The best tablets for college students in 2023
These tablets offer all the power a college student needs in a portable package.
This tablet strikes the right balance of power and price.
This Windows tablet can do everything a typical PC can and more.
This powerful tablet offer everything you’d expect in a high-end Android device.
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Tablets made for college students offer the power and usability of a laptop with the versatility and portability of a much smaller device. Whether you’re researching topics, typing up essays, making presentations, or using design tools, choosing the right tablet for college can make all the difference. These devices excel when taking notes, reading textbooks, and staying organized. However, with so many options available on the market, it can be a daunting task. We’ve scoured the internet to make our list, considering factors such as battery life, screen size, processing power, and price. Whether you’re a freshman, a senior, or a parent shopping for your college-aged child, our comprehensive guide will help you make an informed decision when selecting the best tablets for college students.
- Best overall:Apple iPad Air M1
- Best lightweight:iPad Mini (2021)
- Best Android:Samsung Galaxy Tab S8
- Best laptop replacement:Microsoft Surface 9 Pro
- Best budget:Amazon Fire 10 HD
How we picked the best tablets for college students
Tablets truly lend themselves to college work. They’re easy to carry around, offer tons of battery life, typically cost less the high-powered laptops, and they pull double duty as content consumption devices. In our quest for the perfect tablet for college students, we surveyed the entire tablet market from major manufacturers. There are tons of cheap and less-reliable options out there, but for a device that’s going to be so crucial to work and recreation, we want to recommend something durable and reliable.
We relied on a mixture of research, personal experience, spec comparisons, user reviews, and editorial opinions to come up with a list of devices that offer a solid mix of price and performance. We also gave extra credit to devices that work with a wide variety of accessories, so they’re easier to customize to a student’s own personal requirements.
The best tablets for college students: Reviews Recommendations
The iPad may seem like the obvious choice here (and it is for a number of users), but needs vary and so do devices. Here are some options to consider before you plunk down that college cash.
Best overall: Apple iPad Air M1
Why it made the cut: With their iPad, Apple has cornered the tablet market for good reason. The iPad Air M1 is simply a great piece of tech. Slimline, powerful, and equipped with a powerful camera, this is our top-rated choice.
With the additional choice of a Magic Keyboard and Apple Pencil (sold separately), the iPad Air M1 is capable of handling almost any academic task. Apple Pencil allows you to mark up documents, draw, or take notes, which are then translated from your handwriting into typed notes ready to share or save to the Cloud. The Magic Keyboard has a trackpad and responsive keyboard to take your tablet to the next level and make typing comfortable even during those seemingly endless classes.
Thanks to its M1 chip, it’s a performance powerhouse with speeds up to 60 percent faster than previous generation models. The liquid retina display and 8-core GPU provide crisp images and fast graphics across video calls, gaming, content creation, and design apps. An impressive 12-megapixel camera includes an automatic pan feature to keep you in shot no matter how fast you move around. The back camera is perfect for scanning documents and shooting videos. It comes in five colors and boasts long-lasting battery life.
Particularly power-hungry students could step up to the iPad Pro to get even more processing oomph and an upgraded screen. While the upgrades are nice, they’re likely only necessary for students who want to do a ton of media creation or other resource-intensive activities.
Best lightweight: iPad Mini (2021)
Why it made the cut: Small but perfectly formed, this handheld tablet features an edge-to-edge screen and vivid colors. Ideally suited for note-taking with the optional Apple Pencil that magnetically attaches to the side of the screen.
This very small and portable tablet slips easily into your bag or even a It fits comfortably in the hand but offers a better screen size and performance than simply using your cell phone. Gameplay, photo editing, and content creation are more than possible because of the impressive A15 bionic chip. You’ll be able to stream content without slowdowns and download quickly with 5G connectivity. You won’t be able to use the magic keyboard with this size iPad but can use it with a separate Bluetooth keyboard to expand its use beyond simple note-taking or entertainment.
Available in four elegant muted colors including space gray, pink, light purple, or starlight, a champagne tone. Choose from a range of complementary different color Smart folios (sold separately) to suit your unique style. The 12MP webcam helps you stay in touch with family back home or log in for virtual classes or group seminars.
Best Android: Samsung Galaxy Tab S8
Why it made the cut: Fast speeds, impressive battery life, and a large screen make the Samsung Galaxy Tab S8 a great choice for students who prefer Android products.
Unlike Apple tablets, this option’s base model comes with an included S pen and 128GB storage, making it a great value choice without having to purchase additional products and extra memory. It has a large and bright display featuring a 12.4-inch AMOLED screen. The battery life helps you work, and watch for hours, and when you do find it running low, it recharges at a lightning speed.
Expect beautiful graphics with high resolution, and super quick processing speeds to make all your school tasks, including content creation, photo editing, surfing the web, and lab work easy to complete. If the included 128GB isn’t enough space for your documents, photos, and schoolwork, the micro-SD card slot allows for further upgrades. The ultra-wide camera produces great shots and clear video calls for remote learning or catching up with friends. Choose from three colors, including graphite, silver, and pink gold.
Best laptop replacement: Microsoft Surface 9 Pro
Why it made the cut: A true replacement for even the top laptops for college, this powerful and versatile tablet offers excellent gameplay and graphics with a high-resolution display for a premium experience.
This incredibly capable and powerful tablet can easily replace a laptop and make an excellent investment for academic use. The responsive and comfortable keyboard allows for extended typing and note-taking during lectures. A stylus is available for a separate purchase and it comes equipped with Windows 11. Although it is one of the more expensive tablets reviewed, it really offers the most bang for your buck and is regularly on sale for discounts of at least a couple of hundred dollars of the list price.
