Best tablets in 2018: The best tablets to buy this year
Tablets are, in my humble opinion, the most useful kind of personal technology. They combines the best bits of both phones and laptops – they have the portability and streamlined usefulness of a phone, but with great processing power, memory, and a giant screen like a Laptop. Whether you’re working hard writing documents or creating or editing videos or photos, or having fun watching Netflix or playing games, they’re the perfect piece of technology.
It’s never too late to buy a tablet either – unlike many smartphone brands they’ve not slowly crept up in price to ludicrous levels. You can get a great device for really low prices.
Whether you’re a tablet newbie or looking to upgrade to something a little more high-spec, we’ve collated the best of the best that the market has to offer you. There’s a work-ready Windows option, a premium Android model and several of the OGs – Apple’s eminently sleek iPads. In other words, there’s something for everyone and ever budget.
On this page we’ve got summaries of each tablet, with a link to our full in-depth reviews, as well as quick links to Amazon so you can take the plunge. Click over to Page 2 and you’ll find short summaries of what makes each tablet so great, so you can understand our reasoning and experiences with the devices.
Best tablets of 2018
Price when reviewed: From £319
2,048 x 1,536
|Apple A10 Fusion|
|8h 43m video playback|
Not much is new about the 2018 iPad. You get a powerful A10 Fusion chip and Apple pencil support but, otherwise, it’s more or less exactly the same device as its discontinued 2017 predecessor. However, Apple has dropped the price by another £20 and at £319 there’s no other tablet that comes close in terms of specifications and features.
You get a 9.7 inch Retina display, an 8MP rear camera and 32GB of storage on a device that’s capable of all manner of tasks, from web browsing and word processing to playing any game you can throw at it. One of the biggest benefits of buying one of Apple’s tablets is the enormous range of apps you can install from the Apple App Store. Consider the fact that you can pair it with a Bluetooth keyboard and the new iPad becomes a suitable alternative to any cheap laptop. Its battery life is slightly worse than the models that preceded it but with more than eight hours between charges it’ll still last for a whole working day.
Price: From £619 inc VAT
2,224 x 1,668
|Apple A10X Fusion|
|12h 59m video playback|
The 10.5-inch iPad Pro is arguably Apple’s best tablet. Powered by the A10X Fusion chip, the tablet can be considered a mini-computer when coupled with its keyboard. No matter what you ask it to do, this 10.5in tablet will deliver. You’ll have plenty of space to store all your pictures, movies and games with a minimum of 64GB of storage, going up to 256GB and 512GB on the more expensive variants.
It is expensive, and the keyboard comes at an additional cost, but if you’ve got the budget and you’re looking for a portable tablet with a low of horsepower, the iPad Pro 10.5in is the best tablet you can purchase.
3. Samsung Galaxy Book
Price: 10.6in, £649; 12in, £1,099
1,920 x 1,280
|5MP (front)||1GHz Intel Core m3-7y30 8GB RAM||64GB eMMC |
|7hrs 18mins video playback|
2,160 x 1,440
|2.5GHz Intel Core i5-7200U|
|8hrs 20mins video playback|
There are two versions of the Samsung Galaxy Book to choose from, but both are great productivity tools. They run Windows 10, not Android like the Tab S2 and Tab S3 (see below), and so are closer kin to the Surface Pro family. And, like the Surface Pro, these are highly competent 2-in-1 detachable devices.
The screen is great on both the 10.6in and the 12in tablets, they’re both extremely light for their size and, although the price looks high, the Galaxy Book includes the keyboard and the stylus in the price, which makes the base price of £500 for the 10.6in and £949 for the 12in model pretty darned tempting.
Price when reviewed: £400 inc VAT, 32GB Wi-Fi
1,536 x 2,048
|Octa-core Exynos 5433|
|12h 09m video playback|
The Samsung Galaxy Tab S2 9.7 is knocking on a bit now, and it’s been superseded in Samsung’s range by the gorgeous Tab S3, but you can still buy it, it’s still fabulous and it’s a lot cheaper than its newer stablemate. Currently, if an Android tablet is what you want, this is your best best. It’s a mere 5.6mm-thin, weighs only 389g, yet feels solid and sturdy all at the same time.
That 9.7in screen is absolutely delicious, too. You might think it difficult to improve on the iPad Pro 9.7’s screen, but the Samsung’s manages it. It covers a wider, more intense range of colours and, since it uses Super AMOLED technology, the contrast is perfect, with black reproduced as a perfect inky nothingness rather than the very dark grey of IPS technology.
So, what are the downsides? Well, you’ll be pleased to hear that there aren’t many. One of the biggest gripes is that accessories aren’t as plentiful as with Apple’s well-established iPad. While Apple’s tablet has become gloriously multi-talented thanks to a huge array of third-party cases and accessories that can transform it from a ruggedised tablet into a powerful music-making device, and a whole lot in-between, Samsung’s Galaxy Tab S2 isn’t quite so well furnished for options.
