The best tablets are up there with the best laptops: the days when a tablet was a big-screened, low-powered slab are long gone. The new iPad Pro 12.9-inch is as fast as a MacBook Pro, has the best display we've ever seen in a portable device and has studio-quality microphones and cameras that turn it into a portable movie studio.
But you don't necessarily need to buy Apple's best iPad to get the best tablet for your needs. Whether you're an Android fan, a Windows one or utterly committed to the Apple ecosystem there's never been a better time to invest in a tablet. They're astonishingly flexible and capable devices, able to flip from making movies to watching them, from spreadsheets to online shopping, from documents to doodling. And with accessories such as Samsung's S Pen and the Apple Pencil, they're amazing tools for artists and illustrators too.
Not everybody wants or needs a pro-spec tablet, which is why our best tablets guide includes some much more affordable options too. We'll look at all the premium models too, of course, but we're well aware that budgets are quite tight for many of us right now. We've also produced guides to the best tablets for kids, many of which are more affordable than you might think – and while we have the cheapest prices for every tablet right on this page, check our guide to the best Amazon Fire tablet deals, best iPad mini deals and best iPad Pro deals if you want to see every current deal for those specific tablets. And if all you really want your tablet to do is show you ebooks, it's well worth considering one of the best Kindle ereaders on the market.
As always we've included some useful buying advice immediately after our recommendations for the best tablets. Our tablet buying tips will help you discover what to look for, which sizes are best for which activities and what the different tablet operating systems deliver.
In this best tablets guide we're focusing solely on dedicated tablets. If you fancy a tablet that's also a laptop, check out our guide to the best 2-in-1 laptops.
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
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.
The 8th generation iPad is the cheapest full-size Apple tablet, and it’s an evolution of its predecessor: some of the specifications are the same, so there’s the same ten-hour battery life, 3GB of RAM, 32GB or 128GB storage and silver, gold or space grey finish.
But the 2020 iPad now has the same Apple A12 Bionic chip that appeared in the iPhone XS, and that delivers a claimed 40% increase in performance and twice the graphics performance too. As with the 2019 model this iPad works with the first generation Apple Pencil, and it also supports the Smart Keyboard. It’s cheaper than before: the RRP is a very reasonable £329.
The iPad Air is the better tablet: it has a faster processor, more storage, a better camera, a True Tone display 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.
• Read our full iPad 10.2-inch (2020) review
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 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.
The iPad mini is now a little powerhouse of a tablet, packing in an incredible fast Apple A12 processor (more powerful than in the entry-level 10.2-inch iPad, for example).
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. If it's a media-watching machine, the better speakers and OLED screen on the Samsung Tab S6 are maybe a better bet. But as a fun super-portable tablet you can do anything on, this is impossible to beat.
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
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.
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.
With a design that's better than many budget tablets, the Iconia One is a perfectly fine choice for anyone wanting to pick up a tablet on the cheap. It does all the basics well, and according to Acer should give you around 10 hours of battery life with a mix of usage.
The dual microUSB ports are one of the more unusual touches on this tablet, for all your peripheral (or charging) needs, and the audio is another of the features where you get better performance than you might expect at this price – so perfect for movie watching.
Chinese firm Chuwi might not be the most instantly recognisable brand name in this list, but don't let its relative obscurity put you off – it's pushing out some fine budget tablets running Windows 10, though the specs are of course more modest than on rival slates.
While Windows 10 is in theory more capable than Android, bear in mind that those low-end specs will make running the likes of Photoshop and iTunes difficult. If you want to go Microsoft though, and just need a tablet for basic tasks, then the Hi10 Pro fits the bill.
There's buckets to love about his unique Lenovo tablet, from its unique design with in-built kick-stand, right through to its rock solid internal hardware spec.
You get a large 10-inch FHD touchscreen, a Octa-Core 2.0 GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 439 processor, 3GB of RAM and 32GB of storage, too.
The Lenovo Yoga Smart Tab 10.1 also comes running Android 9.0 Pie in terms of OS, which obviously gives you full access to all the apps and games in the Google Play Store.
This is an inexpensive tablet that stands out from a crowded market.