The battery can last an incredible 15.5 hours, more than enough for class use and homework after hours. The versatile edge-to-edge touchscreen and adjustable built-in kickstand ensure you get the perfect angle for media viewing or video calls. The two USB-C ports allow you to transfer documents, dock to monitors, or connect and charge various devices and accessories, so you’re ready for any task.
Best budget: Amazon Fire 10 HD
Why it made the cut: This budget-friendly option makes a great educational addition if you already have a more powerful laptop for most of your school work.
Perfect for loading up books, and after-class entertainment, this affordable tablet is more than worth the modest investment of less than 150. The battery life of up to 12 hours works well for a day of learning, followed by surfing the web or watching your favorite shows.
This tablet doesn’t support Google products so you’ll need to switch over from G drive and docs to the Microsoft Office suite of products if applicable. Compatible with Alexa straight out of the box, it can also be used as an organizer and personal assistant. Optional extras include Bluetooth keyboards and standing cases to improve functionality and ease of use.
This tablet is definitely not the most powerful or responsive around, but at this very low price point, it makes an excellent option for cash-strapped students. It can also work as a solid secondary device for consuming content and reading (textbooks or anything else) to save wear and tear as well as battery life on a main device.
Things to consider before buying the best tablets for college students
Assess your needs
When you’re selecting any of our top tablet picks, you’ll want to make sure your tablet works well with all the apps and platforms you regularly use. For example, if you prefer a particular data management, file storage, or design program, you’ll want to make sure your new tablet is compatible. The way you intend to use your tablet will also dictate which model you opt for. For example, you’ll want to consider whether you need a keyboard if you intend to play games or stream movies, and your preferred screen size for optimum viewing comfort.
Students are often on a budget, so the cost of your new tablet is an important consideration. Luckily, there are lots of choices for top tablets under 500. However, that doesn’t always mean the cheapest option is the best. Consider how you’ll use your new piece of hardware and how long you want it to keep working to make sure you plan ahead and buy the best model to meet your needs and price point.
Q: How much does a tablet for a college student cost?
Depending on features and storage size, a tablet for a college student will cost between 135-1,350.
Q: Do students need keyboards for their tablets?
It really depends on how you’ll be using your tablet. If you intend it as an addition to a laptop, a keyboard may not be essential. However, if it’s your only way of taking notes and completing coursework, a keyboard may be a must-have feature.
Q: Do tablets come with pre-installed operating systems?
Whether you choose Windows, Android, or Apple iOS products, most tablets come preloaded with their associated operating system.
Q: Do I get a pencil for a tablet?
The touchscreen on tablets allows you to swipe, enlarge and control what you see on the screen with your hands. However, a stylus or pencil can give you more control and opens a world of design and artistic possibilities. They can also be very useful for photo editing, especially very fine and small details.
Final thoughts on the best tablets for college students
Balance your needs as a student with price concerns, and make sure your tablet pick is lightweight and easy to transport from your dorm to the classroom and back again. Tablets can be an excellent choice for college students, especially as many of our top picks are powerful devices capable of research, data management, and content creation to help you meet all your academic targets.
Why trust us
Popular Science started writing about technology more than 150 years ago. There was no such thing as “gadget writing” when we published our first issue in 1872, but if there was, our mission to demystify the world of innovation for everyday readers means we would have been all over it. Here in the present, PopSci is fully committed to helping readers navigate the increasingly intimidating array of devices on the market right now.
Our writers and editors have combined decades of experience covering and reviewing consumer electronics. We each have our own obsessive specialties—from high-end audio to video games to cameras and beyond—but when we’re reviewing devices outside of our immediate wheelhouses, we do our best to seek out trustworthy voices and opinions to help guide people to the very best recommendations. We know we don’t know everything, but we’re excited to live through the analysis paralysis that internet shopping can spur so readers don’t have to.
Top-notch hardware and Samsung’s Dex mode make for a truly potent Android tablet, despite some limitations.
Without deviating too much from previous entries, Samsung has trimmed down its latest high-end tablet yet again, leaving the Tab S8 with the slimmest of bezels. And measuring just 0.22 inches thick and weighing 1.24 pounds, the whole thing is very sleek. Meanwhile, there’s a new Armor Aluminum frame that Samsung claims is 33 percent harder than what it used on the Tab S7 line. The Tab S8 also has quad speakers with Dolby Atmos located on each corner of its chassis, so no matter which way you hold it, audio sounds rich and full.
The Tab S8’s highlight feature is really its 2,800 x 1,752 screen, which delivers rich, punchy colors and a 120Hz refresh rate that makes scrolling through websites and flipping between apps feel smooth. My one complaint is that I really wish Samsung had opted for a wider 3:2 aspect ratio display instead of sticking with 16:10.
If all you do is watch movies or play games, 16:10 makes a lot of sense. But when it comes to productivity, the extra vertical screen space you get from a 4:3 or 3:2 display makes multitasking or having two Windows open side-by-side a lot more usable. With Apple and Microsoft already having long since moved to 4:3 and 3:2 screens on iPads and Surfaces, I question why Samsung hasn’t done the same.
The Tab S8 also features good performance thanks to the inclusion of Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 chip, along with 8GB of RAM and either 128GB or 256GB of storage. And, unlike Samsung’s flagship Galaxy phones, you even get a microSD tray for additional storage. The downside is that there’s no headphone jack, which is rather frustrating because it’s hard to believe that Samsung really couldn’t find room for a 3.5mm port on a device this big.
Finally, Samsung rounded out the Tab S8’s design with a magnetic strip around back for charging the stylus; a strip of pogo pins on one side for attaching keyboard covers; and a speedy in-screen fingerprint sensor that outperforms side-mounted options.
