What’s the best tablet? The best all-round tablet is the iPad Air 2, but if you’re looking for an Android tablet you should look instead to the Samsung Galaxy Tab S2. There are plenty of alternatives to choose from here, too. Learn more about these top tablets in our best tablets chart below.
These are the best tablets to buy in the UK in 2016. Scroll down (or click this link) for our 20 best tablets reviews, or read on for our general buying advice along with full tablet reviews of the best-value tablets, best iPads and best Android tablets. . (Also see: Best SIM-only deals: Best SIM-only and Data SIM deals for smartphone and tablet users.)
New tablets have been thin on the ground this year, but there are still lots of good buys. The latest entry below is Apple’s new smaller iPad Pro, but the extra power, features and cost mean the older iPad Air 2 is still the best value choice for many. There are still a few launches to come: Lenovo announced cheap Android tablets at MWC 2016 andHuawei launched the MateBook. There’s also the Alcatel Plus 10.
Best Tablets Buying AdviceIn this article, we’re talking about the best tablets money can buy. If you’re on a tight budget, you should be reading our best budget tablets roundup. And if you’re looking for a tablet for your child, check out our best kids’ tablets article.
If you’re still here, you’ve got three main choices: an iPad, an Android tablet and a Windows tablet.
Apple iPads run Apple’s own iOS operating system which is widely regarded as one of the best out there. It’s easy to use and app makers usually make it their first choice, so you’re pretty much guaranteed to find what you’re after.
This is valuable when you buy accessories which require apps – mainly smart home or fitness gadgets – as you may not be able to control these from a Windows tablet.
In most cases, apps are made available on Android as well as iPads, but not always. Android tablets can be cheaper than iPads, but there are some Samsung models which cost the same or are more expensive. Windows tablets come in both cheap and expensive guises, but although Windows is the ‘worst’ of the tablet operating systems, it has the advantage of being able to run the same programs you use on your laptop or PC – not just finger-friendly tablet apps. The latest version of Android is Android 6.0 Marshmallow.
And that’s why most Windows tablets come with a keyboard, or offer it as an option: they’re really a hybrid of a laptop and tablet. But as you’ll find out in most of our Windows tablet reviews, this is rarely a case of getting the best of both worlds. One exception is the Surface Pro 4 from Microsoft.
For more on this, see our articles: The best Android tablets of 2016 UK and Best Windows tablets.
There’s also a fourth option: Amazon’s Fire tablets. These are based on Android but are locked into Amazon’s system: you won’t find any Google services or apps on them.
What Do You Want A Tablet For?Tablets are great for watching videos and TV, for playing games, reading eBooks, and browsing the web. Sharing photos and catching up via Facebook, Instagram or Pinterest are all great on iPads and Android tabs. And you can catch up on email, too.
They’re not so good if you need to create a newsletter, presentation or write up a report. Printing off a spreadsheet or document can prove problematic if you don’t have a printer that’s compatible with your particular tablet. These things are possible, but you’ll find it’s much easier on a laptop or PC.
You can install extra software – known as apps – on a tablet, much like you can on a PC. Many are free, but some cost a few pounds. You have to install apps from the respective store on your tablet: Apple’s App Store on an iPad, the Google Play Store on an Android tablet and the Amazon Appstore on a Fire Tablet.
On a Windows 10 tablet you can install normal Windows software, but you also get to browse the Windows Store for dedicated tablet apps. But the selection is much more limited than on the other types of tablet.
The same is true of music- and other media: you can buy it from Apple, Google, Amazon or Microsoft. You can also transfer your own music, videos and photos to your tablet from a PC or access them from many cloud storage services. Apple, Google, Amazon and Microsoft have their own cloud services but you can also use others, such as Dropbox, which let you store files and media and get to them from all your devices, no matter whether a phone, tablet, laptop or PC.
Here’s the bottom line: for fun, you need an iPad- or Android tablet. For work, go Windows. But only if you can afford the best.
DisplayTablets come in many sizes ranging from almost smartphone-sized screens up to around 13in. So one of the first decisions is how big a tablet you want. For some, a 7-8in tablet is perfect as it’s big enough to be more comfortable to use (for web browsing, say) than an phone, but small enough to fit into a handbag and less strain on your wrist when you are lying or sitting at home.
