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Best tablet in 2021

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Tablets were once purely thought of as windows for consuming content. But Apple and Microsoft have proven that these devices are more than just portable TVs by adding cursor support and keyboard attachments. We've compiled the best tablets for the money, from those posing as laptop replacements like the Surface Pro 7 and the iPad Pro to the best Android tablets like the Samsung Galaxy Tab S7 and Amazon's Kindle models. 

Apple's iPads are some of the best tablets so be sure to check out our full iPadOS review to learn about all the tricks these tablets can do. Apple unveiled a new iPad and iPad mini at its September 14 event, bringing huge updates to its cheapest tablets. We'll provide a full review of those slates in the coming days. If you're not sold on any of these, one of the best 2-in-1 laptops might be the right choice. Or if you're a student who wants a sleek laptop or tablet that can last through four years of abuse, check out our best college laptops page. 

Other tablets to keep an eye on are the Microsoft Surface Neo — a foldable PC made with dual 9-inch tablets — and the recently released iPad Pro. As previously mentioned, the Galaxy Tab S7 is our favorite Android tablet but for the best content viewing experience, go with the Galaxy Tab S7 Plus and its stunning OLED display. We've also reviewed the Surface Pro 7+, a new version of the Pro 7 made specifically for business users.

What are the best tablets for the money?

Apple and Microsoft continue to dominate the best tablets rankings, which largely consists of Surface devices and iPads. The best tablet for the money is the iPad Air. It might not offer the same power as the iPad Pro, or the portability of the iPad mini, but its size and price are what will attract everyday consumers. 

If you need extra power or want a tablet to replace your laptop, then the 12.9-inch iPad Pro is the best option. Its speedy M1 chip can keep up with most laptops and the Retina XDR (mini-LED) display is gorgeous when viewing HDR content. And now that it has mouse and trackpad support, the larger iPad Pro is a genuine laptop replacement. Just behind the iPad Pro is Microsoft's Surface Pro 8. It too has a gorgeous display and fast performance. We even prefer its keyboard accessory over anything Apple sells. 

If Apple and Microsoft aren't your cups of tea, Samsung has stepped up its game with excellent Samsung Galaxy Tab S7 Plus, an Android tablet with a DeX desktop interface, which can be used to double as your laptop. For less, you can get the Galaxy Tab S7 FE.

iPad Air (2020)

(Image credit: Laptop Mag)

1. iPad Air (2020)

A more affordable iPad Pro, for consumers

Specifications
CPU: A14 Bionic
Display: 10.9-inch, 2360 x 1640-pixels
Storage: 64GB (starting)
Dimensions: 9.7 x 7 x 0.24 inches
Weight: 1 pound
Ports: USB-C
Reasons to buy
+Sleek design with thin bezels+A14 Bionic chip delivers excellent performance+Good battery life+Loud, clear speakers
Reasons to avoid
-Accessories are expensive add-ons-No Face ID or headphone jack

Apple's latest iPad Air is the best non-Pro iPads ever, and the tablet we recommend to most people. Instead of being an upgraded version of the entry-level iPad, the new iPad Air is essentially an iPad Pro without the fancy, niche features. It has a 10.9-inch Liquid Retina display with thin display bezels for a more modern design. 

Under the hood is the A14 chip, making the iPad Air the first Apple product to flaunt the new six-core processor. So far, the performance numbers are impressive, with the Air outperforming some laptops. Battery life also remains excellent at 10 hours and 29 minutes, although competing slates endure for even longer. 

But perhaps the best reason to buy the new $599 iPad Air is that it now supports the Apple Pencil Gen 2 (with magnetic wireless charging on the side) and the Magic Keyboard accessory, making the Air a potential laptop replacement. 

Read our full iPad Air (2020) review.

Apple iPad 2021 review

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2. Apple iPad (2021)

The best tablet for most people

Specifications
CPU: iPadOS 15
Display: 10.2-inch, 2160 x 1620-pixel
Storage: 64GB, 256GB
Dimensions: 9.8 x 6.8 x 0.3 inches
Weight: 1.1 pounds
Ports: Lightning, Headphone
Reasons to buy
+Outstanding performance at this price+Excellent battery life+Bright, vivid 10.2-inch display
Reasons to avoid
-Recycled design-Not compatible with Magic Keyboard/Pencil Gen 2-Lacks Wi-Fi 6 or 5G support

The latest ninth-generation iPad for 2021 packs a faster A13 Bionic chip, an upgraded selfie camera, and a True Tone display, among other small changes. These updates hardly moved the needle, so it's a good thing the iPad was so far ahead of the competition going into this launch cycle.