While Android tablets at large are still waiting for Android 12L to receive a number of much-requested multitasking features, the Galaxy Tab S8 line has a custom solution in Dex. By touching the Dex button in the Tab S8’s Quick Settings (or using a CMD W keyboard shortcut), you can switch from the standard Android UI to a more powerful desktop-like view complete with a taskbar and multi-window support. There’s also a system tray for easily accessing features like Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connections, while the Android App Drawer is located behind a handy icon in the bottom left.
I used the Tab S8 to write large parts of this review, and after booting into Dex mode, I found myself feeling almost immediately at home. I was able to snap Windows to each side of the screen just like on a Windows PC, with the Tab S8 also supporting a number of familiar keyboard shortcuts. You don’t get the full range of commands that you would in Windows or macOS, but a number of the basics like Alt-Tab and Alt-F4 are there.
Now, I wish I didn’t need to toggle between Dex and the standard Android layouts. And in less popular apps that haven’t been optimized for the Tab S8’s big screen, you can run into some clunky and awkward experiences, with apps that can’t be maximized or games that don’t run properly in the background.
The biggest thing that stops the Tab S8 from feeling like a laptop is Samsung’s 160 book cover keyboard, which doesn’t have a built-in touchpad. Touching icons to open apps is fine in short bursts, but if you’re considering serious productivity, you’ll want to get the more expensive 230 book cover keyboard, which does have an onboard trackpad.
But for the most part, while it might take a little getting used to, Dex mode on the Tab S8 does an admirable job of turning a traditional tablet into a much more powerful 2-in-1.
The other big selling point for the Tab S8 line is Samsung’s included S Pen, which includes an expansive range of first-party drawing and annotation apps. By reducing the Tab S8’s input latency from 9ms down to just 2.8ms, Samsung has essentially eliminated any sort of lag, and frankly, it feels fantastic.
Samsung Notes is your default choice for jotting down quick thoughts, while its handwriting-to-text conversion features allow you to save more legible copy for easier viewing later. And if you need more support for translating text, annotating slideshows or PDFs, or simply making funny doodles to send to friends, there are dedicated apps for that too. Samsung has all the basics covered out of the box, though if you’re a hardcore artist, you’ll find more sophisticated drawing and sketching apps on Apple’s App Store.
The photography experience on tablets is often an afterthought because let’s be honest, who wants to be the person pulling out a 12-inch device to snap pics at a concert or ballgame? So even though the Tab S8’s cameras aren’t anywhere near as good as what you’d get on a Galaxy S phone, Samsung threw in not one but two rear cameras that are more than serviceable. That includes a 12-megapixel wide-angle camera and a 6MP ultra-wide cam in back, as well as a 12MP selfie shooter up front. In bright light, images are sufficiently sharp and colorful, though you’ll start to notice noise creep in pretty quickly as the conditions get dimmer.
It’s hard for a screen this big to not suck up a lot of juice, especially if you have the brightness turned up. But even so, the Tab S8 posted a respectable time on our local video rundown test of 9:21, which isn’t a far cry from the 10 hours we got from the iPad Pro. However, if you’re playing games or multitasking, just be aware that you can drain the Tab S8’s battery a lot faster than that. In more mixed use cases, I typically got closer to six or six and a half hours on a charge. Oh, and while the Tab S8 does support 45-watt fast charging, you’ll need to buy a power brick that supports those speeds on your own, because Samsung doesn’t include a charger in the box.
The big question I’ve been asking myself is, compared to something like Lenovo’s 630 P12 Pro, is the Galaxy Tab S8 worth 50 percent more? And you know what, actually yes. That’s because while they might have similar designs and screen sizes, the Tab S8’s display is brighter, it has noticeably faster performance and its quad speakers sound richer and fuller. Little luxuries like its in-screen fingerprint reader make it easier to use on a daily basis. And Samsung‘s S Pen and stylus apps are more sophisticated than anything you’ll find on a rival Android slate. It’s just an all-around more premium device.
But what elevates the Tab S8 above rival Android tablets is Dex mode. With the touch of a button, the Tab S8 switches to a more desktop-like UI that makes multitasking and doing work actually a feasible idea, instead of struggling with productivity like you do on so many traditional Android tablets. In fact, the consumer version of the P12 Pro isn’t even scheduled to get Android 12 until the end of March, let alone whatever happens to Android 12L.
Even so, despite all the work Samsung has done, the Tab S8 still isn’t quite as powerful or accommodating as an iPad Pro or even a Windows-powered detachable like a Surface Pro 8. And with a total price of at least 1,000 once you factor in Samsung‘s keyboard cover, the Tab S8 doesn’t offer much in the way of savings versus Apple or Microsoft. But both of those devices run on different OSes, and depending on your situation, switching might be a nonstarter. That said, if you need support for Android apps but still want something suited for productivity, a Chromebook is also worth considering. But if you’re dead set on a high-end multi-purpose Android tablet, the Tab S8 line should be at the top of your list.
The best tablets in 2023: our 10 favorite ones to buy
As much as we love having the best smartphones in our s, there are times when those small screens don’t cut it, and we just need a larger display. That’s when you turn to a tablet, which is great for being productive on the go and can be a great way to unwind and relax too. While the tablet market really took off after the iPad, it has grown to be quite diverse with a huge variety of products — from great budget options to powerhouses for professionals.
We’ve tried out a lot of tablets here at Digital Trends, from the workhorses for pros to tablets that are made for kids and even seniors, there’s a tablet for every person and every budget. For most people, though, we think Apple’s iPad Air is the best overall tablet — especially if you’re already invested in the Apple ecosystem. But if you’re not an Apple user, that’s fine too; there are plenty of other great options that you’ll find in this roundup.
Looking for some sweet tablet deals? Check out our list of the best iPad deals, and our best tablet deals.
Apple iPad Air (2022)
Best tablet overall
- High-performance M1 processor
- Slim and light
- Software suitable for work or play
- Large, colorful, and sharp screen
- Wide array of quality accessories
- Center Stage works well
Why should you buy this? The iPad Air (2022) offers almost everything you’ll get from the iPad Pro, but at a lower price.
