend twice as much money on a Pro.

Read the full review: New Apple iPad (2018)

Adding a TrueTone screen and stereo speakers would make it more of a killer product but as it is, Apple still makes the mid-range tablet to beat. It’s sure to continue to dominate its market, even if owners of iPads from the last few years have little reason to upgrade. Why buy anything else?

Best tablet 2018

2. Apple iPad Pro 10.5

Our pick of the Pros: it’s slightly smaller and an awful lot cheaper

Specifications
Weight: 469g
Dimensions: 250.6x174.1x6.1mm
OS: iOS 10
Screen size: 10.5
Resolution: 1668x2224
CPU: Apple A10X Fusion
RAM: 4GB
Storage: 64/256/512GB
Battery: approx 8,800mAh
Rear camera: 12MP
Front camera: 7MP
Reasons to buy
+As powerful as the 12.9”+Exceptional audio+Incredibly quick
Reasons to avoid
-It’s expensive-Over-specced for some

If your budget allows, the iPad Pro beats the standard iPad in several ways. Its processor is slightly faster, and its display is fully laminated with Apple’s ProMotion system, True Tone display and wide colour gamut. 

The camera is a 12MP model with an f/1.8 aperture and 4K video shooting, and it takes better photos not just thanks to its extra resolution but also because of its wide colour capture. Unlike the standard iPad it has optical image stabilisation. There are four speakers here instead of the usual two, and the sound is stunning for something so small.

Read the full review: Apple iPad Pro 10.5

The only difference between the 10.5” and the 12.9” is the latter’s bigger screen, but we prefer the smaller model’s portability: it’s more than adequate for anything you want to look at, and big enough to use the Apple Pencil without feeling constrained. And it’s quite a lot cheaper, coming in at £619 for the entry level 64GB model compared to £769 for the 12.9-inch.

Best tablet 2018

3. Apple iPad Pro 12.9

If you need to go Pro, and need to go big, this is the tablet for you

Specifications
Weight: 677g
Dimensions: 305.7x220.6x6.9mm
OS: iOS 10
Screen size: 12.9
Resolution: 2732x2048
CPU: Apple A10X Fusion
RAM: 4GB
Storage: 64/256/512GB
Battery: 10307mAh
Rear camera: 12MP
Front camera: 7MP
Reasons to buy
+Huge, beautiful screen+Apple Pencil support
Reasons to avoid
-Too big for some-Again, could be over-specced

This may seem like a blown up iPad, and, well, that's what it essentially is. The iPad Pro is the largest tablet we've ever seen from Apple and it really is a monster. It has a 12.9-inch display that makes it a difficult to handle. So don't expect any one-handed action here (is anyone else hearing these innuendos?)

Read the full review: Apple iPad Pro

It does mean there's a big beautiful screen you can draw on with the Apple Pencil, and there's a huge 10,307mAh battery under the hood to keep this thing powered on for ages. Inside is an Apple A10X Fusion chip and 4GB of RAM. You can also get a huge 512GB of storage, but be warned it's going to cost you.

Best tablet 2018

4. Apple iPad Mini 4

The best small tablet

Specifications
Weight: 299g
Dimensions: 203x134x6.1mm
OS: iOS 9
Screen size: 7.9
Resolution: 1536x2048
CPU: Apple A8
RAM: 2GB
Storage: 16/64/128GB
Battery: 5124mAh
Rear camera: 8MP
Front camera: 1.2MP
Reasons to buy
+Thinner chassis+Great screen
Reasons to avoid
-Old chipset-Camera issues

It's not a huge surprise that Apple's smaller tablet is still one of the best on the market. Interestingly, though, its high-end build quality causes it some problems, making it heavier than a lot of the plastic-bodied Android tablets out there.

Read the full review: iPad Mini 4

It's ideal travel companion as it's easy to hold and just the right size for a decent gaming experience. Some people knocked the iPad Mini for not adding many features with the last iteration, but we'd say it's difficult to improve upon perfection. If you're after a small tablet, this is your choice.

