The best tablets are like shape shifters. One minute they're a glossy magazine; the next, a games console, a word processor, an augmented reality experience or a videoconferencing platform. They're fantastic devices for socialising, relaxing, streaming and working, and they get even more impressive with each new version.
The best tablets can also be very good computers: simply add a separate keyboard and you've got something that looks, works and feels very much like a laptop – and if you add a digital pencil, you've got an artist's easel or a really handy note taker.
To put it simply: tablets are brilliant, and we want you to find the best tablet for you. To do that we've spent serious time building our guide to super slates and terrific tablets, covering every platform, every kind of user and every kind of budget. Whether it's a cheap tablet for the kids, an affordable Android or a premium iPad Pro, we've tapped it, swiped it and evaluated it to see if it deserves a place in our best tablets guide.
In a rush? Here's our top three tablets in 2021.
The best budget Android tablet is the Samsung Galaxy Tab S5e. There's loads of cheap tablets on the market but with many of them you get what you pay for. With the 5e, though, you get a quality all-round slate loaded with power and functionality. And, crucially, you get it at an affordable price point.
The best tablet for most people is the Apple iPad Air (2020). This slate delivers a truly fantastic all-round experience and delivers 95 per cent of what makes the iPad Pro so good for notably less money. It's slim, stylish and has more power than 99 per cent of people will ever need.
The best budget iPad is Apple's iPad 10.2 (2021). It supports Apple Pencil and keyboards (which are great for creativity and productivity), delivers a supremely slick user interface, and has Apple's best-in-class fit and finish.
With Black Friday looming, there's never been a better time to buy a new tablet: the best Black Friday deals always include discounts on tablets, even Apple ones. You probably won't get hundreds of pounds off the latest iPad Pro, but there will definitely be significant savings on all kinds of tempting tablets.
The best tablets you can buy today
Our number one tablet recommendation for most people? That's the latest Apple iPad Air.
This technically is the iPad Air 4, but it is more like the latest iPad Pro but with some of the more niche pro features removed – you can see a full run-down of iPad Air (2020) vs iPad Pro (2020).
Apple Pencil 2 support is here, though, and there's a smart connector for a keyboard too, so this is a slightly better proposition than the entry-level iPad for serious typists and those who will need to use their tablet for working. That extra power goes a long way to generate a more laptop-style experience.
Price-wise and specs-wise this sits firmly in the mid-range of the Apple iPad tablet range at the moment, and that should tell you all you need to know about whether it's the best tablet for you. It's a really good balance of price, performance and portability, made even better by iPadOS.
You get much stronger specs and hardware than the standard iPad, but not quite the full works that you get on the iPad Pro. This is, in our opinion, the 'just right' product that will be ideal for most people on the market in 2021.
If you are looking for a fantastic all-round tablet experience the latest Apple iPad Air delivers, and does so at a firmly mid-tier price point.
• Read our full iPad Air (2020) review
The 9th generation iPad is the cheapest full-size Apple tablet, and it’s an evolution of its predecessor in some really useful ways. The storage options have been increased to 64GB or 256GB, which should be good sizes for most people, while the processor has been boosted to the slightly faster Apple A13 chip, which should make it more future-proof for receiving iPadOS updates well into the future.
The screen is still bright and sharp, and is now enhanced with Apple's True Tone tech, which adjust the colour balance to match the ambient lighting in your room, so that it's much easier on the eyes (and avoids the nasty blue tint that so many screens have). It also works the first-gen Apple Pencil, which means drawing or note-taking is highly accurate and responsive on it – though the charging process is awkward, and the iPad doesn't include a way to store the Pencil.
There's also a smart new front camera that actually follows you if you move while on a video call, and always makes sure you're in the centre of the frame automatically – it's a really nice touch.
And despite being cheaper than the other iPad models, there's full support for everything iPadOS can do, and the full range of excellent apps available – so it can be an extremely powerful computer, as well as a way to watch YouTube. Our full iPad 10.2-inch (9th Gen) review goes into it even deeper.
