Galaxy Tab S7+ on table
Samsung

What to Look for in an Android Tablet in 2021

Tablet computers are as diverse as any other major class of computing device. There are a wide variety of tablets out there, each person’s needs are going to be different. That being said, there are a few key considerations that apply to everyone.

First, the screen is perhaps the most important factor. Tablets are known for their large screen sizes, ranging from around 7-inches to 13-inches. Considering that the largest smartphones (once known as “phablets”) almost overlap with the low end of the tablet range, you’ll have to decide whether you want a small tablet or a large phone. Most Android tablets are in the 10-inch to 13-inch range and are usually used as laptop alternatives or media consumption devices.

As for screen technology itself, virtually all Android tablets use LCDs, as OLED technology isn’t as widespread in the market. It is also worth looking for a tablet with a laminated display. Such a display eliminates the air gap between LCD and glass and has a positive effect on brightness, crispness, and how attractive the image looks.

Storage capacity is less of a problem on Android tablets compared to the competition from Apple. While iPads all have a fixed amount of storage, most Android tablets support SD or microSD card expansion for photos, video, music, and apps. That means saving money on storage in the short term isn’t a decision you’ll regret down the line.

Finally, there are no longer major pitfalls in core specifications such as processing power (CPU) or memory (RAM). Android tablets, even budget ones, have reached the threshold where everyday tasks are handled without issue. You may have to wait for a second longer for an app to open or a web page to load on a cheaper Android tablet, but the gap between budget and premium performance for these types of tasks isn’t something to worry about.

If you want a tablet for creative work such as video editing or high-performance uses such as 3D video gaming, you should aim for higher-end hardware. For an Android tablet, that means an 800-series Snapdragon processor or an equivalent from another system-on-a-chip maker.

Now, let’s get into our recommendations.

Best Android Tablet Overall: Samsung Galaxy Tab S7+

Samsung Galaxy Tab S7+
Samsung

Pros

  • A real competitor for the iPad Pro 12.9
  • Significantly cheaper than Apple's premium tablets
  • Includes the S-Pen in the price
  • Class-leading specifications
  • SD Card Expansion
  • Significantly better battery life than iPad Pro

Cons

  • The in-display fingerprint scanner isn't a great idea on a tablet
  • Still not desktop-class performance

There’s no point in beating around the bush—the Galaxy Tab S7+ is the best Android alternative to Apple’s superlative M1 iPad Pro 12.9-inch tablet. The S7+ is a tablet with enough power under the hood to be a serious laptop alternative. It comes with design and build-quality attributes that place it in the same ballpark as Apple’s best tablet.

That being said, the Tab 7+ isn’t a one-to-one equivalent to the big iPad. While the Qualcomm Snapdragon 865+ is as good as it gets in the Android tablet world, it’s nowhere near as powerful as the Apple M1. Then again, the processor should demolish almost any task you need a tablet to perform, whether it’s productivity or gaming. Just don’t expect the Tab S7+ to chew through 4K video editing, sound production, and other “pro” tablet use cases with quite the same appetite as an iPad Pro.

On the other hand, the S7+ sells for significantly less than even the cheapest iPad Pro, which goes a long way to making up for the performance difference. There’s a good argument that the M1 is overkill for most tablet users anyway, and at this price, the Galaxy Tab S7+ gives you top-tier technology, a large screen, and even an included S-Pen. So, despite being an expensive tablet, it offers a premium experience and arguably better overall value than the iPad Pro, assuming that you do not need the additional performance.

Apple iPads tend to target the 10-hour mark for battery life, and here Samsung has a more ambitious goal. The S7+, in comparison, hits an impressive 14 hours of battery life. The only real criticism we have is the in-display fingerprint sensor. With a device screen this large, it makes more ergonomic sense to have the sensor on a button (as the smaller S7 does), so it’s a bit awkward to unlock the tablet with your fingerprint as-is.

That being said, if Android is your tablet OS flavor of choice, it doesn’t really get better than this.

Best Android Tablet Overall

Samsung Galaxy Tab S7+

There are only a few Android tablets that can stand toe-to-toe with the iPad Pro, and the Tab S7+ is the best of them. The Snapdragon 865+ will take care of almost any task you throw at it.

Best Budget Android Tablet: Amazon Fire HD10

Amazon Fire HD10
Amazon

Pros

  • The best tablet hardware for the money
  • Great as a general entertainment device out of the box

Cons

  • Has ads unless you pay extra
  • Requires a little extra work to get Google Play working

There’s budget, and then there’s budget when it comes to Android tablets. When you’re spending between $100 and $200 on a tablet, it usually comes with serious compromises in at least one key area. That is unless you’re Amazon, in which case it’s possible to put a tablet with decent specifications and build quality on the market for relatively little money.

Thanks to advertising subsidies, Amazon manages to sell tablets like the Fire HD10 for just $150. If you opt to pay the lower price, you’ll see advertising on the tablet’s lock screen. Whether that’s an acceptable tradeoff is entirely up to you, but the lock screen adverts are easy to ignore and never interfere with the tablet while in use. More importantly, you have the option to disable ads permanently at a later date for an additional fee, so you can purchase the lower-priced Fire HD 10 and make the decision yourself with no regrets.

