After hundreds of hours of research and testing over the past seven years, we think Apple’s 10.2-inch iPad is the best all-around tablet, with all the performance and features most people need for watching video, browsing the Internet, and staying on top of email and social media feeds. But we also have recommendations for people who want an Android tablet; a basic ebook reader; or a more powerful tablet for gaming, design and creative tasks, or for replacing a laptop computer.
- The best all-around tablet: Apple 10.2-inch iPad
- An upgrade for multitaskers and creatives: Apple iPad Pro
- The best Android tablet: Huawei MediaPad M5
- A budget tablet for media: Kindle Fire HD 8
- The best ebook reader: Amazon Kindle Paperwhite
- What about the Microsoft Surface (and other Windows tablets and convertibles)?
The best all-around tablet: Apple 10.2-inch iPad
Who this is for: You want a great all-around tablet that can handle pretty much any task.
Why we like it: Great hardware, an easy-to-use operating system, and a huge library of quality apps make Apple’s iPads the best tablets for most people, even if you normally use Android on your phone or Windows on your computer. iOS also receives frequent updates—including prompt security updates—which isn’t something you can say of any modern Android tablet.
The seventh-generation 10.2-inch iPad is the best tablet for most people right now because it’s fast and affordable, it’s got a nice screen, it’s compatible with the Apple Pencil stylus, and it will receive software updates from Apple for years to come. The standard 32 GB model should be good enough for you if you plan to use the iPad mostly for streaming music and video, reading, browsing the Internet, and playing casual games, but you may want to upgrade to the 128 GB model if you plan to use it to play graphically intense games or download lots of media.
Flaws but not dealbreakers: The seventh-generation iPad is just a bit worse than the iPad Pro models in every way. Its smaller screen can’t fit as much information and lacks an antireflective coating, and animations and scrolling don’t look as smooth; in addition, this model is not quite as fast. Most people wouldn’t miss any of these things, but the iPad Pro is worth considering instead if you’re trying to use an iPad as your primary computing device.
For more on the seventh-generation iPad and how it compares to other iPad models, read our full guide to Apple’s iPad lineup.
An upgrade for multitaskers and creatives: Apple iPad Pro
This model is essentially identical to the 11-inch iPad Pro, but with a huge 12.9-inch screen that’s better for serious creative work and multitasking.
Who this is for: You want a larger, better screen and the best possible performance for viewing and editing photos and video, multitasking, and other tasks you’d normally do with a regular computer.
Why we like it: The larger screens on both the 11-inch and 12.9-inch iPad Pro models let you see more stuff compared with the 10.2-inch iPad, but they are also more color-accurate and have an anti-glare coating and a higher refresh rate, making the Pros better for working with photos and as canvases for artists who make a lot of use of the Apple Pencil. The Pro models also include the best cameras in any tablet, along with faster processors, which means you’ll spend less time waiting for apps to load when you’re using iOS’s multitasking features. Otherwise, the Pro models run the same apps and do all the same things as the standard iPad.
In March 2020, Apple introduced a new iPad Pro with a dual-camera for wide and ultra-wide shots, a faster processor, a LiDAR scanner for advanced augmented reality, and software-level mouse support. We’re testing it now.
Flaws but not dealbreakers: The iPad Pro’s biggest flaw is that the 10.2-inch iPad is great at all the things you’d typically want to use a tablet for—the current version even supports Apple’s first-gen Pencil. Most people don’t need to spend twice as much (or more) for the Pro’s extra speed and better screen. The switch to USB-C also means you can’t charge your iPhone and iPad with the same cable anymore, and any existing accessories you own won’t work with your new iPad Pro. Apple has also removed the 3.5 mm headphone jack from iPad Pro models, so you’ll need a USB-C dongle or a pair of wireless headphones (if you didn’t already buy some to use with your headphone-jack-free iPhone).
Apple advertises the iPad Pro as a replacement for a traditional PC, but whether it can serve that purpose depends on what you do, how you work, and what apps you use. In general, iPad Pro keyboard cases and covers aren’t as nice as standalone Bluetooth keyboards or the keyboards on the best laptops. Drawing and photo-editing apps are well-suited to touchscreen and Apple Pencil controls and benefit from the iPad Pro’s large, color-accurate screen.
For more on how the iPad Pro models compare to the sixth-generation iPad, read our full guide to Apple’s iPad lineup.
The best Android tablet: Huawei MediaPad M5
Who this is for: You’re deeply invested in Google’s services or apps, you don’t mind an out-of-date Android operating system, and you really don’t want an iPad.
