Subscribe Now
Login

The best tablets

From super-light devices to those that double up as a laptop, we assess the competition

These tablets will draw you in and entertain for hours ( Apple )

The tablet is the great substitute to the laptop, offering better portability because it’s thinner and lighter, with a touchscreen interface and, in some cases, a million or more apps to choose from.

Although tablet computers existed before 2010, it was the arrival of the Apple iPad that changed everything. At first it was seen primarily as a device for media consumption, such as watching movies, playing games and following recipes. But it quickly became a laptop alternative when keyboards and styluses were developed.

Everything changed with the arrival of the iPad Pro, which has just been updated with a particularly powerful processor and an upgraded design. It has software to include file management and split screen capabilities, making it pretty much as versatile as a laptop.

There are several main operating systems to choose from for tablets. Apple uses iOS, Google’s Android system is on Samsung and Huawei tablets, and Google is also about to release its own Pixel Slate tablet using Chrome. Microsoft’s Windows is on tablets from brands including HP and Microsoft itself, and Amazon has a special version of Android for its own tablets. Amazon tests all the apps before allowing them on to its platform.

Apple iPad Pro: From £769, Apple

Operating system: iOS 12
Screen size: 11in, 12.9in
Storage capacity: 64GB, 256GB, 512GB, 1TB​
Wifi or wifi and 4G? Both available

The newly released iPad Pro is easily the best tablet yet, from any brand. It comes in two sizes and is the first iPad to use Face ID – there’s no fingerprint sensor on the new iPad Pro. Removing the fingerprint button means the tablet has a full-screen front which is sumptuous and attractive, and also means the overall size of the tablet is smaller than most other models. Note, these are the first iPads without a headphone socket or headphones supplied.

The iPad Pro, even the larger model, is extremely thin and light. It packs in an advanced processor which delivers great performance, even if you are a creative with specialised needs. The Smart Keyboard Folio and Apple Pencil (version two) are sold separately but are both brilliant – the keyboard is comfortable to use and makes the iPad Pro a very effective laptop alternative. An earlier iPad Pro with a fingerprint sensor and a 10.5in display is also available.

Buy now

Microsoft Surface Go: From £379, Argos

Operating system: Windows 10
Screen size: 10in​
Storage capacity: 64GB, 128GB​
Wifi or wifi and 4G? Wifi

Microsoft’s 10in tablet is its most portable yet. Like other tablets in its Surface range, it has a foldout kickstand that works well whether for watching video, note-taking or using as a laptop with an optional keyboard accessory. There’s a stylus called the Surface Pen, also sold separately. It sounds good, with decent volume and bass. Like the iPad Pro, the Surface Go comes with facial recognition, which is used to log in to Windows. The Go is reasonably fast and very enjoyable to use, and is great for taking on your travels.

Buy now

Amazon Fire HD 8: From £79.99, Amazon

Operating system: Amazon Fire OS
Screen size: 8in​
Storage capacity: 16GB, 32GB​
Wifi or wifi and 4G? Wifi

Amazon’s tablets are astonishing value, not least because the company sells them at breakeven prices. The Fire OS is designed to hold any Kindle ebooks you might own, and provide a way to watch programmes and films through your Amazon Prime subscription. Amazon tablets are well made and fun to use. The HD 8 comes in four colours: black, canary yellow, marine blue and punch red.

Amazon’s popular virtual assistant Alexa is on this tablet and responds when you call her name to answer questions, set calendar appointments or tell you a joke. The 8in screen is good quality, and unlike some tablets you can expand the memory by adding a micro SD memory card. The price includes special offers – an advert shows up when you turn it on. You can get rid of this at any time for an extra £10.

Buy now

Apple iPad: From £319, Apple

Operating system: iOS 12
Screen size: 9.7in
Storage capacity: 32GB, 128GB​
Wifi or wifi and 4G? Both available

The entry level iPad is the best value iPad Apple has ever made. The display is not huge at 9.7in, and it lacks the Face ID of the latest Pro models, but it is highly capable and a dream to use. For most people, this is the best iPad you can buy. It is fast and effective and comes in a range of colours.

This year’s model is the first to be compatible with the Apple Pencil, which adds a whole new interaction. The same software as is on the pricier Pro means you can do almost as much with the iPad in terms of multitasking and file management.

