Which is the best tablet for 2020?
Tablets, high-end and high-specced versions in particular, have had a good couple of years, and the current next-gen crop offers a wealth of options to consider.
In 2019, we saw Apple, Samsung and Google launch devices that were somewhere between a laptop and a smartphone, as well as the expansion of Microsoft’s Surface line in October and the release of the Apple iPad Air 2019 in December.
The following summary features our edit of the best tablets, with options to suit most people. Scroll down to read a full review of each product, or click through to explore our comprehensive verdicts.
- Best performance: iPad Air 2019
- Best for digital artists: iPad Pro 2018
- Best for media: Samsung Galaxy Tab S6
- Best size: iPad Mini 5
- Best value: Amazon Fire HD 8
- Best for Windows: Microsoft Surface Go
- Best for versatility: Samsung Galaxy Tab S5e
How do we test tablets?
We’ve tested every product on this list thoroughly and there are links to our full reviews at the end of each summary.
Our expert reviewers use a test model as their primary tablet for at least a week to see how it performs in the real world before they give it a final score. For bigger devices we also run long-term reviews – our expert keeps the product for a prolonged length of time and updates our review with any new issues they encounter.
We also run every tablet we use through a series of synthetic benchmarks to gauge its performance. We then test its battery by looping a locally stored video until it dies.
Looking for more tablet-buying advice?
Check out our round-ups below for the best tablets for specific uses.
1. iPad Air 2019
The best tablet for most buyers
- Great display
- Solid performance
- Long battery life
- Super-intuitive software
- Design is beginning to look a little dated
- First-generation Apple Pencil and older Lightning charge port
The iPad Air 2019 sits in the middle of Apple’s current tablet line-up, below the premier iPad Pro (2018) line, above the smaller iPad Mini 5 and alongside the iPad 7th generation. It’s a convenient tablet that can easily double as a mobile entertainment hub or notes station. By getting all the basics right, it easily earns a place as one of the best tablets available now, and is an ideal option for most buyers.
While it doesn’t have all the features of the Pro, it does a decent job of replicating a premier tablet experience – aside from a few technical compromises such as a first-generation Apple Pencil and an old-school Lightning port.
Featuring an advanced app ecosystem, stellar screen, great performance and a much friendlier price tag than its Pro siblings, the iPad Air 2019 is the best tablet for most people. However, if you just want to binge on Netflix or grab an entertainment station for your sprog, there are cheaper options available – albeit not as good.
- Read our iPad Air 2019 review
2. iPad Pro (2018)
Best tablet for digital artists
- Amazing ProMotion Display
- Much improved design
- Switch to USB-C is positive
- Second-generation Apple Pencil is great
- Very expensive, and the accessories are even more so
- iOS is (still) limited
The iPad Pro 2018 is a stunning piece of engineering. Ditching the traditional iPad design, it showcases more industrial feel with flat edges and rounded corners. It’s gorgeous to look at and a pleasure to hold.
It’s also enormously powerful, with 4/6GB RAM, storage options ranging from 64G to 1TB, Apple’s own A12X Bionic chipset and the choice of Wi-Fi only or 4G and Wi-Fi. Now there’s also a USB-C port rather than Lightning, which allows devices such as SD card readers and cameras to be plugged in directly, although you can’t plug in expandable storage.
The main issue with the iPad Pro (2018) is iOS. The featured optimised apps are great and, of course, you can get stuff done but it’s still limited. The multi-window functionality is poor, only the Photos apps can read external media and Safari is still just the mobile version of the browser.
Many will also find the price hard to swallow. The 11-inch version starts at £769/$799 and the 12.9-inch version costs £969/$999. If you also purchase the Smart Folio Keyboard and the Apple Pencil 2, you’re spending a lot of money.
The Liquid Retina display, however, is gorgeous, as is the ProMotion tech that switches refresh rates to ensure smooth scrolling – it looks really great.
The iPad Pro (2018) is a good tablet but it’s let down by software that can’t live up to the product.
- Read our iPad Pro 2018 review
3. Samsung Galaxy Tab S6
The best high-end Android tablet
- Long battery life
- Loud speakers
- Bold screen
- Powerful processor
- Fun stylus
- Cheaper S5e has several of the best features
- No headphone jack
Not just the best high-end Android tablet, the Samsung Galaxy Tab S6 is also virtually the only current high-end Android tablet and, as such, is the best Android alternative to an iPad Pro. It has a large display, high-end specs, a great sketching stylus – and it costs quite a lot.
You’ll pay £619 for the Wi-Fi version and £689 for the 4G option. If this sounds like too much, don’t forget the 11-inch iPad Pro, with half the amount of storage, will end up costing you £269 more when you add the Apple Pencil.
It’s big but not a monster, extremely thin (5.7mm) and fairly light at 420g. The main design annoyance is the same as the Galaxy Tab S5e’s – there’s no headphone jack.
This is the best Android tablet around, but if the stylus isn’t a big factor, you should consider the Samsung Galaxy Tab S5e. It costs a lot less and still performs all the usual tablet jobs perfectly well.
- Read our Samsung Galaxy Tab S6 review
4. Apple iPad Mini 5 (2019)
Best tablet for powerful features in a small package
- Good display
- Extremely powerful
- Works well with the Apple Pencil
- Same design
Visually, the iPad Mini 5 (or iPad Mini 2019) looks identical to the previous model, which is a bit of a shame. Under the hood, however, is where the magic happens.
