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The best tablets you can buy

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best tablet

  • Tablets are ideal for kids, travelers, and professionals — it just depends on which one you buy.
  • The best tablet for most people is Apple’s 2018 9.7-inch iPad, but we’ve also included a number of other excellent tablets that are best for different uses.

When I was a kid, and our family went on a long car ride, my parents would keep us entertained by making us play games like I Spy, Don’t Hit Your Brother, and Who Can Stay Quietest the Longest. These days, though, kids are just as likely to have a tablet screen in the backseat, watching movies or playing games while wearing headphones.

Tablets have contributed to the parental bliss of silence in the car like few other inventions.

Beyond that, tablets are interesting pieces of technology, giving you a nice mix of computer processing capabilities and entertainment on a touchscreen. 

If you already own a laptop and a smartphone — and you don’t have the need to entertain kids in the backseat — you may wonder whether you also need a tablet. Depending on how you use your current pieces of tech and based on what else you’d like to do, a tablet can be a great addition.

We’ve picked the best tablets you can buy in several different categories, including ones that are best for kids, professionals, and travelers. We’ve tested all but one of these tablets personally, so you can trust our recommendations. If you need more guidance before you choose, read the last slide for everything you should know about buying a tablet.

Here are the best tablets you can buy in 2019:

  • Best tablet overall: Apple 2018 9.7-inch iPad  
  • Best tablet with a stylus: Samsung Galaxy Tab S4
  • Best affordable tablet: Amazon Fire HD 8 
  • Best iPad Pro: Apple iPad Pro 2018 11- and 12.9-inch models
  • Best for kids: Amazon Fire 7 Kids Edition
  • Best small tablet: 2019 iPad Mini

Updated on 03/27/2019 by Malarie Gokey: Added the new 2019 iPad Mini and Air. Also updated prices, formatting, and links.

Read on in the slides below to check out our top picks.

SEE ALSO: The best iPads you can buy

The best tablet for most people

Why you’ll love it: The 2018 9.7-inch iPad is an absolute steal at $330 with a gorgeous sharp screen, high-end metal design, and support for the Apple Pencil.

Apple’s iPads have always been the best tablets you can buy, but the high price tags made it tough to find an iPad on a budget. All that has changed with the 2018 9.7-inch iPad. It costs a mere $330, and it offers nearly all of the same high-end specs and features as the top-of-the-line iPad Pros.

If you own an aging iPad or iPad Mini, the new 9.7-inch iPad is an excellent upgrade. Obviously, if you have an iPad Air 2 or an iPad Pro, you don’t need to get the new one. The 2018 iPad is for anyone who has always wanted an iPad, but couldn’t afford the $500+ price tag. It’s an absolute steal at $329.99.

We compared it to Amazon’s Fire HD 10 tablet, and there was no doubt that the iPad is the better buy.

The 9.7-inch screen is sharp and clear with its 2,048 x 1,536-pixel resolution, the A10 processor is very capable (even though it’s not the iPhone X’s A11 chip), the battery life should be great, and you can even buy things on it with Apple Pay, thanks to the Touch ID fingerprint sensor.

Best of all, it supports the Apple Pencil, an incredible stylus with virtually no lag. You will have to pay $100 extra for the Pencil, but if you like to take notes or draw on your iPad, it is well worth it. Naturally, any Bluetooth keyboard also works with the iPad, so if you want to use it as a quasi-laptop, you can pick up a great keyboard.

You simply can’t beat those specs at that price point. Comparable Android tablets cost hundreds of dollars more, and the iPad still has a better app library and accessory support. 

The aluminum build looks and feels premium, and the 9.7-inch screen size makes it a very portable device that’s easy to stow away in your bag. It’s quite light, too, so you can happily binge-watch Netflix in bed on your new iPad. Tech nerds will say it’s a boring old design, but it’s tried and true. Plus, the aluminum build is durable. — Malarie Gokey

Pros: Incredible price for an iPad, powerful A10 processor, slick aluminum design, Touch ID for security and Apple Pay, gorgeous screen, supports the Apple Pencil, iOS 11

Cons: Not the latest A11 processor found on the iPhone X

Buy the 9.7-inch Apple iPad at Walmart for $329.99 (price varies by storage and connectivity) 

Buy the Apple Pencil at Walmart for $95 (originally $99.99) 

Buy the 9.7-inch Apple iPad from Apple for $329+ (price varies by storage and connectivity)

The best Android tablet with a stylus

Why you’ll love it: Samsung’s Galaxy Tab S4 is as stylish as it is powerful, you can use it as a laptop in a pinch, and it comes with the superb S Pen stylus.

