What's the best tablet?
|Best tablet||Price||Key specifications|
|Apple iPad Air 2||£349||iOS 10, Apple A8X, 2GB RAM, 16/64/128GB storage, 9.7in 2048x1536 display, 7340mAh|
|Samsung Galaxy Tab S2 8.0||£319||Android 5.0 Lollipop, Exynos 5433, 3GB RAM, 32/64GB storage, 8in 2048x1536 display, 4000mAh|
|Apple iPad Pro 9.7||£499||iOS 10, Apple A9X, 2GB RAM, 32/128/256GB storage, 9.7in 2048x1536 display, 7306mAh|
What's the best tablet? The best all-round tablet is the iPad Air 2, but if you're looking for an Android tablet you should look instead to the Samsung Galaxy Tab S2. There are plenty of alternatives to choose from here, too. Learn more about these top tablets in our best tablets chart below. Also see: Best new tablets coming in 2017.
Also see: Best Tablet Deals
You'll notice that quite a lot of the tablets below were reviewed a year or more ago. That's because the tablet market has slowed down significantly, and there simply haven't been many new models recently. We expect Apple to launch three new iPads in March, possibly an iPad Air 3, but when Samsung will update the Galaxy Tab S2 we don't know exactly,
New tablets are coming from other manufacturers. Top of our list of rumours is a new Google Nexus 7 which will be a follow up to one of our favourite tablets ever, but might be made by the firm itself this time around under the Pixel 7 name. Also make sure you keep an eye out for Microsoft's Surface Pro 5 and check out the 10 best new tablets coming in 2017 for more.
Best tablets: buying guide
Android vs iPad vs Windows
We're talking about the best tablets money can buy here. If you're on a tight budget, you should be reading our best budget tablets roundup. And if you're looking for a tablet for your child, check out our best kids' tablets article.
Apple iPads run Apple's own iOS operating system which is widely regarded as one of the best out there. It's easy to use and app makers usually make it their first choice, so you're pretty much guaranteed to find what you're after.
This is valuable when you buy accessories which require apps - mainly smart home or fitness gadgets - as you may not be able to control these from a Windows tablet.
In most cases, apps are made available on Android as well as iPads, but not always. Android tablets can be cheaper than iPads, but there are some Samsung models which cost the same or are more expensive. Windows tablets come in both cheap and expensive guises, but although Windows is the 'worst' of the tablet operating systems, it has the advantage of being able to run the same programs you use on your laptop or PC - not just finger-friendly tablet apps. The latest version of Android is Android 7.0 Nougat.
And that's why most Windows tablets come with a keyboard, or offer it as an option: they're really a hybrid of a laptop and tablet. But as you'll find out in most of our Windows tablet reviews, this is rarely a case of getting the best of both worlds. One exception is the Surface Pro 4 from Microsoft. For more on this, see our articles: The best Android tablets of 2017 UK and Best Windows tablets.
The fourth option is Amazon's Fire tablets. These are based on Android but are locked into Amazon's system: you won't find any Google services or apps on them.
Best tablets reviews: What do you want a tablet for?
Tablets are great for watching videos and TV, for playing games, reading eBooks, and browsing the web. Sharing photos and catching up via Facebook, Instagram or Pinterest are all great on iPads and Android tabs. And you can catch up on email, too.
They're not so good if you need to create a newsletter, presentation or write up a report. Printing off a spreadsheet or document can prove problematic if you don't have a printer that's compatible with your particular tablet. These things are possible, but you'll find it's much easier on a laptop or PC.
You can install extra software - known as apps - on a tablet, much like you can on a PC. Many are free, but some cost a few pounds. You have to install apps from the respective store on your tablet: Apple's App Store on an iPad, the Google Play Store on an Android tablet and the Amazon Appstore on a Fire Tablet.
On a Windows 10 tablet you can install normal Windows software, but you also get to browse the Windows Store for dedicated tablet apps. But the selection is much more limited than on the other types of tablet.
