Here are your top tablet options — including an all-new iPad Pro for 2020 — for students and everyone else.
Tablets have found new life in our homes as the coronavirus pandemic has upped the need for a smart device that can handle entertainment, education and even some work. Just a few months ago, the go-to tablet on the market — Apple’s iPad — got a whole new lease on life. In addition to delivering a new Apple iPad Pro model, Apple updated the iPad’s operating system to allow trackpad support. And while we’re not retiring our laptops yet, the new features are more promising for the iPad’s future as a productivity device than anything the company’s added in years.
Elsewhere in tablet land, Microsoft last month debuted new Surface models, including the 15-inch Surface Book 3 and the Surface Go 2, a refresh of its tiniest tablet. Amazon remains the best option for cheap and kid-friendly tablet models. Samsung is taking a shot at iPad-Pro-like productivity with the new Tab S7 Plus.
All of these options offer a robust app store, so it isn’t even a question of which tablet has the best apps.
Here are our picks for the best tablet available right now. All of these products (or previous versions thereof) have been fully reviewed or anecdotally tested by CNET editors. We took several factors into consideration, including pressure sensitivity, screen size, the inclusion of a front camera, internal storage, the option to add a microSD card and whether or not the tablet offers a headphone jack. This story was published earlier, and we’ll continue to update it as new products become available.
An obvious affordable choice
The latest iPad (10.2-inch, seventh generation, 2019)
Apple’s small refresh to its entry-level iPad increases the screen size just a bit, offers long-lasting battery life and adds support for a connector-attached smart keyboard, making the best tablet for Apple enthusiasts. Older processor aside, this is a perfectly good iPad. Just don’t pay more than $250 for the 32GB version — that’s the price that it can frequently be found on sale. Read our Apple iPad 10.2-inch 2019 review.
The best tablet for creatives
iPad Pro (2020)
Updated for 2020, the newest version of the Apple iPad Pro adds a fancier rear camera array and even a lidar sensor for bleeding-edge AR features. But the biggest upgrade comes via the software, which now supports laptop-style trackpads. But to use that, you’ll need something like Apple’s Magic Keyboard Case for iPad Pro, a pricey add-on.
Still, it finally makes us more enthusiastic about this highest-end iPad, which is otherwise a performance monster, with Face ID, USB Type-C, great battery life, a killer retina screen and the best processor and best design in Apple’s line. This Apple tablet can also be counted among the best drawing tablets, especially when paired with the Apple Pencil from 2018. (If you already have the previous iPad Pro, there’s no big reason to upgrade to this 2020 model.) Note that the iPad Pro is available in 11-inch and 12.9-inch models. Read more.
Best for that PC-style feel
Samsung Tab S7 Plus
Fire DeX up on the Tab S7, with the keyboard attached, and you get a remarkably laptop-like experience. Open multiple apps, resize them in different windows, minimize everything down to the taskbar. It’s a much more familiar-feeling experience for laptoppers than even the latest iPad with keyboard and touchpad support. One new DeX trick is pretty clever — the ability to wirelessly throw your DeX desktop to another display or even a TV. Read our hands-on of the Samsung Tab S7 Plus.
Expensive, but the best smaller tablet
Apple iPad Mini (2019)
Apple refreshed the iPad Mini last spring with Apple Pencil support and an A12 processor that outperforms the bigger 10.2-inch basic iPad. Confusing, huh? Just know that the iPad Mini is a great tablet that is super portable with a 7.9 inch display and that it can be filled with apps that make it more of a gaming tablet or a drawing tablet. But the smaller surface size of the Apple iPad Mini may not suit people who want to use it as a laptop replacement. iPad Mini review.
The most affordable tablet
Amazon Fire 7 (2019)
Amazon’s rock-bottom tablet prices are always shocking, and this year’s Fire 7 is a solid budget tablet pick for basic video/game/kid apps needs. It has a relatively small screen size, but, as always, Amazon Prime lets you get a lot more out of it content-wise, though Amazon’s Fire ecosystem is more limited than Android. But if you’re buying for a child, definitely invest in the Kids Edition. Beyond parental controls, this version of the device includes a rubberized case, a free year of kid-friendly FreeTime Unlimited content — and a no-questions-asked two-year replacement warranty for damaged units. Stop living in fear of a shattered screen! It also has an all-important headphone jack, so you don’t have to worry if your wireless earbuds are charged. Read our Amazon Fire 7 (2019) review.
A better but still low-cost Amazon tablet
Amazon Fire HD 10 (2019)
The 10-inch Amazon Fire HD tablet is faster and better than the 7- or 8-inch Fire tablet, and it’s still a pretty low $150 (or less). For the Fire HD 10, there are two storage options, 32 GB and 64 GB. The Fire HD tablet also charges its battery life via USB type-C now. Fire HD 10 gets an upgrade.
Chromebook that’s also a tablet
HP Chromebook X2
For the right price, the Chromebook X2 could be the best tablet of the bunch as far as deals go. It’s a functional Chromebook laptop that’s also a detachable tablet, and it can also be used for photo editing and playing Android tablet apps. It comes with 4 GB of RAM. Read our HP Chromebook x2 review.