BySean Ludwig, Meredith Popolo and Mark Knapp|Nov. 9th 2018
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While Apple’s iPads have become synonymous with tablets for some, there are plenty of respectable Android options out there, too. And Microsoft has stepped up its game, producing some tablets that are unbeatable when it comes to productivity. With a Surface Pen and detachable keyboard, they make working on the go a breeze. To help you decide, we broke down a bunch of solid options that can be a fit for anyone. We even tested a few from the comfort of our own home, surfing, streaming, and wearing down their battery lives all for your sake.
With Apple’s fastest ever mobile processor and True Tone display, the 10.5-inch iPad Pro is easily the best tablet out there right now. The iPad Pro uses sensors to detect the light in whatever room it’s in to adjust the color temperature of the display to the ambient light. The effect makes the screen look more like paper, and is most noticeable when it’s turned off and the screen switches to a bright bluish light. In addition to a 2224 x 1668 screen resolution, the device uses an A10X Fusion chip with 64-bit architecture Embedded M10 co-processor, the fastest mobile processor available on an iOS device, and features four speakers for the best possible sound. Not to mention, the iPad Pro is compatible with the Pencil, and has a special connector to keyboards so you don’t have to rely on a Bluetooth connection to type without using the on-screen keyboard. Obsessed with Instagramming? Apple also included the same rear-facing 12MP camera with 4K HD video, as well as a 7MP FaceTime HD camera, for those who want to take better photos on their tablet. Battery life is around 10 hours and it comes with 256 GB storage.
The Fire HD 10 tablet is both Amazon’s newest and biggest Fire tablet, and it’s their first step into truly competing with the larger Galaxy and Apple tablets. But, they’re doing that competing at a fraction of the price. It comes in three colors (black, blue or red), two sizes (32GB or 64GB) and with or without the ad-supported special offers. That all feels pretty standard for the Fire series, so let’s move on to the coolest part, which is the number of features you get for that bargain price.
For starters, that screen comes with a full 1080p resolution (1920 x 1200 pixels at 224 pixels per inch), so you’ll be able to post up and watch stunning movies and play HD video games with unbelievable clarity. They’ve even built in an interesting “in-plane-switching” LCD tech that offers less glare and more viewing angles. Even the stereo speakers on the Fire 10 sound as much like ones that belong in your home.
There’s a quad-core 1.2 GHz/1.4 GHz processor set with two times the RAM of the last gen of the Fire, so it won’t choke on any streaming you throw at it. The battery lasts up to 10 hours, so you’ll be able to do exactly what you’re supposed to do with a tablet – enjoy it on the go without having to be tethered to an outlet. The cameras on the front and back aren’t much to write home about, but the rear does offer 2MP of quality with the ability to shoot 720p video. Round that out with built-in Amazon Alexa functionality for summoning assistance and controlling your smart home, and factor in the durability (they’re calling it more durable than the iPad Pro 10.5-inch tablet), and you’ve got an absolute steal for the price.
The ASUS ZenPad 10.1” comes in at a great price of less than $160 and has plenty of good features for a cheap Android-based tablet. As the name implies, this ZenPad has a 10.1-inch HD IPS screen. It measures .4 x 9.9 x 6.8 inches, weighs 1.1 pounds and has 16GB of storage. However, it’s not slow, thanks to its 2GB of RAM and a quad-core 64-bit processor. If you want to take photos, it has a five-megapixel back camera and a two-megapixel front camera for selfies.
Many Amazon reviewers said the ASUS ZenPad 10.1” met or exceeded their expectations. The biggest thing they said to consider was that this is not an iPad and you shouldn’t replace an iPad with this, as it might be a bit of a letdown. But if this is a first tablet or a tablet for a child, it’s a great option.
The Samsung Galaxy Tab S3 sports an HDR-ready Super AMOLED screen that’s bright, vibrant and gives you the starkest differences between black and white levels. On top of that, the 9.7-inch screen gives you a resolution of 2048 x 1536 pixels, which is basically best in class. But beyond the display, the tablet doesn’t skimp on the rest of the features, either. The S pen, which has been a key character on several iterations of Galaxy devices, is front and center here, giving you a ton of extra features such as precise drawing, pulling up quick menus with the side buttons and more.
Samsung has tapped AKG to tune their set of quad speakers to accurately represent what is going on on the screen and to best project the sound to whatever position you’re watching from. Samsung’s Adaptive Fast Charging gives you a full charge after only three hours, which gives you 12 hours of heavy use on the tablet.