The iPad Air is the better tablet: it has a faster processor, more storage, a better rear camera, and second-generation Apple Pencil support. But it’s also considerably more expensive, and the entry-level iPad really doesn’t suffer from any unnecessary corners being cut. It’s an exceptional device for its price and represents superb value for money. The only cheaper tablets really worth consideration are Amazon's, since they're so cheap – see our iPad 10.2 vs Amazon Fire HD 10 breakdown for how these two similarly sized slates match up.
This is Samsung's newest tablet, and while not quite as powerful as the Samsung Tab S6, it's probably better value for money – if your needs aren't that demanding and you want a well-built Android tablet with an excellent screen, the Samsung Tab S5e definitely stands out as one of the best tablets of 2021.
You don't get any official stylus with this, so you can't give your fingers a rest, but there is an official keyboard dock and cover (available as an optional extra) if you need to do a lot of typing.
Of course new Samsung tablets are always around the corner, no matter when you decide to buy, but the Samsung Galaxy Tab S5e has enough for us to recommend it even if it is due to be replaced in the near future. A hard Android tablet to beat in terms of pure bang for buck, and one of the very best Android tablets on the market today.
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The iPad mini is a little powerhouse of a tablet, packing in an incredible fast Apple A15 processor, making it the most powerful iPad outside of the pros, remarkably.
This turns the iPad mini into a fantastic creativity machine – with a wide-colour high-res display and Apple Pencil support, it's a beautiful little machine for drawing on or editing photos. It's capable of handling huge raw photography files, editing multiple 4K videos at once, creating music projects with loads of tracks… you name it, the iPad mini can power it.
Being such a small size and weighing barely anything, that makes it the ideal 'throw it in your bag every day' companion. It’s also great for games, of course, or entertainment (though the screen isn't OLED, which makes it weaker for movie viewing than, say, the Samsung Tab S6 above).
But while the iPad mini has all the strengths of iOS – including its huge collection of dedicated apps and stable performance even when multitasking – the smaller screen means it can’t always make the most of them. This isn’t suited to office-style productivity (spreadsheets, documents, etc), just due to the size of the screen and how that limits what you can see when multi-tasking.
If it's a versatile productivity machine you want, the iPad Air is better, but as a fun super-portable tablet you can do anything on, this is impossible to beat, as our full iPad mini (6th Gen) review explains.
As we said in our iPad Pro (2021) 12.9-inch review, this is just Apple showing off. The new mini-LED screen is simply the best display in any tablet, and the M1 processor inside is stunningly fast. It's ridiculously overpowered for most people, which is why the iPad Air is still our recommended tablet for most buyers, but if you need a tablet that's as powerful as a MacBook Pro then the iPad Pro delivers in spades.
The display is what really grabs you but inside is just as impressive. The M1 here is the version with 8 CPU and 8 GPU cores, just like the M1 MacBook Pro, and you get 8GB of RAM on versions up to and including the model with 512GB storage and 16GB of RAM for the bigger ones. There's a 12MP wide camera and 10MP ultra-wide, 2x optical and 5x digital zoom, panoramas up to 63MP and 4K video recording with five studio-quality microphones.
The only weak point is iPadOS, which is still a little clunky when it comes to multitasking. But with iPadOS 15 imminent, that's not likely to be a problem for long. The only thing more exciting than this iPad right now is the knowledge that the tech inside it will soon trickle down to more affordable models.
If you want the best Android tablet in the world today then the Samsung Galaxy Tab S7 Plus is the slate that stands out. It's a powerhouse that not only goes toe-to-toe with the iPad Pros in terms of performance, but does so in terms of style and build quality, too – this thing is only 5.7mm thick!
The star of the show is the Tab S7 Plus' 12.4-inch AMOLED screen, which has a super crisp resolution of 1752 x 2800 and, in what will be music to Android tablet lovers' ears, a refresh rate of 120Hz. Yes, that's right, using this slates' screen is buttery smooth, and makes navigating its Android 10 OS a dream.
