Best tablets in 2021: Perfectly portable for play and productivity
A great tablet with a bright, crisp screen and processing power can be transformative when it comes to mobile entertainment. You can enjoy your favorite movies and TV shows on the go with it, but you can also get some work done on your commute, enjoy games, or just chill and listen to music. Tablets are a dime a dozen and most electronics manufacturers have their own brand, making it difficult to discern which one is the best for your budget and unique use case. We’ve put together this guide to help you track down the best tablets .
There are several important factors to consider when buying tablets. First off, you’ll want to consider whether you’re looking for an iOS or Android tablet. Both have their own unique pros and cons, including different app stores, functionality, and of course, ecosystems. If you already enjoy using one type of OS on your smartphone, this will likely make your choice a much simpler one.
It’s also important to consider each tablet’s size and weight for portability reasons, display capabilities , battery life, processor, and storage space. Some tablets are much more powerful than others, but tend to be weaker in the longevity department. Others do allow for expandable storage space, but may not have the desired resolution you’re seeking. You’ll also want to keep your budget in mind when turning over these things in your mind.
Best tablet overall: Apple iPad Air
Pros: Great performance, multiple colors, Magic Keyboard and Apple Pencil support
Cons: Somewhat short battery life
Apple’s svelte iPad Air is like a greatest hits of the best tablet features available. It offers many of the same options as the iPad Pro, only in a much more budget-friendly package. There’s plenty of screen real estate with its 10.9-inch edge-to-edge display, impressive performance that can handle work or play, and an attractive series of colors that mean the tablet looks great with or without a case.
Powered by the capable Apple A14 Bionic processor , the iPad Air can handle lush graphics, demanding productivity apps, and anything you want to throw at it, in either 64 or 256GB storage options. Not only can you store all your important pieces of media, but your iPad Air can run it all without a second thought.
The iPad Air also includes the always-useful Touch ID sensor to unlock your device in a flash. It supports both the Magic Keyboard and Apple Pencil as well, which make for two very useful options for writers or artists on the go, or anyone looking to use the iPad Air as a reliable laptop or desktop replacement. It’s light, portable, and an all-around delight.
Best Android tablet: Samsung Galaxy Tab S7
Pros: Great battery life, thin and light, S-Pen included
Cons: Some screen glare, some sluggish app performance
The Samsung Galaxy Tab S7 is the closest thing Android users will see to the indomitable Apple iPad Pro. This flagship tablet comes packing a powerful Qualcomm Snapdragon 865+ chipset, and supports up to 1TB of expandable storage. It also includes an S Pen stylus, which adds a whole new level of interactivity.
The Galaxy Tab S7 is capable of some impressive multitasking, with three different configurations of RAM and storage, from 6GB to 8GB and 512GB to save whatever you’d like. It can easily maintain a variety of apps and browser windows at once with only a minimal amount of stutter when you get too ambitious with your processing power.
The included S Pen connects magnetically, and the tablet itself comes in a variety of colors, though nothing so flashy as the iPad Air’s array of hues. But it looks nearly identical to an iPad Pro, if that’s something that matters to you, and its 11-inch display is absolutely gorgeous.
Best tablet for productivity: Apple iPad Pro
Pros: Excellent performance, crisp display, Face ID
Cons: Expensive, somewhat large for many
With an enormous screen, incredible display, and performance that can’t be beat, the Apple iPad Pro was practically created to be a productivity powerhouse. If getting all the work done you possibly can on the go is important to you, this is the best tablet for jumping in and getting your hands dirty.
For the price, you’re getting a wide variety of performance-focused features, including a Mini-LED display , which allows for richer colors, deeper blacks, and better contrast. Whether you’re working within a word processor or drawing up graphics, you’ll enjoy one of the best screens you can find on a tablet.
In addition, you get the powerful M1 processor, which can run anything you need, from Garage Band to your favorite graphic-intensive mobile game, and everything in between. It also supports the Apple Pencil, Magic Keyboard , and features like Center Stage. This is the desktop-like “laptop” you’ve been searching for.
You will be playing a pretty penny for these features, however. But the return for the price is well worth the entry fee, especially if you’re someone who finds yourself working tirelessly on the go.
Best budget tablet: Apple iPad
Pros: Budget-friendly, accessible iOS ecosystem
Cons: Few options for storage, staid design
When you’re in the market for an iPad, you don’t have to spring for the most unique or the most full-featured option. An entry-level iPad is still quite capable of handling similar tasks as its more expensive cousins. It’s still well worth picking up to enjoy iOS apps with.
The entry-level iPad may not have the same bells and whistles as the iPad Air or iPad Pro, but it does come packing a 10.2-inch display, Touch ID sensor, and an Apple A13 Bionic chip, which can tackle all the typical niceties you’d expect from one of the tablets in Apple’s ecosystem.
The iPad comes in three different colors, starts at less than $200, and it also can be upgraded to 128GB. It’s nothing too complicated, but it’s a great tablet for essentially any use you may have.
Best budget Android tablet: Amazon Fire HD 10 Tablet
Pros: Extremely affordable, sharp screen, great battery
Cons: Limited access with Amazon App Store, build isn’t as hardy as other tablets
Amazon’s Fire tablets lineup is such as there’s an affordable size option for everyone. The largest, the Fire HD 10, is a fantastically inexpensive tablet that’s perfect for navigating Amazon, using streaming services, and checking out media neatly tucked into a variety of different apps.
The Fire HD 10 comes with either 32GB or 64GB of storage with expansions up to 1TB by way of microSD. It’s hardly the performance powerhouse you’d expect from a pricier iPad or Android device. But for anyone looking to pick up a tablet meant for a quick burst of TV binging here and there or a reliable way to listen to audiobooks, it’s a fantastic purchase.
You can choose from four different color options, and all configurations come with or without Amazon’s “offers” (ads). Pay $15 to remove them before or after you buy one. For just $150 for the standard model, it’s a steal, with several optional configurations you can purchase as well, such as a detachable keyboard case or charging dock that can also double as an Alexa smart display.
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