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Best tablet 2021: The top tablets from Apple, Amazon, Samsung and more

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Versatile and supremely portable, these are the best tablets on the market right now

Apple and Amazon dominate the tablet market but there are plenty of appealing alternatives out there, which makes choosing the best tablet for your needs less straightforward than it may first seem.

With a huge number of models available in a range of sizes, running different operating systems and costing anywhere between £50 and £2,000, it can be hard to know which is the best tablet for you. That’s where we come in.

We’ve tested and reviewed tablets from all of the biggest manufacturers and put together a list of the most impressive across a range of categories.

In addition to bitesize reviews of the best tablets on the market, we’ve included a comprehensive buying guide detailing which features you should prioritise and the other important things to consider before making a purchase.

All of the tablets on this list will enable you to surf the internet, write a quick email, stream a TV show or partake in a family Zoom call, but some do those things far better than others. So, if you want to ensure you’re getting the very best tablet that you can afford, read on.

READ NEXT: Our guide to buying a refurbished iPad online


Best tablet: At a glance


How to choose the best tablet for you

What do you need your tablet to do?

On paper, all tablets do mostly the same things. The difference comes in how well they perform. If you just want a tablet for browsing the internet, watching Netflix and maybe a little light gaming, a 12.9in iPad Pro is overkill, even if it does handle all of the aforementioned tasks brilliantly.

Likewise, if you want to use your tablet for any kind of demanding work – chopping up 4K video or playing the greatest mobile games – the cheap and cheerful Amazon Fire 8 HD isn’t going to cut it, either. If you’re caught somewhere in the middle, you’re looking at a price between the two. Set aside a budget of somewhere between £250 and £350 and you’ll have plenty of choice – especially if you’re happy looking at the previous generation of hardware for bargains.

READ NEXT: The best tablet deals this month

Does the tablet’s operating system matter?

Tablets come with three main operating systems: iOS for iPads, Android or Windows 10 for everything else. Amazon’s Fire HD tablets come with their own Fire OS but in reality, this is a heavily modified version of Android designed to sell you Amazon goods more effectively.

In some respects, it makes sense to stick to what you know when in search of the best tablet. It’s certainly easier to stay within the same ecosystem, as everything will have a great familiarity about it – and Apple products, in particular, are very good at syncing between Mac, iPhone and iPad. Likewise, if you’ve only ever used iPhones and Windows laptops, taking the plunge with Android will take a little getting used to. But, in truth, it doesn’t matter which one you use that much, what with cloud storage being what it is. It’s very easy to move documents and files between all three, be it through Dropbox, Google Drive or OneDrive.

READ NEXT: Best cloud storage platforms

How much storage space does your tablet need?

As with the last point, on one level this simply doesn’t matter anymore. Cloud storage works across all the tablet platforms – so keeping your files in reach, but not taking up precious local space, is easy.

On the other hand, you probably don’t want to be constantly juggling files to keep your tablet from getting full. Look out for tablets with microSD slots, and remember that this has never applied to iPads – so, if you have a lot of files, the cheapest 32GB iPad may not be right for you.

READ NEXT: The best iPad cases

Do you want to draw or type with your tablet?

Tablets are designed to be poked with the finger, although as a general rule, iOS and Android have a better handle on this than Windows. All the same, certain devices have their own pressure-sensitive stylus for drawing or note-taking. In the case of iPads, this is the Apple Pencil for the iPad and first-gen iPad Pro tablets or the second-gen Apple Pencil for the more recent iPad Pro tablets. Sadly, you won’t get a stylus included with your iPad so you do need to factor the cost into the overall price if you plan on using one.

Microsoft Surface devices all support the Surface Pen, which is again sold separately. A number of Samsung’s tablets come with the company’s own S Pen in the box, including the Galaxy Tab S6, Galaxy Tab S6 Lite and Galaxy Tab S7 Plus.