Elsewhere the tablet is powered by the flagship Snapdragon 865 Plus processor and comes loaded with up to 256GB of internal storage space. Being honest, though, even if you plump for the 128GB model (which is cheaper), then you can easily upgrade its storage as this tablet comes with a microSD card slot.
Throw in Samsung's excellent S Pen Digital Stylus as well as a keyboard cover (sold separately, unfortunately) and you've got yourself not just a slate but a hyper powerful creative tool and laptop replacement. Which makes that high price far more understandable.
There's so much more on offer, too, such as 5G model, a triple camera system and excellent Samsung applications – basically, this is one killer slate, and for our money the very best Android tablet on the market today.
To see how this Android flagship tablet competes against our top premium slate choice be sure to check out T3's Apple iPad Pro 12.9-inch (2020) vs Samsung Galaxy S7+ comparison feature.
If you like the idea of an Android tablet to use for work, play or streaming then you could consider the Xiaomi Pad 5 - it runs on the MIUI for Pad software which is based on Android but has been tweaked to work better on the bigger tablet screen.
While the 11-inch display doesn't have a top-end OLED panel, it still manages to look seriously sleek with 500 nits peak brightness, and even a 120Hz refresh rate. You'll get bold, bright colours covering 1 billion different shades. The refresh rate isn't adaptive but having the option to switch up to 120Hz means this tablet will even work well for mobile gaming.
The Xiaomi Pad 5 isn't the most powerful slate but it's efficient enough to get you through even the most demanding tablet tasks. Similarly, the battery is good, it could be better but you'll easily get through a whole day of use.
If you're on the hunt for a good-looking tablet that performs well across the board, the Xiaomi Pad 5 ticks those boxes.
If you prefer Android to iPadOS, and want the very best tablet that's powered by Google software, then the Samsung Galaxy Tab S6 is a great choice. It's beautifully designed, it's packed with power, and the S Pen continues to get more and more useful with each passing upgrade.
In our review we praised the slate's sleek looks, the software sophistication, the quality of the media playback (both audio and visuals), and the look of that high-resolution 10.5-inch screen. It may not be quite as good as the iPad, but it's close, and you can at least escape Apple's walled garden (and set a default web browser that isn't Safari – imagine that).
Samsung has even managed to pack in a dual-lens rear camera on this device, so if you absolutely must take photos with your tablet, this won't let you down. As with the iPad, you're probably going to want the official keyboard accessory as well, which will cost you extra.
Overall, if you want a quality Android tablet, the Samsung Galaxy Tab S6 is one of the very finest slates on the market today.
Maybe you don't have as much space in your backpack, or maybe you have smaller hands, or maybe you just don't have quite as much money to spend – those are some of the reasons you might pick the 11-inch iPad Pro over the 12.9-inch version.
Despite its smaller size, the internals of the iPad Pro 11 are the same as the bigger version: it's supremely powerful, it's incredibly versatile (if you're willing to fork out for extra cost for the keyboard cover folio)... in short, it's an absolute beast of a tablet.
It'll run apps and games without breaking a sweat (making it ideal for word processing on the go), and with iPadOS now on the scene it's a better laptop replacement than ever before. Expensive, but recommended.
In our official Microsoft Surface Go review we concluded that:
"The Microsoft Surface Go is a pro-level tablet computer that successfully breaks into the market traditionally dominated by the Apple iPad Pro and Samsung Galaxy Tab ranges. It doesn't quite match the slickness of its rivals, but then again its rivals don't have the flexibility of Windows."
And that, simply put, is why this compact and stylish Windows 10 tablet has found its way into our best tablets guide – it offers something that the other tablets in this list don't, and it does so at an attractive price point, too. A well-made and stylish tablet, with solid internal hardware and screen, and running Windows 10, is a rare thing.
The best tablet on the market in 2021 for users who demand the Windows 10 OS and want to keep their purchase affordable.
• Read our full Microsoft Surface Go 2 review
For anyone who already owns Huawei devices, the Huawei MatePad Pro 12.6 (2021) will be a good choice of tablet. Harmony OS 2 lets you seamlessly transfer files between devices, and if you own a Huawei MateBook laptop then you can use the tablet as a second display.