What keeps the iPad atop its throne are the features people care about most in a budget tablet: a good display, excellent build quality and reliable performance. The iPad delivers on these fronts thanks to its A13 Bionic chip, precision-crafted aluminum frame and bright, vivid 10.2-inch display. Best of all, the $329 iPad costs the same as its predecessor.

Read our full Apple iPad review.

iPad Pro 2021 (12.9-inch)

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3. Apple iPad Pro (12.9-inch, 2021)

The best tablet for power users

Specifications
CPU: M1
Display: 12.9 inches, 2732 x 2048 mini-LED
Storage: 128GB (starting)
Dimensions: 11.04 x 8.46 x 0.25 inches
Weight: 1.5 pounds
Ports: USB-C
Reasons to buy
+XDR display can get bright and vivid+M1 chip is outrageously fast+Slim, durable chassis+Thunderbolt 3 and USB4 support+Improved front-facing camera with Center Stage
Reasons to avoid
-Expensive

The 12.9-inch iPad Pro is the best tablet for power users, by some distance. Now equipped with an M1 processor, a mini-LED (XDR) display, and 5G support, no other tablet on the market will get you as complete of a package as the new iPad Pro.

This comes after big improvements were made to the software. Added cursor and trackpad support mean the iPad Pro is finally a true laptop replacement. You can now connect any Bluetooth mouse, wireless trackpad (like the Magic Trackpad 2) or the Magic Keyboard and use a cursor to navigate iPadOS 14 (iPadOS 15 is coming soon). 

Another great new feature is support for Thunderbolt 3 and USB4 so you can transfer files faster than ever or connect to multiple 4K monitors. There is also a new software magic trick called Center Stage that keeps you in the frame of a video during conference calls when using supported platforms (FaceTime, Zoom). Yes, the iPad Pro is expensive, at $1,099 starting, but you won't find a better tablet on the market. 

Read our full Apple iPad Pro (2021) review.

(Image credit: Laptop Mag)

4. Samsung Galaxy Tab S7 and Tab S7+

The best Android tablet

Specifications
CPU: Qualcomm Snapdragon 865+
RAM: 8GB
Storage: 256GB
Display: 11-inch, 2560 x 1600 (S7), 12.4-inch, OLED (S7+)
Size: 10 x 6.51 x 0.25 inches (S7), 11.22 x 7.28 x 0.22 inches (S7+)
Weight: 1.1 pounds (S7), 1.3 pounds (S7+)
Reasons to buy
+Improved S pen+Great speakers+5G support
Reasons to avoid
-No headphone jack

The Samsung Galaxy Tab S7 is one of the best tablets due to its battery life. This tablet can offer over 13 hours of battery life. Wow!

The Samsung Galaxy Tab S7 and the Samsung Galaxy Tab S7+ both have excellent cameras: a 13MP main camera and a 5MP secondary ultra-wide lens. On the front is an 8MP selfie camera. Both tablets are updates of the Galaxy Tab S6 and feature an improved S Pen that is included in the box. The Galaxy Sab S7 and Galaxy S7+ have faster processors and 5G connectivity.

The Samsung Galaxy Tab S7+ is one of the best Samsung tablets, too, with its 12.4-inch,  2800 x 1752-pixel screen, but due to its magnificent AMOLED display, there is a dip in battery life (it lasts 8 hours and 51 minutes).

Read our full Samsung Galaxy Tab S7 and Galaxy Tab S7 Plus review.

Microsoft Surface Pro 8

(Image credit: Laptop Mag/Sean Riley)

5. Microsoft Surface Pro 8

Microsoft's best tablet

Specifications
CPU: Intel Core i7-1185G7
Display: 13-inch, 120Hz (2880x1920)
Storage: 256GB SSD
Dimensions: 11.3 x 8.2 x 0.37 inches
Weight: 1.96 pounds
Ports: Thunderbolt 4 (2x), Surface Type Cover, 3.5mm headphone jack
Reasons to buy
+Gorgeous display+Strong performance+Dual Thunderbolt 4 ports+Excellent webcam
Reasons to avoid
-Battery life could be better-Keyboard and pen sold separately

Without departing drastically from its iconic look, the Pro 8 makes subtle improvements to the Surface Pro as a tablet and a laptop. Upgrades include a larger display and a more comfortable to use design, along with a much-needed internal upgrade. That includes an 11th Gen Intel Core i7-1185G7 processor and up to 32GB of RAM, components that bring some of the new features of Windows 11 to bear.

