Our smartphones pack more of a punch than ever, and screens just keep growing. However, it’s impossible to top the real estate that the best tablets afford you.
Choosing a great tablet was never going to be easy. Apple’s iPads just keep getting better, but Samsung and Amazon have competitors of their own. Even Lenovo has some skin in the game, so we’ve rounded up the best tablets in 2021 to help you make a decision.
Buying the best tablet for your needs
It’s not always easy to choose the perfect tablet right away, but at least there’s an easy place to start. Before you get into screen sizes and processors, you have to nail down your operating system. After all, Android vs iOS will impact everything else you do on your new device.
Once you’ve settled the operating system debate, it’s time to move into the specifics of your tablet. That means settling on how much screen do you really need. The iPad Mini, for example, comes in at less than eight inches, while Samsung’s premium Galaxy Tab S7 Plus is a massive 12.4-inches.
iOS, Windows, or Android — this is the most important decision you have to make when buying a tablet.
It also means nailing down your storage options. If you’re planning to scroll through social media or binge shows over Wi-Fi, you may not need as many gigs. However, those of you hoping to download movies, games, and more will want to find something with a bit more space.
One final thing to keep in mind is build quality. Many of Samsung’s Galaxy Tabs and all of Apple’s iPads come with aluminum bodies, which can usually handle wear and tear. On the other hand, most cheaper tablets stick with plastic backs to save on weight and cost.
See also: The best cheap Android tablets
Still not sure what operating system to get, looking for more options, or other buying advice? Below we’ll discuss our favorite tablet choices and who they are for. Afterward, keep reading for questions/answers, a bit on the OS differences, and more.
The best tablets (Android and iOS)
Best Apple tablets
- The Apple iPad (10.2-inch, 2021) is the best tablet overall, with an A13 Bionic chip, great battery life, and excellent display.
- The Apple iPad Air (10.9-inch, 2020) is the top premium iPad, offering an updated design that’s much closer to the iPad Pro.
- The Apple iPad Mini (8.3-inch, 2021) is our favorite small tablet, thanks to its portable size and brand-new A15 Bionic chip.
Best Android tablets
- The Amazon Fire HD 10 Plus packs plenty of screen real estate at a rock-bottom price.
- The Amazon Fire HD 8 shrinks the benefits of Fire OS into a smaller package, and it’s the cheapest tablet on our list.
- The Samsung Galaxy Tab S7 Plus is the best Android tablet you can buy, with up to 512GB of storage and an included stylus.
- The Samsung Galaxy Tab A7 is a solid alternative if you want Samsung’s Android experience without breaking the bank.
- The Lenovo Smart Tab M10 HD blends the best of a tablet with a smart display thanks to the included charging stand.
Best Apple tablets
If you’ve landed on iOS as your operating system of choice, an iPad is the only way to go. Apple’s new iPadOS is standard across the entire range, but they feel just like you’re using a beefed-up iPod or iPhone. A few models still carry the classic home button, while the premium end of the range has adopted a buttonless design with slimmer bezels. The lower-cost models can be light on storage space and be ready for the Apple Tax at checkout.
Below we highlight our favorite Apple iPads, but just looking for a good deal? Head to our iPad deals page.
Apple iPad: The best tablet for most people
The 2021 version of Apple’s iPad got little more than a basic update, yet it provides the best value by far. It still starts at just $329.99, and it brings solid battery life, a snappy processor, and Touch ID into one portable package.
Apple upgraded from its A12 Bionic processor to the newer A13 Bionic to keep the iPad up to speed, pairing it with 64GB of storage in the base configuration. You can boost it to 256GB for a fee, but it’s nice to see the base configuration move beyond the paltry 32GB of years past. Although Apple has switched some of its premium iPads to USB-C charging, the classic iPad remains the last of the tablet line to rely on the Lightning cable for yet another year.
Our own Eric Zeman was plenty impressed with the Apple iPad in his review testing, pointing out that even the minor update keeps it ahead of the competition. He managed to achieve the advertised 10 hours of battery life — the same mark as last year’s model. The classic home button design means thick top and bottom bezels, but there’s little to find fault with otherwise.
- Good A13 Bionic processor
- Great hardware
- Touch ID home button
- Dated design
- Mono speaker
- Lightning port
See also: Apple iPad (2021) review
Apple iPad Air: The junior iPad Pro
The new Air kickstarted Apple’s trek into colorful finishes on iPads and iMacs, coming in five vibrant finishes. It’s not just a pretty new face, though — Apple made some serious improvements hidden under the surface.
