Given their slender profiles and light weight, tablets are ideal for frequent travelers.
Compared to something that can come in at a pound or less, even a three-pound laptop seems gargantuan.
But because this will be their one-and-only computer, road warriors need a device capable of doing it all: a big screen, a speedy processor, lots of storage capacity, 4G cellular-wireless data, and a long battery life.
All of the models below are capable of running the full version of Microsoft Office thanks to the recent release of iOS and Android versions, as well as plenty of other productivity and entertainment apps.
With all this in mind, what’s the best tablet available for constant travelers, whether for work or fun? Below you’ll find our picks.
#1 Microsoft Surface Pro 3
The latest Windows 8.1 Pro model from Microsoft seems to have been designed with road warriors in mind, as it’s essentially a powerful laptop compacted into a tablet. It includes everything someone going on a long business trip needs.
With its 12-inch 2160 x 1440 screen, the Surface Pro 3 has the largest display of the models on this list, and the fourth-generation Intel Core processor gives it excellent performance. It’s also the only one on this list with stylus and a built-in kickstand.
It is well-supplied with ports, including full-size USB, video out, and microUSB.
One of its few weaknesses is a lack of built-in support for cellular-wireless data, so users will either need to turn their phones into mobile hotspots or invest in dedicated portable access points.
Another weakness is price. Road warriors should get, at absolute minimum, the version with the Intel i5 processor and 128 GB of built-in storage which sells for $999, though a faster, more expensive version might be wiser.
Those who wish to add an external keyboard can get the Surface Pro Type Cover for $130.
A close alternative is the Surface Pro 2, which has a smaller screen, a slower (but still speedy processor) and a bulkier formfactor. It’s a bit less expensive, however.
Read Our Microsoft Surface Pro 3 Review
#2 Apple iPad Air 2
The sixth-generation iPad is the lightest full-size tablet Apple has ever introduced, and the fastest by a wide margin. This makes it a very good option for those whose job doesn’t require third-party software available for Windows, or those who vacation frequently and want a highly mobile computer for personal use.
The iPad Air 2 sports a 9.7-inch, 2048 x 1536 (QXGA) touchscreen. It runs iOS 8.1 on a 1.5 GHz, tri-core Apple A8X 64-bit processor.
This device starts at $500, but Road warriors should consider the version with 128 GB of internal storage and support for 4G networks which costs $930.
A number of companies offer external keyboards for the iPad Air 2 — well-designed ones typically sell for about $130.
This device famously does not include a removable memory card slot. Those who need more than 128 GB of capacity (or would just like to save some money by buying a cheaper version) can add more with an external card reader like the Kingston MobileLite Wireless G2 or i-FlashDrive II.
Read Our Apple iPad Air 2 Review
#3 Samsung Galaxy Tab S 10.5
The stand-out best of the full-size Android tablets is a Samsung model that includes a 10.5-inch, AMOLED, 2560 x 1600 display that’s so beautiful that one wouldn’t mind looking at it all day, or using it as part of a sales presentation.
The Wi-Fi version of this tablet has a Samsung 8-core CPU, and there’s an LTE-enabled one that has a Qualcomm quad-core chip instead. Normally, road warriors should consider the one with 4G LTE, but it’s only available wit 16 GB of built-in memory, while the 32 GB model goes up to 32 GB. Both options are still somewhat stingy, so adding extra capacity through the microSD slot will likely be a necessity.
One of its weakness is that there are few external keyboards made specifically for this tablet on the market.
The Galaxy Tab S 10.5 32GB is $500, and the LTE version is $630.
Read Our Samsung Galaxy Tab S 10.5 LTE Review
#4 Lenovo Yoga Tablet 2 AnyPen with Windows
Life on the road can be hard, but Lenovo’s latest tablet can stand up to a lot. Its “AnyPen” screen was designed to allow someone to use almost anything as a stylus, so the screen’s tough as nails. And its unusual shape gives room for a very large battery, enough to go at least 10 hours between charges, which makes it a standout among Windows 8.1 models.
With its 8-inch, 1920 x 1200 display, this version of the Yoga Tablet 2 is the smallest on this list, and the Intel Atom processor doesn’t give it high-end performance, but it is a good option for those who don’t need to bring a full-size powerhouse with them when they travel.
It has a microSD card slot, but no video-out port nor does it have a full-size USB slot.
It costs $350, making it the least expensive device on this list, however.