It's a true beauty of a tablet - the screen is absolutely stunning, the battery lasts absolutely ages and the performance is reliable and fast. But there's one quite significant problem, despite being based on Android you won't be able to access any of Google's apps. That includes Gmail, YouTube and the Google Play Store. Instead, you'll need to rely on the Huawei AppGallery which is pretty limited. So that's why it couldn't sit further up this list.
If you don't mind that, then this is an excellent large-screen tablet with loads to offer. Especially to creators who will love the responsiveness of the touchscreen and the new M-Pencil (2nd Generation).
The Surface Pro 7 is everything we know and love from the Surface series: the power of Windows 10 and the versatility of a tablet or 2-in-1 form factor.
It's undoubtedly one of the best tablets of 2021: Intel Core i3, i5 and i7 options (all 10th gen), up to 16GB of RAM, up to 1TB of storage, and of course that fantastic 12.3-inch PixelSense display. Despite all that power, it's still light enough to hold in one hand (just about) and chuck in a bag.
We should point out that, as normal, the Surface Pro Type Cover and Surface Pen are optional extras – so you're going to need to pay a bit more cash to make the very most of everything the Surface Pro 7 has to offer. As far as desktop experiences in tablet form factors go though, this is hard to beat. If you want to see exactly how it squares up against the iPad Pro in the battle of the pro tablets, here's our iPad Pro vs Surface Pro 7 breakdown.
As we mentioned above, Google seems to have given up on pushing out its own Android tablets, settling instead for Chrome OS tablets that can also run Android apps – and that's where the Pixel Slate comes in.
Easy to use as a tablet, it transforms into a makeshift Chromebook thanks to the official keyboard accessory you can pick up (it's an optional extra unfortunately, like the official Pixel stylus).
The combination of Chrome OS and Android actually works pretty well, because you get the full desktop web experience, plus everything from the Google Play Store as well. Those Android apps really help when you're offline, for example.
As far as specs go, you can pack this with some really impressive internal components – though of course you're going to have to pay for them. We'd advise going for the best spec you can afford.
For an outdoorsy tablet that will withstand knocks, bumps and even torrential rain, you won’t get much better than the Samsung Galaxy Tab Active3. It’s IP68 rated water-resistant and drop-proof. Built for business, it comes with NFC to process payments, an S Pen in the box and touch sensitivity settings making it possible to use with gloves on.
Running on Android 10, the Exynos 9810 processor is paired with 4GB of RAM and 64GB of in-built storage with a MicroSD card slot. It won’t offer the fastest performance on this list but it certainly does the job.
- Also, why not read our guide to the best smartphones while you're here?
Best cheap tablets 2021: budget tablets, good performance
If you're looking for one of the best budget tablets of 2021, or one of the best cheap tablets of 2021, then we've got exactly what you're looking for in this final list. We've reviewed and rated all the best tablets and curated this ultimate list of most affordable slates that still pack a quality punch.
And, unless you're crunching through some 4K video editing or wanting to run the most demanding mobile games out there, a tablet doesn't really have to do much – a bit of web browsing here, a spot of Netflix watching there, and that's about the extent of it.
That's why for many people a cheap, budget tablet is actually a perfect fit. It's just a question of which of these cheap tablets is the best one for you.
That's why regardless of if you are looking for one of the best cheap tablets for gaming, or the best cheap tablets for drawing, or the best cheap tablets for students, or anything else where a budget slate is important, this guide will help you.
Remember that kids too can benefit from a cheap and cheerful tablet, and don't necessarily need all the bells and whistles of an iPad Pro. With that in mind we present our picks for the best budget tablets that you can buy right now, complete with the pros and cons of each.
Newly revamped, the latest Samsung Galaxy Tab A follows on from its predecessors by offering some very decent specs for a very decent price. Okay, it's not going to come first in any performance benchmarks, but it'll do everything you need it to.
