Tablets have found new life in people’s homes as coronavirus lockdowns have increased the need for devices that can handle entertainment, education and even some work, too. And in just the past few weeks, the go-to tablet on the market — Apple’s iPad — has gotten a whole new lease on life, too. In addition to delivering a, Apple has also updated the iPad’s operating system to allow . 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 it’s added in years.
Elsewhere in tablet land, Microsoft has been rumored to be launching new Surface models this spring — but it’s unclear if that will still be happening in a post-coronavirus environment. Samsung is. And Amazon remains the best option for cheap and kid-friendly tablet models.
Here are the best tablets available right now. All of these products (or previous versions thereof) have been fully reviewed or anecdotally tested by CNET editors. This story was published earlier, and we’ll continue to update it as new products become available.
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 smart connector-attached keyboards, making the best Apple tablet for most. 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.
Updated for 2020, the newest version of the Apple iPad Pro adds a fancier back 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. Of course, to utilize that, you’ll need something like Apple’s Magic Keyboard Case for iPad Pro, a pricey add-on that’s not shipping until March. 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. It can also be counted among the best drawing tablets, especially when paired with the newer Apple Pencil from 2018. (But if you already have the previous iPad Pro model, 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.
Apple refreshed the 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 its smaller surface size may not suit people who want to use it as a laptop replacement.
iPad Mini review.
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.
The 10-inch Fire tablet Amazon is faster and better than the 7 and 8-inch Fire tablets, and it’s still a pretty low $150 (or less). There are two storage options, 32 GB and 64 GB. It also charges its battery life via USB type-C now
Fire HD 10 gets an upgrade.
Microsoft has a newer Surface Pro 7, but 2018’s Microsoft Surface model is still good, and sometimes comes in a great bundle with its keyboard. Anyone looking for the best Windows tablet to use for work or a tablet that can become a full PC, look no further than the Microsoft Surface Pro 6.
Read our Microsoft Surface Pro 6 review.
It’s getting almost impossible to find Android tablet options from name-brand manufacturers, but Samsung’s Galaxy tablets are among the best tablets out there. The Tab S6 Android tablet is expensive, but it’s compact and has an optional keyboard with trackpad, and connects to monitors using Samsung’s DeX technology. You don’t really need a monitor, though, as the Samsung Galaxy Tab S6 has a super AMOLED display. The device comes with 6 GB of RAM and charges via a USB type-C port. This is the one to consider if you want Android, though the newer Galaxy Tab A is also worthy of consideration if you want a lower price point.
Galaxy Tab S6 hands-on.
For the right price, the Chromebook X2 could be one of the best tablets of the bunch as far as deals go. It’s a functional Chromebook laptop that’s also a detachable tablet, and it can also play Android apps. It comes with 4 GB of RAM.
Read our HP Chromebook x2 review.