As for the tablet itself, this latest model of the 10-inch Fire HD series looks great on paper. It has an eight-core CPU, 3GB of RAM, a 1080p display, and either 32GB or 64GB of internal storage. It’s perfectly balanced for its intended use, which boils down to consuming streaming video, ebooks, comics, music, and light gaming. You should also have no trouble running mainstream applications such as the mobile Microsoft Office Suite, Zoom, and social media.

The real elephant in the room is that Amazon uses a customized version of Android that doesn’t come with the Google Play Store. If you really need access to the Play Store, we’ve got a great guide on installing Google Play on Amazon tablets that should sort that issue in a few minutes. Apart from this small issue, there isn’t a better budget tablet for the money.

Best Budget Android Tablet

Fire HD 10

Not every cheap Android tablet is bad, and the Amazon Fire HD 10 is a good, cheap tablet. It's perfect for Zoom calls and basic productivity tasks.

Best Android Gaming Tablet: Samsung Galaxy Tab S7 11-inch

SAMSUNG Galaxy Tab S7 11-inch
Samsung

Pros

  • Flagship specs for significantly less than the S7+ model
  • Smaller screen makes touch-based games more comfortable
  • Quad speakers are great for games

Cons

  • Snapdragon 888 tablets are around the corner

These days, everyone is a gamer to one extent or another. Mobile games are largely responsible for expanding the group of people who play video games, but tablet gaming is still niche. While there are many specialized Android gaming smartphones, the concept hasn’t taken off in the Android tablet world yet.

That said, if you are looking to play games on your Android tablet, it makes sense to look at the mainstream options with the best performance. The Galaxy Tab S7 has the same internal specifications as the Tab S7+ we’ve rated best overall; it’s just delivered in a smaller package.

A smaller screen is a bonus for touch-based gaming, and with around 800K fewer pixels to push, the GPU should be a little less stressed in the S7 model. Not to mention it is easier to handle touch-based controls with less surface area to worry about.

Most of the points we raised about the Tab S7+ apply here as well, so it’s also a fantastic all-around tablet for whatever you need. Just between the lower price and the smaller screen, the Galaxy Tab S7 is the better option between the two from a gaming perspective.

Note that the upcoming Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 chipset promises significantly better gaming performance. The first smartphones with this chip will reportedly be released in the third quarter of 2021, but we’re not sure when we’ll see tablets with this hardware. You may want to wait for tablets with this chip, but the latest and greatest is always right around the corner. If you want an Android gaming tablet today, the Samsung Samsung Galaxy Tab S7 11-inch is still a great choice.

Best Android Gaming Tablet

Samsung Galaxy Tab S7

Featuring similar (but slightly less powerful) specs at a lower price, the Tab S7 is a good tablet to play all of your Android games with.

Best Android Tablet for Drawing: Samsung Galaxy Tab S6 Lite

galaxy s6 lite on blue background
Samsung

Pros

  • Very affordable
  • Great laminated screen
  • S-pen included attaches magnetically
  • Low overall specifications and storage are not an issue if you only want to draw

Cons

  • Mediocre as an all-around tablet
  • If you want a drawing Android tablet that can do everything else, get an S7 or S7+

It wasn’t that long ago that owning a digital drawing tablet like a Wacom meant taking out a small loan and saying goodbye to a bag of cash. Now there are many excellent, affordable drawing tablets on the market that also can be used as general-purpose computers.

If you buy either of the two Galaxy Tab S7 models listed above, you’re also getting excellent drawing tablets, thanks to the included S-Pens. However, what if you weren’t interested in the other premium features those expensive tablets offer? What if you were only interested in drawing? In that case, we’d recommend the Galaxy Tab S6 Lite instead.

The S6 Lite is the budget model of Samsung’s previous flagship line of Android tablets. It offers mid-range processing power and won’t be of much use for gaming or video editing, but you get nearly the same drawing experience as tablets that cost hundreds more.

The battery is rated for 13 hours of use, the screen is laminated, and the included S-Pen attaches magnetically to the tablet. Since this is a last-generation device, prices have been dropping significantly, making it perfect for artists who don’t care for cutting-edge technology but need a quality drawing device.

Better yet, YouTuber Teoh Yi Chie has a wonderful artist’s perspective in this Tab S6 Lite review. In the video, you can see exactly how the S6 Lite performs in the hands of a talented individual and decide if the Tab S6 Lite is good enough for you.

Best Android Tablet for Drawing

Galaxy Tab S6 Lite

If drawing is your only concern when picking up an Android tablet, the Tab S6 Lite comes with the great S-Pen and is perfect for art and doodles, for an affordable price.

