The Best Tablets 2020 – TechSpot

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Tablets may not be as hot as they once were, and for power users they are far from a true PC replacement. But the form factor is still popular and useful for many case scenarios. Tablets have also kept evolving and come as a more affordable form of computing.

Case in point, when millions were forced into working and studying from home, tablets nearly became a necessity for teleconferencing, or if you needed a second screen to be more productive, all while being less expensive than a full blown laptop.

With millions of tablets shipped every year, tech giants such as Apple, Microsoft, and Samsung are constantly releasing new, more powerful products. Our tablet buying guide looks at the best overall tablets, the best for productivity, Android tablets, and more. If you’re thinking about buying a new slate, make sure you check out this article first.

The Best Tablet for Most People

Great | Differentiating Features

Excellent value/performance ratio. Retina display looks good. Supports both Apple keyboard and Apple Pencil.

Good | Most Have It

A10 Fusion processor still a good performer.

Average | Competitors May Be Better

Bezels remain thick. Lacks premium features.

iPads have typically been among the less expensive products you can buy from Cupertino, but the company released an impressive, $329 product in the 2018 iPad. That tablet has since been discontinued and replaced by the newest entry-level iPad for the same price (10.2-inch, 2019 model).

What’s changed in this revision? There’s the slightly bigger Retina display, which means the overall footprint is slightly larger, but the thickness remains the same, and the resolution jumps to retain a solid 264 ppi, which is the same as the iPad Pros, though the screen isn’t laminated and lacks an anti-reflective coating.

The iPad internals include the A10 Fusion SoC and embedded M10 coprocessor. Battery life and the cameras (1.2MP front, 8MP rear, Full HD 30fps video) are also unchanged, and you still get Touch ID, but the most affordable iPad now works with Apple’s Smart Keyboard, which makes it a very compelling buy for those on a budget. If you’re a casual tablet user or want a child-friendly powerful slate, you won’t find a better mix of price and performance.

The Best Overall Tablet

Great | Differentiating Features

Amazing performance. 120Hz refresh rate display. Face ID. Solid camera array. LiDAR scanner.

Good | Most Have It

Impressive battery life.

Average | Competitors May Be Better

Expensive. Still not a direct laptop replacement. Pencil and Magic Magnetic Keyboard sold separately.

In the world of tablets, nothing comes close to beating an iPad. Apple’s 4th-gen iPad Pro sees a number of updates and spec bumps compared to the previous iteration for the same price on a nearly identical body. The iPad Pro 11-inch remains our top pick as the best tablet you can buy, even if it’s nearly as expensive as a good budget laptop.

This iPad certainly earns its Pro moniker: the 8-core, A12Z Bionic chip is a powerhouse, allowing you to burn through the most processor-intensive games and apps without a hitch. Apple goes so far as to claim it’s “faster and more powerful than most Windows PC laptops,” something we’ll learn eventually when Arm-based Macs make it to market. In the meantime, by some measures, they may be right as this SoC is very well suited for this kind of device and it does get killer battery life.

Arguably, the most noticeable update to the iPad Pro in this generation is added support for the new magnetic Magic Keyboard that features a floating design and cantilevered hinges to support viewing angles of up to 130 degrees. Along with updates to iPadOS, the iPad is as close as it’s ever been to becoming a laptop replacement.

Other updates for this 4th-gen 2020 release include base model spec bumps to 128GB of storage, 6GB RAM and Wi-Fi 6 support. Also, the square camera module resembles the iPhone 11 which gets you a 12MP wide lens, 10MP ultrawide and a new LiDAR scanner for AR experiences (that part is largely unused as of writing).

While the large 12.9-inch Pro is great, it’s overkill unless you intend to do a huge amount of typing and multitasking. The 11-inch version will likely be the better choice for most people — the fact it’s $200 cheaper is also a bonus.

The iPad’s ProMotion display boasts of a buttery smooth 120Hz refresh rate, which makes scrolling through web pages a joy. There’s also Face ID and narrow bezels that make this a svelte and well crafted slate. You also get a USB-C connector instead of a Lightning port, so you can charge your iPhone using the iPad, and there’s the Apple Pencil — sold separately — which attaches magnetically to the side, it’s very responsive and delivers a very polished user experience.

Since the previous generation, the price of iPad Pros have dropped to start at $799.

Buying the Pro’s optional Smart Keyboard isn’t going to make it a straight laptop replacement, because of both hardware and software limitations, but then again it’s also the software that differentiates and makes the iPad the best on this form factor. For lovers of slates, there’s none better.

Best Productivity Tablet

Great | Differentiating Features

Windows productivity on a 10th-gen Intel Ice Lake CPU. Still one of the best non-iPad tablets.

Good | Most Have It

Gorgeous display and long battery life.

Average | Competitors May Be Better

Few changes over last-gen model. Cover and keyboard still cost extra.

The latest update to Microsoft’s 2-in-1 is a minor one. The Surface Pro 7 adds support for USB Type-C, though there’s still no Thunderbolt 3, and it now has Wi-Fi 6 support. It packs Intel’s new 10th-gen, 10nm Ice Lake-U series processors, replacing the older Kaby Lake-R chips. Internal storage is also slightly faster, and battery life is improved. The biggest performance improvement you might notice, however, could come from the integrated Iris Plus graphics.