A bit more battery life would have been outstanding and the price jump may be hard for some to swallow. However, taken as a whole, the Surface Pro 8 is a solid addition to the Surface lineup and a compelling option for those looking to upgrade their laptop for the move to Windows 11.

Read our full Microsoft Surface Pro 8 review.

Dell Latitude 7320 Detachable

The Latitude 7320 Detachable is almost an exact replica of the Surface Pro 7+, except it does several things better (Image credit: Laptop Mag)

6. Dell Latitude 7320 Detachable

The best 13-inch detachable

Specifications
CPU: Intel Core i7-1180G7 CPU
GPU: Iris Xe
RAM: 16GB
Storage: 1TB
Display: 13-inch, 1920 x 1280-pixel
Size: 11.4 x 8.2 x 0.3 inches
Weight: 1.8 pounds
Reasons to buy
+Slim aluminum design+Bright, vivid 13-inch display+Good performance+Comfy keyboard with pen charging slot
Reasons to avoid
-Very expensive-Kickstand is a bit flimsy

Adopting many of its rival's best features, the Latitude 7320 swims toward the top of our best tablets and best 2-in-1 laptops rankings. Standout features include a gorgeous 13-inch display, fast performance, a comfortable detachable keyboard with a built-in stylus slot, useful security features, and a class-leading webcam (yes, you read that right). These are all packaged in a sleek metal chassis that can easily be slipped into a backpack or purse. 

The Latitude does waver in a few areas. The kickstand feels somewhat flimsy and the sky-high price will detract all but the highest-ranking execs or the wealthiest corporations. Despite these faults, the Latitude 7320 gives Dell enterprise customers an excellent version of this ultra-mobile form factor so they can work or relax from anywhere.

See our Dell Latitude 7320 Detachable review.

Xiaomi Pad 5

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7. Xiaomi Pad 5

Best Android tablet under $500

Specifications
CPU: Qualcomm Snapdragon 860
Display: 11-inch (1600 x 2560 pixels) LCD, 120Hz refresh rate
Storage: 128GB, 256GB
Dimensions: 10 x 6.54 x 0.26 inches
Weight: 1.1 pounds (511g)
Ports: USB-C
Reasons to buy
+Bright 120Hz display+Affordable+Improved MIUI for Pad OS+Great battery life
Reasons to avoid
-Mediocre performance-Accessories sold separately

Now we have the Xiaomi Pad 5 to add to the list as it’s a significant update to its 2018 sibling, the Mi Pad 4. Not only does Xiaomi’s latest Android tablet bring a host of improvements, from the wonderful 11-inch, 120Hz display to the upgraded Qualcomm Snapdragon 860 processor, but it also brags a refined MIUI for Pad OS that demands to be compared to Apple's unrivaled iPadOS — to a point.

So, does the Xiaomi Pad 5 set a new standard for Android tablets? Not quite, but it's still a compelling device. The lack of an included stylus or keyboard may keep the tablet’s cost down, but it also prevents it from being anything more than a great slate for binge-watching movies or browsing the internet. 

Read our full Xiaomi Pad 5 review.

Samsung Galaxy Tab S6 Lite review

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8. Samsung Galaxy Tab S6 Lite

An inexpensive tablet for Android users

Specifications
CPU: Samsung Exynos 9610
Display: 10.4 inches, 2000 x 1200 pixels
Storage: 4GB
Dimensions: 9.6 x 6.3 x 0.3 inches
Weight: 1 pound
Battery life: 12:40
Reasons to buy
+Premium design with thin bezels+Amazing battery life+S Pen is included+Bright 10.4-inch screen
Reasons to avoid
-Middling performance

You get a bright 10.4-inch display, an included S Pen stylus and amazing, all-day battery life all for just $350. That is what makes the Galaxy Tab S6 Lite such a compelling tablet for those in the market for an iPad alternative. Running Android 10, this slate is great for Droid owners, especially those with Samsung Galaxy smartphones.

While its performance can lag behind at times, the S6 Lite is a good choice if you just need to run basic everyday tasks, like web browsing or video streaming. In many ways, the S6 Lite fills the same role as the iPad but for those who aren't in the Apple ecosystem.

Read our full Samsung Galaxy Tab S6 Lite review.

