Looking for a Tablet? These Are Our Absolute Favorites

Tablets aren’t essential, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t nice to have around. A good tablet can be a portable TV screen around the house and a way to get some light work done away from your desk. Also, with a wealth of apps for drawing, painting, and making music, they’re a great outlet for your creative impulses.

The iPad’s ease of use and best-in-breed software makes it the obvious choice for most people, but if you don’t want an iPad, other options exist. Android tablets have grown more powerful in recent years. Amazon’s Fire tablets are also an affordable way to get the basics like watching movies and browsing the web, as long as you don’t mind their limitations. If you want a tablet that can double as a laptop, an iPad or a Windows 2-in-1 might be your best bet. Our picks of the best tablets can help you decide.

Be sure to check out our other buying guides, including the Best iPads, Best iPad Accessories, and Best Fire Tablets.

Updated July 2021: We’ve added the Walmart Onn tablet and new Fire HD 10.

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  • Apple Photos on an iPad

    Photograph: Apple 

    Best for Most People

    Apple iPad (10.2-Inch, 2020)

    The standard iPad is the best tablet for most people. It’s mostly the same as the 2019 model, but Apple’s 2020 refresh added a more powerful chip—the A12 Bionic, the same processor that powers the iPhone XS from 2018. That makes it snappy enough to run almost every iPadOS app or game. The 10.2-inch screen can feel cramped at times, specifically if you’re using it for light work, but it’s great for watching movies or shows in bed. And yes, you can do some office work on it, thanks to its mouse and trackpad support. There’s a Smart Connector hookup for attaching Apple’s Smart Keyboard ($150 from Amazon) too.

    The only real gripe is the same as the 2019 model: There’s a larger air gap between the glass and screen than on the iPad Air, Mini, and Pro. When you touch the screen, there’s some discernible space between your fingertip and the actual pixels, which makes using the iPad feel just a little less natural. For this reason, the base iPad isn’t our top choice if you’re planning to make heavy use of the Apple Pencil, though the $99 accessory is compatible and works just fine.

  • Photograph: Apple 

    A Good Upgrade

    Apple iPad Air (10.9-inch, 2020)

    If you want a more modern-looking tablet, try Apple’s 2020 iPad Air. It brings many of the same features from the pricier iPad Pro, like slim bezels, no home button, USB-C for charging, and support for the second-generation Apple Pencil ($125 at Amazon), which magnetically attaches to the slate and wirelessly recharges while stuck there. The Air also adds similar performance, thanks to the latest A14 Bionic chip inside (the same processor in the iPhone 12). That makes it powerful for any task, even bulky video and photo editing. There’s no Face ID, but Touch ID is integrated into the power button—a first for Apple.

    The 10.9-inch LCD screen gives you a slightly larger canvas to work off of compared to the iPad above, and the laminated display offers a more natural drawing experience because there’s less distance between the glass and pixels. There are some complaints about the screen’s backlight bleeding in from the edges, which is noticeable when watching movies. It’s something WIRED writer Lauren Goode encountered in her review unit.

    ★ The Ultimate iPad: The 12.9-inch 2021 iPad Pro (8/10, WIRED Recommends) is much more expensive at $1,099, but it’s more feature-rich. The large screen makes it a great canvas for drawing. It has new Mini-LED backlighting technology that outputs a brighter display with better contrast, and the M1 chip delivers more power. You also get a 120-Hz screen refresh rate, two more speakers, 5G, Thunderbolt support, and Face ID, among other features. A cheaper 11-inch model is also available but it doesn’t use the new Mini-LED display. 

  • Photograph: Apple

    Best Portable Tablet

    Apple iPad Mini (7.9-inch, 2019)

    After letting it go stale for more than three years, Apple took the time to update the iPad Mini 4 in 2019. Predictably, we love it (8/10, WIRED Recommends). It’s faster than the old model and now compatible with the first-gen Apple Pencil. The main reason to buy this is if you prioritize portability. Smaller kids have an easier time using it, and it’s fantastic for travel. You may want to invest in a stand-up case.

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