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 t the moment – it seems to prefer Chromebooks that also double as tablets. 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, rather than if you should buy one of the best Android tablets, or best Apple iPads.
As far as the hardware goes, screen size is perhaps the most important factor. Right now 7 inches seems too small when smartphones are just a fraction smaller, while anything over 11 inches is difficult to carry around. On-board storage can be paltry too, so look out for expansion options and/or good cloud storage services.
Who are the best tablet makers?
While other manufacturers have challenged the iPad, it is fair to say that for the vast majority of users, unless they have to have a tablet running a non-iPadOS operating system, then an Apple iPad should be the first thing they consider. This is why Apple's iPad feature so highly in our best tablet guide.
Moving away from Apple, and Samsung is the next biggest producer of tablets, with its Tab range delivering powerful Android tablets that run, basically, like giant phones. These tablets deliver access to the Google Play Store, so rival the iPads in terms of apps, and also tend to be well specced, too.
Microsoft's Surface range of systems has also started to make some waves in the tablet industry, with the Windows-running slates offering an even closer-to-laptop experience for non Apple Mac users. The Surface Go in particular stylishly shows that Windows needn't not be the preserve of full-blown laptops.
Lastly, in terms of makers of note, it would be impossible not to mention Amazon and it Fire range of tablets. These tablets run FireOS, which isn't quite as good as the operating systems running on Apple and Android tablets, but they do offer all the basics and almost all the major apps most users want. The Fire tablets are super cheap, too, and the modern ones comes with Amazon's Alexa AI assistant built in.
Obviously, there are plenty of more tablet makers out there, including Lenovo, Huawei, Chuwi, Acer and even Google, so be sure to browse the plethora of tablets on offer before making a decision on an upgrade.
Best tablets for Zoom and video calls
Almost all tablets on sale today can be used for Zoom and video calls, however there are factors to consider when choosing a tablet with this sort of functionality in mind.
Things to look out for when shopping for one of the best tablets for Zoom and video calls include:
With these things considered, we think the following slates are the best tablets for Zoom and video calls:
1. Apple iPad Pro
2. Samsung Galaxy Tab S6
3. Apple iPad
4. Amazon Fire HD 10
5. Microsoft Surface Go
Best tablets for gaming
Tablets today offer laptop-beating power in many cases or, even at the lower end, have access to app stores like the Apple App Store and Google Play Store where thousands of great games are available to download and play.
Now, while it is true that many tablet games are designed to run on very basic slate specs, to game in the greatest fidelity and with the best framerates you'll want a tablet that has the power to do so. You want one of the best tablets for gaming.
When deciding what is and isn't a good tablet for gaming you want to, above anything else, take a look at what sort of processor it is packing. For example, Apple's range of Bionic processors are streets ahead of the competition in most benchmarks, and that equates to superior performance in most tablet games.
Flagship-grade Android and Windows tablets also pack plenty of gaming power, though.
As a result, we consider the best tablet for gaming to be:
1. Apple iPad Pro
2. Apple iPad Air
3. Apple iPad
4. Samsung Galaxy Tab S6
5. Microsoft Surface Pro
Best cheap tablets for students
Many premium tablets cost hundreds if not thousands of dollars, meaning that slates like a max-specced Apple iPad Pro is out of reach for many students and young professionals.
The truth is, though, unless serious power is needed for things like 4K video editing, then this level of premium slate really isn't required for most users.
Students do need a tablet that has good hardware, though, as many have serious studying and creative projects to undertake. And for this you need a sweet middle ground between an entry level slate and a premium one.
As such, we consider the best tablets for students to be:
1. Apple iPad Air
2. Samsung Tab S5e
3. Microsoft Surface Go
4. Amazon Fire HD 10
5. Huawei MatePad
Best Android tablets: which are the best?
The best Android tablets offering right now has been pretty steady over 2021, with a brace of Samsung tablets lording over the rest. The Samsung Galaxy Tab S7 Plus and Tab S6 are both premium, highly-capable Android tablets that deliver hardware that takes on even the Apple iPad Pro.
