The best tablets for 2024

The best tablets for 2024


A tablet can make a great addition to your tech toolkit. It can replace an e-reader, serve as a more portable laptop replacement or simply be a shared device for watching movies or checking social media at home. However, with four different families of iPad, a plethora of Android options and Windows-based alternatives like the Surface Pro, it can be difficult to figure out which will serve you best. We at Engadget have tested and reviewed dozens of tablets over the years, and we continue to try out the latest models asa they hit the market. Below, we’ve solidified our current top picks, plus all of the information you should know before picking up the best tablet for you.

Before you even start looking at specific devices, consider how your new tablet will fit in with the gadgets you already own, and how you plan to use it. For example, if everyone in your house uses Macs and iPhones, it probably doesn’t make a lot of sense to buy an Android tablet, even if you’ve been tempted by the massive 14.6-inch screen on the new Galaxy Tab S9 Ultra. This goes double for anyone with an extensive library of purchased videos and music that might be harder to access after switching platforms.

Another consideration is the kind of work you’ll be doing. That’s because while most modern tablets are adept at browsing websites or playing games, some operating systems like iPadOS and Windows 11 are better designed to support multitasking and productivity than Android or even Chrome OS. It’s a similar situation for software, because while most popular apps and games are available on both Apple’s App Store and Google’s Play Store, more specialized software may only have proper support on desktop platforms like Windows or macOS.

Figuring out the best screen size for you will also be related to the kind of work (or play) you intend to do. Larger displays make it much easier to view two apps side by side, and big screens also deliver a more immersive movie viewing experience. But at the same time, the larger the tablet, the less likely you’re going to want to move it around. That means you’re not only going to want to take stock of your workspace (i.e., if you have a desk or instead plan to work from a couch or even your bed), you’re also going to want to think about how the device will fit into your everyday routine or commute (if you have one).

Finally, you’ll want to consider any add-ons or accessories you’re planning to use, which can range from detachable keyboards to things like external mics or a stylus. The good news is that many of the best tablets nowadays offer some kind of keyboard accessory, which allows the device to function more like a 2-in-1 instead of simply being a content consumption device. Some tablets also feature things like microSD card slots that support expandable storage, or optional 4G or 5G connectivity, which can be a real boon to frequent travelers. And if you’re planning to use the tablet mainly for work, you might want to grab a USB hub for connecting all your favorite peripherals.

When evaluating different tablets, there are a few important things we look for above all else: solid performance, a good screen and long battery life. For performance, we run a handful of synthetic tests like Geekbench 6, while also performing a number of real-world use cases such as editing photos and playing games. And with tablets often serving as hybrid devices, we also consider how easy it is to multitask and switch quickly between various apps. The more responsive a device feels, the better.

Because a tablet’s display is such a critical component, we also view a wide range of content to gauge things like brightness, color gamut and dynamic range. It’s important to take into account the difference between various panel types like OLED, which typically produce richer colors and excellent contrast but may not be as bright as a mini LED display. Recently, refresh rate has become an increasingly important spec as 90Hz and 120Hz screens can make scrolling smoother and graphics appear sharper in games.

We also consider a tablet’s design (including things like size, weight and water resistance), its connectivity (WiFi, Bluetooth, NFC, 5G, et cetera) and special features like stylus support or the ability to serve as a secondary display. That’s because, while tablets were often viewed as content consumption devices in the past, higher-end devices like the Surface Pro and iPad Pro are more than capable of replacing a laptop for a lot of people.

Finally, we test battery life by running our standard local video rundown test, which involves playing a single video on a loop from 100 percent until it runs out of juice. Ideally, a tablet should be able to last an entire working day, but longer runtimes are always welcome.

Apple

Display: 11- or 13-inch 120Hz tandem OLED XDR touchscreen | Processor: Apple M4 | Storage: Up to 2TB | Battery life: Up to 10 hours | Camera: 12MP rear, 12MP front

Read our full Apple iPad Pro (M4) review

The Apple iPad Pro was already the best tablet money can buy, and that was before the company unveiled a slew of impressive updates in the 2024 model. This redesigned tablet improves on its predecessor in a number of ways, most notably the new, incredible OLED display. It’s one of the nicest screens we’ve seen, not just on a tablet but on any device. It’s made of two OLED panels for increased brightness and contrast, and it looks great no matter what you’re doing with it. The M4 chip, meanwhile, means this tablet will be extremely powerful for years to come. And Apple made the iPad Pro noticeably thinner and lighter than before — it’s a little shocking just how compact it feels now. Finally, the front camera is now on the landscape edge, which makes it work a lot better for video calls.