The same is true of music- and other media: you can buy it from Apple, Google, Amazon or Microsoft. You can also transfer your own music, videos and photos to your tablet from a PC or access them from many cloud storage services. Apple, Google, Amazon and Microsoft have their own cloud services but you can also use others, such as Dropbox, which let you store files and media and get to them from all your devices, no matter whether a phone, tablet, laptop or PC.
Here's the bottom line: for fun, you need an iPad- or Android tablet. For work, go Windows. But only if you can afford the best.
Best tablets reviews: Display
Tablets come in many sizes ranging from almost smartphone-sized screens up to around 13in. So one of the first decisions is how big a tablet you want. For some, a 7-8in tablet is perfect as it's big enough to be more comfortable to use (for web browsing, say) than an phone, but small enough to fit into a handbag and less strain on your wrist when you are lying or sitting at home. See also: Best 7 and 8in tablets 2017.
Larger tablets usually have a 10in screen, and this is the 'standard' size Apple has used since the very first iPad. See also: Best 10in tablets 2017
Now, there are more larger tablets to choose between, including several of Microsoft's Surface tablets running Windows and Apple's 12.9in iPad Pro.
Larger tablets are better for productivity and tend to have more powerful processors, but are heavier and - obviously - larger and less portable.
These days screens are better quality and there are fewer duds, but it's still worth reading our reviews to find out if there are any particularly good or bad ones. You can look for specifications such as resolution, pixel density and aspect ratio, but none will tell you anything about a screen's colour accuracy, contrast or brightness. Look for an IPS or AMOLED screen and avoid anything with a TN screen.
For a decently sharp image, look for a pixel density higher than 160ppi (pixels per inch). Many Android tablets have widescreen displays with an aspect ratio of 16:9 (the same as a TV), while iPads have 4:3 screens, like old non-widescreen TVs. One isn't better than the other, unless you already know you will primarily use your tablet for watching TV shows (go for a 16:9 screen). For almost everything else, a 4:3 or 3:2 screen is a more comfortable option.
Best tablets reviews: Connectivity
If you need to get on the internet while you're out and about with your tablet, you might want to go for one which will accept a 3G or 4G SIM card (like your phone). Not many Android tablets have this option, but all iPads do.
Just bear in mind that you'll pay more for a tablet will a SIM slot and that you'll need to pay for a special data-only SIM, either on a contract or a monthly pay-as-you-go deal. For most people it's not worth it: you can use your phone to go online, or set your phone up as a Wi-Fi hotspot so that an ordinary tablet with Wi-Fi (but no SIM card) can get online.
And there are so many Wi-Fi hotspots around these days that it's rarely necessary to have a tablet with 3G or 4G connectivity.
All tablets have Wi-Fi but some have the older 802.11n version and some also support the newer 802.11ac standard. In practice, it doesn't really matter as even the older 802.11n standard is perfectly fast enough and not that many Wi-Fi hotspots (including home routers) support the faster 802.11ac standard. In any case, both are faster than the average broadband speed.
Other important features will be Bluetooth and - potentially - NFC. Wireless charging is starting to become important, too. Some tablets may come with an infrared transmitter - or IR blaster - which means you can use it to control other gadgets around your house such as your TV.
It's unlikely you will want GPS in a tablet, but if you do want to use it as a navigation device make sure you get one with a GPS receiver. Only Wi-Fi + cellular iPads have this - Wi-Fi only iPads don't have GPS.
iPads also have their own proprietary charging cable with a 'Lightning' connector. This means that you need peripherals that work specifically with the iPad. Android- and Windows tablets typically connect via a microUSB port which means you can use a standard cable and charger, although some Windows tablets also have full-sized USB connectors which are very handy for attaching a USB flash drive, hard drive or even a keyboard or printer. Reversible USB Type-C is becoming more common, too.