If there was one out-and-out recommendation for an Android tablet to buy then we'd have to suggest the Samsung Galaxy Tab S7, though. It will cost you, mind, with the slate sliding into a shopping basket for iPad Pro levels of money. You do get a 120Hz 12.4-inch AMOLED screen though to play with, as well as a Snapdragon 865 Plus CPU and Android 10 OS.
The Galaxy Tab S7 Plus is also remarkably thin at just 5.7mm and, if you really need the functionality, there's a 5G enabled variant, too. As such, the best Android tablet is the Samsung Galaxy Tab S7 Plus.
Our top five Android tablet recommendations are as follows:
1. Samsung Galaxy Tab S7 Plus
2. Samsung Galaxy Tab S6
3. Samsung Galaxy Tab S6 Lite
4. Huawei MatePad Pro
5. Amazon Fire HD 8 Plus
Apple iPads vs Android tablets
If it isn't already clear enough from our best tablets ranking, there is only one king in the tablets world, and that is the Apple iPad. That is the reason why all of the top three spots in our tablet buying guide are occupied by an slate made by Apple.
Unlike the smartphone market, where the Apple iPhone pioneered the modern mobile phone but has since been rapidly overtaken by a number of Android phones in terms of hardware, capabilities and cutting edge new features, the tablet market has not seen the same trajectory.
After Apple really kickstarted the modern tablet market with the original Apple iPad, despite certain Android and Windows tablets technically offering very strong hardware packages, they have not managed to eclipse Apple in terms of market penetration or adoption by the public.
Apple's iPadOS is most likely the main reason why the iPad has remained so dominant, as too the creative applications and functions unlocked by the Apple Pencil. Most importantly, Apple's slightly more basic closed ecosystem seems tailor made for the tablet medium. It's a just-right marrying of hardware and software.
Unlike in the phone market Apple also genuinely offers a flagship piece of hardware in the tablet space, the Apple iPad Pro, that isn't bested elsewhere. This makes the iPad the go-to brand for creatives and professionals.
The entry level Apple iPad, though, is perfectly judged for mainstream market and, again, unlike other Apple products is actually very affordable. Throw in the mid-range iPad Air and Apple really does have the market sewn up.
That said, there is buckets of value in the Android tablet market and a smorgasbord of slates to choose from, meaning that they can be great options for many people. Samsung has a good range of more premium-spec Android tablets, too, so while we'd say any buyer should look at iPads first, they definitely shouldn't do so exclusively.
- These are the best Dell laptops
How we test tablets
From the most expensive iPad Pro on the market, to the cheapest budget slate, T3 takes testing tablets very seriously. This is because, far from just one-dimensional devices, today's best tablets are powerful computers that are incredibly versatile, and increasingly people are buying them to use as their primary computing device.
Tablets are also big enablers for creativity, as well as productivity, and for entertainment, which during 2021 is needed more than ever. With so many people working and living at home, the last thing they need is their core technology letting them down, which is why we review every tablet by the same strict criteria here at T3.
We start by evaluating the tablet's package in total. So we judge the quality of the slate's build as well as what accessories it comes with out of the box. If a tablet is advertised with a stylus and doesn't come with one in the box then we will tell you about it. Equally, if the tablet feels plasticky and cheap in the hand, we'll reveal this.
Next up, we look at what the tablet delivers in terms of hardware, and that includes both its screen and internal components. The majority of a tablet is its screen, and as they are touchscreen devices it is crucial in our eyes that they are not let down by poor fidelity or unresponsive inputs.
In terms of core components, we'll find out what the tablet's CPU, GPU, RAM, storage and battery capacity are on paper, and then we'll look to benchmark the slate and also see how it actually performs in real life. We'll stream video, play games, edit photos, browse the internet, work, be creative and more during our review period.
We'll also take a tablet on the road to see, firstly, how easy it is to carry and transport and, two, to see how strong and long-lasting its battery actually is. If a tablet conks out after just six hours runtime you'll know about it, as too if it delivers all-day battery life.
Finally, we explore the tablet's operating system and software. How intuitive and easy to use these things are is key to how well a tablet scores in this section, as too its breadth of empowering features.
Finally the slate is given a star score out of five, with five stars the best and one star the worst achievable. If a tablet has scored highly, it is then considered for our best tablets buying guide.
- The best iPad: every iPad Apple currently sells, ranked