The main downside with the iPad Pro remains its price, and these new models are more expensive than ever. The 11-inch starts at $999, while the 13-inch costs a whopping $1,299. That’s before you add in accessories like the Magic Keyboard (starting at $299) and Apple Pencil Pro ($129). Apple did update those accessories this year, though: The new Magic Keyboard is thinner and lighter than before, and it also has aluminum palm rests, a larger, haptic trackpad and a much-needed row of function keys. Meanwhile, the Apple Pencil Pro includes a new squeeze gesture for quick access to menus as well as haptic feedback, gyroscopes that allow you to spin the pencil and support for the Find My network.

If you like the looks of the iPad Pro but want to save some cash, the refreshed iPad Air is a solid option. It now comes in two sizes, 11- and 13-inches, just like the Pro. The screen isn’t nearly as advanced, but it’s still solid enough for most people. The same can be said for the M2, which is still extremely powerful. It uses the older Magic Keyboard, but it does support the new Apple Pencil Pro. And it starts at only $599 for the 11-inch model and $799 for the 13-inch. — Nathan Ingraham, Deputy Editor, News

Pros

  • Possibly the best screen I’ve ever seen
  • M4 chip is extremely powerful
  • Thinner and lighter than before, making it easier to hold
  • Front camera is now on the landscape edge
  • Magic Keyboard and Apple Pencil Pro include significant new features
Cons

  • Prohibitively expensive
  • Not backwards compatible with old accessories, and new ones are still pricey

$950 at Amazon

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Photo by Nathan Ingraham / Engadget

Display: 11-inch LCD, 12.4-inch or 14.6-inch Super AMOLED | Processor: Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 | Storage: Up to 1TB (depending on model) | Battery life: Up to 9 hours | Camera: S9: 13MP rear, 12MP ultrawide front / S9+: 13MP + 8MP ultrawide rear, 12MP ultrawide front / S9 Ultra: 13MP + 8MP ultrawide rear, 12MP + 12MP ultrawide front

Read our full Samsung Galaxy Tab S9 Ultra review

Samsung offers its Galaxy Tab S9 with three screen sizes: 11, 12.4 and 14.6 inches. We only reviewed the 14.6-inch Galaxy Tab S9 Ultra, but all three tablets have identical specs other than screen size and a few slight differences in the camera array. While the S9 Ultra is a bit too big to be comfortable using in your hands for very long, the 11- and 12.4-inch models are your best choice for an Android tablet out there, with outstanding screens and an included S Pen stylus that’s extremely responsive.

Samsung bumped up both the RAM and processor this year on the Galaxy Tab S9 series. Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 chip is more than powerful enough for everything I wanted to do, and the 12GB of RAM is a big bump over the 8GB on last year’s tablets. These tablets are even rated IP68 for water and dust resistance – so if you want to take your S9 in the bath and watch a movie, you don’t have to worry about destroying it if it slips into the tub. Add in a solid accessory ecosystem with multiple different keyboard covers plus the Dex multitasking mode and the S9 can be a powerful productivity tool, too.

Truly great Android tablets are few and far between, and Google stepped back into the ring with its own Pixel Tablet. While it’s not compelling enough as a tablet to knock the Galaxy Tab S9 out of our top spot, it could be an intriguing option for those that want a device that can be used as both a tablet and a smart display. Admittedly, it shines as the latter, which makes it a good thing that Google includes the base in the $500 price. There’s also an $80 case you can get for the Pixel Tablet, which adds a very useful kickstand that you can use whenever you don’t want to dock the device but still want to prop it up.

$782 at Amazon

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Engadget

Display: 13-inch or 15-inch PixelSense touchscreen | Processor: Microsoft SQ3 or Intel Evo i5/i7 | Storage: 128GB to 1TB | Battery life: Up to 15.5 hours | Camera: 1080p Windows Hello front camera, 10MP rear camera

Read our full Microsoft Surface Pro 9 review

While most people think of Microsoft’s Surface Pro devices as a line of 2-in-1s, because they don’t come with a keyboard (you need to purchase it separately), that technically makes them tablets. But don’t be fooled, because thanks to Windows 11 and support for a range of 12h-gen Intel processors, Microsoft’s Surface Pros are designed for productivity.