Who’s it for? Anyone who wants a great tablet at a good price.
Why we picked the iPad Air (2022):
While it’s far from the cheapest tablet on the market (check out the basic iPad for our best value pick), at 600, the iPad Air still gives you excellent value for money — especially if you’re looking to go a bit beyond the basics. It features a much more attractive design than most of its competitors and offers many features that are close to or even identical to those found in the much more expensive iPad Pro lineup. The iPad Air (2022) is our pick as the best tablet you can buy right now.
Performance is a particular draw on this tablet. Apple has slung in the laptop-level M1 chip, the same processor from the 2021 iPad Pro series and the MacBook Air (2020). It’s a monster of a chip, and you’re unlikely to encounter anything that’ll slow it down, including video editing. Performance-wise, this is a tablet with enough power to take on a laptop, and it shows.
Combined with the powerful iPadOS software, this means the iPad Air can do well at being a laptop replacement. The Magic Keyboard is an expensive addition, but it turns your iPad Air into a laptop-like device — and a pretty good one at that. There’s also support for the second-generation Apple Pencil, making this a good choice for drawers, typers, and tappers alike.
The design is similarly high level. The slim bezels aren’t too small to grab properly, and the weight and comparatively compact 10.9-inch display mean it’s still comfortable to hold. Sure, it’s the same design as the previous iPad Air, but that’s because there’s nothing wrong with the look of that tablet. Unfortunately, it does lack the faster 120Hz ProMotion display from the iPad Pro, which you might notice if you’re used to using a screen with a higher refresh rate. However, that’s not going to bother you if you’re accustomed to the much more standard 60Hz found on most tablets and laptops.
The cameras are really quite good for a tablet, and the 12-megapixel front-facing camera particularly stands out. Center Stage keeps you in the middle of the frame, even if you move around, and expands the view when friends and family join you. While you’re unlikely to be taking a lot of pictures with the rear camera, it’s still got the goods when you need it.
It’s certainly not cheap, but if you can stretch to 600, then this is our overall recommendation for a strong tablet that can handle a wide range of tasks and needs. Want an Android-based equivalent, something a bit cheaper, or something even more powerful? Keep reading for more options.
Samsung Galaxy Tab S8 Plus
Best Android tablet
- Beautiful hardware
- Gorgeous display
- Great speakers
- Productivity powerhouse
Why should you buy this? It’s the best Android tablets have to offer.
Who’s it for? Anyone who needs a large-screened tablet with creative, professional, and casual options.
Why we picked the Samsung Galaxy Tab S8 Plus:
Looking for the best Android tablet out there? Put aside the smaller and larger of its brethren, as the Samsung Galaxy Tab S8 Plus is the tablet to grab. The 12.4-inch AMOLED display is big and useful, without being as potentially unwieldy as the Tab S8 Ultra’s 14.6-inch display, the frame is made from Armor Aluminum and feels great, and it’s thin and relatively lightweight as well. It’s a premium package, and it certainly won’t disappoint every time you pull it out of a bag or case.
But good looks are only part of what makes this tablet so great — let’s talk accessories. The tablet comes with the Samsung S Pen included, which is stored and charged on the tablet’s rear magnetic strip. It’s a neat little accessory, good for drawing and writing, but for many, the keyboard case will be more useful. Unlike the S Pen, the keyboard case isn’t included, which is a real shame. It’s a good keyboard that avoids the usual trap of mushy keys and a cramped layout, though it’s not the best if you’re wanting to work from your lap, as the plastic is flexible and doesn’t provide a solid base.
Performance-wise, it’s great. The Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 processor is powerful and its performance is zippy, especially when paired with the display’s 120Hz refresh rate. Storage options are good too. Options start from 128GB and go up to 256GB. That’s enough storage for most, whether you’re using this tablet for work or play.
Software is probably this tablet’s largest handicap. Unlike iPads and iPadOS, Android tablets haven’t yet had their renaissance moment, and as such, Android just still isn’t built to take advantage of larger screens. Samsung’s desktop PC-like Dex Mode helps a lot, but there are shortcomings Samsung simply can’t build around. Many apps launch into a smartphone-designed interface and simply aren’t designed to work with larger tablet screens.
Apple iPad (2021)
Best value tablet
- Great battery life
- Powerful internals
- Big upgrade to the front-facing camera
- Amazing software support
- Base storage more acceptable at 64GB
- Display doesn’t get bright enough
- Lightning port in 2021
- Slow Touch ID sensor
Why should you buy this? It’s simply the best value tablet you can buy.
Who’s it for? Anybody who wants a tablet that can handle all the basics, without spending too much money.
Why we picked the Apple iPad (2021):
The iPad (2021) is no longer the latest iPad, thanks to the release of the more expensive iPad (2022), but there’s a reason Apple left this older model on the market. At 329, it still offers the best value for folks who need a tablet that can handle all the basics and more at a very affordable price.
It’s the tablet world’s “ol’ reliable” — if you want a tablet without the frills at a great price, you want the basic iPad. Don’t take the word “basic” to be an insult, either. The iPad (2021) is an excellent performer, has a 10.2-inch display, long-lasting battery life, and probably the best tablet software you can get. Yes, the design is quite dated, but don’t let that fool you — there’s a lot of power packed in under the hood.
We’ll start with the internal specs. The iPad is, admittedly, equipped with an older processor, but it’s an old flagship processor, and that makes a difference. Specifically, the A13 Bionic chip was the silicon that powered the iPhone 11 lineup, and it remains a powerful piece of kit despite its age. This processor should be able to easily handle any games you throw at it and should be purring along nicely for years to come. The other improvement is the installation of 64GB of internal storage as standard, giving you a lot more room to play with.