Why we like it: The Huawei MediaPad M5 has a bright, sharp, high-resolution 8.4-inch display, a powerful eight-core processor and 4 GB of RAM, so can handle any app or game you throw at it. The tablet’s stereo speakers sound great and the fingerprint sensor is fast and accurate. The 5,100 mAh battery is larger than what you get with most tablets of this size, and the M5 supports fast charging. The version of Android 8.0 Oreo on this tablet doesn’t come with any add-on junk software, but Huawei’s custom Android interface is cluttered in places. It’s not the absolute best Android tablet you can get right now—that would be Samsung’s Galaxy Tab S4, which costs nearly twice as much—but it’s by far the best value for the money.
Flaws but not dealbreakers: The MediaPad M5 8.4 runs last year’s version of Android, 8.0 Oreo. Oreo supports all the features we like to see on a tablet like picture-in-picture video and split-screen apps, but Huawei’s version of Android includes some clunky design choices, and there are custom features, like the floating navigation button, that just don’t work very well. This tablet also lacks a headphone jack, so you’ll have to use the included adapter for your 3.5mm headphones—or resort to Bluetooth.
All Android tablets have a questionable future, since Google is starting to push Chrome OS tablets (like the Pixel Slate) that can also run Android apps—Huawei may not have much reason to support this tablet in the future. It has received a few updates since its debut in the summer of 2018, but Huawei won’t commit to a Pie update at this time.
Visit our full guide to the best Android tablets if you want to read more about the Galaxy Tab S4 and other Android tablets we’ve tested.
A budget tablet for media: Kindle Fire HD 8
Who this is for: You want the cheapest tablet that’s good for reading and watching video, with access to a big library of video, ebooks, and music.
Why we like it: The Amazon Fire HD 8 costs only $80, an excellent value, and it’s frequently on sale for even less than that. It lets you stream video from Netflix, Hulu, HBO Now, and other popular services, and read your Kindle ebooks; it has built-in support for the Alexa voice assistant used by Amazon’s popular Echo devices, which makes ordering products and media from Amazon easier; and Amazon Prime customers get access to a selection of “free” movies, TV shows, and ebooks (though Amazon’s apps for iOS and other Android tablets all work similarly).
Flaws but not dealbreakers: The Fire HD 8 is slower and has a lower-resolution screen than any of our other picks, so text won’t be as crisp—the Kindle Paperwhite is better for reading ebooks—and its performance means you won’t like using it for anything more demanding than basic email or Web browsing. It’s also primarily limited to Amazon’s Android app store, which has a smaller selection of games and apps than even the regular Google Play store, which is already behind Apple’s App Store when it comes to great tablet apps. (It’s possible to install the Google Play Store on the Fire HD 8, but you do it at your own risk.) Unlike our other tablet picks, the Fire HD 8 really is best seen as a media-consumption device.
To find out how the Fire HD 8 stocks up against other Android tablets, see our guide to the best Android tablets.
The best ebook reader: Amazon Kindle Paperwhite
Who this is for: You don’t care about apps or browsing—you just want to read books.
Why we like it: Amazon’s Kindle Paperwhite isn’t a multipurpose tablet with a full-color screen, an app store, or even a fully functional Web browser, but it’s the best choice if you just want to read books on a device that’s easy to use and free of distractions. Its 6-inch 1440×1080 screen is sharp enough to be indistinguishable from paper, and its backlight (which you can turn off if you’re next to a lamp or outside) is gentler and easier on the eyes than an LCD screen. And while most of the tablets on our list can go a couple of days between charges at most, you probably won’t need to charge the Paperwhite more than once a month. Amazon has also made the Paperwhite IPX8 waterproof and added support for Audible audiobooks via Bluetooth headphones or speakers.
Flaws but not dealbreakers: Obviously, the Paperwhite is really good for only reading. Amazon offers an “experimental” Web browser on the device, but you’d never want to actually browse the Internet with it. The Paperwhite also doesn’t have an automatic brightness feature like the more expensive Kindle Oasis, but that’s a luxury tweak that most people don’t need to pay more for.
If you’re interested in Amazon’s more expensive Kindles or in non-Amazon options, read our full guide to ebook readers.
What about the Microsoft Surface (and other Windows tablets and convertibles)?
We also have a guide to pro tablets, where you can find additional information on Windows convertibles—our favorite is the Microsoft Surface Pro 7. Although it’s a solid laptop, it’s not a great tablet; Windows 10 isn’t a good tablet operating system, and most of its apps still work best with a keyboard and mouse. Our tablet picks are much less expensive than high end ultrabooks and much better for tablet-focused tasks like watching videos, browsing the Web, and using tablet apps. The iPad’s apps are also designed specifically for use on a tablet’s touchscreen, and there are more than enough media, productivity, and game options to keep most people happy.
About your guide
Andrew Cunningham is a senior staff writer on Wirecutter's tech team. He has been writing about laptops, phones, routers, and other tech since 2011. Before that he spent five years in IT fixing computers and helping people buy the best tech for their needs. He also co-hosts the book podcast Overdue and the TV podcast Appointment Television.