Tablets were once purely thought of as windows for consuming content. While they are still an ideal couch or travel companion for this reason, companies like Apple and Microsoft have proven that these devices are more than just portable TVs. Cursor support and keyboard attachments can transform a tablet into a viable laptop replacement for the right user.
We’ve compiled the best tablets for the money, from those posing as laptop replacements like the Surface Pro 8 and the iPad Pro, to the best Android tablets like the Samsung Galaxy Tab S7 and Amazon’s Kindle Fire models.
Apple’s iPads are some of the best tablets across virtually every price point including the new iPad Air 5. If you’re not sold on any of these, one of the best 2-in-1 laptops might be the right choice. Or if you’re a student who wants a sleek laptop or tablet that can last through four years of abuse, check out our best college laptops page.
What are the best tablets for the money?
Apple and Microsoft continue to dominate the best tablets rankings, which largely consists of Surface devices and iPads. The best tablet for the money is the iPad Air, which was just updated with an M1 processor and optional 5G, making it a true iPad Pro Jr. Its size and price are what will attract everyday consumers.
If you need extra power or want a tablet to replace your laptop, then the 12.9-inch iPad Pro is the best option from Apple. Its speedy M1 chip can keep up with most laptops and the Retina XDR (mini-LED) display is gorgeous when viewing HDR content. And now that it has mouse and trackpad support, the larger iPad Pro is a genuine laptop replacement. Microsoft’s Surface Pro 8 is a close second and features the far more robust Windows 11 if getting work done is the primary use case for your tablet. It too has a gorgeous display and fast performance. We even prefer its keyboard accessory over anything Apple sells. By the way, check out our face-off between the Microsoft Surface Go 2 vs. Surface Go 3.
If Apple and Microsoft aren’t your cups of tea, Samsung has stepped up its game with excellent Samsung Galaxy Tab S7 Plus, an Android tablet with a DeX desktop interface, which can be used to double as your laptop. For less, you can get the Galaxy Tab S7 FE.
The iPad Air 5 isn’t a revolutionary update from its predecessor, but with the addition of the M1 chip and 5G this is an outstanding tablet that will last you for years. It has a 10.9-inch Liquid Retina display with thin display bezels for a portable and modern iPad design.
Under the hood is the M1 chip, the same SoC found in the iPad Pro and even the MacBook Air and MacBook Pro 13-inch. Needless to say, this is more than enough performance for any of your tablet needs. Despite this ample power it still delivers excellent battery life at 10 hours and 9 minutes in our Laptop Mag battery test.
Apple stuck to the $599 price point for the iPad Air, making it nearly double the cost of the iPad, but $200 less than the 11-inch iPad Pro. With support for the Apple Pencil Gen 2 (with magnetic wireless charging on the side) and the Magic Keyboard accessory, the Air is potentially compelling laptop replacement.
The latest ninth-generation iPad for 2021 packs a faster A13 Bionic chip, an upgraded selfie camera, and a True Tone display, among other small changes. These updates hardly moved the needle, so it’s a good thing the iPad was so far ahead of the competition going into this launch cycle.
What keeps the iPad atop its throne are the features people care about most in a budget tablet: a good display, excellent build quality and reliable performance. The iPad delivers on these fronts thanks to its A13 Bionic chip, precision-crafted aluminum frame and bright, vivid 10.2-inch display. Best of all, the $329 iPad costs the same as its predecessor.
Read our full Apple iPad review.
The 12.9-inch iPad Pro is the best tablet for power users, by some distance. Now equipped with an M1 processor, a mini-LED (XDR) display, and 5G support, no other tablet on the market will get you as complete of a package as the new iPad Pro.
This comes after big improvements were made to the software. Added cursor and trackpad support mean the iPad Pro is finally a true laptop replacement. You can now connect any Bluetooth mouse, wireless trackpad (like the Magic Trackpad 2) or the Magic Keyboard and use a cursor to navigate iPadOS 14 (iPadOS 15 is coming soon).
