Tablets can do a lot more than your average smartphone but they aren’t exactly the best laptop replacement. Instead these gadgets occupy a strange space between the two devices offering portability and power in a medium-size package. Knowing that, it can be a bit difficult to choose a new tablet for your needs especially when new gens of each tablet come out all the time, making it hard to compare last year’s models to future picks.
- Best tablet for kids
Amazon Fire HD 8 Kids tablet (2022)
- Best budget tablet
Amazon Fire HD 8 tablet (2022)
- Best budget Apple tablet
Apple 10.9-inch iPad (2022)
- Best Android tablet
Lenovo Tab P11 Plus with Keyboard and Pen
- Best money-is-no-object tablet
Apple 2022 11-inch iPad Pro
- Best tablet that's also a laptop
Acer Spin 514 Chromebook Convertible
- Best tablet for students
Lenovo Chromebook Duet 2-in-1 10.1-inch
Maybe you’re looking for something to watch Netflix on or busy your kids with. Or perhaps you’re shopping for a compact, portable work device that you can whip out on the train or at home on the couch for video calls and stellar visuals for optimal multitasking.
The good news is, the more specific you get about your needs, the easier it is to find a great tablet with the right specs for you or your kids, especially if this is your first time shopping for one.
Let’s take a look at my tablet review for the top tablets of 2023, ranging from the pricey side to the cheap tablet options and all the affordable prices in between.
Can a tablet replace a laptop?
I get this question a lot, and the answer — "sort of" — hasn't really changed over the years. Virtually any good tablet can pair with a smart keyboard to allow for word processing and the like, but in many cases you'll be squinting at a smallish screen surrounded by a bezel and tapping on small, cramped keys. Also: Not many Bluetooth keyboards are large enough to accommodate a dedicated numeric keypad, something to consider if you work with spreadsheets.
Sure, you can splurge on the Apple iPad Pro 12.9 and roomier Apple Magic Keyboard, but now you've spent a minimum of $1,450. At that point, why not just buy a laptop, especially if productivity is your main goal?
Something else to consider: While Android, Fire OS and iOS are capable operating systems, they're not Windows. (They're not Mac OS, either.) If you rely on Windows or Mac software even a little, a tablet probably isn't your best bet. And there are certain web-based tools that won't work properly in a mobile browser. So if you're buying a tablet in hopes of getting your work done, make absolutely sure it's compatible with your ecosystem of work tools.
What about Microsoft's Surface tablets, which run Windows? These Windows tablets are quite popular, but I honestly don't see the appeal. They're expensive and don't afford many tablet-y benefits. (Microsoft's app store offers only a fraction of the software available to Android and iOS users.) Plus, the keyboard is sold separately, which once again raises the question: Why not just buy a laptop?
In fact, you might want to consider a convertible, a laptop with a touchscreen and 360-degree hinge. I won't say that's the best of both worlds, but it's certainly one of the most versatile options. I have one such model listed below.
Screen size: 8 inches
Storage: 32GB (expandable)
Special features: Kid-proof case and 2-year warranty
Modern parents, you have it so easy. A single tablet can hold a mountain of children's books, to say nothing of games, movies, educational apps and more. That's especially convenient for long car rides, trips involving airplanes and so on. (My wife and I used to schlepp heavy, overstuffed backpacks full of books; not fun.)
At the risk of me gushing, Amazon's Fire HD 8 Kids tablet is a godsend — and better than the best iPad in nearly every way. For starters, the affordable price: It can be yours for just $150; that's $350 less (!) than Apple's 8.3-inch iPad Mini.
Equally appealing, the Fire HD 8 Kids lives up to its name by arriving in a colorful, kid-proof case that's designed to withstand child abuse. In fact, Amazon backs the tablet with an unparalleled two-year warranty, one that covers accidental breakage. So if Junior sits on, dropkicks or tries to flush the thing, you're covered.
Meanwhile, Amazon offers a free year of its Kids+ subscription service, which includes unlimited access to age-appropriate books, games, apps, videos and so on. There are front- and rear-facing cameras for fun with photos and video, and baked-in parental controls you can monitor and update remotely.
By the way, if you have older kids (in the 6-12 range), the Fire HD 8 Kids Pro has a more "grown-up"-looking case and more advanced parental controls. In nearly all other respects it's the same, including price and warranty.
Although Amazon Fire tablets have 10-inch versions of both models, they cost at least $60 more. I don't see much advantage to the slightly larger screen, which will just be heavier and harder for little hands to hold.
I do consider the Fire HD 8 Kids a slam-dunk product, without question the best tablet for children.
Screen size: 8 inches
Storage: 32GB (expandable)
Special features: Show Mode; Plus model supports wireless charging
This should come as no surprise; the Fire HD 8 is virtually identical to the Kids version, just without the case, Kids+ subscription and extended warranty. It's normally $100 at Amazon, but is frequently discounted as low as $60. Whatever price you pay, there's an embarrassment of tablet riches to be found here. The Fire HD 8 features a sharp (enough) display — iPads offer more pixels, but trust me when I say you won't notice in most apps — and something you can't get from any iPad model: expandable storage. If you fill up the included 32GB, just pop in an inexpensive MicroSD card for up to 1 terabyte more.
Other Fire perks: USB-C connectivity, dual speakers, hands-free Alexa voice controls for your smart home ecosystem and support for something called Show Mode, which effectively turns the tablet into a poor man's Echo Show 8. If that's of interest, consider the Fire HD 8 Plus, which adds support for wireless charging. (You'll probably want the optional Wireless Charging Dock as well.)
Is it perfect? Not quite: The front and rear cameras are pretty low resolution — fine for Zoom calls and such, but not great for shooting photos and video. I also don't love Amazon's short warranty, which expires after just 90 days.