Best tablet 2018

5. Samsung Galaxy Tab S3

The best Android tablet you can get

Specifications
Weight: 429g
Dimensions: 237.3 x 169 x 6mm
OS: Android 7.0 (Nougat)
Screen size: 9.7-inches
Resolution: 1536 x 2048 pixels
CPU: Snapdragon 820
RAM: 4GB
Storage: 32GB
Battery: 6000mAh
Rear camera: 13MP
Front camera: 5MP
Reasons to buy
+A genuinely good Android tablet+It’s got the S Pen+Sharp, vibrant screen
Reasons to avoid
-Average battery-A new one is coming this fall

Samsung's latest attempt at a tablet is much better than any Android attempt we've ever seen before. Even though the design isn't all that inspiring (but really, how can you make a tablet inspiring?), it offers a lot of high-end spec under the hood, and a gorgeous 9.7-inch screen up front, and the brilliant S Pen for precise note-taking, too.

Read the full review: Samsung Galaxy Tab S3

And, in all honesty, this is the probably the closest Android manufacturers have got to an iPad Pro competitor - which in our eyes is a massive compliment. 

The Galaxy Tab S3 is hardly revolutionary in the looks department, but it’s a powerful performer with a good screen, a large battery, a 13MP camera and that all-important S Pen.

Because it’s been out for a while now – we’re expecting a newer model in the Autumn – it’s also widely discounted, so while the RRP is £599 it’s available for an awful lot less. At £600 it’s probably overpriced, but if you don’t pay full whack you’re getting a very good, well engineered device.

6. MICROSOFT SURFACE PRO (2017)

One of the very best Windows 10 devices of any kind and a superb choice for power users

Specifications
Weight: 768g
Dimensions: 292x201x8.5mm
OS: Windows 10 Pro
Screen size: 12.3-inches
Resolution: 2736x1824
CPU: Intel Core m3, i5 or i7
RAM: 4/8/16GB
Storage: 128/256/512GB or 1TB
Battery: up to 13.5 hours video playback
Rear camera: 8MP
Front camera: 5MP
Reasons to buy
+PC power, tablet portability+Full windows experience+Premium design and build
Reasons to avoid
-Big and heavy

At £799 the Surface Pro is good value. At £619, the special offer available as we write this, it’s a steal. 

Microsoft’s tablet is the company’s best yet. The keyboard is superb, the Surface Pen has been made better and the form factor happily straddles the line between tablet and laptop.

It’s a very, very good device for mobile working. too, and because it’s running Windows 10 Pro you get the full Windows experience, not just a cut-down version for touchscreens. 

Microsoft may have been late to the current tablet party – it pioneered tablet PCs, but they were ahead of their time and a bit rubbish; it wasn’t until the iPad that tablets really got going – but it’s at the top of its game. Just don’t pay the full RRP: with a new Surface Pro on the horizon there are deals to be had.

Best tablet 2018

7. Google Pixel C

A pretty decent tablet form Google

Specifications
Weight: 517g
Dimensions: 242 x 179 x 7mm
OS: Android 6.0 Marshmallow
Screen size: 10.2-inch
Resolution: 2560 x 1800
CPU: Nvidia Tegra X1
RAM: 3GB
Storage: 64GB
Battery: N/A
Rear camera: 8MP
Front camera: 2MP
Reasons to buy
+Brilliant display+Premium design
Reasons to avoid
-Not optimised for keyboard-Battery could be better

Don't mistake the Google Pixel C for just another Nexus product. This is Google's chance to prove it can make incredible hardware without the help of another manufacturer. And it has done exactly that.

Read the full review: Google Pixel C

This is the best Android tablet you can buy right now. It's not exactly cheap at £399 and the keyboard costs an extra £119, but the whole experience is surprisingly great. It's got a very understated design that looks professional and stylish at the same time.