If you’re buying a tablet for someone else, chances are you know what smartphone they have. It’s usually wise to pair up the same brand tablets and smartphones, like an iPhone and an iPad. But it’s certainly not a requirement and, in some cases, it might not matter.
Whether you’re looking for a tablet on the smaller side that’s perfect for traveling, a sturdy tablet that’ll hold up to multiple drops from rambunctious children, or just a solid tablet for everyday use, we’ve got you covered.
So many huge name brands have tablets now, so it can understandably be difficult to narrow it down and find the right one for your needs. Here’s everything you need to consider before making your final decision:
- Operating System: Tablet operating systems are similar to smartphone operating systems. Apple tablets have iPadOS; Android tablets typically come with, well, Android; and Amazon tablets are equipped with Fire OS. If you want a tablet that will sync up better with your smartphone, it’s wise to match up your operating systems wherever possible.
- Screen: No matter what you’ll be using your tablet for, you want its screen to look good. Most modern tablets are equipped with displays that have at least 1080p resolution (though many have higher quality resolutions). You’ll also need to look for differences in screen size. Most tablets hover around the 10- or 11-inch mark, but if you’re looking for a different size tablet, there are some fantastic options out there.
- App Store: Apple’s iPads use the Apple store, full of pretty much any app you can typically download on iOS. Likewise, Android tablets use the Google Play store, though not all apps are tablet compatible. And with Amazon Fire tablets, the proprietary Fire OS has its custom app store full of crowd favorites, like Netflix, but it won’t have all the same apps as the Google Play store. Among all the app stores, Apple’s store has the most quality tablet apps.
- Storage: Although many tablets come with the option of expanding storage with a microSD card, it’s worth investing in a tablet with a decent amount of storage from the get-go. If you’ll mainly be using yours for browsing the web, streaming video content, or making the occasional video call, you probably don’t need that much storage and can get away with one of the smaller options, like 64GB or 128GB. However, if you want to store lots of files—like pictures or massive games—it’s worth investing in a tablet with more available storage, like 256GB or higher.
- Battery Life: Consider how often you’ll be using your tablet and what you’ll use it for. Are you only going to be using it for a few hours every night to stream videos, play games, and browse the web? Or will you be using it throughout the day, which would require a reliable all-day battery life? Most modern tablets have decent battery life and fast charging, but it’s something you’ll want to double-check before buying.
- ✓ Powerful specs and a gorgeous screen
- ✓ Fairly affordable
- ✓ Cellular option available
- ✗ No support for 2nd gen Apple Pen
- ✗ Built-in speakers aren't great
Hands down, Apple makes some of the best tablets on the market today. The 2021 edition of the classic iPad is an excellent option for most people, especially if you already have an iPhone or a Mac. With iPadOS, you’ll have access to some of the best apps that have been vetted for tablets.
Whether you’re looking to binge all your favorite TV shows, play mobile games, or have quality video calls, the iPad’s screen will blow you away. The 10.2-inch Retina display has a 2160 x 1620 resolution and True Tone tech, which helps adapt the color of your screen based on your surroundings.
And although a tablet isn’t going to take stunning pictures, you can take decent photos with the 8MP wide camera on the back. Or, you can take great selfies or look good during a video call with the 12MP ultra-wide front camera. It can even record videos in 1080p resolution at up to 30 frames per second.
There are two storage options, 64GB and 256GB. You can also choose between Wi-Fi capability or a combo of Wi-Fi and cellular capability, meaning your iPad could be more of an extension of your smartphone. And inside, there’s a proprietary A13 Bionic chip powering the whole shebang. With everyday use of Apple’s iPad, you can get up to 10 hours of battery life in between charges. Its only shortcoming is that it only works with the original Apple Pencil, not the 2nd generation version.
Apple iPad 2021
Apple’s classic iPad is the perfect option for most people, whether you’re an iPhone user or not.
- ✓ Quality cameras and specs
- ✓ Large 11-inch display
- ✗ Pretty expensive
- ✗ Battery life isn't that great
Samsung’s latest tablet, the Galaxy Tab S7, is the best Android tablet you can get your hands on right now. With an 11-inch AMOLED screen and Dolby Atmos surround sound, streamed video content and mobile games will look and sound fantastic.
The tablet has three cameras that can capture photos and video. There’s an 8MP selfie camera on the front, and the rear hosts a 13MP wide camera and 5MP ultra-wide camera. Then, there are multiple internal storage options available, including 128GB, 256GB, and 512GB, but you can add extra storage with a microSD card.
The Galaxy S7 tablet comes with the new and improved S Pen, making it easy for you to control presentations or take notes on the screen. You can also purchase the Galaxy Tab S7 keyboard with a trackpad to simulate a laptop experience. On a single charge, the S7 gives you up to 15 hours of video playback.
Samsung Galaxy Tab S7
If you have an Android phone and want to keep up OS continuity, Samsung's Galaxy Tab S7 is a fantastic option.
- ✓ Super affordable
- ✓ Can make video calls
- ✓ Large 10.1-inch display
- ✗ Cameras aren't that great
- ✗ Only have access to apps in Amazon's store
- ✗ Small storage options
Amazon’s Fire HD 10 tablet is perfect if you’re on a budget but still want a large, portable screen to stream video content with or browse the internet on. It comes with Fire OS, which means that it comes with Amazon’s own app store. While you might not have access to every single app you might want, you will have access to popular options like Netflix, Disney+, Spotify, Zoom, and more.