Best Android Tablet for Kids: Amazon Fire HD 8 Kids Pro

Fire HD 8 Kids Pro
Amazon

Pros

  • Perfectly adequate specs for its job
  • Incredibly valuable add-ons
  • Excellent parental control options
  • USB-C charging
  • Sensible kid-friendly case included

Cons

  • Case styling isn't great, whether for kids or not
  • Doesn't prepare your kids for regular devices

Buying smart devices for young children is, quite frankly, a nightmare. Not only do you have to strike a balance between junk devices and ones that are too expensive to risk in tiny hands, but you also have to worry about managing the content they’re exposed to. Amazon has you covered on both counts with the Fire HD 8 Kids Pro.

The specifications are impressive both for the price and the target audience, and most kids will be perfectly happy with the moderate amount of performance here. Amazon’s kid-friendly tablets ship with a rugged case that includes a kick-stand, so drops and falls shouldn’t be too damaging to the tablet. However, if your little menace (or angel) does manage to break the tablet, you’ll get a free replacement for the first two years.

We honestly had to do a double-take at this last point. Amazon’s own language on the product page implies that this guarantee covers your child breaking the tablet. News articles reporting on this as far back as 2015 and more recently echo that face-value claim.

On the content front, the Fire HD 8 Kids Pro includes a subscription to Amazon Kids+ for one year, and there are books, games, apps, and streaming content aimed at ages 6-12. If you want content for younger children, then you’ll want to buy the non-Pro tablet instead. The hardware is the same, but the content and software are aimed at younger children.

Finally, there are strong parental control systems in place, so as long as you stay within Amazon’s walled garden, there’s no risk your child will see something inappropriate. We simply can’t find another kid-focused tablet that has as many bases covered as the Fire HD 8 Kids Pro.

Best Android Tablet for Kids

Fire HD 8 Kids Pro

Technology for children need to have parental controls, a good battery life, and is durable to handle the life of a kid. The Kids Edition of the Fire HD 8 hits all of those marks!

Best 8-inch Android Tablet: Samsung Galaxy Tab A7 Lite LTE

Galaxy Tab A7 Lite on pink background
Samsung

Pros

  • Bigger than any phone screen, yet much more compact than a typical tablet
  • Fair specifications for general purpose use
  • The cellular model works with GSM providers in the US
  • Excellent price, especially considering the cellular feature

Cons

  • Very budget specs

With massive tablet-style phones being both common and available in every budget segment, is there still a place for small tablets in this world? We think the Galaxy Tab A7 confidently makes an argument for these smaller tablet products. At 8.7-inches, it’s still significantly more spacious than even the largest phones, but far more pocketable than devices 10-inches and up.

This particular model offers GSM cellular connectivity, which is a major selling point at this price. Its support for 4G LTE, coupled with the right data plan, can make the Tab A7 a potent mobile content consumption and web browsing device.

Low-end specifications will limit multi-tasking and applications such as 3D games, but for everything else, the CPU will go the distance—if perhaps a little slowly. Apart from that slight downside, the Tab A7 Lite LTE offers the same Samsung UI and general build quality we’ve come to expect, putting it above most of the tablets in this price range in that regard.

Best 8-inch Android Tablet

Samsung Galaxy Tab A7 Lite

If you need a smaller tablet that's easier to carry around, the Tab A7 Lite is a good choice. This model also allows the use for cellular data, so you can use it wherever you need to.

The Best iPads of 2021 for Drawing, Travel, and More

Best Overall iPad
2020 Apple iPad Air (10.9-inch, Wi-Fi, 64GB) - Space Gray (4th Generation)
Best Budget iPad
2020 Apple iPad (10.2-inch, Wi-Fi, 32GB) - Space Gray (8th Generation)
Best iPad for Drawing
2021 Apple 12.9-inch iPad Pro (Wi‑Fi, 128GB) - Space Gray
Need a Stylus?
Apple Pencil (2nd Generation)
Best iPad for Kids
2020 Apple iPad (10.2-inch, Wi-Fi, 32GB) - Space Gray (8th Generation)
Protect Your iPad with a Tough Kids Case
HDE iPad (8th Gen) Case for Kids with Handle/Stand
Best iPad for Travel
Apple iPad mini
7.9-inch Screen Too Small?
iPad (8th Gen)
Best Laptop Replacement
2021 Apple 11-inch iPad Pro (Wi‑Fi, 128GB) - Silver
Apple's Best Keyboard Accessory
Apple Magic Keyboard (for iPad Pro 11-inch - 3rd Generation and iPad Air - 4th Generation) - US English- White
Best Large iPad
2021 Apple 12.9-inch iPad Pro (Wi‑Fi, 128GB) - Space Gray
Best Small iPad
2021 Apple 12.9-inch iPad Pro (Wi‑Fi, 128GB) - Space Gray
Sydney Butler Sydney Butler
Sydney Butler has over 20 years of experience as a freelance PC technician and system builder. He's worked for more than a decade in user education and spends his time explaining technology to professional, educational, and mainstream audiences. His interests include VR, PC, Mac, gaming, 3D printing, consumer electronics, the web, and privacy. He holds a Master of Arts degree in Research Psychology with a focus on Cyberpsychology in particular.
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