There are countless tablets on the market, but which one is right for you? Whether you're eyeing an iPad or one of the many Android models available, here are the key factors you need to consider when shopping, along with some of the top-rated tablets we've tested.
If you want to cut straight to the chase, however, here's a quick summary of what to get. If you're looking for iOS, the $329 (and up) sixth-generation iPad is the way to go. Amazon's 8-inch Fire HD, meanwhile, is our choice for a kids' tablet or a tablet under $100.
Android vs. iOS Tablets
Android tablets make great media players,
Generally speaking, the greatest strength of Apple's iOS, the operating system on the iPad, iPad mini, and iPad Pro tablet lines, is twofold: It's very clean and intuitive, and the wide selection of apps that you can buy right on your tablet—more than one million iPad-specific titles at the time of this writing—work uniformly well with very few exceptions. For more, check out our iOS 12
Google's Android OS gives you a choice of hardware from several different manufacturers and offers maximum
What About Apps?
What's a tablet without quality apps? If you want third-party apps specifically designed for a touch-screen interface, nothing out there beats the iPad with its huge library of programs and games designed specifically for Apple tablets. The App Store is well curated and monitored, offers a deep selection, and includes every popular app you can think of. If a wide range of compelling apps that look good and work well on your tablet is your main priority, Apple is your best bet. For more, see the 100 best iPad apps.>
Android has made great strides in app selection, courting more developers and offering more high-quality tablet apps, but it's still not as many as Apple offers. It's tough to say exactly how many tablet-optimized Android apps are available, but it's likely in the thousands, rather than the hundreds of thousands. There are also Android phone apps, which look decent on a 7-inch tablet, but less so on a 9- or 10-inch one, so you're likely to have more problems getting high-quality apps for larger Android tablets. That said, check out the 100 Best Android apps for our top picks.
Screen Size and Storage
This consideration is a bit obvious, but size—both screen real estate and storage capacity—is important to consider. First things first: When you hear the term "7-inch or 10-inch tablet," this refers to the size of the screen, measured diagonally, and not the size of the tablet itself.
7-inch tablets are considered small-screen, while 8.9-inch tablets and above are considered large-screen. Apple's iPads, Amazon's Fire, and Samsung's tablets all come in small- and large-screen iterations. And more than ever, phones are blurring the lines with tablets. Big smartphones (or phablets) like the 6.4-inch Samsung Galaxy Note 9 are challenging the need to even carry a separate tablet.
Screen resolution is important too, especially for ebook reading and web surfing. A sharp, bright display is key. If you're in the market for a 10-inch tablet, look for a display with at least 1,280 by 800 resolution.
The weight of a tablet is one definite advantage it has over a laptop—but with large-screen tablets typically weighing around a pound, they're not cell phone-light. After you hold one with a single hand while standing up for 20 minutes, your hand will get tired. Setting one flat in your lap, rather than propped up on a stand, can also be a little awkward. And
Cloud (off-device) storage is an option for many tablets (iCloud for iPads, Amazon Cloud Storage for Fire tablets), but when it comes to onboard storage, more is always better. All those apps, when combined with music, video, and photo libraries, can take up a lot of space. Many non-Apple tablets have microSD memory card slots that let you expand storage.
Wi-Fi-Only vs. Cellular Models
Some tablets come in a Wi-Fi-only model or with the option of always-on cellular service from a wireless provider. If you want to use your tablet to get online anywhere, you should opt for a model that offers a cellular version. Of course, this adds to the device's price, and then you need to pay for cellular service. Generally, though, with a tablet, you can purchase data on a month-to-month basis without signing a contract.
Another way to get your tablet online: Use your phone as a Wi-Fi hotspot. This won't work with every phone/tablet combo, so you should check with your carrier before you seal a deal. You can also buy a dedicated mobile hotspot, which won't kill your phone's battery life. Some even double as backup batteries to charge your tablet.
The Top Tablets (for Now)
The tablets chosen here represent the best Android and iOS options across a variety of price levels. That said, there are plenty of other great tablets out there, and one may be right for you. For the latest lab-tested reviews, check out our tablet product guide.
Best Tablets Featured in This Roundup:
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