The iPad has also seen a significant improvement in front-facing camera tech. Goodbye paltry 1.2MP lens, hello 12MP lens. Removing a single period has made all the difference, and now the iPad actually has a selfie camera worth doing video calls with, and the auto-framing tech is pretty cool as well. Battery life is also excellent, though that’s less of a worry when most people’s tablets tend to live near outlets anyway.
Best of all, this iPad starts at just 329. That’s an incredible bargain, and there’s nothing on the Android side of the fence that comes close to approaching this tablet in terms of pure value. If you want something capable, but don’t need something with more power than your average desktop computer, then the iPad (2021) is easily the best choice around.
Lenovo Tab P11 Pro
Best value Android tablet
- Slim and lightweight aluminum
- Sleek dual-tone design
- Beautiful 11.2-inch 2.5K OLED display
- Quad speaker system with support for Dolby Atmos
- Great battery life
- Front camera is terrible
- Uses Android 12, Android 12L coming later
- Only up to 6GB of RAM
Why should you buy this? It’s an affordable Android tablet that will give you the best bang for your buck.
Who’s it for? Folks looking for an affordable Android tablet that handles all the basics well.
Why we picked the Lenovo Tab P11 Pro Gen 2:
With so many Android tablets on the market, picking the right one can be a challenge, and this is even more true if you’re looking for something that will go easy on your wallet but still get the job done. Thankfully, Lenovo has hit that sweet spot with the Tab P11 Pro Gen 2, a midrange tablet that makes a good companion for traveling or even just using around the home.
The Lenovo Tab P11 Pro Gen 2’s biggest strength is media consumption, thanks to its quality 11.2-inch 2.5K OLED display that supports both Dolby Vision and HDR10. Add in the quad-speaker system with Dolby Atmos with 14-hour battery life, and it’s a great tablet for media consumption on the go.
It also offers a 120Hz refresh rate, which is a huge bonus at this price. This means the screen feels smooth and responsive, whether you’re just scrolling through or playing the latest fast-paced games. You can also pick up Lenovo’s 70 Precision Pen 3 stylus separately, which lets you scribble handwritten notes or turn the tablet into a digital canvas to suit your more artistic tastes.
Beyond that, you’ll likely want to consider a keyboard if you plan to do any serious work on this tablet. However, that’s not really where its strengths lie, especially considering it still ships with only Android 12 (although it should get the more tablet-friendly Android 12L sometime this year). Lenovo offers its own optional keyboard case, or you can pair it with any Bluetooth keyboard, but where the Lenovo Tab P11 Pro Gen 2 shines is for entertainment consumption, casual gaming, and everyday surfing and social media.
Apple iPad Mini 6
Best small tablet
- Big enough to perform most tasks
- Compact enough to travel easily
- Powerful performance
- Loud speakers
- Screen is not bright enough
- Too small for content creation
- No headphone jack
Why should you buy this? You want a great tablet with a smaller footprint.
Who’s it for? Anyone who wants a smaller tablet.
Why we picked the iPad Mini (2021):
It took a while for Apple to update the iPad Mini the last time it got refreshed, and it’s taken a similarly long time to update the iPad Mini’s appearance as well. Thankfully, the wait is at an end, and the new iPad Mini (also known as the iPad Mini 6) has arrived. The new design is now in line with the other premium iPads, meaning the iPad Mini is now finally just a smaller version of the iPad Air and iPad Pro.
It doesn’t match the new iPad Air (2022) where specs are concerned, but it comes pretty close. The iPad Mini packs in the A15 Bionic processor — the same chip that’s still used in the iPhone 14 and iPhone 14 Plus — and while that’s not a match for the new Apple M1 and M2 chips found in the more expensive iPads, it doesn’t need to be. The A15 will devour any games you’ll want to play, and you’re unlikely to need the oomph the M1/M2 provide for content creation apps, because, well, the iPad Mini is too small to work well as a content processing machine anyway.
Does that make it a bad choice? Absolutely not. In fact, the smaller size and the A15 chip are the only differences that set the iPad mini (2021) apart from the iPad Air (2022). In every other way, it’s really just a smaller version of that best overall tablet. You get the laminated display with an anti-reflective coating, 5G support, a 12MP front camera with Center Stage, a Touch ID sensor in the side button, and much more.
It’s supremely portable, stupidly powerful, and an excellent choice if you need something that leverages these strengths. The battery also lasts around a day and a half of use — the same as the iPad Air (2022) — so it’s a great choice for taking out and about, and it also pairs up with the second-generation Apple Pencil as well.
While the pint-sized iPad isn’t likely to be everyone’s cup of tea, the iPad Mini is an excellent choice if you’re looking for a smaller tablet to carry around. While the smaller size means it won’t work with Apple’s Magic Keyboard, you can pair it with any Bluetooth keyboard and mouse to turn it into an ultra-portable workstation or just use it for watching videos, reading books, or whatever else you need on the move.
Apple iPad Pro (12.9-inch)
Best big tablet
- Sleek and modern design
- Bright, vivid, gorgeous display
- Wild performance from the M2 chip
- Apple Pencil hover feature
- iPadOS 16 is super robust
- Stage Manager needs more work
- Lackluster, awkward front camera
- Prohibitively expensive
Why should you buy this? The iPad Pro is extremely powerful and offers a huge screen.
Who’s it for? Gamers, creatives, and power users.
Why we picked the iPad Pro (12.9-inch):
There’s a new iPad Pro in town, but the game hasn’t changed. This is still the biggest and most powerful tablet around and it’s perfect for all kinds of uses. Not only is the iPad Pro (12.9-inch) the best tablet for multimedia and gaming, but it’s also the best tablet for drawing. The device offers a nice big edge-to-edge display that’s perfect for watching movies, studying, gaming, and so on. The bezels are slim and the home button has been replaced by Face ID. Apple has also adopted USB-C, which gives you far more to choose from in terms of accessories and peripherals.