The first key change is the adoption of the A14 Bionic chip. It’s the very same processor at the heart of the iPhone 12 family. After all, to be the best tablet, you need the best hardware. Apple also brought USB-C charging to the iPad Air, bringing it ever-closer to the iPad Pro family. Mentioning Pro-inspired choices, the bezels are slimmer on all four sides, and the home button is gone like the dodo.
Fear not, as it doesn’t mean you’ll have to do without Touch ID. Instead, the fingerprint reader is built into the side-mounted power button. Unfortunately, the iPad Air costs twice as much as the classic iPad, and it starts with just 64GB of storage space.
- USB-C charging
- A14 Bionic processor
- Optional Magic Keyboard
- Costs twice as much as the iPad
- Limited to 64GB or 256GB
See also: Apple iPad Air review
Apple iPad Mini: The iPad Air, to go
If you want the smallest tablet around, it’s tough to beat Apple’s upgraded iPad Mini. It has an 8.3-inch display and looks just like an iPad Air that’s had time to shrink in the sun. You’ve got the same rounded corners, the flat sides, and now the move to a USB-C port.
Another factor in the iPad Mini’s favor is that there’s almost no competition in the small tablet sphere. We’ll come to Amazon’s alternative in a moment, but the Mini has generally cornered the market. It starts with 64GB of storage space, but the design change has come at a cost — the smallest iPad now costs between $499 and $799.
Apple’s latest tiny tablet made a big move to the cutting-edge A15 Bionic chip, the same as you’ll find in the iPhone 13 series. It also supports Apple Pencil 2 and the Touch ID sensor now lives in the power button along the top edge.
- Excellent new design
- 5G for cellular models
- Apple Pencil 2 support
- No headphone jack
- Pricey for 256GB
- only 60Hz display
See also: Apple iPad Mini (2021) review
Best Android tablets
Android tablets come with a level of freedom that iPads just can’t match. You can roll with plenty of different manufacturers, which means a much better variety of prices. If you have a preferred Android skin, it can help make your choice a lot easier. You may not get quite the same level of integration as you would with an iPad, but there’s value across the board. Keep an eye on the different build materials because here are our best Android tablet picks.
Below we highlight our favorites, but that’s far from all, check out our guide to the best Android tablets for more.
Amazon Fire HD 10 Plus: A big screen for a small price
Amazon’s FireOS may be Android-based, but don’t expect Google apps on the Fire HD 10 Plus. Instead, you’ll have to navigate the Alexa-powered alternatives, but we can’t say we mind too much at an extremely low price. For just $179.99 — with ads — you can snag your own 10.1-inch tablet, complete with 32GB of storage.
If you’d rather not see ads scattered throughout your experience, you can shell out a few extra dollars. Both versions come exclusively in black at the moment, though we’ll probably see Amazon roll new colors out eventually. You’ll get 4GB of RAM as well, which is an extra Gig over the current Fire HD 10.
Perhaps the Alexa integration is the best reason to choose one of Amazon’s tablets as your next display. If you have an Echo speaker or smart display, the tablet should integrate just about seamlessly. You can even use it to control your smart lights, thermostat, or coffee maker.
- Unbeatable price
- Solid 10.1-inch display
- Great Alexa integration
- Plastic construction
- Lack of Google apps
See also: Amazon Fire HD 10 Plus review
Amazon Fire HD 8: A portable option for under $100
Amazon’s Fire HD 8 is nearly identical to the tablet above, but it comes with a few sacrifices for the smaller body. For starters, you lose two inches of screen real estate. You’re also back down to 2GB of RAM to keep you moving.
The Fire HD 8 comes with ad-supported and ad-free options, which can hack the price as low as just $89.99. You’ll get just 32GB of storage to work with at the base price, but a 64GB version is always on the table. You’ll have to do without Google apps again — this is FireOS, after all.
The Amazon Fire HD 8 may not be the most premium tablet on our list, but it’s not trying to be. Instead, it’s all about being the best budget tablet that Alexa can handle.
- Starts at under $100
- Portable size
- USB-C charging and 12-hour battery
- Limited to 2GB of RAM
- Ads required for lowest price
See also: Amazon Fire 8 HD (2020) review
Samsung Galaxy Tab S7 Plus: The top Android tablet with plenty of storage
We’ll go from the budget-friendly Android tablet all the way to the cream of the crop. Our own Eric Zeman hailed the Galaxy Tab S7 Plus (and its Tab S7 sibling) as the only Android tablet to spend your money on, and it’s not hard to see why.
Samsung packed the best hardware it could find under the 12.4-inch display. You’re ready for anything with Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 865 Plus SoC, up to 8GB of RAM, and as much as 512GB of storage. If that’s still not enough, the Galaxy Tab S7 Plus packs a microSD slot for even more storage. There’s even a behemoth 10,090mAh battery to keep you moving all day long.