Included keyboards are even less common, but as a rule of thumb, you can use any Bluetooth keyboard with a tablet. Some, such as Logitech’s K780, are designed to be used with multiple Bluetooth devices and even contain a raised lip to hold your tablet in place.

An all-around better solution is to buy a cover with a keyboard built-in so it’s there whenever you need it. Apple’s official iPad keyboard case starts at £159, while similar options for the Tab S4 and Microsoft Surface go for £100. You can save a few bob by going for third-party alternatives, which exist for all the most popular tablets, but be sure to check customer reviews before investing as they may behave oddly or not be up to snuff.

READ NEXT: The best wireless keyboards


The best tablets to buy in 2021

1. Apple M1 iPad Pro (2021): Best tablet overall

Price: From £749 | Buy now from Amazon

If you want the best tablet that money can buy, look no further than the iPad Pro. This year’s models are powered by Apple’s M1 processor and are faster and more responsive than ever – we’re talking laptop levels of performance wrapped up in a supremely portable package.

But the upgrades don’t stop there. The 12.9in model now features a Liquid Retina XDR display that delivers the highest peak brightness we’ve come across in a portable computer and excellent colour accuracy to boot. There’s also a Thunderbolt 3 port (the 2020 iteration had to make do with a USB-C 3.1 Gen 2 port) and a new ultrawide front camera that uses “Centre Stage” technology to keep your face centred in the frame during video calls.

The only thing holding the iPad Pro from true greatness is the lack of proper support for external monitors. You’re able to duplicate your iPad Pro’s display on a monitor while connected via the aforementioned Thunderbolt 3 port but sadly can’t spread apps across the two screens. It’s a frustrating limitation of the iPadOS platform but only really an issue if you intend on using the iPad Pro as your primary work machine. If you’re simply after a handheld device boasting exceptional performance and stunning visuals, the iPad Pro can’t be beaten.

Read our full Apple M1 iPad Pro (2021) review for more details

Key specs – Processor: Octa-core Apple M1; Screen: 11in (2,388 x 1,688), 12.9in (2,732 x 2,048); Storage: 128GB–2TB; Size: 11in – 248 x 179 x 5.9mm, 12.9in – 281 x 215 x 6.4mm; Weight: 11in – 468g, 12.9in – 684g; Operating system: iPadOS 14


2. Amazon Fire HD 8 (2020): Best tablet under £100

Price: £90 | Buy now from Amazon

Amazon’s 2020 update to its 8in tablet is its best yet, featuring a more powerful processor, twice the base storage and improved battery life. RAM has also been given a minor boost from 1.6GB to 2GB, and although the 1,200 x 800 display is a little fuzzy compared to Apple’s tablet offerings, the Fire HD 8 (2020) is an absolute steal at under £100.

All of those tweaks equate to a 30% increase in power, as evidenced during our in-house testing. The 2020 model achieved impressive single- and multi-core CPU scores in the Geekbench 3 CPU test and hit twice the frame rate of the 2018 iteration during our on-screen graphics test. The general user experience feels fluid on the whole, though we did experience some juddering while switching between applications.

Amazon tablets still suffer from a limited app library, but with battery life upwards of 12 hours, built-in hands-free Alexa support and the addition of USB-C charging, the Fire HD 8 remains the budget tablet to beat.

If you’re willing to pay a bit more for the Amazon Fire HD 8 Plus (2020), you’ll get improved battery life, 1GB more RAM, wireless charging, a faster charger included in the box and Kindle Unlimited free for three months.

Read our full Amazon Fire HD 8 (2020) review for more details

Key specs – Processor: Quad-core MediaTek MT8168; Screen: 8in, 1,280 x 800; Storage: 32GB; Size: 202 x 137 x 9.7mm; Weight: 335g; Operating system: Android (Fire OS)


3. Amazon Fire HD 10 (2021): Best tablet under £200

Price: £150 | Buy now from Amazon

The Fire HD 10 is Amazon’s latest tablet to get a refresh, and the 2021 model is even better value than ever. It houses the same MediaTek MT8183 Helio P60T processor as the 2019 model so doesn’t represent a huge jump forward in terms of performance, but it remains very snappy during daily use, booting quickly and switching between multiple apps with minimal fuss.