Pretty much everything else in the Pro 7 is unchanged from the last version, including the same solid case with kickstand that allows it to be used at different angles. The design has been altered little since the Surface Pro 4, but Microsoft will probably say, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

The gorgeous, 12.3-inch IPS display uses the same 3:2 aspect ratio (2736 x 1824) we’ve come to expect from Surface devices, making it great for productivity tasks. You also get an 8-megapixel camera on the rear and a 5-megapixel cam on the front for Windows Hello. And while the top-specced machine can cost close to $2,000, the Core-i5 model can be found for as low as $800.

The downside is that, like Apple’s iPads, buying the excellent Type Cover keyboard and stylus costs extra. It’s also not worth buying if you currently own a Surface Pro 6, but for everyone else, this is an excellent choice for productivity on the go or when you need a solid tablet.

Best Android Tablet

Great | Differentiating Features

Best performance in an Android tablet. Gorgeous screen. S-Pen included.

Good | Most Have It

Great battery life, cameras, and speakers.

Average | Competitors May Be Better

Android OS still isn’t the best for tablets. Pricey.

There are a ton of Android tablets on the market, many of which aren’t worth your money – no matter how inexpensive they are. But Samsung’s devices are an exception: they’re neither cheap nor nasty. And the best the company offers right now is the Galaxy Tab S6.

While no Android tablet can challenge the iPad yet, the Galaxy Tab S6 is the top alternative for those who are happy to use Google’s ecosystem. Like Apple’s product, it carries a stylish design and a gorgeous display. The screen is the S6’s standout feature. The 10.5-inch super-AMOLED has a 2560 x 1600 resolution (288 ppi) that’s so bright and vibrant it can be read outdoors on a sunny day.

Boasting a Snapdragon 855 SoC, the Tab S6 is among the most powerful Android tablets you can buy. It comes with either 6GB of RAM with 128GB of storage or 8GB with 256GB of space, which can be boosted to 1TB via microSD. It’s also great for gaming, thanks to the Adreno 640 graphics and four Dolby-Atmos speakers.

The Galaxy Tab S6 comes with an upgraded S-Pen (included in the price) that in addition to the usual stylus abilities, includes remote control functionality, allowing you to take selfies or control multimedia remotely. Other specs include 13-megapixel and 5-megapixel cameras on the rear and an 8MP front-facing shooter, as well as a 7,040mAh battery that Samsung says allows 15 hours of video playback.

At around $549, the Tab S6 is more expensive than most other Android slates, but you get what you pay for. If you’re after a premium Android tablet, this is it, unless you want to wait some more as the Galaxy Tab S7’s release in just around the corner.

Alternatives

Samsung Galaxy Tab S5e

If you really like the look of the S6 but won’t or can’t pay full price, opting for the Galaxy Tab S5e gets you something somewhat similar, albeit with a less-powerful processor and no S-Pen support, for several hundred dollars less.

Do note that recently Samsung released a more affordable option that aims to compete with the base iPad, however the Tab S6 Lite is not a good replacement for the S5e. The S5e offers better value for money, it’s more lightweight, with a better display, battery life and camera quality.

Huawei MediaPad M5 10.8 Pro

For something a bit cheaper than the Galaxy S6 but with similar specs and features, there’s Huawei’s MediaPad M5 10.8 Pro, which is usually available from Amazon for ~$450. Like the S6, the MediaPad has a 2560 x 1600 (280 ppi) resolution on its slightly larger 10.8-inch IPS screen. It’s powered by Huawei’s Kirin 960 SoC, which is more powerful than the non-Pro M5, but can’t match the Snapdragon 855 found in Samsung’s tablet.

You get four Harman Kardon speakers, 13MP and 8MP cameras, a long battery life, and quick charging. It also supports LTE cat 6. While the MediaPad M5 10.8 Pro might not match the S6 in some areas, the near $100 saving makes it a worthy consideration.

A Budget Option

For a tablet that’s less than half the price of the iPad, there’s Amazon’s Fire HD 10. The 64GB version is just $150 and runs the company’s Android-based Fire OS. The Fire HD tablets haven’t changed much coming from previous models, but pricing has always been a major focal point and in that regard the HD 10 doesn’t disappoint.

With a crisp, bright screen and fairly loud speakers, the Fire HD 10 is a cost-effective device for those who use tablets sparingly for content consumption, or if you want something cheap for your kids, and it’s even more useful if you have a Prime subscription.

The Fire 10 features hands-free Alexa, allowing it to work in the same way as Amazon’s many Echo devices. But you can only access Amazon’s App store, so no Google services — unless you’re willing to sideload them.

In this latest iteration, the Fire HD 10 has added a USB-C port, powered by a 2GHz quad-core CPU and 2GB of RAM. The display measures in at 10.1-inch (1920 x 1200, 224 ppi) and you get 32GB or 64GB of onboard storage that’s expandable by another 256GB via microSD, all of which is nice for that low price point.



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