Larger tablets usually have a 10in screen, and this is the ‘standard’ size Apple has used since the very first iPad.
Now, there are more larger tablets to choose between, including several of Microsoft’s Surface tablets running Windows and Apple’s 12.9in iPad Pro.
Larger tablets are better for productivity and tend to have more powerful processors, but are heavier and – obviously – larger and less portable.
These days screens are better quality and there are fewer duds, but it’s still worth reading our reviews to find out if there are any particularly good or bad ones. You can look for specifications such as resolution, pixel density and aspect ratio, but none will tell you anything about a screen’s colour accuracy, contrast or brightness. Look for an IPS or AMOLED screen and avoid anything with a TN screen.
For a decently sharp image, look for a pixel density higher than 160ppi (pixels per inch). Many Android tablets have widescreen displays with an aspect ratio of 16:9 (the same as a TV), while iPads have 4:3 screens, like old non-widescreen TVs. One isn’t better than the other, unless you already know you will primarily use your tablet for watching TV shows (go for a 16:9 screen). For almost everything else, a 4:3 or 3:2 screen is a more comfortable option.
ConnectivityIf you need to get on the internet while you’re out and about with your tablet, you might want to go for one which will accept a 3G or 4G SIM card (like your phone). Not many Android tablets have this option, but all iPads do.
Just bear in mind that you’ll pay more for a tablet will a SIM slot and that you’ll need to pay for a special data-only SIM, either on a contract or a monthly pay-as-you-go deal. For most people it’s not worth it: you can use your phone to go online, or set your phone up as a Wi-Fi hotspot so that an ordinary tablet with Wi-Fi (but no SIM card) can get online.
And there are so many Wi-Fi hotspots around these days that it’s rarely necessary to have a tablet with 3G or 4G connectivity.
All tablets have Wi-Fi but some have the older 802.11n version and some also support the newer 802.11ac standard. In practice, it doesn’t really matter as even the older 802.11n standard is perfectly fast enough and not that many Wi-Fi hotspots (including home routers) support the faster 802.11ac standard. In any case, both are faster than the average broadband speed.
Other important features will be Bluetooth and – potentially – NFC. Wireless charging is starting to become important, too. Some tablets may come with an infrared transmitter – or IR blaster – which means you can use it to control other gadgets around your house such as your TV.
It’s unlikely you will want GPS in a tablet, but if you do want to use it as a navigation device make sure you get one with a GPS receiver. Only Wi-Fi + cellular iPads have this – Wi-Fi only iPads don’t have GPS.
iPads also have their own proprietary charging cable with a ‘Lightning’ connector. This means that you need peripherals that work specifically with the iPad. Android- and Windows tablets typically connect via a microUSB port which means you can use a standard cable and charger, although some Windows tablets also have full-sized USB connectors which are very handy for attaching a USB flash drive, hard drive or even a keyboard or printer. Reversible USB Type-C is becoming more common, too.
If you need to connect a USB flash drive to your tablet, Android can also be a good option as long as its microUSB port supports OTG (on the go), and you’ll also need a specific OTG flash drive with a microUSB connector.
Finally, do you want to hook up your tablet to a TV? If so, look for one with an HDMI output in some form. It’s more common on Android tablets, but you can buy an adaptor for an iPad which lets you connect a standard HDMI cable. Bear in mind that not all apps allow you to view them on a big screen, for example the Sky Go app.
There are ways to connect tablets wirelessly to a TV: iPads use Apple’s AirPlay standard (you’d need an Apple TV box as well) and Android tablets may use Miracast or you could buy a £35 Google Chromecast and use your Android tablet like a giant remote control for that. For more, see how to connect Android tablets to a TV.
StorageStorage is important, but it’s most important with tablets that don’t have a microSD slot, because this means you can’t add more storage after you’ve bought the tablet. iPads don’t have microSD slots, and the same is true for a few Android tablets and older Amazon Fire tablets.
