Every year a flood of tablets hits market. So dense is the pack that even educated buyers have a tough time deciding on the best tablet for their needs. To help weed out the weaklings and shine light on the must-haves, the team at TabletPCReview got together to create a list of the best tablets in their class, as of January 2016. The results are below.
Best Mobile Windows Tablet
HP Pavilion X2 (10-inch)
The HP Pavilion X2 is a Surface 3 clone on paper, albeit with a significantly lower price tag thanks mostly to its included keyboard cover. A 2-in-1 convertible that switches from tablet to laptop mode via a removable 10.1-inch IPS touchscreen display (1280 x 800), it comes loaded with Windows 10 Home 64-bit and features a 1.44-GHz Intel Atom x5-Z8300 processor along with 2GB of RAM. Options include either 32GB or 64GB of eMMC flash storage.
Battery life is rated at about 9 hours in normal use, and the mostly plastic chassis is lightweight and durable. Like the Surface 3 Type Cover, the keyboard feels a bit cramped. But we won’t complain too loudly because the HP Pavilion X2 starts at $250, which includes the keyboard, while the Surface 3 costs nearly twice as much, and the keyboard is sold separately.
Microsoft offers more configuration options, and the Surface 3 is a better built machine with a larger and more pixel dense display. But the Pavilion X2 has a better port selection, including USB Type-C, and functionally offers about as much as the Surface 3. In this case, less expensive is better.
Best Budget Tablet
The Amazon Fire Tablet isn’t lining up to win any performance awards, but with a price tag low enough to cause a few double-takes, it’s not a bad device for web browsing, low impact games and streaming Amazon Prime video. Battery life is excellent and can last more than 5 hours when streaming video content.
Under the hood, it’s got a MediaTek quad-core 1.3GHz processor and 1GB of RAM. Internal storage is only 8GB (5 of which are actually available to the user) but it has a microSD card slot that can handle up to 128GB of external storage. Also, buyers get unlimited cloud storage for their Amazon-purchased content.
It works well enough that its impossibly low price tag of $50 makes it an appealing buy, especially for Amazon Prime members looking to take advantage of all the service’s goodies.
Best Android Tablet
Equipped with a high-res AMOLED display, powered by a Samsung Exynos 5433 octa-core processor with 3GB RAM, and running on Android 5.1.1 Lollipop, the Samsung Galaxy Tab S2 9.7 ably snatches up the title of best Android tablet on the market. Internal storage is 32GB, but can be expanded via microSD.
It’s overdue for an Android Marshmallow update, and although not as good at side-by-side multitasking as the iPad Air 2 or Surface 3, it’s an otherwise powerful tablet that gives both a run for their money and bests its predecessor’s performance. It also has one of the best AMOLED displays we’ve ever seen, with a 2048 x 1536 resolution. A biometric fingerprint scanner provides added security when unlocking the device and added convenience when accessing password-protected sites. The Samsung Galaxy Tab S2 9.7 retails at $499.99.
Best Apple Tablet
With performance that rivals that of iPad Air 2, but at significantly lower cost, the iPad mini 4 is a good argument for trading up. It’s slimmer and lighter than earlier generation models, and the addition of a 1.5GHz A8 dual-core processor with 2GB RAM makes it even more capable of multitasking. Internal storage options come in 16GB, 64GB or 128GB.
It’s got a 7.9-inch LED-backlit display with excellent color saturation, and the 8MP iSight camera supports burst photography, 1080p HD video, time-lapse video and slow motion recording. The front-facing camera shoots at 1.2MP and 720p video. The battery is rated for up to 10 hours of moderate use. Pricing starts at $399 for the base model and runs up to $729 fully loaded.
Best Pro Tablet
The Surface Pro 4 puts the iPad Pro to shame (and for a counterpoint, here’s our Surface Pro 4 and iPad Pro comparison), boasting the best hardware and display on the market. It’s expensive, starting at $899 and running as high as $1,799, but its superlative performance and world-class design (we love the kickstand!) gives clear indication where the money went. The display measures 12.3 inches, with 2736 x 1824 resolution, and supports an improved and included N-trig Surface Pen with 1,024 pressure sensitivity points.
Five configurations are available, ranging from a sixth-generation Intel Core m3 with 4GB RAM up to a sixth-gen Core i7 with 16GB RAM. Medium-range configurations are powered by Intel Core i5 processors. A new Surface Type Cover with Chiclet keys and glass trackpad complements it nicely, but costs $130 to $160 extra. It’s missing USB Type-C connectivity and battery life could be better – but its lightweight design (from 1.69 pounds to 1.73 pounds, depending on configuration) and Windows 10 environment balance power and portability well. Simply put, there is no better mix of power and portability on the market.