This new mini iPad is powered by the same A12 Bionic chip you’ll find in the iPhone XS and iPhone XR, which means it’s very, very fast. There’s enough grunt to tackle any iOS game without any fuss and it’s a real joy to play titles like Fortnite or Asphalt 9 on the 7.9-inch display. Battery life is great too.
Added Apple Pencil support turns the iPad Mini into an excellent notebook.
- Read our iPad Mini 5 review
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Buy Now from EBay for $159.98
5. Amazon Fire HD 8
A really good tablet at an impressive price
- Hands-free Alexa
- Show Mode is a nice addition
- Ad-riddled interface
- Basic navigation a little slow
The Amazon Fire HD 8 is a really good tablet at an impressive price. Amazon’s budget tablets have always been good and the addition of Show Mode makes this edition a much more interesting device.
Its screen is fair, the build quality is fine and there’s plenty of storage. While it doesn’t feel incredibly fast, it has enough power to do justice to some the most impressive Android games – plus Alexa on a tablet is a nice touch.
This is one of the best budget tablets you can buy from a well-known brand. It costs just £79.99 for the tablet on its own or £109.99 with the nifty new Show Mode charging dock. To get the most out of the device, definitely consider picking up the latter and this is a great package at the price.
The Fire HD 8 is perfect for those who want a cheap, basic tablet primarily for media consumption and reading. There’s more on offer here than with a Kindle Paperwhite or Kindle Oasis and it’s a lot more compact than the very large Fire HD 10. It’s a great way to binge on some Prime content and the addition of hands-free Alexa gives it something other tablets simply don’t have.
• Read our Amazon Fire HD 8 review
6. Microsoft Surface Go
Best tablet for Windows
- Windows 10 gives users lots of freedom
- Extremely portable
- Kick-out stand offers versatility
- Pricey considering type cover isn’t bundled in
- Low-powered performance
- Dated design
If you’re not a huge fan of Android or iOS, the Surface Go is a solid alternative. It boasts Windows 10 in S mode, giving much more freedom for downloads and customisation. If you’re a student or an office worker, you’ll probably find it hugely beneficial to have the option of Microsoft Office too – you can stuff this tablet full of spreadsheets and documents.
The kick-out stand turns the Go into an ultra-versatile machine that makes it easy to watch Netflix at your desk or hammer away at the keyboard. Given the steep price, however, it’s disappointing that the type cover isn’t bundled in the box.
While the Surface Go doesn’t have the performance, display or even the price advantage to rival the 9.7-inch iPad, it’s still a great alternative if you’re looking for a versatile, workaholic machine and are happy to shell out for Microsoft’s separate accessories.
- Read our Microsoft Surface Go review
7. Samsung Galaxy Tab S5e
Looks great, has a fantastic display and is affordably priced
- High-quality aluminium design
- Loud, punchy speakers
- Excellent battery life
- Great OLED screen
- GPU lacks power
The Samsung Galaxy Tab S5e Android tablet is one of the best alternatives to an iPad. A cheaper version of Samsung’s flagship tablet, it brings a thin bezel and a gorgeous AMOLED display to the more affordable end of the market.
In some ways this is a successor to the Galaxy Tab S4, but it uses a lower-end processor to help bring down the asking price to below £400 (for the 64GB version). This means it will appeal to those looking for a straight tablet rather than a device to replace their laptop. Its design and screen are delightful.
The main issue is the current standstill state of Android tablet progression. Tablets are great devices to entertain younger kids, but the Samsung Galaxy S5e is arguably far too fancy to fulfil that demand. A new feature such as Google Stadia support would give tablets in general a renewed sense of meaning.
The Galaxy Tab S5e looks great, has a fantastic display and comes in at a price that’s easy to swallow. Samsung has finally made an Android tablet worth buying – but an iPad is more powerful.
- Read our Galaxy Tab S5e review
How do I choose the right tablet?
When picking a tablet there are a few key issues you should bear in mind. The biggest are which operating system is right for you and what you need the tablet for, as these issues will affect your budget.
Understand the different tablet operating systems
Currently, there are tablets running a variety of different operating systems. The two biggest are iOS and Android, and some people would also list Windows, which runs on top-end devices including the Samsung Galaxy Book and Microsoft Surface Pro.
However, given their emphasis on being used with an attachable keyboard, we classify these models as convertibles and list them in our separate best laptops guide.
iOS vs Android: In general, we find iOS is better suited to tablets as Apple has invested significantly into optimising it for larger screens. Android is still very good but issues generally arise when companies add custom skins to the OS, which usually cause annoying bugs, needlessly rework the user interface, and delay how quickly the devices can receive software updates.
Even if you are firmly embedded in Google’s software ecosystem, you should still consider an Android tablet as many options are significantly cheaper than Apple iPads and are generally fine for basic functions like web browsing and video streaming.
Decide what you need your tablet to do
Before you buy a tablet, you should consider your specific needs. There’s no point shelling out for a top-end tablet with a digital stylus if you just want to watch TV or to distract the kids during long journeys. The extra investment is only really worth it if you’re a designer or you plan to use your tablet for work or at school.
If you just want something to read on, you’d do well to avoid tablets entirely and invest in an e-reader.