The headline number for internal storage can be misleading. For example an 8GB tablet might have only 5GB of free space available to use: the rest is taken up by the operating system and pre-installed apps. Windows tablets can be the worst for this: a 64GB Microsoft Surface might have as little as 23GB of usable space.
Add-on storage like microSD cards and USB drives might be cheap, but they’re not as good as built-in storage because not all tablets allow you to install apps on a microSD card. Performance might suffer, too, as some USB drives and microSD cards are much slower than internal storage.
The Other StuffGenerally, you won’t have to think about processor and RAM (memory) when choosing a tablet. And, as with screen specifications, don’t read too much into them. If you’re in any way concerned about performance, be sure to check our reviews to see not only benchmark results and comparisons, but also to find out what a tablet is like to use day to day.
Tablets – like phones – have cameras, but most are fairly poor quality compared to the best phones. We’ll always comment on quality in our reviews, so don’t go by megapixel ratings. Anything below 5Mp is to be avoided if this is an important area, and make sure your chosen tablet has a front camera of 2Mp or better if you want to use Skype or another video calling app (1.2Mp is ok if it’s an iPad).
Battery lifeFinally, there’s battery life. You don’t want your tablet to last less than around six hours, and the recharge time is worth knowing, too. Some tablets take almost as long to charge as they do to discharge.
As a benchmark, every iPad lasts about 10 hours or so for watching videos or browsing the web. That’s multiple days with ‘normal’ use. Many cheaper tablets skimp on battery life and since you’re rarely going to want to you a tablet that’s tethered to the mains, make sure you pick one that lasts a long time between charges.
To find out more about what to look out for take a look at this feature: which tablet should I buy?
20 Best Tablets Of 2016: Best Tablet Reviews
20. Dell Venue 8 7000
- Reviewed on: 20 August 15
- RRP: £369 inc VAT
19. Nexus 7 (2013)
- Reviewed on: 22 July 14
- RRP: £199 (32 GB)/£239 (1 32GB)
18. Sony Xperia Z2 Tablet
- Reviewed on: 17 April 14
- RRP: From £399 inc VAT
17. Samsung Galaxy Tab S 10.5
- Reviewed on: 1 August 14
- Buy for £399 inc VAT
16. Google Nexus 9
- Reviewed on: 18 May 15
- RRP: £299 inc VAT
15. Microsoft Surface Pro 3
- Reviewed on: 22 January 16
- Buy for From £639 inc VAT
14. iPad mini 2
- Reviewed on: 16 December 13
- RRP: £239 inc. VAT
13. Apple iPad Air 1
- Reviewed on: 12 February 14
- RRP: Wi-Fi: £319 (16GB), £359 (32GB). Cellular: £419 (16GB), £459 (32GB). Higher storage capacities no longer available
12. iPad Pro
- Reviewed on: 8 December 15
- Buy for £679 (32GB, WiFi); £799 (128GB, WiFi); £899 (128GB, cellular). US pricing $799/$949/$1079
11. Microsoft Surface Pro 4
- Reviewed on: 30 June 16
- RRP: From £749 inc VAT (model tested £1079)
10. Xiaomi Mi Pad 2
- Reviewed on: 26 January 16
- Buy for £144 inc VAT
9. Sony Xperia Z4 Tablet
- Reviewed on: 28 July 15
- Buy for £499 inc VAT
8. Amazon Fire
- Reviewed on: 26 April 16
- RRP: £49 inc VAT
7. Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact
- Reviewed on: 2 December 14
- RRP: £269 inc. VAT
6. Samsung Galaxy Tab S 8.4
- Reviewed on: 27 August 14
- RRP: £319 inc VAT
5. iPad mini 4
- Reviewed on: 25 September 15
- RRP: From £319 inc VAT (16GB)
4. Google Pixel C
- Reviewed on: 20 January 16
- Buy for £399 inc VAT ($500) for 32GB; £479 inc VAT ($600) for 64GB
3. Apple iPad Pro 9.7in
- Reviewed on: 18 April 16
- RRP: From £499 inc VAT
2. Samsung Galaxy Tab S2 8
- Reviewed on: 13 April 16
- RRP: £319
1. Apple iPad Air 2
- Reviewed on: 22 March 16
- RRP: From £349 inc VAT