The iPad Pro sports one of the biggest and best screens around, with a 2732 x 2048-pixel resolution and Apple’s Liquid Retina XDR display tech, the tablet offers an incredible display experience all around. The Liquid Retina XDR display means that the iPad leverages Mini LED for super deep black levels and tons of brightness, plus there’s a 120Hz refresh rate — making the tablet perfect for games.
This year’s iPad Pro comes with an M2 chip, which the iPad Pro performs about as well as the newest Mac devices. Power users shouldn’t run into the device’s limits, whether you’re commanding armies in Civilization VI or editing an image in Photoshop. The iPad Pro can cope with any game or drawing app you throw at it.
Storage options aren’t as good, though, as it starts at 128GB. It does go up to 2TB, but you have to pay a lot for a large capacity. There’s no microSD card support, too, so unless you’re big into iCloud, the amount of storage you buy is what you’ll get.
Apple claims you’ll get 10 hours of mixed-use from a full charge, which didn’t stack up in our tests. An intense day with over five hours of screen time saw the iPad Pro sink to 16% by the end of the day. A less intense day meant the iPad Pro could probably last a second day, but if you’re using this device for work, expect to reach for the charging cable.
It’s expensive, especially if you need a lot of storage, and there’s no headphone jack, but the 12.9-inch iPad Pro is still your best bet if you’re a power-user that wants the best you can get.
Lenovo Tab M10 Plus (Gen 3)
Best affordable tablet
- Solid battery life
- Good horizontal-focused design
- Low price
Why should you buy this?: For the price point, the Lenovo Tab M10 Plus (Gen 3) has a simple and clean design, long-lasting battery life, and it can handle most basic tasks that you may need to do on the go.
Who’s it for?: If you’re on a tight budget but want the most bang for your buck, then this is a great option.
Why we picked the Lenovo Tab M10 Plus (Gen 3):
The Lenovo Tab M10 Plus (Gen 3) features a simple and clean design that leans towards landscape orientation use. You’ll find the camera is located along the longer edge, and the buttons are in the upper left when you hold it horizontally. Even if you typically don’t use tablets in landscape orientation, you’ll find this to be comfortable to hold.
You’ll get a sharp 2000 x 1200 2K resolution display, which is higher than other tablets that you’ll typically find in this price range. The 10.6-inch IPS display is especially great for reading, note-taking, streaming video, and showing off high-resolution photos.
The MediaTek Helio G80 octa-core processor isn’t the most high-end chipset out there, but it has enough power to handle the most basic tasks that you may need to do on the go. So if you just want a tablet for streaming video, note-taking, email, and social media, then this is a fantastic choice. But keep in mind that if you need more resource-intensive apps, like Photoshop, then that’s where the performance may stutter a bit with the lower-end processor.
Lenovo put 8MP cameras on the front and rear of the tablet, and they aren’t anything to write home about. However, if you do need to take some photos in a pinch, or do video conference calls, then they should work fine. The Lenovo Tab M10 Plus (Gen 3) comes with Android 12 equipped, and though no date is given, Android 13 will be coming as an upgrade later.
You’ll find an impressive 7,700mAh battery on the Tab M10 Plus, which should last at least 12 hours on typical use. But if you lower the brightness and aren’t putting it to its limit, then you should get a few days of use on a single charge, which is nice. But keep in mind that because of the large battery, charging it up from zero to 100% can take a while.
For the price, the Lenovo Tab M10 Plus (Gen 3) is a great value. You get a sleek design, good performance, and long battery life for around 200.
Onyx Boox Tab Ultra
Best e-ink tablet
- Big anti-glare display with a matte finish
- Fast for an e-ink device
- Excellent battery life
- Brilliant keyboard case
- Comes with a stylus
Why should you buy this? This is a unique tablet in the fact that it runs Android but also has an e-ink display. It makes a great e-reader, browsing device, and even a sketchbook or notebook.
Who’s it for? Anyone who wants an Android tablet that is unlike anything else on the market.
Why we picked the Onyx Boox Tab Ultra:
The Boox Tab Ultra is an Android tablet that’s unlike pretty much every other Android tablet on the market right now. If you’re looking for a full-fledged tablet that lets you watch videos or do professional sketches, then this isn’t the tablet for you. But if you want an Android tablet with an e-ink display that makes it perfect for reading e-books and articles, browsing the web, and even writing and basic sketching, the Boox Tab Ultra is for you.
Onyx’s Boox Tab Ultra is composed of aluminum, so it feels solid, but it’s a bit hefty with a 0.26-inch thickness and 480 grams of weight. It’s not super lightweight like a Kindle, for example, but that’s because this is more than just an e-reader. There are speakers on the Boox Tab Ultra, but no volume buttons — you’ll do that either through software or the keyboard. There’s only a power button that also works as a fingerprint sensor.
The display is a 10.3-inch e-ink display that will deliver rich contrast with deep blacks. Its anti-glare matte coating helps you see and read in bright conditions. And while the Boox Tab Ultra has a 16MP camera on the back, it’s basically only used to scan documents.
The Boox Tab Ultra is powered by Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 662 chip, has 4GB RAM, and 128GB storage that you can expand with a microSD card. While this may not look too impressive compared to other regular Android tablets, it is quite powerful for an e-ink tablet. Though it is running Android 11, it has a heavily-skinned Boox software layered on top, so you won’t notice it too much. Again, this may be slow compared to other regular Android tablets, but this is the fastest e-ink tablet that we’ve tried so far.
