This story was updated in October 2021 to reflect the latest version of the iPad 10.2" based on testing by led by Chief Technologist & Director of Engineering Rachel Rothman and the Good Housekeeping Institute's Media & Tech Lab.
You likely already have a laptop, and even your kid likely has a smartphone, but a tablet — larger than a smartphone but smaller than a laptop — can be a useful addition to your tech stable, especially if your family enjoys ebooks, wants to stream different content at the same time or includes a casual gamer. There are also great picks for studying, traveling and working.
The experts in the Good Housekeeping Institute Media & Tech Lab have extensively evaluated dozens of tablets (including tablets designed specifically for toddlers and kids) over the last few years, road testing nearly 20 in the past year alone. When we test tablets, we consider the ergonomics and handling of each device as well as scrolling fluidity, touchscreen responsiveness, ease of web browsing and using various apps, portability and connectivity. Our analysts track the boot-up time and the time for apps to start up and noted the graphics and video quality, resistance to glare and audio quality. They measure the temperature during operation and extreme use as well as the battery life and operating noise.
Our picks are a combination of top-performing models and road tests of their updated versions as well as new-to-market products. These are the best tablets to buy in 2022:
- Best Overall Tablet: Apple iPad 10.2” 2021
- Best Value Tablet: Amazon Fire HD 10 2021
- Best Tablet for Everyday Use: Lenovo Yoga Smart Tab
- Best Tablet for Little Kids: Amazon Fire HD 8 Kids Tablet
- Best Tablet for Big Kids: Amazon Fire HD 10 Kids Pro Tablet
- Best Tablet for Students: Microsoft Surface Pro 7
- Best Tablet for Android Users: Samsung Galaxy Tab S7+
- Best Tablet for Work: Apple iPad Pro, 12.9”, 2021
- Best Tablet for Reading for Adults: Kindle Paperwhite
- Best 2-in-1 Tablet: Microsoft Surface Book 3
What are the best tablets?
The major players are Apple, Google, Microsoft and Amazon, so the best tablet for you might be from the brand that matches the platform you already use for your other devices. But you may want to venture into new territory: Do you want a tablet specifically for reading ebooks? For a child? For work? Look for options geared toward that use.
The best tablets really will bridge the gap between smartphone and laptop. They're nimble (think smartphone responsiveness, not laptop boot-up time) and portable (so you can slip them into bags and car seat pockets with ease). Yet they provide a sharp, roomy display and offer loads of productivity and entertainment apps — ideal for scrolling, drawing, working and streaming. Read on for more on our top picks, plus what else you'll want to consider when shopping for a tablet.
✔️Price: Like laptops, tablet prices vary widely based on performance, build quality and size. Consider what you will be using it for to get the capabilities you need.
Also note that accessories, like keyboards and styluses, are often not included — and not all accessories are compatible, so it’s important to factor in their cost at the onset.
✔️Operating system (OS): Apple and Android are two of the more common options, though there are Windows and Fire models. Apple has a massive app store, so you're likely covered for any app you want to add. But if there's an app you know you want for another OS, you should check that it's available for that platform.
If all of your other devices are on a specific OS, you'll likely want to stay with it. It's not a requirement, but you might find the tablet more intuitive when getting started. It will also allow syncing across devices, which is great if you want to open docs or pick up streaming between, say, laptop and tablet.
✔️Durability: If you’re getting a tablet for a child, you want to make sure it’s more rugged. Look for models that are water resistant, easy to wipe down and drop-proof.
✔️Connectivity: Some tablets work only over WiFi, but others allow a cellular connection from a provider. If you need apps to work without access to WiFi, choose a device that's enabled for cell service — or you can tether to your smartphone or purchase a portable hotspot.
✔️Size: Tablet sizes relate to the diagonal size of the screen — not the overall device — but screen size is a good indicator of the dimensions. Tablets can run from about 7 inches up to 12.9 inches. While a bigger screen can be nice (better viewing of movies, less page turning for ebooks), it might not be as easy to hold. For most people, 10 to 11 inches is good for productivity and portability, though if the tablet will double as a laptop, you'll likely want to opt for a larger screen about 13 inches. Young children will do well with a smaller, roughly 8-inch model, which is easier for them to grasp in their smaller hands.
✔️Battery life: Check how long the tablet is estimated to work between charges. Some last only a few hours while others can hang for your whole waking day.
✔️Storage: Most tablets access cloud storage, but you'll likely still need ample internal storage as well for apps, media and photos. In this case, bigger is better. If the tablet you want offers multiple storage options, get the largest capacity you can afford. It will give you more flexibility in the long run.