The story isn’t just what’s inside the Galaxy Tab S7 Plus — the outside is pretty good too. It sports an aluminum build, a vibrant Super AMOLED display, and an S Pen for good measure. The Galaxy Tab S7 Plus is by far the best Android tablet on the market, and it has a price tag to match.
- Premium hardware
- Top-notch performance
- Great displays
- Weak cameras
- Expensive accessories
See also: Samsung Galaxy Tab S7 review
Samsung Galaxy Tab A7: Samsung’s ecosystem on a budget
The Galaxy Tab A7 doesn’t have all of the bells and whistles you get on the Galaxy Tab S7 Plus, but it’s a far more affordable way to give Samsung a try. Samsung’s budget beast is smaller, sitting 10.4-inches across, and the internals are trimmed back to match.
You’ll have a Qualcomm Snapdragon 662 processor lighting your way and 3GB of RAM with either 32GB or 64GB of storage. While the sacrifices can add up, the Galaxy Tab A7 should leave your wallet smiling at $229.99. Even at a lower price, Samsung managed to lead up a 7,040mAh battery, which we could stretch for over 10 hours.
Samsung’s brilliant display makes another appearance with a crisp resolution and great color reproduction. The RAM and memory make gaming a no-go, but the tablet should stand up to the rest of your daily life.
- Solid build quality
- Great display
- Impressive battery performance
- Heavy for its size
- No kids mode
See also: Samsung Galaxy Tab A7 review
Lenovo Smart Tab M10 HD: The best of a tablet and a smart display
The last tablet on our list is a picture-perfect Android option. Lenovo’s Smart Tab M10 HD packs all the features you want in a tablet, but it doubles as a handy smart display. It’s the perfect solution if you can’t make up your mind between a tablet and a Nest Hub.
You can enjoy apps, games, and movies throughout your day and then pop the Smart Tab M10 HD on its charging dock at home. As soon as you do, it transforms to make life easier around the house. The screen measures 10.1-inches, which is ideal for YouTube-powered cooking.
Lenovo’s internals may not be out of this world — try a MediaTek Helio P22T and up to 4GB of RAM with 64GB — but they’re enough for most tasks. You can even let your kids in on the action with the Google Kids Space feature. It’s designed with curiosity in mind and trims content down to kid-friendly levels.
- Google Kids Space
- Doubles as a smart display
- Included charging stand
- Weak speakers
- Mediocre battery life
- Not for gaming
See also: Lenovo Smart Tab M10 HD (2nd Gen) review
What about Windows tablets?
While this guide focuses solely on iOS and Android, there’s a third choice in Windows. Today it’s easy to get a tablet running Windows that also can transform into a laptop via a keyboard dock or similar.
These tablets tend to be better for professional use as they give you all the power of Windows applications, alongside the ability to run more traditional apps. It’s also worth noting that Windows has the least tablet-optimized apps out of the three main OSes, and you’ll often have to settle for third-party versions of popular tablet apps when it comes to Windows.
Want to learn more? Check out our guide to the best Windows tablets.
iOS vs Android — which OS is right for you?
The Android vs iOS debate is a long and complicated one. To further make matters tricky, there’s a big difference when you’re talking Android vs iOS and Android vs PadOS. While Android and iPhone OS have a lot in common, the reality is that Android tends not to be the best optimized for tablets. Many apps don’t quite translate well to the big screen. The experience works, but many would argue the iPad makes for a better tablet experience than Android.
Of course, if you’re used to the Android ecosystem, you might not care. There might be more iPad-optimized apps, but there are enough big hitters on Android that many are okay with small concessions.
Picking the best tablet apps and accessories
Now that you have a feel for the best tablets to pick on Android and iOS, you might want to check out some accessories to complete the setup. Here are our current favorite apps as well:
Other Frequently Asked Questions
Q: How much does a tablet cost?
A: The average price of a tablet varies depending on features and functionality. You can find tablets as cheap as $20 and as much as $1000, but the key is understanding what’s not worth it. Generally, those no-name brand tablets for sub-$100 prices aren’t worth buying! Instead, if you want to save money and get a basic tablet, we recommend the Amazon Fire 8 or Fire 10.
Q: What’s the best kids tablet?
A: We have a list that goes further into the answer, but generally, an Amazon Fire (or especially the Fire Kids tablet) is a great starting point. If your kids prefer iPad, we recommend the iPad Mini.
Q: What is the difference between an iPad and a tablet?
A: Technically nothing, an iPad is one type of tablet. Officially most people just call iPads by that brand name, while Android and Windows tablets get lumped into the generic “tablets” label.