Another great new feature is support for Thunderbolt 3 and USB4 so you can transfer files faster than ever or connect to multiple 4K monitors. There is also a new software magic trick called Center Stage that keeps you in the frame of a video during conference calls when using supported platforms (FaceTime, Zoom). Yes, the iPad Pro is expensive, at $1,099 starting, but you won’t find a better tablet on the market.
Read our full Apple iPad Pro (2021) review.
The Samsung Galaxy Tab S8 series is easily the best the Android tablet market has to offer when it comes to high-end iPad competition. These tablets deliver outstanding battery life, gorgeous displays and all three models include Samsung’s excellent S Pen in the box.
The Samsung Galaxy Tab S8 and the Samsung Galaxy Tab 8+ both have excellent cameras: a 13MP main camera and a 6MP secondary ultra-wide lens. On the front is a 12MP selfie camera. The Galaxy S8 Ultra matches its siblings on the back but adds a secondary 12MP ultra-wide camera on the front.
While all three are impressive tablets in their own right, the S8 Ultra stands apart with its massive 14.6-inch 120Hz Super AMOLED display that dwarfs the 12.9-inch iPad Pro. The S8 and S8+ come in at 11-inch and 12.4-inches, respectively.
If you are looking for an affordable Android alternative to the iPad keep scrolling down as there are a number of compelling options, but if you are an Android (or Samsung) fan that wants a tablet that can be a laptop replacement or simply go toe-to-toe with the Apple’s best the Galaxy Tab S8 series is the clear choice.
Without departing drastically from its iconic look, the Pro 8 makes subtle improvements to the Surface Pro as a tablet and a laptop. Upgrades include a larger display and a more comfortable to use design, along with a much-needed internal upgrade. That includes an 11th Gen Intel Core i7-1185G7 processor and up to 32GB of RAM, components that bring some of the new features of Windows 11 to bear.
A bit more battery life would have been outstanding and the price jump may be hard for some to swallow. However, taken as a whole, the Surface Pro 8 is a solid addition to the Surface lineup and a compelling option for those looking to upgrade their laptop for the move to Windows 11.
Read our full Microsoft Surface Pro 8 review.
Adopting many of its rival’s best features, the Latitude 7320 swims toward the top of our best tablets and best 2-in-1 laptops rankings. Standout features include a gorgeous 13-inch display, fast performance, a comfortable detachable keyboard with a built-in stylus slot, useful security features, and a class-leading webcam (yes, you read that right). These are all packaged in a sleek metal chassis that can easily be slipped into a backpack or purse.
The Latitude does waver in a few areas. The kickstand feels somewhat flimsy and the sky-high price will detract all but the highest-ranking execs or the wealthiest corporations. Despite these faults, the Latitude 7320 gives Dell enterprise customers an excellent version of this ultra-mobile form factor so they can work or relax from anywhere.
See our Dell Latitude 7320 Detachable review.
Now we have the Xiaomi Pad 5 to add to the list as it’s a significant update to its 2018 sibling, the Mi Pad 4. Not only does Xiaomi’s latest Android tablet bring a host of improvements, from the wonderful 11-inch, 120Hz display to the upgraded Qualcomm Snapdragon 860 processor, but it also brags a refined MIUI for Pad OS that demands to be compared to Apple’s unrivaled iPadOS — to a point.
So, does the Xiaomi Pad 5 set a new standard for Android tablets? Not quite, but it’s still a compelling device. The lack of an included stylus or keyboard may keep the tablet’s cost down, but it also prevents it from being anything more than a great slate for binge-watching movies or browsing the internet.
Read our full Xiaomi Pad 5 review.
You get a bright 10.4-inch display, an included S Pen stylus and amazing, all-day battery life all for just $350. That is what makes the Galaxy Tab S6 Lite such a compelling tablet for those in the market for an iPad alternative. Running Android 10, this slate is great for Droid owners, especially those with Samsung Galaxy smartphones.
While its performance can lag behind at times, the S6 Lite is a good choice if you just need to run basic everyday tasks, like web browsing or video streaming. In many ways, the S6 Lite fills the same role as the iPad but for those who aren’t in the Apple ecosystem.