The latest Surface Pro 9 has a beautiful display with a smooth 120Hz refresh rate and improved stereo speakers, while the inclusion of an IR facial recognition camera allows you to log in to the system in a snap. Another nice bonus is that unlike a lot of tablets, the Surface Pro 9’s SSD is user accessible, allowing you to upgrade its storage yourself whenever you want. And thanks to improvements in Windows 11, the Surface Pro 9 is better suited to life as a tablet without ever needing to attach a smart keyboard thanks to larger app icons and more touch-friendly controls.

$800 at Adorama

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Apple

Display: 10.9-inch, 2360 x 1640 LED | Processor: A14 Bionic | Storage: Up to 256GB | Battery life: Up to 10 hours | Camera: 12MP front, 8MP rear

Read our full Apple iPad (10th generation) review

The 10th-gen iPad had been an awkward middle child since it arrived in October 2022 — neither as powerful as the iPad Air nor as cheap as the older 9th-gen iPad. But now that Apple has slashed its list price by $100 and axed its predecessor (RIP headphone jack), it makes far more sense for those who want a modern iPad for as cheap as possible.

The base iPad looks very similar to the new iPad Air from a distance. It’s only marginally thicker and heavier, while its 11-inch panel is just as sharp and can get just as bright. It runs on Apple’s A14 Bionic, the same chip used in the iPhone 12, and includes 4GB of memory. Battery life comes in at 10 hours, and there’s still a USB-C port and Touch ID sensor. The cameras are nearly the same as the Air, too, with its selfie cam located on the long edge. Most importantly, it gets you (nearly) all the conveniences of iPadOS for $250 less. — Jeff Dunn, Senior Reporter, Buying Advice

Pros

  • Inexpensive
  • Modern design
  • USB-C charging
  • Solid battery life
Cons

  • Screen isn’t the best
  • Keyboard folio is extremely expensive
  • First-gen Apple Pencil charging is even more ridiculous

$334 at Walmart

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Will Lipman Photography for Engadget

Display: 10.1-inch 1080p display | Processor: 2.0 GHz octa-core processor | Storage: 32GB, 64Gb (expandable up to 1TB) | Battery life: Up to 12 hours | Camera: 2MP front camera, 5MP rear camera

If you’re in the market for a new tablet for your child, the Amazon Fire HD 10 Kids Pro is the easy pick, especially for first time users. Starting at $200, it’s the cheapest tablet on this list, and unlike more adult-oriented fare, it comes with an included “kid-proof” case and a two-year warranty. Amazon says if your kid breaks the tablet, the company will replace it for free.

Other useful add-ins include a free one-year subscription to Amazon Kids+, which unlocks more than 20,000 games, books and apps designed for children. There’s also a handy dashboard for parents that allows you to set time limits, content filters and educational goals. And even though its 3GB of RAM and 32GB of base storage aren’t much, its 1080p display is plenty sharp and it has a microSD card slot for expandable storage. And if you want a slightly smaller and more affordable option, there’s the $140 Amazon Fire HD 8 Kids Pro too.

$200 at Amazon

The Google Pixel Tablet excels as a smart display rather than a simple tablet. As the latter, it’s unexciting, but when paired with its speaker/charging dock, it becomes much more useful. It could be a good option for those that already live within the Google ecosystem and use the Google Assistant often, or those who like the idea of a tablet that can be docked and used as a smart display as well.

The solid OnePlus Pad is let down by Android because there aren’t many Android apps designed to be used on a large display like this model’s 11.6-inch panel. Otherwise, the hardware is well-designed, its companion stylus is comfortable to use and it has an excellent battery life.

The best brand for tablets is really the brand you feel most comfortable with. We recommend taking stock of the gadgets you already have — do you live in the Apple ecosystem already? An iPad might be best for you then. Do you have a Samsung phone? If so, a Galaxy Tab will likely be the most convenient choice. There is no one “best brand” for tablets; you’ll find good options made by companies including Apple, Google, Samsung, Microsoft and Amazon.

It’s possible for a tablet to replace a laptop, but you’ll need a few accessories to truly make the experience as close as possible to that of a traditional notebook. A keyboard is a must, be it a keyboard case or a Bluetooth accessory that you keep with you. Some keyboard cases, like apple’s Magic Keyboard for the iPad, have a built-in trackpad, which will be more ergonomic than tapping on your tablet’s screen for input. Additionally, you could go one step further and use a wireless mouse that connects via Bluetooth to your tablet. If you’re primarily looking for a tablet to replace your laptop, consider buying a 2-in-1 laptop since those systems typically consist of high-powered tablets that are designed to work well with (and without) keyboards.

Nathan Ingraham and Jeff Dunn contributed to this report.



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