If you need to connect a USB flash drive to your tablet, Android can also be a good option as long as its microUSB port supports OTG (on the go), and you'll also need a specific OTG flash drive with a microUSB connector.
Finally, do you want to hook up your tablet to a TV? If so, look for one with an HDMI output in some form. It's more common on Android tablets, but you can buy an adaptor for an iPad which lets you connect a standard HDMI cable. Bear in mind that not all apps allow you to view them on a big screen, for example the Sky Go app.
There are ways to connect tablets wirelessly to a TV: iPads use Apple's AirPlay standard (you'd need an Apple TV box as well) and Android tablets may use Miracast or you could buy a £35 Google Chromecast and use your Android tablet like a giant remote control for that. For more, see how to connect Android tablets to a TV.
Best tablets reviews: Storage
Storage is important, but it's most important with tablets that don't have a microSD slot, because this means you can't add more storage after you've bought the tablet. iPads don't have microSD slots, and the same is true for a few Android tablets and older Amazon Fire tablets.
The headline number for internal storage can be misleading. For example an 8GB tablet might have only 5GB of free space available to use: the rest is taken up by the operating system and pre-installed apps. Windows tablets can be the worst for this: a 64GB Microsoft Surface might have as little as 23GB of usable space.
Add-on storage like microSD cards and USB drives might be cheap, but they're not as good as built-in storage because not all tablets allow you to install apps on a microSD card. Performance might suffer, too, as some USB drives and microSD cards are much slower than internal storage.
Best tablets reviews: The other stuff
Generally, you won't have to think about processor and RAM (memory) when choosing a tablet. And, as with screen specifications, don't read too much into them. If you're in any way concerned about performance, be sure to check our reviews to see not only benchmark results and comparisons, but also to find out what a tablet is like to use day to day.
Tablets - like phones - have cameras, but most are fairly poor quality compared to the best phones. We'll always comment on quality in our reviews, so don't go by megapixel ratings. Anything below 5Mp is to be avoided if this is an important area, and make sure your chosen tablet has a front camera of 2Mp or better if you want to use Skype or another video calling app (1.2Mp is ok if it's an iPad).
Best tablets reviews: Battery life
Finally, there's battery life. You don't want your tablet to last less than around six hours, and the recharge time is worth knowing, too. Some tablets take almost as long to charge as they do to discharge.
As a benchmark, every iPad lasts about 10 hours or so for watching videos or browsing the web. That's multiple days with 'normal' use. Many cheaper tablets skimp on battery life and since you're rarely going to want to you a tablet that's tethered to the mains, make sure you pick one that lasts a long time between charges.
To find out more about what to look out for take a look at this feature: which tablet should I buy?
- Reviewed on: 22 March 16
- RRP: From £349 inc VAT
The iPad Air 2 may no longer be new, but it's still one of the best tablets you can buy. Sure, the iPad Pro models are faster and have more features, but the Air 2 offers the best all-round combination of value and performance - even now in 2017.
Read our Apple iPad Air 2 review.
- Reviewed on: 13 April 16
- RRP: £319
This is a tablet well worth considering if you've been thinking about buying the iPad mini 4, as it can contend and sometimes outshine Apple's mini tablet when it comes to design and power. It's almost unbelievably thin and light and that screen is a joy to use.
Read our Samsung Galaxy Tab S2 8 review.
- Reviewed on: 18 April 16
- RRP: From £499 inc VAT
There’s no doubt that the iPad Pro 9.7 is the best tablet Apple has ever made, combining the power of the original into the stunning form factor of the iPad Air 2 (with a camera bump). Apple has also added new features such as upgraded cameras and one of the best displays we’ve seen on a tablet. Whether you should buy one is another question, though, and depends on your perspective (see above). For some, the iPad Pro 9.7 will be the perfect balance between work and play while for others it will simply not be up to the job. What we can say is that it’s certainly not the ‘ultimate PC replacement’ as it’s trying to do too many things at once.