The rear camera affords photos taken at a resolution of 13MP, while the front-facing camera allows selfies and video calls at 5MP. It comes standard with 32GB and can be expanded to up to 400GB by external SD card. There’s a Snapdragon 820 quad-core processor powering it all, which is plenty snappy for some of the more premium features, including Samsung’s seamless wireless sharing functionality called Samsung Flow.
If you like the simplicity, portability, and affordability of tablets, but you’d like a bit more versatility, Microsoft’s Surface Go lands at the crossroads of all those features. No matter what your configuration, you get a 10-inch PixelSense screen with an 1800 x 1200 resolution display that offers a tight 217 pixels per inch.
The lowest end model isn’t the most attractive, as the 64GB of eMMC storage isn’t going to be as quick as the SSD in upgraded models. But, whichever model you get will offer Windows on a sleek portable system and an Intel Pentium Gold processor. The Surface Go is also built to feel premium with a magnesium case. Starting at just 1.15 pounds, the newest model also wins the title for the lightest model of any Surface device.
Like the Surface Pro and Surface Book line, the Surface Go tablet gives you the option of using the device as a tablet or attaching it to a keyboard — sold separately in this case — so you can use it like a laptop. You can enjoy 9 hours of continuous use on one charge.
In the tablet space, it’s been hard for Microsoft to shake the legacy of the Apple iPad. The iPad has for years dominated what we think a modern tablet should do, but Microsoft (and a few other players) have put a dent in the iPad’s armor by continuing to show the things it can’t do.
The Surface Pro 6, Microsoft’s newest laptop-tablet hybrid, runs Windows 10 and matches the newest iPad when it comes to features and exceeds the iPad when it comes to productivity. It runs the full version of Windows 10, which means you can run Microsoft Office and anything else that runs on Windows. Let’s also take a look at the Surface Pro 6’s polished hardware. The Surface Pro has a crisp and quite pretty 12.3-inch screen with 2,736 x 1,824 resolution and the battery now lasts more than 10 hours on a single charge. It also now comes in both black and platinum colors.
One final note: There are various configurations you can choose from on the Surface Pro 6. It is available in 8GB or 16GB of RAM, has your choice of an Intel Core i5 or Core i7 processor, and storage options of 128GB, 256GB, 512GB, or 1TB.
Amazon has a new tablet on the way and it’s going to be the budget device to watch. Like Amazon’s other tablets, the Fire HD 8 line has historically offered an impressive balance of hardware and affordability, and that’s continuing with the new Fire HD 8.
The new tablet offers an 8-inch IPS display with 1280 x 800 resolution, which qualifies it as HD. It may not be as sharp as a lot of other devices’ displays, but the most affordable model of the new Fire HD 8 is close to a quarter of the price of a new iPad.
The new tablet has a quad-core processor with 1.5GB of RAM. It may not be much for multi-tasking and production workloads, but, it’ll do the job for streaming content, using Amazon’s Alexa voice assistant to control smart home gadgets, and surfing the internet. You can pick up the new Fire HD 8 in 16GB or 32GB models and in a range of colors including black, yellow, red, and blue.
The 9.7-inch iPad that Apple launched in the early half of 2018 has shaped up to be a viable tablet for shoppers looking for a machine that’ll do just a bit of everything. At less than $500, the basic model isn’t priced painfully high, and it still offers decent specs.
This iPad runs on a powerful A10 Fusion chip, has an 8-megapixel rear camera, and 1.2-megapixel front-facing camera. The 9.7-inch display uses an IPS panel for good viewing angles and has a resolution of 2048 x1536 for a crisp 264 pixels per inch. The 2018 iPad is also the first non-Pro model to support the Apple Pencil, meaning artsy users can sketch and doodle to their heart's content.
You can pair the iPad with a keyboard to use it more like a laptop, though the functionality won’t be quite as close to a real laptop's as a machine like the Surface Go manages. Still, you can browse the web, send correspondence, play games, watch movies, and do plenty more on the iPad. The option for LTE connectivity makes it that much more well rounded.
When it comes to devices on a budget, Amazon has a distinct advantage. With Amazon’s Special Offers and forked version of Android, Fire OS, the company has the incentive to subsidize the cost of the tablets a bit. In other words, you get a great deal on a tablet if you’re willing to wade through a bit of Amazon advertising and branding.
The Fire 7 tablet is fairly basic, but at $49 full price, it’s really a steal. It has a 7-inch display that may not be HD, but will get the job done in a pinch. And, because it’s an IPS panel, will offer decent viewing angles in case you want to share your screen. A quad-core processor will help keep things zippy and expandable storage via microSD card can help you store plenty of movies and TV shows. The Fire 7 comes in both 8GB and 16GB models.
