Even if you have a very capable smartphone and a nice laptop, one of the best tablets can still be worth adding to your tech arsenal.
The touchscreen that can be carried anywhere makes for a portable studio for creatives, a crucial sidekick for commuters and frequent travelers, and a mini TV for people who aren’t missing the newest episode of Bridgerton just because they’re on vacation.
Pretty much anyone can enjoy a tablet. Whether you’re looking for a kids edition tablet or something to be more creative, there are plenty of excellent options out there.
Before you dive in though, we’ve got a simple question to help narrow down your options. Are you an Apple person? That helps you immediately know if an Apple iPad is for you or if something like a Samsung Galaxy or even a Microsoft Surface Pro is more appealing. One of the biggest deciding factors is which operating system you’re most comfortable with.
Whatever your thoughts, the buying guide below lays out the pros and cons of the main picks from Apple, Amazon, Samsung, Microsoft, and a ChromeOS option too.
Are refurbished tablets worth buying?
Taking a refurbished device off the market is a great way to save money — and save that device from going where e-waste goes to die. Refurbished or renewed tablets are often next to impossible to tell apart from a brand new one. Cosmetic dings are a possibility (the retailer will mention this) but unless stated otherwise, the devices have been reworked and tested to run like new. iPads are probably the easiest tablet to find refurbished, both at Amazon and Apple’s website with options including the iPad Pro, iPad Air, iPad mini, and more.
What about a tablet for your kid?
Most tablets made specifically for kids will already be equipped with built-in parental accounts, timers, and pre-selected websites or apps that are strictly for kids.
General-purpose tablets aren’t a bad choice, either — many sites name the Apple iPad as one of the best tablets for kids even though it’s an everyone tablet. These won’t have any parental guardrails baked in, so you’ll need to get creative if you’d rather your kid not have unlimited access to the internet. Apple and Android have features that can filter or block content and prevent purchases, but the closest thing you’ll be able to get to close monitoring is by installing parental control software(Opens in a new tab). Such monitoring features are easy to toggle off or uninstall as your kid gets older or if the family is sharing the device. In the latter case, Osmo(Opens in a new tab) is a neat snap-on kit that connects to iPads and Fire tablets for augmented reality-ish learning exercises and games. When your kid moves a physical piece in real life, the same piece moves on the screen. There’s always the option of a kids edition tablet too or simply finding the most robust android tablet for younger children.
Which brand of tablet is best?
Apple is a commanding presence in the best tablet field, but that doesn’t mean it will suit everyone. While it offers an extensive range of products including the high-end iPad Pro, the powerful yet slightly cheaper iPad Air, and the lightweight and small iPad mini, it can get expensive. For one thing, if you want a tablet to sketch out designs, you’ll need to add the price of a stylus pen in the form of the Apple Pencil.
In contrast, some Android tablets like the Samsung Galaxy Tab S8 include a stylus pen so there’s no additional fee to pay there.
You also need to think about what operating system you prefer. iOS is great to use but if all your other devices are Android-based, you may prefer to stick with Android. A third option is to consider a ChromeOS-based tablet but again, you want it to play nicely with other devices. Go with what you’re comfortable with.
What are tablets good for?
Tablets are a great middle-ground between laptops and smartphones. If you’ve ever felt like you need more space when using your phone, such as to watch your favorite show, draw a design, or simply browse the internet, the best tablets mean you don’t have to worry about digging out your laptop. The best tablet is a great blend of the convenience of a laptop or desktop system alongside the lightweight nature of a phone. Easy to toss into your bag and take traveling, they can entertain your kids or give you something to do while on the move, all without being as full-on as a laptop.
Can you FaceTime on a tablet?
If you buy an Apple iPad, you can use FaceTime to call friends and enjoy video chats with them. You can also use iMessage through your iPad with such functionality extending across the range from iPad mini to iPad Pro. However, if you go for an Android tablet, you will need to use a third-party app like WhatsApp, Skype, or Signal to call friends and family.
Here are the best tablets you can buy in 2022:
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