Read our Apple iPad Pro 9.7-inch review.
4. iPad mini 4
- Reviewed on: 25 September 15
- RRP: From £379
There are cheaper tablets - cheaper iPads even - but if you can afford to buy the iPad mini 4 you won't be disappointed. It finally has a great screen and while it can't match the more powerful iPad Air 2, it's got more than enough poke to satisfy demanding users. The rear camera is decent and a big step up from many cheaper tablets. With great build quality and battery life on top, it's hard to fault the new mini so unless you want to wait to see if Apple launches an iPad Air 3, or you want the Air 2's bigger screen, it's a good buy.
Read our iPad mini 4 review.
- Reviewed on: 2 December 14
- RRP: £269 inc VAT
It's great to see Sony finally make a smaller tablet and the 8in form factor is proving to be increasingly popular. The Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact is super thin and light and is waterproof to boot. Hardware is decent but not mind-blowing and while rivals like the Galaxy Tab S offer a bit more gadgetry, Sony offers High-Res audio and a killer feature for gamers in the form of PS4 Remote Play. It's a great effort from Sony if you're looking for a high-end 8in tablet.
Read our Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact review.
- Reviewed on: 20 January 16
- RRP: £399 inc VAT ($500) for 32GB; £479 inc VAT ($600) for 64GB
As a standalone tablet, the Pixel C is superb. It’s better than the HTC-made Nexus 9 which was great but not exceptional. Which the 'C' most certainly is. Storage is a bit limited, but if you can live with 32GB it’s good value at £399. Paying an extra £119 for the keyboard is something we can’t see many buyers doing. If typing is a priority, you’d be better off spending your £518 on a decent ultraportable laptop as Android Marshmallow – good as it is – isn’t nearly as versatile as Windows. And while the keyboard is well designed, you’ll still prefer a full-size laptop keyboard. If you need to run Windows apps, the consider the Surface 3 which is slightly cheaper - even with the optional keyboard - but remember that there are even cheaper options such as the Asus Transformer T100HA.
Read our Google Pixel C review.
- Reviewed on: 2 September 16
- RRP: £299 inc VAT (32GB)
In a stagnated market, the Huawei MediaPad M3 initially feels a little underwhelming. After extended use though, we reckon it’s a cut above the mid-range, but then again at this price you are paying for it. It’s a good alternative to an iPad if you want an Android tablet that’s bigger than an iPad mini but smaller than an iPad Air 2. But, who is specifically looking for that? The MediaPad is excellent and we recommend it, but it lacks a certain ‘wow’ factor that's largely down to the high number of existing Android tablets. The MediaPad 3 is a cut above, but you should also consider Samsung’s Galaxy Tab series for a similarly excellent Android tablet experience.
Read our Huawei MediaPad M3 review.
8. Amazon Fire
- Reviewed on: 23 November 16
- RRP: £49.99 inc VAT
It's certainly not perfect, and the lack of Google apps will still put some people off, but the Fire is excellent value at under £50. The latest Fire OS is so Android-like that it's easy to use, and the Fire for Kids app makes it possible to limit what you kids can do and how long they can use the tablet. For some people it's well worth paying double for the Kids Edition version as you get the bumper case and the great warranty. There are some sore points: the poor cameras, the sluggish performance at times, and the long charging time. But at this price it's hard to complain. And you certainly won't find a better tablet for the same money.
Read our Amazon Fire review.
- Reviewed on: 28 July 15
- RRP: £499 inc VAT
The Sony Xperia Z4 Tablet is a seriously impressive device and easily one of the best tablets we've ever tested. The design is astonishingly thin and light and the waterproofing with only the need for one cover is a bonus. This topped with excellent hardware, performance and software means we can barely fault it. However, the fact Sony bundles it with the Bluetooth keyboard with no option to buy it alone means that it's more expensive than rivals. We feel it's a 9/10 products but we've no choice but to mark the value score lower.