The main changes come in the form of an additional 1GB of RAM and an 8% reduction in weight. These may not seem like much, but they’re welcome tweaks to an already successful formula, especially given the 2021 upgrade hasn’t seen a price rise. There’s a new software feature of note, too, with split-screen mode allowing you to view two apps simultaneously.

If you’re willing to spend an extra £30, the Fire HD 10 Plus comes with an additional 1GB of RAM (4GB total), has a slightly different soft-touch finish and supports wireless charging. And for those wanting to use their tablet as a laptop, there's a Productivity Bundle available for £210 that includes a Bluetooth keyboard and a 12-month subscription to Microsoft 365.

Read our full Amazon Fire HD 10 (2021) review for details

Key specs – Processor: Octa-core 2GHz MediaTek MT8183 Helio P60T; Screen: 10.1in, 1,920 x 1,200; Storage: 32 or 64GB; Size: 247 x 166 x 9.2mm; Weight: 465g; Operating system: Android 9 (Fire OS 7)


4. Samsung Galaxy Tab S7 Plus: Best Android tablet

Price: £799 | Buy now from Amazon

With laptop-like performance and 5G capabilities, the Samsung Galaxy Tab S7 Plus is a tablet to be reckoned with. The Qualcomm Snapdragon 865 Plus CPU inside it excelled during our in-house tests, showing the S7 Plus to be a powerhouse capable of handling pretty much any task thrown at it.

The 120Hz, HDR10+ Dynamic AMOLED display delivers rich and bold colours regardless of your viewing angle and features two colour profiles to choose from, Natural and Vivid, with the former providing better coverage of the sRGB colour space and superior colour accuracy.

Like its predecessor, the Tab S6, the Tab S7 Plus features DeX mode: an interface designed to work with a mouse and keyboard. Sadly, you’ll have to fork out for Samsung’s two-part keyboard cover to get the most out of it, but if you do, the Tab S7 Plus effectively doubles up as a laptop.

With its impressive DeX mode, free S Pen stylus, superb performance and the potential for 5G connectivity, the Samsung Galaxy Tab S7 Plus is an Android tablet capable of taking on the mighty iPad Pro.

Read our full Samsung Galaxy Tab S7 Plus review for more details

Key specs – Processor: Octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 865 Plus; Screen: 12.4in, 2,800 x 1,753; Storage: 128GB or 256GB; Size: 285 x 185 x 5.7mm; Weight: 575g; Operating system: Android 10 (ONE UI 2.5)


5. Microsoft Surface Pro 7: Best tablet with Windows 10

Price: From £799 | Buy now from Amazon

Microsoft’s seventh-generation tablet-laptop hybrid isn’t a huge departure from its predecessor, but it does finally add a USB-C port and the internals have received an upgrade. The Surface Pro 7 now houses an Intel 10th-gen processor, which is available in Core i3, i5 and i7 versions; the Core i7 model we tested demonstrated much-improved graphical performance.

The design remains pretty much unchanged, but that isn’t a bad thing; the entire device feels polished and is undoubtedly one of the best-looking 2-in-1s we’ve come across. The integrated kickstand can be used to set the Surface Pro 7 to any viewing angle you wish, and the 3:2 aspect ratio display is perfect for working on while in laptop mode. Other nice touches include an 8-megapixel camera on the rear and a 5-megapixel Windows Hello authentication camera on the front, making unlocking your tablet/laptop a breeze.

It may only be a marginal update, but the Surface Pro 7 is a solid 2-in-1 for those looking for portability and versatility. That said, if you can find yourself a cut-priced Surface Pro 6, you won’t be missing out on too much.