Make no mistake, when it comes to performance, build quality, and display, the Fire 7 isn’t doesn't really stack up against the competition here. But, for its incredibly low price, it’s easy enough to justify picking up a Fire 7 just for the occasional bus, train, or plane ride on which you might want a bigger screen for media viewing or light gaming.
HP’s ZBook x2 G4 almost seems like a wild design experiment when we consider just how much HP has packed into a tablet. Like the Surface Book or Surface Pro, the ZBook x2 G4 has a main tablet component that can connect to a keyboard. The big difference is that the ZBook x2 G4 went crazy with the tablet's features, making a machine truly targeted towards professionals.
At its high end, the ZBook x2 G4 runs Windows 10 Pro, and packs an Intel Core i7-8650U, 32GB of DDR4 RAM, a 1TB PCIe NVMe SSD, Nvidia Quadro M620 graphics, and has a 14-inch IPS touchscreen display that’s anti-glare and boasts 4K resolution. You can use the ZBook x2 G4 with a stylus which utilizes an incredible 4,096 pressure sensitivity levels as well.
If you work in a creative field and want a machine that’s up to the task, the HP ZBook x2 G4 stands out as the tablet that’s ready for anything. For most, it’s probably a bit overkill (especially when it comes to the price), but it’s hard to look away from a tablet that does this much.
The displays on Samsung mobile devices are always a cut above. Rather than fight it out in the pixel-count arms race with other devices, Samsung has been a market leader in Super AMOLED tech, which allows their screens to look brighter and sharper without having to pack in a ton more pixels. The Galaxy Tab S4's 10.5-inch display manages to deliver a resolution of 2560 x 1600 which yields incredibly sharp HD images.
Another great feature here is the S Pen: What was initially a great expression tool is now considered an artist-grade device, offering 4096 points of pressure to give you amazing control when sketching — just as if you were using a real pencil. The rear camera keeps parity with a lot of the tablets on the market with a 13MP sensor and F1.9 aperture, and the front camera is actually pretty impressive with a 13MP sensor and its own F1.9 aperture. There’s a Qualcomm MSM8998 processor for dual speed ratings of 2.35 GHz and 1.9GHz (depending on where your carrier is). They’ve paired that with 4GB of RAM and offer storage configurations of 64GB and 256GB.
The Dolby Atmos, AKG-tuned speaker system is comprised of four different drivers (two top-firing and two bottom-firing), so the entertainment capabilities are pretty great, too. Add that to the amazing 7300mAh fast-charging battery — which Samsung claims can last for 16 hours of video playback — and you have a versatile powerhouse that’s only 7.1mm thick.
If you’re buying a tablet for a kid, Amazon’s Fire 7 Kids Edition is a solid option. It matches affordability with a kid-friendly design (available in blue, pinks, and yellow) and offers up a tablet that’s not watered-down, weak hardware just because it’s a kids device. The 7-inch IPS display gives kids plenty of screen to watch, play, and learn on. And, the rubber bumpers built all around the device help protect it from accidents.
Beyond the tablet itself, what Amazon offers in addition really helps make this a great pick. Amazon offers what it calls a “2-year worry-free guarantee,” noting that the company will replace the Fire 7 Kids Edition if it's broken — no questions asked. The tablet also comes with easy parental controls and a free year of FreeTime Unlimited, which has a large selection of content from games and books to videos and apps.
At $99, the Fire 7 Kids Edition stands out as a good deal, and it gets even better if you need to pick up more than one. Amazon generally offers a discount when bought in pairs, even up to 25-percent off the total.
The Lenovo Yoga Tablet 3 Pro is a nifty little Android tablet that has one wild trick up its sleeve. Aside from its sharp 10.1-inch IPS display with a crisp 2560 x 1600 resolution and 299 pixels per inch, the tablet has a built-in projector. So, when you really want to share your screen and 10-inches just won't do, you can project a massive 70-inch image onto the wall.
The Yoga Tablet 3 Pro also has four JBL speakers and support for Dolby Atmos. Plus, you can easily connect the tablet to a Bluetooth speaker to round out your home entertainment. It has a large battery to sustain continuous use (looking at you, binge-watchers), and a stand that lets you position it a number of different ways.
With an Intel Atom processor and running Android 6.0, the Yoga Tablet 3 Pro isn’t the most outstanding tablet from a performance or software standpoint. But, the hardware is plenty sufficient to use the tablet as a multimedia device. And, the excellent built-in display and projector give you two great viewing options.
Our reviewers spent 262 hours testing six of the most popular tablets on the market. They took them home to use in their everyday activities — surfing the Web, doing work, streaming videos, and playing games — to find out what the strengths and flaws really were. We asked our testers to consider the most important features when using these tablets and we've outlined them here so that you, too, know what to look for when shopping.