Buy now

Samsung Galaxy Tab S4: £599.99, Currys

Operating system: Android
Screen size: 10.5in
Storage capacity: 64GB​
Wifi or wifi and 4G? Wifi only

This is a high-end Android tablet, and it feels and looks luxurious. A real standout is the display – unlike others here it uses an OLED screen rather than LCD. The display looks bright, vivid and detailed, making it one of the best tablet screens anywhere and especially good for watching movies. Another rarity is that the smart stylus, called the S Pen, comes as standard. It’s thin and light, though be careful of smudging the glass back – it’s a fingerprint magnet.

There’s an iris scanner to identify you, which works well although not as well as on the iPad Pro. Samsung has a system called DeX, which lets you connect the tablet to a monitor, add a keyboard and mouse, and use it as though it’s a computer. This means you can have multiple windows open on a bigger display.

Buy now

Microsoft Surface Pro 6: From £879, Microsoft

Operating system: Windows 10
Screen size: 12.3in
Storage capacity: 128GB, 256GB, 512GB​
Wifi or wifi and 4G? Wifi only

Like a regular PC you can configure the specs on this sixth-generation Surface Pro in detail. As well as storage capacity, there are options for RAM and even the processor, so you can choose something exactly as powerful as you need it to be. This doesn’t come cheap, just as the top-of-the-range iPad Pro isn’t a budget proposition. It has a big, bold screen (only the 12.9in iPad Pro has a bigger display of the tablets we have tested) and comes with the trademark Surface kickstand and optional keyboard cover.

Other options include a cool fold-flat Surface Arc mouse and Surface Pen stylus. Because it runs Windows, this really does become a full-on PC when the keyboard cover is attached, complete with trackpad. It’s slick and powerful, and light enough to take anywhere.

Buy now

Amazon Fire HD 10: From £149.99, Amazon

Operating system: Amazon Fire OS
Screen size: 10.1in
Storage capacity: 32GB, 64GB​
Wifi or wifi and 4G? Wifi only

If you like the idea of a capable tablet at a low price but want something a little bigger than the Fire HD 8, this 10-inch tablet is excellent value. The display isn’t as high resolution as the iPad but still looks good. The processor is more than fast enough for video playback and games. There’s no dedicated keyboard or stylus, so this is arguably a tablet better suited for consumption first and creation second. Of course, Amazon’s voice assistant Alexa is included and this was the first Fire tablet with hands-free Alexa (she responds when you speak her name from across the room).

Buy now

Huawei MediaPad M5 Pro: £435.99, Amazon

Operating system: Android
Screen size: 10.8in
Storage capacity: 64GB​
Wifi or wifi and 4G? Wifi only

Unlike most of the tablets here, this has a widescreen display which makes it great for watching films. Audio is good too, though the iPad Pro with its four speakers edges it. The tablet comes with a stylus, which is effective and versatile thanks to two buttons that add extra features. You can divide the screen in two for multi-app use. It looks good and is fun to use.

Buy now

Amazon Fire 7: From £49.99, Amazon

Operating system: Amazon Fire OS
Screen size: 7in​
Storage capacity: 8GB, 16GB​
Wi-fi or wifi and 4G? Wifi only

If you’re happy with a smaller screen on your tablet, this 7in model from Amazon is the best budget tablet of all. The screen is good, though not as high resolution as the other Fire tablets here. But it’s light and, of course, at this size it’s the ultimate in portability. As with the other Amazon tablets here, it has an expandable memory slot so you can add to the (very basic) 8GB or 16GB built-in storage.

This tablet is ideal as an ebook reader thanks to its size (though if that’s all you want it for, an Amazon Kindle is better). It has Alexa hands-free, but only when the tablet is connected to the mains or the screen is on, otherwise you have to press a button to awaken the virtual assistant. It looks good too.

Buy now

The Verdict: Best tablets

The best tablet, by a country mile, is the iPad Pro thanks to its super-speedy processor that outdoes most laptops, as well as its brilliant interface and beautiful design. If you like the design but don’t need the power, the regular iPad is brilliant value and works like a dream. And if it’s a low price that is most important, the Amazon tablets are all very keenly priced and offer strong performance. If Windows is the most important thing, because you want to run any program you like on it, then the Microsoft Surface Pro is hard to beat.

IndyBest product reviews are unbiased, independent advice you can trust. On some occasions, we earn revenue if you click the links and buy the products, but we never allow this to bias our coverage. The reviews are compiled through a mix of expert opinion and real-world testing.

Article bookmarked

Find your bookmarks in your Independent Premium section, under my profile