Read our full Microsoft Surface Pro 7 review for more details

Key specs – Processor: Quad-core 1.3GHz Intel Core i7-1065G7; Screen: 12.3in, 2,736 x 1,824; Storage: 256GB; Size: 201 x 292 x 8.5mm (without keyboard); Weight: 775g (without keyboard); Operating system: Windows 10


6. Apple iPad 10.2in (2021): Best tablet for most people

Price: From £319 l Buy now from Amazon

Apple's cheapest iPad gets better with every iteration and the 2021 model is no exception. Admittedly, this year's refresh isn't the most exciting but it's £10 cheaper than it was last year and includes three noteworthy upgrades.

The first sees the processor updated to Apple's A13 Bionic CPU. That's still two generations behind the chip inside the company's newest iPhones but it's an improvement nonetheless. The tablet's front-facing camera has seen a more significant upgrade, with the 1.2MP camera on last year's model replaced by the same 12MP ultrawide camera found on the iPad Mini (2021).

Finally, Apple has brought its True Tone colour matching technology to the display. This picks up on the tone of ambient light in your environment and matches the display's white point to that colour temperature so your eyes don't have to readjust when you look up from the screen.

There's still no USB-C - Apple is still sticking with its Lightning connector on the 10.2in iPad - but aside from that, there's very little to dislike about the latest iteration of the best-value tablet around. Affordable and supremely versatile, the Apple iPad 10.2in remains the best tablet around for most people.

Read our full Apple iPad (2021) review for more details

Key specs – Processor: A13 Bionic; Screen: 10.2in, 2,160 x 1.620; Storage: 32GB; Size: 250 x 174 x 7.5mm; Weight: 493g; Operating system: iPadOS 15


7. Amazon Fire 7: Best cheap tablet

Price: £50 | Buy now from Amazon

The Amazon Fire 7 wins the award for best cheap tablet by default due to facing zero competition in the sub-£50 price bracket. It's not been updated in a couple of years and could really do with a refresh, but remains the go-to choice for those on a shoestring budget.

We recommend saving up for the Fire HD 8 above if possible but if £50 is the absolute maximum you're willing to pay for a tablet and you're willing to temper your expectations, you won't be too disappointed with the Fire 7.

Sure, it's sluggish, battery life is mediocre and the 7in screen looks rather fuzzy by modern standards but it'll do the trick for checking your emails, reading e-books or making use of Amazon's smart assistant, Alexa.

Read our full Amazon Fire 7 review for more details

Key specs – Processor: Quad-core 1.3GHz ARM MT8163; Screen: 7in, 1,024 x 600; Storage: 16/32GB; Size: 115 x 192 x 9.6mm; Weight: 286g; Operating System: FireOS 6.3.1.2


8. Apple iPad Air 4 (2020): Best mid-range tablet

Price: From £579 | Buy now from Amazon

If you’re looking for a powerful tablet but can’t quite stretch your budget to the iPad Pro, this fourth-generation iPad Air is your next-best choice. It houses the same processor used in the latest-generation iPhones and has CPU and graphical performance that outstrips laptops costing almost twice as much.

It’s thin and lightweight, too, and comes with a decent 12MP f/1.8 camera, though it does lack a flash and the secondary ultrawide camera that features on the new iPad Pro. Its only other real drawback is that the accessories that will transform it into a true laptop replacement are very pricey: with the official Magic Keyboard and Apple Pencil 2, you’re looking at a total outlay of around £1,000.

Read our full Apple iPad Air 4 (2020) review for more details

Key specs – Processor: Apple A14 Bionic; Screen: 10.9in, 2,360 x 1,640; Storage: 64GB; Size: 247.6 x 178.5 x 6.1mm; Weight: 458g; Operating system: iPadOS 14


9. Lenovo IdeaPad Duet: Best Chrome OS tablet (that’s also a laptop)

Price: £280 | Buy now from Amazon

Google may have abandoned the Pixel Slate some time ago, but this tablet-cum-laptop from Lenovo proves that Chrome OS tablets are alive and kicking. Its strength comes in its versatility – use it as a tablet when you’re on the move (or on the couch) or attach the clip-on keyboard it comes with to transform it into a fully functional, if rather small, Chromebook.