Read our full Samsung Galaxy Tab S6 Lite review.
The Lenovo ThinkPad X12 Detachable is, in short, a better version of the Surface Pro 7. It has the same detachable form factor and uses a kickstand that can rotate to about the same 160-degree angle. The 12.3-inch display is almost identical to the one on the Surface and, like the Pro 7, the detachable keyboard is fantastic. You even get military-grade durability from its rigid chassis.
Why is it better than the Surface Pro 7 and Pro 7+? Because the ThinkPad X12 Detachable lasts longer on a charge, enduring for more than 11 hours, and it weighs slightly less than its magnesium alloy competitor. Better yet, the X12 Detachable comes bundled with the keyboard and pen, although you’ll need to spend a pretty penny on this business-focused detachable.
If you need good speakers or a USB Type-A port, then you might go with the Surface Pro 7, otherwise, we prefer the X12 Detachable.
Apple improved every aspect of this pint-sized slate for 2021. The 8.3-inch screen is larger than before, and yet, slim bezels have reduced its overall footprint. The iPad mini’s outstanding performance via the A15 Bionic chip is more than anyone will need, and the addition of optional 5G support cements its place as the best tablet for use outside of your home.
There are some downsides to going with the iPad mini beyond its small screen (which is an advantage for some people). At $499, the iPad mini is expensive, and while compatibility with the $139 Apple Pencil Gen 2 is welcome, the accessory costs extra.
In the end, Apple did exactly what it needed to do to breathe new life into the iPad mini, an excellent all-around tablet whose pint-sized chassis makes it a joy to have at home or on the go.
Read our full iPad mini (2021) review.
The Lenovo Yoga Tab 11 looks like no other tablet. For one, it’s not a single seamless slate of metal and glass. Though the rest of the device is slim, it has a bulbous tube-shaped bottom where two of its quad speakers and the battery are located. That’s not all: On the back, that tube extends into an integrated hanger-like kickstand you can pull out to prop up or “hang” the tablet however you wish. It’s a unique design we haven’t seen in this space before, and Lenovo hopes it’s enough to draw you away from the iPad and other competition.
Apart from that, the Lenovo Yoga Tab 11 packs all the hardware you’d need, including a 2K screen and an octa-core processor, whether you’re looking for your next binge-watching machine or an on-the-go workstation. It’s priced competitively, starting at $280, and though there are places where Lenovo has cut corners, the Yoga Tab 11’s spec sheet is still impressive.
How to choose the best tablet for you
Choosing the right tablet requires the same thought process as buying a laptop. As with any product, the first thing you need to decide is your primary use for a tablet. If it’s to browse the web on the couch or watch Netflix in bed, then you don’t need to spend $1,000 on the iPad Pro. You’re probably better off with the $329 iPad or even the $400 Surface Go — both of which have excellent displays.
If you need a tablet that can double as a laptop, then your best options are the iPad Pro or the Surface Pro 8 — tablets that can be paired with an attachable keyboard and support trackpad/mouse input. Both of these devices provide plenty of power for even the most demanding users.
The size of the tablet is another consideration. While it might not sound like it, a 12.9-inch tablet feels massive in the hand. If you want something less unwieldy, consider a tablet with a screen that is 10 inches or below. Almost all tablets are thin and lightweight but few have good connectivity options. The Surface tablet stands out in this regard, offering two USB-C ports and a headphone/mic jack.
How we test the best tablets
Our tablets go through rigorous benchmark testing before they even land in the hands of our reviewers. Our test vary slightly based on which OS the tablet runs, but the overall performance and graphics of almost all tablet is measured by the Geekbench 5 benchmark.
We also use a fancy colorimeter to quantify display quality. The device can measure the sRGB color range a display captures and the average brightness across the panel.
Our battery test gives an accurate measure of everyday runtimes. To test the endurance of a tablet, we set the display to 150 nits then run a continuous loop consisting of web browsing and video playback until the device powers off.