You get the Pen 2 Pro stylus with the Boox Tab Ultra, but there is also a separate keyboard accessory that you can purchase for 110. This is optional, of course, but if you plan to use the Boox Tab Ultra for writing and note-taking, then it’s worth the extra cash. The keys feature good travel and are evenly spaced out. While there’s no real latency with the keyboard itself, since the display is e-ink, you will have a slight delay because of the refresh rate of e-ink displays. The keyboard has no trackpad, though, so you’ll have to use your finger to scroll and navigate. The keyboard also doubles as a leather cover to keep the Boox Tab Ultra safe and protected.
The Boox Tab Ultra has a steep price tag for something that may be for a niche audience. But if you’re in the market for an e-reader or e-ink tablet, then this is simply the best one to get.
Best Samsung tablet with keyboard
With so many tablets available in NZ, choosing the right one for you can be tricky. Don’t worry. We’re here to help.
There are many tablet options in NZ, and they all boast different specs and features. They also vary drastically in price. Some tablets only cost around 200, but you can also spend as much as 4000 on a top-tier device. Both of these are on the extreme ends of the scale, fortunately there’s a lot of premium options in between.
It’s important to know that, like most technology, usually, the more expensive a tablet is, the more it offers. In a premium tablet, you can expect a bright, vibrant display with a 60 – 120Hz refresh rate, a long-lasting battery, compatibility with accessories or add-ons, fast performance and various storage options. It also pays to remember that, much like the best smartwatches and phones, tablets are at their best when paired with other products made by the same company.
In this expert guide, we’ve ranked what we think are the best tablets available in NZ. We’ve also included a tablet buyer’s guide so you know what you should look for when making your tablet-buying decision.
The Best Tablets NZ
Apple iPad Air
64/256GB | Wi-Fi Cellular | Powerful M1 chip | 2,360 x 1,460, 60Hz display
The 2022 version of Apple’s iPad Air is the best tablet for most people.
If you’re already subscribed to the Apple ecosystem, the Air seamlessly integrates with other Apple products. You can use it as a second screen via Apple’s Sidecar software. You can answer and take calls on it and so much more. You’ll still get a lot out of this tablet, even if you’re not an Apple subscriber.
It will handle anything you throw at it, including 4K video editing, thanks to the very impressive M1 chip. It boasts a sleek, light design, and the 2,360 x 1,460 display is sharp and vibrant. Unfortunately held back by its 60Hz refresh rate.
To improve the user experience, Apple also offers its Magic Keyboard and Apple Pencil accessories. These are separate purchases, and expensive ones at that, but they are also excellent.
Unfortunately, the tablet only comes with either 64GB or 256GB storage options. There’s no middle ground which is a bit frustrating. 64GB isn’t quite enough for those who like to save pictures and videos, and 256GB can be too much. You can always pay for Apple iCloud though.
With that said, there’s really nothing the iPad Air can’t handle. Apple’s iPad Air is the best option if you’re looking for a great tablet that can handle anything you throw at it while not being too expensive.
Apple iPad Pro (12.9-inch)
128/256/512GB/1/2TB | Wi-Fi Cellular | Super-fast M2 chip | 2,732 x 2,048, 120Hz display
Apple’s 2022 12.9-inch iPad Pro is the best of what the company has to offer in a tablet. The only reason it isn’t in the top spot is because it’s probably a bit too much tablet for most users and, subsequently, is very expensive.
The iPad Pro is packed full of advanced features. The 2,732 x 2,048 resolution screen is what Apple calls a liquid retina XDR display that’s powered by over 10,000 mini-LEDs. It’s bright, sharp, and colourful and with the 120Hz refresh rate is buttery smooth to navigate.
The M2 chip inside allows the iPad Pro to handle anything you can throw at it; in fact, you probably won’t be able to find a use case for so much power. Theoretically, it can handle four 4K video editing sessions simultaneously, it’s a beast.
Like the iPad Air, it’s compatible with the Apple ecosystem, the Apple Pencil and Magic keyboard work here as well, and it comes with various storage options.
If you want the most advanced tablet on the market, then Apple’s 12.9-inch iPad Pro is it. Just be warned, it’s very expensive.
Samsung Galaxy Tab S8
128/256GB | Wi-Fi Cellular | 13-hour battery | 2,560 x 1,600, 120Hz display
Samsung’s Galaxy Tab S8 is a great tablet option for Android users.
The standout here is the battery life. The Tab S8 boasts a 13-hour battery life which is an impressive achievement for a tablet with a 2,560 x 1,600, 120Hz display.
While the performance isn’t quite as good as the Apple tablets, the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 chip inside does a good enough job and can handle most of what you throw at it. Don’t expect 4K video editing capabilities, though.
The Tab S8 is compatible with Samsung’s stylus, the S-Pen, and you can also purchase a detachable Book Cover Keyboard Slim. These accessories are separate purchases, but they work well, transforming the Tab 8 into a laptop or artbook.
The Tab S8 has a nice sleek, 11-inch design and it’s a great option for Android users.
Apple iPad (10th Generation)
64/256GB | Wi-Fi Cellular | A14 chip | 2,360 x 1,640, 60Hz display
Powered by Apple’s A14 chip, the 10th Gen iPad isn’t quite as powerful as the iPad Air higher up on this list, but it still boasts impressive performance capabilities.
This is a more affordable iPad that is more than capable of delivering a pleasurable experience.
Coming in a range of vibrant colours, the iPad is a funky-looking tablet with a crisp 2,360 x 1,640 display. The screen is held back by its 60Hz refresh rate, but it’s fine. A higher refresh rate would add to the price.
If you’re looking for an affordable tablet that can keep up with the best of the best, Apple’s 10th Gen iPad is a great option.