Read our Sony Xperia Z4 Tablet review.
10. Xiaomi Mi Pad 2
- Reviewed on: 26 January 16
- RRP: £144 inc VAT
Whether Xiaomi intended to or not, the Mi Pad 2 is an Android tablet disguised as an iPad mini. This may disgust you or be exactly what you're looking for. Either way, we can't deny that this is a well-made, stylish tablet with decent specs for the price. You're best off getting the 64GB model and if the iOS style user interface is a turn-off, remember that Android is highly customisable.
Read our Xiaomi Mi Pad 2 review.
- Reviewed on: 30 June 16
- RRP: From £749 inc VAT (model tested £1079)
There is a great deal to like and rave about the Surface Pro 4. The design is thinner and lighter for starters. The screen is awesome, there's plenty of power available, the new Surface Pen is better and the Type Cover is a vast improvement on the last one. However, the design is inherently awkward at times, it's more expensive that a lot of laptops and the Type Cover, which you'll pretty much need, isn't included lowering the value.
Read our Microsoft Surface Pro 4 review.
- Reviewed on: 8 December 15
- RRP: £729 (32GB, WiFi); £819 (128GB, WiFi); £909 (256GB, WiFi); £939 (128GB, cellular), £1029 (256GB, cellular). US pricing $799/$899/$1079/$1029/$1129
At £679, few people will buy the iPad Pro instead of an iPad Air 2. It has a great screen and plenty of power, but do you really have a need for this hulking tablet? 32GB of storage will prove too limiting for most people, and the 128GB option with the Pencil and/or keyboard is expensive (that's ignoring the £65 silicone rear cover). If you're considering the Pro, go to an Apple store and hold one to understand exactly how bulky and hefty the new tablet really is. If you can live with all that the Pro is a great choice - just don’t expect it to replace your laptop.
Read our 12.9-inch iPad Pro review.
13. Apple iPad Air 1
- Reviewed on: 12 February 14
- RRP: Wi-Fi: £319 (16GB), £359 (32GB). Cellular: £419 (16GB), £459 (32GB). Higher storage capacities no longer available
In many respects a triumph, the iPad Air also introduces compromises to hit the low-weight/thin-case targets. Sound quality through the new stereo speaker has deteriorated, and although a matter of taste we found the iPad mini-style case loses the premium feel of preceding generations of iPad. The iOS 7 interface, not popular with every user, cannot be avoided on this device and it suffers some stickiness in app zooming. Ultimately though the iPad Air will suceed by simple nature of its new weight – the lose of almost 200g is so significant to its handling, and means it could encroach on E Ink ebook readers; only with the power and versatility, not to mention gorgeous colour screen, of a real iPad.
Read our Apple iPad Air 1 review.
14. iPad mini 2
- Reviewed on: 16 December 13
- RRP: £239 inc. VAT
The iPad mini with Retina display is a fabulous tablet. The screen is excellent and more than worth the minimal weight gain. Performance is also excellent, and the 64-bit processor makes this much more future-proof than the original iPad mini. The higher price (compared to the original cost of the iPad mini) may be frustrating, but it’s arguably better value than the iPad Air as well as being more portable. If you can afford it, you won’t be disappointed.
Read our iPad mini 2 review.
- Reviewed on: 4 July 16
- RRP: £849 inc VAT
The TabPro S is undeniably a beautiful and capable piece of hardware and it can be a joy to use. The problem is, it’s not a joy to use all the time. The 2-in-1 form factor can work, and we still think that the Surface Pro 4 is the best example of this, thanks to its build quality and integrated kickstand. The TabPro S is an excellent computer, but it remains frustrating that it doesn’t always excel in being one. Hopefully Samsung will consider improving simple things like the stand on the inevitable sequel if it is to continue to charge this much money for it.
Read our Samsung Galaxy TabPro S review.