Speaking of Zoom, you can use this app to hop on video calls with friends and family or for work. Or, you can also ask Amazon’s voice assistant, Alexa, to call someone for you. With the 2MP front- and rear-facing cameras, you might not look the best, but you’ll undoubtedly be recognizable. They’re good enough for casual calls.
When you’re streaming your favorite Netflix show or just playing around on a mobile game, the Fire HD’s 10.1-inch screen looks solid with its 1080p display. The octa-core processor and 3GB of RAM inside help everything run smoothly as well. With typical use, the battery can last up to 12 hours.
There are two storage options, though they are both fairly unimpressive. You can choose the 32GB model or spring for the 64GB model. Because both native storage options are so low and you can expand up to 1TB with a microSD, it’s not going to matter a whole lot which option you go with. Amazon also gives you the opportunity to save a little bit of money and view ads on your lock screen; or, you can opt to pay a bit more upfront for a completely ad-free tablet.
Amazon Fire 10
Amazon's 10-inch Fire tablet is an excellent choice for anyone on a budget who wants a tablet with basic functionality.
- ✓ Super powerful specs and cameras
- ✓ Have access to great Apple store apps
- ✓ Cellular option available
- ✗ Very expensive
- ✗ A heavier model, not as great for portability
It’s no surprise that Apple makes quality tablets, and if you’ve got the budget for it, the company’s latest iPad Pro is about the best you can get. Inside, there’s Apple’s proprietary M1 chip that provides great overall performance and speed. And everything looks fantastic on its 11-inch Liquid Retina display that’s equipped with different visual technologies including ProMotion and True Tone.
And of course, an iPad wouldn’t be complete without stunning cameras. The TrueDepth camera system features a 12MP wide camera, a 10MP ultra-wide camera, and the Center Stage feature for the front camera, which uses machine learning to automatically adjust your front camera to focus on you. Then, there are also five microphones and four speakers, helping you sound great and hear other people well on video calls.
Also, it’s easy to customize your iPad Pro to be exactly what you need. You can choose between a Wi-Fi 6 only model and a model that has both Wi-Fi 6 and cellular capability. Then, there are five storage options, including 128GB, 256GB, 512GB, 1TB, and 2TB. There’s also a wealth of awesome accessories for your iPad, including the Apple Pencil, the Magic Keyboard, or the Smart Keyboard Folio.
Because the iPad Pro runs iPadOS, you’ll have access to some of the best tablet apps out there through the Apple store. And as long as you’re not using super demanding apps, you can expect up to 10 hours’ worth of battery life in between charges.
Apple iPad Pro 2021
If you have the money to invest, Apple’s most recent iPad Pro model is an excellent buy, with a stunning screen and impressive cameras.
- ✓ Super affordable
- ✓ Has a sturdy kid-proof case
- ✓ Comes with a year of Amazon Kids+ for free
- ✗ Only have access to apps in Amazon's store
- ✗ Small storage options
- ✗ Amazon Kids+ subscription costs you after the free trial
For kids, there’s truly no better option than Amazon’s Fire 8 Kids tablet. It’s affordable, has a great-looking 8-inch screen, and maybe most importantly, comes with a two-year guarantee to replace it if it breaks (which, if you have rambunctious kids, could very well happen). It also comes with a tough case that’ll (attempt to) prevent it from breaking in the first place.
With your purchase, you’ll also get one year of Amazon Kids+ for free. This subscription service gives your child access to over 20,000 kid-friendly apps, games, books, videos, and other educational content. You’ll also get access to Amazon Kids parental controls that let you set educational goals and time limits. After the free one-year trial is over, you can renew the service if you want for as low as $2.99 per month (plus tax).
It comes with 32GB of internal storage, but you can add up to 1TB of extra storage with a microSD card. The Fire 8 Kids tablet can easily be used every day or even multiple days in between charges. If you’re simply reading, watching videos, listening to music, or browsing the web, expect it to last up to 12 hours before needing a charge.
Amazon Fire 8 Kids
Amazon's Fire 8 Kids tablet can hold up to countless drops and tumbles in its protective case; and if it breaks in the first two years, Amazon will replace it for you.
- ✓ Perfect portable size
- ✓ Powerful specs (and Wi-Fi 6 compatible!)
- ✓ Access to awesome Apple apps
- ✗ May be too small for some
- ✗ Pretty pricey
Apple’s newest iPad Mini is the perfect little portable tablet, great for travel or even long commutes. At 8.3 inches, its Liquid Retina display is about two inches larger than most modern smartphones and has a beautiful 2266 x 1488 resolution. The display also has True Tone technology, which automatically adapts the screen’s color based on your surroundings.
There’s a smaller 64GB storage model and a larger 256GB model, though you can expand storage on both with a microSD card. Inside both models, there’s super-fast Wi-Fi 6 support and a proprietary A15 Bionic chip comprised of a powerful CPU, GPU, and a 16-core Neural Engine. You can choose a Wi-Fi 6 only model or choose to get cellular support as well.
And if you love taking photos and videos, you’ll be happy with what the iPad Mini has to offer. There’s a 12MP wide back camera and a 12MP ultra-wide front camera with Apple’s Center Stage feature, which helps the camera automatically keep you focused in the center when recording. You can even record video in stunning 4K resolution at up to 60 frames per second.
You’ll get up to 10 hours’ worth of battery life out of your iPad Mini after watching videos or browsing the web. Then, as with most Apple devices, you can really make it your own with accessories, like the Apple Pencil or the Magic Keyboard.
Apple iPad Mini 2021
If you’re looking for a portable tablet that’s slightly larger than most modern day smartphones, look no further than the 2021 iPad Mini.