Add to that a very nice-looking, very spacious 10.1-inch screen, and the latest version of Android, and you can see why this is definitely worth a place on our list of best budget tablets – you don't often get a screen this good at this price.
This being Samsung, you can rely on a certain level of build quality and software finesse even at this price, and as long as you don't need the latest and greatest components under the hood, this tablet will do you very well indeed.
Amazon makes some of the best budget tablets around, offering decent hardware at compelling prices, but there's a big caveat: no Google Play Store access, so not as wide a choice of apps as you might be used to, with major absentees including Gmail and YouTube.
If you can live with that (you still get apps like Netflix, Plex and Facebook), then the Amazon Fire 10 HD (2021) has a good size screen, plenty of storage, and up to 12 hours of battery life. These Fire tablets tend to be better built than other budget slates too, and are going to last you.
As such, we recommend the Amazon Fire HD 10 (2021) as the best cheap tablet to buy if you want something the whole family can enjoy. It will deliver a long-lasting companion that is especially good for streaming content from Disney+, Netflix and Amazon Prime Video.
At this price the Amazon Fire 7 tablet is almost a no-brainer for anyone looking to spend very, very little on their next tablet. Not only does this 7-inch slate deliver rock solid basic tablet functionality, but you've got four sharp colours to pick from, Alexa on board, and up to eight hours of battery life, too.
Be under no illusions though, with the specs inside, you're only going to be able to stick to the basics (think media consumption and web browsing). Plus, as with the other Fire tablets, you're limited to the Amazon App Store, so you can't install any Google apps.
For those who just want a light, one-hand friendly tablet to slip into a bag for a bit of light entertainment during the commute, or to shop and browse with while reclining on the sofa in the evening, then the Fire 7 comes very highly recommended.
You know you're going to get well-built, well-designed hardware from Huawei, and so it is with the 10-inch MediaPad T3. There's that capacious screen, plus internal specs that won't set the world alight but will handle all of the basic tasks you'll want to do on it.
Huawei's take on Android isn't the best-looking or intuitive out there, but you can easily customise the interface, and you do get access to all the big name apps you're going to want. If you don't need a tablet that's blazingly fast, the MediaPad T3 is fantastic value.
This is just about the best Amazon Fire tablet you can buy at the moment: it's got the biggest screen, and the most RAM (at 4GB you get 1GB more than on the standard Fire HD 10), and Amazon is pushing it as a productivity option to with the option of a Bluetooth keyboard and Microsoft Office bundle.
The usual Fire OS caveats apply, in that you don't get any (official) access to Google apps, and everything is very Amazon-centric. If you spend all of your life inside Prime Video and Amazon Music and Audible then you'll be just fine, but make sure you're going to be able to run the apps you want to run before you splash out on this.
Speaking of splashing out, the price is very reasonable for what you get back in return. There's wireless charging here – another feature that isn't on the standard Amazon Fire HD 10 tablet – and if you add a wireless charging stand then you can basically turn this into an Echo Show.
Lenovo's Android tablet line-up is a little confusing, but here we're talking about the 8-inch version of the Tab 4 (there are four Tab 4s in total – keep up at the back). It's the cheapest of the bunch, but still offers enough build quality and performance to keep most satisfied.
At this price and with these specs you're going to be sticking to the basics, but the Tab 4 is fine for media consumption and a little light web work. What's more, the tablet is well put together, and can give you a whopping 12 hours of total battery life if you use it carefully.
The Amazon Fire HD 8 Plus tablet takes everything that makes the standard Fire 8 such a good budget tablet and then dials it up a level, with extra RAM, faster charging and support for wireless charging thrown in. This slate also comes with three free months of access to Kindle Unlimited, opening up its ability as an ereader, too.
Here at T3 we think this tablet works really well with Amazon's Fire HD 8 Wireless Charging Dock, which also acts as a kickstand. This means that is can be charged while streaming video or music, and is also perfectly orientated for interaction as a smart home hub, too.
If wireless charging and slightly faster performance and charging doesn't seem critical to you, though, then we still recommend the Fire HD 8, which rings in a little cheaper and still offers excellent core functionality.