Screen size -The average tablet is around 10 inches, measured diagonally, but they can be as small as 8 inches and run up to 13.5. The screen size is really a personal preference, but for productivity purposes, it’s often the bigger the better. If you’re merely streaming a show or reading a book, a smaller screen should suffice.
Budget -You should definitely prepare to pay a premium for an Apple iPad, which can easily cost fives times that of a budget tablet. And the higher the screen resolution and the more powerful the processor, the more you can expect to pay. But Amazon makes some amazingly affordable options that still give you access to all the apps you could want, plus its Alexa personal assistant.
Battery life -Compared to smartphones, which barely make it through the day on a single charge, most tablets can last at least a couple days, depending on use, of course. Be sure to buy one with at least 10 hours of rated battery life and you’ll be good to go.
Easy to use
Apple’s 10.5-inch iPad Pro is such a fan favorite that it became the ideal tablet that our testers compared all the others to — and we didn’t even ask them to! Overall, the iPad Pro provides an easy-to-use, intuitive interface and all the apps you love and know as an Apple user.
Our reviewers praised the tablet’s “great screen size,” easy setup process, and battery life. Because of the 12-megapixel, rear-facing camera, the impressive display, and the fast speed, our testers think this is a solid purchase for creative types or users that consume a lot of media.
High-quality screen for video
Fast and responsive
Great e-reader functionality
At first, some of our testers were a bit overwhelmed by the Amazon Fire HD 10 Tablet. We understand: Having millions of movies, books, TV shows, and songs right at your fingertips can feel like a lot at first. But, as one reviewer put it, “It starts to become more customized to your needs the more familiar you get with it.”
One reviewer said the tablet’s video quality is “really high,” which is definitely a requirement if you plan on watching all your shows and movies on this model. “It was fast and responsive,” she said. “When clicking an app, it opened up very quickly.” Plus, weighing in at just 13 ounces, it’s certainly portable. Grab a bigger bag though; our testers consistently mentioned just how big the screen seemed.
Nice amount of storage
Light and thin
Battery life could be better
One of our testers specifically commented on the Samsung Galaxy Tab S2’s speed, saying that both the touchscreen and the apps had “great responsiveness.” In fact, our reviewers rated this tablet so highly — 5 out of 5 stars — that we think we may have even converted a few Apple users. One person said, “This tablet exceeded my expectations in how great the camera, interface, and overall functionality was.”
One tester described the overall profile as “very light and thin,” which makes the Samsung Galaxy Tab S2 the perfect tablet to take on the go.
Clear, responsive touch screen
Good quality speakers
Great battery life
Slow loading times
Shell lacks durability
Our testers thought the ASUS ZenPad 10.1 was the perfect option for people on a budget or users don’t always need to get the top-of-the-line tech products. One reviewer did notice a few extra seconds of load time when she was browsing the Web. “I often want to check something very quickly — say, when I'm cooking and want to know a measurement conversion, or I need to bring up a video to get my kid to quiet down — and it's funny, but those few extra seconds of load time did irritate me sometimes,” she said.
The camera was also slightly finicky. According to one tester, photos taken outside on the back camera were “clear and crisp,” while low-light photos taken on the front-facing camera were “not sharp.” She cautioned that photos taken inside are “touchy,” because you need to get the lighting just right.
High resolution screen
Integration with Chrome and other Google apps
Unintuitive settings features
Poor app store experience
According to one tester: “The video quality is high, it has a really nice screen, and the battery life is superior to comparable Apple products.” Plus, this device’s very slim profile — it clocks in at just over 10 inches tall and a little over a pound — makes it extremely portable. One person described the design as “very cool and sleek.”
Our testers liked the intuitive interface, the high-resolution display, and the impressive battery life. In fact, one person said the battery was “superior” to similar Apple products.
Stylish, lightweight design
Slight lag on touch screen
One Lifewire tester summed up his experience with the Samsung Galaxy Tab S3 by saying, “It has all the functions I need: internet, camera, and drawing capabilities.” He loved the drawing functionality (with the included S Pen) despite some lag on the touchscreen. Our reviewers also thought the charging time was a little slow — 2.5 hours — but was worth it for the long battery life. “Overall, it’s a great product,” one person said.
Excellent display quality
Good battery life
Not very fast at complex tasks
One of our testers reported that this device quickly became one her favorites to travel with. “It doesn't matter what bag I decide to use for the day — the Surface Go always fits nicely and adds little weight.” In addition to being very portable, our testers thought that this tablet’s display was “very sharp and crisp” and that it had a good battery life. Although our reviewers observed that the device slowed down while performing more involved tasks (like photo editing), they thought it handled things like emailing and surfing the Internet with ease.