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The best tablets to buy in 2021 (updated August)

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The best tablets to buy in 2021 (updated August)
What is the best tablet out there? This is one of the questions that seem easy and straightforward to answer at first, even though it is not. It is a question that doesn't have a universal answer. Some would immediately point at the most powerful options the market has to offer: those with gorgeous displays and immense amounts of processing punch, but also with the steepest prices. Others would rather go for something a bit more balanced: something a bit easier on the pocket, yet still capable of getting the job done. 

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No matter which side you're on, the list below surely contains a tablet that would serve you well. 

Contents:
Apple iPad Pro (2021) — the most powerful tablets around
Samsung Galaxy Tab S7+ — Samsung's top-tier slate, with S Pen [Important: we expect a possible Galaxy Tab S8 soon]
Samsung Galaxy Tab S7 FE — 5G, S Pen, cheaper than the S7+
Apple iPad Air (2020) — some iPad Pro features at a stomachable price
Apple iPad (2020) — the base iPad experience, for cheap
Samsung Galaxy Tab S6 Lite — affordable S Pen experience out of the box
Amazon Fire HD 10 — low-cost tablet with productivity features
Microsoft Surface Pro 7 — Windows desktop on a tablet


Apple iPad Pro 11- and 12.9-inch (2021)


Apple iPad Pro 11-inch (2021)

Apple iPad Pro 11-inch (2021)


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Apple quite frankly shocked us when refreshing the iPad Pro line just a year after the 2020 models were released. The shock wasn't so much the timing — it was the chip inside. The new iPad Pros rock an Apple M1 — a processor that was first introduced for MacBooks and desktop Macs. In other words — the 2021 iPad Pros are actually as powerful as a desktop computer.

To top it off, the 12.9-inch model has a Liquid Retina XDR display — utilizing mini-LED tech, it's capable of outstanding contrast, detail, and brightness, like the extra-expensive Pro Display XDR monitor it released in 2020.

Both the iPad Pro 11 (2021) and iPad Pro 12.9 (2021) have 120 Hz screens with 240 Hz touch sampling — they feel very, very responsive.

These come with apps for creatives — Apple's own GarageBand and iMovie are available for free, and there are tons of great video editing apps on the App Store. Rumors said we might see Final Cut Pro for iPad Pros in the near future, but that didn’t happen at WWDC 2021, so we guess it’s all up in the air. While these are just whispers, we do question why the new iPad Pros come with M1 and 8 GB / 16 GB of RAM.

Yes, the iPad Pros (2021) are extra-pricey for tablets, but thanks to a robust ecosystem, a very functional iPadOS, USB Type-C (actually, it's a Thunderbolt 3 port), support for mouse, keyboard, and trackpad, great speakers and beautiful screens, it's easily the best tablets out there.

Samsung Galaxy Tab S7+


Samsung Galaxy Tab S7+
9.0

Samsung Galaxy Tab S7+


The Good

  • Gorgeous AMOLED display
  • Super-smooth 120Hz refresh rate
  • Excellent performance
  • Good battery life
  • Improved S Pen
  • Lots of productivity enhancements

The Bad

  • It's pretty large
  • Only 6GB RAM in the base version
Samsung has its own pair of hard-hitting tablets. The Galaxy Tab S7 and Tab S7+ come included with an S Pen stylus. And, since the Note series perfected the S Pen experience, you can rest assured that drawing and writing on the Tab S7 line feels superb.

Important: the rumor mill has been mum on a Galaxy Tab S8. But, to be safe, it might be wise to wait until the August Unpacked event is behind us. Next possible date for Galaxy Tab S8 release - early 2022

With Samsung's own OneUI interface on top of Android, these tablets are also built for work and multi-tasking — split screen, multiple windows, quick app switching. DeX mode specifically makes them feel like Android-powered laptops, as it brings a desktop experience to your mobile device. Slap a keyboard on them and you are ready to write articles on the go — I rarely go out of DeX mode when using a Samsung tablet. It's just so convenient.

The Galaxy Tab S7's quad speakers are not as meaty as the iPad Pros', but they still sound good.

Do note: the Galaxy Tab S7+ has a 120 Hz Super AMOLED screen, which looks fantastic — crisp, vibrant, with deep blacks and high brightness. The regular Tab S7 takes a step back and has a 120 Hz LCD screen, which still looks good — just not as good.

So, when it comes to the best Android tablet to buy — the Galaxy Tab S7+ currently holds the title.

Read more:Samsung Galaxy Tab S7+ review

Samsung Galaxy Tab S7 FE 5G


Samsung Galaxy Tab S7 FE 5G

Samsung Galaxy Tab S7 FE 5G


View full specs
The Galaxy Tab S7 FE was only recently announced and it’s making a slow rollout through international markets. It’s not available in the US yet, but Samsung hasn’t given us an official statement that it won’t be.