Samsung Galaxy Tab S8 Ultra
128/256GB | Wi-Fi Cellular | Big 14.6-inch size | 2,960 x 1,848, 120Hz display
Samsung’s Galaxy Tab S8 Ultra is the biggest tablet on this list. At 14.6-inches, it’s a beast, but unfortunately, it doesn’t have the performance capabilities to match its physical size.
Powered by the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 chipset, it’s more than capable of opening several apps at once, surfing the web and playing graphically demanding games, but it’s a long way off the iPad’s capabilities.
This is essentially the best of the best of what Samsung has to offer in a tablet. It has a stunning Super AMOLED 2,960 x 1,848 120Hz display. It boasts a sleek, premium design and impressively comes with Samsung’s S-Pen stylus included. But this is an expensive tablet, and it won’t be for everyone.
If you’re looking for a big, and I mean really big, tablet, this is the one for you. But if you’re looking for something more affordable, the S8 Ultra’s younger sibling, the standard S8, will serve your needs perfectly.
Microsoft Surface Pro 8
128/256GB/1TB | Wi-Fi Cellular | i5 or i7 processor | 2,880 x 1,920, 120Hz display
Microsoft’s Surface Pro 8 is a great-looking tablet boasting the best display on this list. Videos, images and colours are sharp, vibrant and bright, and the 120Hz refresh rate makes navigating the tablet silky smooth.
The Surface Pro 8 comes in several different configurations. The better i7 processor adds a lot to the price, so if you’re looking for a tablet for performance, you should consider upgrading.
The Pro 8 feels more like a 2-in-1 than an outright tablet. Its Pro Signature Keyboard is an expensive add-on, but it’s the best detachable keyboard. It’s lovely to type on and is well-spaced.
The Surface Pro 8 would be higher up on the list. Everything you would want in a tablet is here. However, it’s held back by its price. This is an expensive tablet.
What to consider when buying the best tablet
How much should I spend on a tablet?
The number of tablets available here in NZ is limited compared to other countries. Often, we don’t get every tablet a company releases; sometimes, we don’t receive them at all. This doesn’t make the buying decision any easier though, as there’s still an extensive range of tablets available here in NZ.
Tablets can range from as low as 150 to as high as 4,000. As with most technology, the higher the price, the more the tablet has to offer and the more capable it is. The lowest-priced tablets can’t do much and often suffer from slow performance, while the highest-priced tablets are usually reserved for commercial or professional type uses.
If you’re looking for a capable tablet that brings enough to the table to warrant the investment, you’ll be looking at a price between 800 – 1,500. Anything below that range won’t have enough features to make it a best of the best tablet, and anything above it, while it will have the most advanced features, will probably be too much tablet for most people.
What tech ecosystem do you subscribe to?
Like earbuds, phones and smartwatches, you should always consider what tech ecosystem you subscribe to when buying a tablet.
Technology has become more insular in that products work best when combined with other products made by the same company.
If you’re an Apple user, an iPad will be your best option because of how well it works with other Apple products. The same can be said about Samsung tablets and others.
Android tablets are a bit different in that they can work with devices from multiple companies. However, they’re still at their best when paired with other products made by the same company.
Before buying a tablet, think about what phone, earbuds or smartwatch you have and choose a tablet accordingly.
What display specs do I need in a tablet?
The display is one of the most crucial features of a tablet. They are essentially just one big portable display.
You should consider four things here: the size of the display, the resolution of the display, the refresh rate and the brightness.
The size of the display is exactly that, how big the tablet’s screen is. A lot of tablets come in varying sizes. The iPad Pro, for example, comes in an 11-inch and a 12.9-inch model. Consider how large you want the display and choose a tablet accordingly.
The display’s resolution is how sharp the picture is going to be. The higher the resolution, the higher the quality. Text will look sharper; you’ll be able to see more detail on images and more. Be warned this is a feature that pushes the price up significantly. Usually, a higher resolution display will mean you have to spend more on the tablet.
The refresh rate is how smooth the display will feel when using it. A higher refresh rate means the smoother the screen will be. Again this adds to the price, though.
Brightness is a less critical feature; however, if you use your tablet outside, especially in direct sunlight, you’ll want a tablet with high maximum brightness. This is measured in nits, and the higher the number of nits, the brighter the screen will be.
Performance capabilities matter
A massive differentiator between the best and worst tablets is performance capabilities.
Tablets with fast, efficient processors are capable of a lot more. Apps will open quickly; you can have multiple Windows open, and also, the best processors are more efficient, meaning they don’t use as much battery.
An excellent way to gauge the performance capabilities is to determine which processor the tablet has and how much random-access memory (RAM) it has.
RAM sets the upper limit of tasks the tablet can handle simultaneously. Basically, the more RAM a tablet has, the more capable it is. RAM means you’ll be able to open more apps at once. But the processor is the main component here.
If you’re looking for a tablet that can run complicated tasks simultaneously, always look into the performance capabilities.
How big is the battery?
As with all tech products, battery life is incredibly important. What good is a tablet if it doesn’t have the battery capacity to match your usage.
A good way to gauge the battery life is the size of the battery. Usually, bigger batteries have more life in them meaning you’ll get more use of the tablet.
How much storage capacity does the tablet have?
Often tablets come with different storage space. While Cloud storage options are available with most brands, you can spend a bit more to get a higher amount of on-device storage.
If you’re someone who saves a lot of videos, photos and files, think about upgrading to a tablet with more base storage.
The initial investment might be more expensive, but you won’t have to pay as much for Cloud storage.
Does my tablet need Wi-Fi and cellular?
If you think you’ll be using your tablet in spots where you don’t have Wi-Fi access, there are options out there that allow you to use cellular data.
This is like a phone; you’ll have to purchase data and a SIM card to use it outside of Wi-Fi coverage.
Be aware, cellular capabilities often add to the price.
Think about how you’ll be using your tablet and purchase a model that suits your needs.