But if you're primarily looking to consume entertainment — books, music, movies and TV, games and so on — this is simply an incredible deal.
Screen size: 10.9 inches
Special features: High-res front-facing and rear cameras; support for Center Stage feature
I get it. There's just something about the iPad. Give Apple credit for crafting a tablet that's really desirable despite the out-of-whack price. In fact, following a 2022 redesign, it got even out-of-whackier: Apple bumped the sort-of-affordable $329 price tag to a disappointing $449.
Still, there's no denying the new iPad's appeal, starting with a slightly larger screen inside a frame that's roughly the same size as before. Gone is the home button; in its place, a power button that supports Touch ID. And if you're tired of the bland silver and space-gray color choices, the 10th-generation iPad adds blue, pink and yellow options to the mix.
Apple also made a bunch of under-the-hood improvements, including a faster processor, more RAM (4GB instead of 3GB), Bluetooth 5.0 (up from 4.2) and a USB-C charging port. (So long, Lightning!) None of these upgrades are what I'd consider must-haves, but they do make an already-excellent tablet even better.
Photography fans, take note: This iPad's rear camera can now capture 12-megapixel images. That partners with a wide-angle front camera that's great for selfies and such. The latter supports Apple's handy Center Stage feature as well, automatically adjusting to keep you in the frame even if you move around. And the rear camera can be used for augmented reality (AR) games and apps, one area where Apple far outpaces the competition.
Another: All iPads are available with a cellular option, which adds to the price but definitely adds to the versatility as well. That said, if your phone has a hotspot option, you can save money by leveraging that (for just about any tablet, really).
You might think the smaller iPad Mini would be the "budget" iPad to pick, but it starts at $499. At $449, the iPad 10.9 is far from cheap, but I do think it offers arguably the best, most versatile tablet experience you can get.
Screen size: 11 inches
Special features: Pure Android OS; Dolby-enhanced quad speakers
Although Amazon's Fire HD lineup runs a specialized version of the Android operating system, it doesn't provide access to the Google Play Store — meaning you might not be able to get every app you want. What's more, the Fire OS is unapologetically Amazon-centric and not super-intuitive for those accustomed to Android.
Fortunately, if you want a "pure Android" experience, you can have it. The Lenovo Tab P11 Plus closely resembles the iPad Pro 11, with one key difference: The latter starts at $799, while the former can be yours for $420 (sometimes less; sales are common). Another "key" difference is that Lenovo bundles a detachable keyboard. And where Apple charges an extra $129 for its pressure-sensitive Pencil stylus, Lenovo includes one right in the box.
Other noteworthy specs include four Dolby Atmos–enhanced speakers, a 2K-resolution 11-inch screen and 128GB of onboard storage. Alas, there's no expansion slot here if you need more space, and Lenovo doesn't offer a cellular option for on-the-go connectivity.
Those limitations aside, the Tab P11 Plus ticks the important tablet boxes. If you want full-on Android in a spacious, productivity-minded screen, this is the one to get.
Screen size: 11 inches
Special features: High-end front and rear cameras; optional cellular connectivity
Apple's flagship tablet is a powerhouse, combining a lightning-fast processor, a dazzling display and support for some great accessories — namely Apple's Magic Keyboard and Pencil stylus. Put those all together and you've got an amazing (and amazingly portable) tool for creatives making content: words, pictures, video, audio and more.
Just be prepared for sticker shock: The iPad Pro starts at $769 (for the 11-inch model; there's a 12.9-inch as well), while the keyboard and Apple Pencil add $299 and $129, respectively. If you want cellular connectivity in the mix (as opposed to just Wi-Fi), that's an additional $200 — plus the cost of service, natch.
So, yeah, what is arguably the world's best tablet setup requires you to max out your budget. You can accomplish a lot of the same tasks with less expensive hardware, but if money is no object, well, splurge away.
Screen size: 14 inches
Special features: Convertible design
If your top priority is work, your best bet is a convertible: a tablet with a keyboard that's built in rather than detachable. You'll also want a large screen, which makes work life easier while also affording a more spacious key layout.
The Acer Spin 514 is an affordable but very versatile Chromebook, with features like a 14-inch FHD touchscreen and backlit keyboard (a highly underrated feature and one of my favorites). It runs the Chrome OS, of course, so you're limited to Google software and browser-based productivity tools, but it also affords full access to the Google Play Store and all the Android apps therein.
There's a decent amount of computing horsepower here, too, courtesy of the AMD Ryzen 3 processor. (Many of budget Chromebooks chug along on something much less powerful.) You also get 64GB of onboard storage and plenty of expandability via USB ports.
Of course, by design, Chromebooks rely heavily on Google cloud storage, but local space is always welcome for things like movies and music libraries.
Best tablet for students
Screen size: 10.1 inches
Special features: High-resolution display; detachable keyboard included
Many elementary and middle schools want students to use Chromebooks, but kids of that age don't necessarily need a big screen or full-size keyboard. That's what makes Lenovo's Duet such an ideal fit: It's a 10-inch Chromebook that's also an Android tablet (or, at least, capable of running Android apps), and it comes with a detachable keyboard.
That gives the Duet an immediate leg up over Microsoft's 10.5-inch Surface Go 2, which starts at $399 and doesn't include a keyboard.
Surprisingly, the Duet's low price doesn't come at the expense of features: Its screen packs in 1,920x1,200 pixels, very impressive given the size. And it comes with 128GB of onboard storage, far more than you get with the typical Chromebook.
The keyboard will definitely feel a bit cramped for adult-size users, and the single USB-C port limits the Duet's expandability (though an inexpensive hub can solve that). Even so, the Chromebook Duet definitely belongs on the short list for parents seeking an affordable school laptop — even if it's not technically a laptop.