Samsung has been making excellent Android tablets for years, and its recently launched Galaxy Tab S4 continues that tradition. It’s a high-end Android tablet that can compete with Apple’s 9.7-inch iPad Pro on nearly every level.

The Tab S4 is a stylish, well-made tablet with a metal frame and glossy glass back. It borrows design cues from Samsung’s Galaxy S9 phone, though the Tab S4’s screen has slightly bigger bezels around it. If you hate fingerprints or simply fear that the glass back is in danger of shattering or scratching, we recommend you check out Samsung’s keyboard case.

The keyboard case is sturdy and — with the help of Samsung’s DEX software — it turns your tablet into a quasi-laptop. When you dock the tablet in the keyboard, it asks if you want to switch to DEX mode. DEX mode basically turns the normal Android home screen into a laptop-like desktop. You can see files and icons on the screen and interact with apps and the web browser just like you would on a laptop or Chromebook.

Since it is Samsung’s own software built on top of Android running on this tablet and not ChromeOS, you don’t get quite as robust a laptop experience as you would with a Chromebook. However, DEX works well enough if you’re in a pinch and you need your tablet to become a laptop immediately.

Also, for those of you who don’t use a laptop for much other than web browsing and writing up documents, DEX will exceed your expectations. The software makes this tablet double as a laptop, but it is a tablet first and foremost.

Samsung sure knows how to make astonishingly beautiful screens. The Tab S4 has a gorgeous 10.5-inch display that supports HDR content. I watched lots of Netflix and Prime Video on the tablet, and I was really impressed by the clarity, color reproduction, and intensity of the brilliant screen. The tablet’s 64GB of storage gives you ample space for downloads, and it’s expandable with a microSD card.

Every Tab S4 comes with Samsung’s new S Pen stylus, which is great for drawing and feels like a real pen. I love to draw on tablets, and I was impressed by the lack of lag on the Tab S4. Palm rejection was a little spotty in some apps, but overall, it’s a great tablet for drawing or note taking.

If you have $650 to spend on a high-end Android tablet, you can’t do better than the Galaxy Tab S4. However, it is expensive for a tablet these days and if you want to use DEX mode to make it a laptop, too, you will have to pay more for the keyboard cover.

If you want a great tablet that works as a laptop in emergencies, but it. If you want a laptop that can be a tablet sometimes, buy Samsung’s Chromebook Pro instead — for $50 less. — Malarie Gokey

Pros: Gorgeous screen, fast processor, S Pen stylus is included, and powerful speakers

Cons: Expensive and the glass back can easily break with rough handling

Buy the Samsung Galaxy Tab S4 on Amazon for $549.99 (originally $649.99)

The best tablet under $100

Why you’ll love it: The Amazon Fire HD 8 is super affordable, but it still delivers a good set of features that you’ll enjoy using for watching videos and running apps.

Normally, you get what you pay for when it comes to technology. Once in a while though, you receive more than what you expect with a bargain-priced piece of tech. 

The Amazon Fire HD 8 is going to surprise you with its sub-$100 price tag and great performance. This certainly isn’t a tablet that’s going to compete with high-end iPads, but it has a good set of features for those who need only the basics from a tablet.

Insider Picks reporter Brandt Ranj tested the new Fire HD 8 and couldn’t believe how good it was for the price. If you have an Amazon Prime subscription, you get access to tons of popular TV shows, movies, and music on the tablet. The app selection is also very good, and if you read Kindle ebooks, this tablet is just the perfect size.

CNET says the Fire HD 8 is one of the best cheap tablets you can buy, although PC Mag says this tablet doesn’t work as well unless you have a subscription to Amazon Prime services. But it’s still a good value among tablet options.

The Amazon Fire HD 8 also offers good parental controls, so it’s a great tablet to give an older kid.

One Amazon buyer calls this tablet an amazing value that will perform all of the basic functions most people need from a tablet. However, a few other Amazon reviewers say the Fire HD 8 doesn’t last very long.

Pros: Extremely low price point, performs basic functions of a tablet well, offers expandable storage with a memory card slot, good for kids, works especially well for those with Amazon Prime accounts

Cons: Can’t compete with powerful iPads, battery charges very slowly, display size of just 8 inches

Buy the Amazon Fire HD 8 on Amazon for $49.99 (originally $79.99)

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