Lenovo ThinkPad X12 Detachable

The Lenovo ThinkPad X12 Detachable is the closest thing you can get to a Surface Pro 7, and it's even better that one. (Image credit: Laptop Mag)

9. Lenovo ThinkPad X12 Detachable

The best tablet that detaches

Specifications
CPU: Intel Core i5-1130G7
GPU: Intel Iris Xe
RAM: 16GB
Storage: 512GB
Display: 12.3-inch, 1920 x 1280-pixel
Size: 11.2 x 8 x 0.3 inches
Weight: 1.7 pounds (2.4 pounds with keyboard)
Reasons to buy
+Long battery life+Good 12.3-inch display+Excellent keyboard+Accessories come bundled
Reasons to avoid
-Terrible speakers-No USB Type-A

The Lenovo ThinkPad X12 Detachable is, in short, a better version of the Surface Pro 7. It has the same detachable form factor and uses a kickstand that can rotate to about the same 160-degree angle. The 12.3-inch display is almost identical to the one on the Surface and, like the Pro 7, the detachable keyboard is fantastic. You even get military-grade durability from its rigid chassis.

Why is it better than the Surface Pro 7 and Pro 7+? Because the ThinkPad X12 Detachable lasts longer on a charge, enduring for more than 11 hours, and it weighs slightly less than its magnesium alloy competitor.  Better yet, the X12 Detachable comes bundled with the keyboard and pen, although you'll need to spend a pretty penny on this business-focused detachable. 

If you need good speakers or a USB Type-A port, then you might go with the Surface Pro 7, otherwise, we prefer the X12 Detachable.

See our Lenovo ThinkPad X12 Detachable review

iPad mini (2021)

(Image credit: Phillip Tracy/Laptop Mag)

10. iPad mini (2021)

Our favorite small tablet

Specifications
CPU: A15 Bionic
Display: 8.3-inch, 2266 x 1488-pixels Liquid Retina at 60Hz
Storage: 64GB, 256GB
Dimensions: 7.7 x 5.3 x 0.3 inches
Weight: 0.7 pounds
Ports: USB-C
Reasons to buy
+Compact size enables single-handed use+Fast performance from A15 Bionic+Sharp and bright display
Reasons to avoid
-Magic Keyboard isn't supported-Apple Pencil Gen 2 sold separately

Apple improved every aspect of this pint-sized slate for 2021. The 8.3-inch screen is larger than before, and yet, slim bezels have reduced its overall footprint. The iPad mini's outstanding performance via the A15 Bionic chip is more than anyone will need, and the addition of optional 5G support cements its place as the best tablet for use outside of your home. 

There are some downsides to going with the iPad mini beyond its small screen (which is an advantage for some people). At $499, the iPad mini is expensive, and while compatibility with the $139 Apple Pencil Gen 2 is welcome, the accessory costs extra.

In the end, Apple did exactly what it needed to do to breathe new life into the iPad mini, an excellent all-around tablet whose pint-sized chassis makes it a joy to have at home or on the go.

Read our full iPad mini (2021) review.

How to choose the best tablet for you

Choosing the right tablet requires the same thought process as buying a laptop. As with any product, the first thing you need to decide is your primary use for a tablet. If it's to browse the web on the couch or watch Netflix in bed, then you don't need to spend $1,000 on the iPad Pro. You're probably better off with the $329 iPad or even the $400 Surface Go -- both of which have excellent displays. 

If you need a tablet that can double as a laptop, then your best options are the iPad Pro or the Surface Pro 8 — tablets that can be paired with an attachable keyboard and support trackpad/mouse input. Both of these devices provide plenty of power for even the most demanding users. 

The size of the tablet is another consideration. While it might not sound like it, a 12.9-inch tablet feels massive in the hand. If you want something less unwieldy, consider a tablet with a screen that is smaller than 10 inches. Almost all tablets are thin and lightweight but few have good connectivity options. The Surface tablet stands out in this regard, offering a USB-A input. 

How we test the best tablets

Our tablets go through rigorous benchmark testing before they even land in the hands of our reviewers. Our test vary slightly based on which OS the tablet runs, but the overall performance and graphics of almost all tablet is measured by the Geekbench 5 benchmark. 

We also use a fancy colorimeter to quantify display quality. The device can measure the sRGB color range a display captures and the average brightness across the panel.

Our battery test gives an accurate measure of everyday runtimes. To test the endurance of a tablet, we set the display to 150 nits then run a continuous loop consisting of web browsing and video playback until the device powers off. 

Phillip Tracy

Phillip Tracy is the assistant managing editor at Laptop Mag where he reviews laptops, phones and other gadgets while covering the latest industry news. After graduating with a journalism degree from the University of Texas at Austin, Phillip became a tech reporter at the Daily Dot. There, he wrote reviews for a range of gadgets and covered everything from social media trends to cybersecurity. Prior to that, he wrote for RCR Wireless News covering 5G and IoT. When he's not tinkering with devices, you can find Phillip playing video games, reading, traveling or watching soccer.