Its Full HD 10.1in screen is of excellent quality, with decent maximum brightness and superb coverage of the sRGB colour gamut, while its battery lasted over 16 hours in our video playback test – a frankly staggering result given how compact it is.

Read our full Lenovo IdeaPad Duet review for more details

Key specs – Processor: MediaTek P60T; Screen: 10.1in, 1,920 x 1,080; Storage: 4GB; Size: 160 x 240 x 7mm; Weight: 450g (without keyboard); Operating system: Chrome OS


10. Apple iPad mini (2021): Best compact tablet

Price: From £479 | Buy now from Amazon

The original iPad mini launched way back in 2012 and this sixth-generation model has finally got rid of its predecessors' chunky upper and lower bezels. That has seen the overall size decrease but the screen size jump from 7.9in to 8.3in. The iPad mini 2021 now more closely resembles an oversized iPhone rather than a shrunk-down tablet and that's no bad thing.

The new model also comes with a USB-C port, support for the Apple Pencil 2 and packs Apple's A15 Bionic processor - the same CPU used by the company's latest range of smartphones. It's nippy as a result and that speedy performance is complemented by a sharp 2,266 x 1,488 display that delivers colours in the sRGB gamut with exceptional accuracy. There's also support for Apple's True Tone tech, which helps reduce eye strain by matching the white point on the screen with that of ambient light in the room.

The absence of a 3.5mm audio jack is a little annoying and battery life could be better, but for those seeking a quick, compact, well-designed tablet that balances screen size and function, the iPad mini is just the ticket.

Read our full iPad mini (2021) review for more details

Key specs – Processor: Apple A15 Bionic; Screen: 8.3in, 2,266 x 1,448; Storage: 64GB; Size: 195.4 x 134.8 x 6.3mm; Weight: 293g; Operating system: iOS 15


11. Samsung Galaxy Tab S6 Lite: Best-value Android tablet

Price: £329 | Buy now from Amazon

The Samsung Galaxy Tab S7 may be our favourite Android tablet, but the Lite version of the S6 comes a close second and is significantly cheaper.

While performance is a little sluggish compared to its Apple rivals, the 2,000 x 1,200 screen is vivid, sharp and has a searing maximum brightness of 432cd/m², while battery life clocks in at a highly impressive 15 hours, significantly longer than the 10.2in iPad. The Galaxy Tab S6 Lite’s 8MP rear camera and 5MP selfie-cam will cater for all your photographic needs, and the tablet comes with Samsung’s handy S Pen stylus included in the price.

Don’t be fooled by the Lite in its name, this is one mighty tablet.

Read our full Samsung Galaxy Tab S6 Lite review for more details

Key specs – Processor: Octa-core Samsung Exynos 9611; Screen: 10.4in, 2,000 x 1,200; Storage: 64/128GB (128GB version not available in the UK); Size: 245 x 155 x 7mm; Weight: 467g; Operating system: Android 10.0


12. Samsung Galaxy Tab Active 2: Best tablet for outdoor use

Price: £450 l Buy now from Amazon

Samsung’s Galaxy Tab Active 2 caters to a niche target market of tech-loving adventurers and professionals who work outdoors. This ruggedised 8in Android tablet is water- and dust-resistant up to IP68 and has been designed to survive harsher conditions than your average touchscreen device. While you couldn’t quite call it weatherproof or drop-proof, it’s tougher than its non-rugged siblings such as the Samsung Galaxy Tab S4. The nifty garaged stylus is easy to keep track of, and the replaceable battery means it could potentially last twice as long on a camping trip.

Read our full Samsung Galaxy Tab Active 2 review for more details

Key specs – Processor: Octa-core Samsung Exynos 7870; Screen: 8in, 1,200 x 800; Storage: 16GB; Size: 128 x 215 x 9mm; Weight: 413g; Operating system: Android 7.0

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