In any case, what is the Galaxy Tab S7 FE? It’s a mix between the Tab S7 and Tab S7+. Meaning, it has a large, 12.4-inch screen, as big as the Tab S7+, but it’s a 60 Hz LCD panel, like on the Tab S7. The processor inside is also different — a midrange Snapdragon 750G. The Tab S7 FE comes in two variations — 4 GB RAM and 64 GB storage or 6 GB RAM and 128 GB storage, both with 5G connectivity.

So, it provides the big screen experience if you want that Tab S7+ size, but don’t want to pay Tab S7+ money. It’s curious that Samsung decided to cover this niche, but hey — it’s happening. The Galaxy Tab S7 FE costs £589 in the UK and should be somewhere between $600 and $700 whenever it lands in the US.

Apple iPad Air 4th gen


Apple iPad Air (2020)
9.0

Apple iPad Air (2020)


The Good

  • Gorgeous design
  • Magic Keyboard and 2nd-gen Apple Pencil support
  • Superb stereo speakers
  • USB Type-C, meaning better support for third-party accessories

The Bad

  • Expensive first-party accessories
Real talk — the iPad Pro is overkill. Both in terms of features and price. If you want that high-productivity Apple tablet, but aren't willing to pay as much for an iPad Pro 11 or iPad Pro 12.9, check out the iPad Air 4th gen (a.k.a. 2020 model).

It has the same form factor as the iPad Pro 11, so it fits the Apple Magic Keyboard. It also supports the 2nd gen Apple Pencil.

Where does it cut corners? For one, the iPad Air 4 does not have quad speakers — it has two drivers, which are positioned on its top and bottom (Apple calls this "landscape stereo"). Basically, this is fine, because you will get true stereo whenever your tablet is in landscape mode 95% of the time you are watching media on it). The bigger setback is the screen refresh rate — the iPad Air 4's screen caps off at 60 Hz. You can definitely feel this if you are downgrading from a Pro, but you should otherwise be fine with the Air.

But hey, the iPad Air is available in a bunch of fun colors, unlike the "boring" Pro models, and it starts at $600, leaving some budget for an Apple Pencil or Magic Keyboard, if you are eyeing those.

Read more:iPad Air (2020) review

Apple iPad (2020)


Apple iPad (2020)

Apple iPad (2020)


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If you are looking for a base tablet experience, you just can't go wrong with an iPad 10.2 (2020). These start at $330 and deliver great performance, a good-looking LCD display, detailed-sounding speaker, and still support an Apple Pencil.

The base tier does only give you 32 GB of storage, which is pretty abysmal. But, again, if you are just looking for a Netflix machine — you can't go wrong here.

Read more:iPad (2020) review

Samsung Galaxy Tab S6 Lite


Samsung Galaxy Tab S6 Lite
8.0

Samsung Galaxy Tab S6 Lite


The Good

  • Affordable tablet with excellent stylus experience
  • Light, comfy design for on-the-go work
  • Great speakers

The Bad

  • Performance is choppy
  • No DeX, no Themes, no Game Launcher
  • Don't expect a Keyboard Book Cover for this one
  • No secure biometric lock
If you are just looking to dip your toes into tablet usage with a stylus, without spending too much cash, the Galaxy Tab S6 Lite is available to you. It comes with an S Pen out of the box, which still can magnetically stick to the tablet — just like the big boys.

The downsides here are a noticeably slower processor and an LCD screen that's nowhere near as pretty as the AMOLED panels on the big Tab S6 or the current Tab S7+ flagships. 

Read more:Galaxy Tab S6 Lite review

Amazon Fire HD 10


"Best" can mean a lot of things and while Amazon's Fire HD 10 can't keep up with the rest of the tablets on this list when it comes to specs, it has them all beat in one department: the price. Costing between 2 and 5 times less than the rest, the Fire HD 10 offers incredible value.

Amazon even confidently bundles the new Fire HD 10 with a Bluetooth keyboard, giving you a tablet/laptop hybrid at an incredibly low price.

While the Fire HD 10 is technically an Android tablet, it's running on a heavily modified Amazon-centered software and doesn't come with Google's Play Store (there are ways to install it, if you insist). Still, Amazon's own app store offers enough variety to fit the relatively narrow focus of this tablet, so for most people this won't be an issue. The new Fire HD 10 tablet comes with 12 months of Microsoft 365, too, as to underline its new aim at productivity features.

Keep in mind that the Amazon Fire HD tablets have historically not had the best performance. They are great as simple slates to enjoy some media on, but don't expect a laptop replacement unit here.

Microsoft Surface Pro 7


Microsoft Surface Pro 7

Microsoft Surface Pro 7


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Microsoft's tablets truly try to deliver that protable PC experience — the Surface Pro slates are powered by Intel chips and come with Microsoft Windows on board. They are fully compatible with Bluetooth keyboards, mice, and styli and are heavily marketed towards professionals. And, you guessed it, they can be pricey.

Currently, the Surface Pro 7 is the latest model you can buy, and that was released in 2019. Rumor has it that we might finally see a revamp in the second half of 2021, so — if you are hunting for the biggest, best, latest, and greatest — maybe give it a couple of months and see if we get more news about it. Otherwise, the Surface Pro 7 is a pretty serious machine, delivering desktop Windows experience on the go.

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