The other black mark on the Samsung’s copybook is that gaming performance could be better. If you really can’t abide by iOS, or you just already have an Android smartphone in your pocket (and a whole bunch of purchased apps and media you don’t want to go to waste) then this is still an absolutely cracking choice.
Price when reviewed: from £749 inc VAT
1,824 x 2,736
|Dual-core Intel Core m3/i5/i7|
|7h 41m video playback|
Microsoft describes the Surface Pro 4 as the tablet that can replace your laptop – and it’s not far wrong. To say the Surface Pro 4 refines every aspect of its predecessor probably understates quite how important a leap it’s made; it represents another confident step towards the best possible hybrid device. And from a company which, up until not so long ago, didn’t make any hardware at all.
Make no mistake, it’s still not brilliant in every scenario, but it feels considerably less compromised than the previous generations. The kickstand at the rear is now fully-adjustable, which helps to make sure the display is at a comfortable angle, and makes it a little more stable on a lap. And while the Type Cover initially has a disconcerting amount of bounce and flex in it, at least compared to a standard laptop, you soon forget about that once you start typing.
As a tablet, the Surface Pro 4 is a delight. The 12.3in PixelSense display is eye-poppingly lovely, and colour-accurate, too, so perfect for everything from tweaking photographs to creating hand-sketched illustrations. The Surface Pen is the killer addition here, as it provides a genuinely convincing pen experience. And Windows 10 is just as adept at hand-writing recognition as ever, which certainly helps.
It’s not cheap, but even compared to the new pair of Apple iPad Pros, this is one of the only tablets here which genuinely can double as a desktop PC. It’s gorgeous.
Price when reviewed: from £769 inc VAT
2,732 x 2,048
|Apple A10X Fusion|
|12h 18m video playback|
Apple has long touted the iPad as being more than just a fashion accessory; more than just a fancy tablet for playing Angry Birds on. And while the naysayers have been content to rule it out as a serious device, one that’s capable of doing proper work, Apple has answered those criticisms in its usual fashion: it has launched two of the finest tablets in history.
The 12.9-inch iPad Pro is the larger of the two, and it’s everything you’d expect: big, beautifully designed, and dramatically more powerful than any iPad that’s come before. The new 12.9-inch iPad Pro comes with the latest and greatest A10X chip and 4GB of RAM. The 2017 model also features a 120Hz display that provides excellent fluidity. The panel makes it ideal for sketching and navigating – so if you’re an artist looking for a big-screen tablet, the 12.9-inch iPad Pro might be your best pick.
The tablet comes in 64GB, 256GB and 512GB storage options. Its impressive 12hrs 18mins video playback is ideal for watching a few movies during long-haul flights. If you’re looking for a large-sized tablet, the 2017 12.9-inch iPad Pro is an excellent choice.
Yes, it’s expensive. No, you can’t run all the desktop apps you would on a MacBook or Windows device. But the iPad Pro’s combination of great all-round design, a lightweight OS partnered with speedy hardware, and good battery life makes it a force to be reckoned with.
Price when reviewed: £599
2,048 x 1,536
|Quad-core Snapdragon 820|
|11hrs 43mins video playback|
The Samsung Galaxy Tab S3 is the best Android tablet ever made, so why is it down in sixth place on our list? One simple reason: the price.
Despite its incredible 4:3 aspect ratio 2,0148 x 1,536 resolution AMOLED display, its stupefyingly lightweight chassis and alluring looks, charging £600 for a tablet alone, even one with an S-Pen stylus included in the box, is just plain crazy.
It makes a touch more sense when you consider that Samsung sees the Tab S3 principally as an iPad Pro 9.7 rival, and when you add the cost of the keyboard, stylus and tablet together, the Tab S3 comes out £80 cheaper.
But still, it’s a lot to spend on any tablet, even one as brilliant as this.
Price when reviewed: from £419 inc VAT
1,536 x 2,048
|Dual-core Apple A8|
|10h 43m video playback|
In many ways, the iPad mini 4 remains the small tablet to beat, but it’s now considerably more expensive than it once was, thanks to the fact that Apple has dropped the smaller storage options, leaving only the £419 128GB in place.
The performance enhancements in this generation keep it ahead of (most) of its competitors, and the quality of third-party applications on iOS make it a superior platform overall (or at least that’s what Ian thinks – feel free to disagree with him on the review’s comments thread).
If you crave a larger screen than a big-screened phone can provide then the mini is an understandably tempting option. And don’t forget: there are quite a few apps, and particularly music-making ones such as iMPC Pro, which are only available on Apple’s iPads. In some cases, even the iPhone 6s Plus’ king-size smartphone screen just isn’t big enough.
In tandem with a decent case (or a completely waterproof, ruggedised one such as LifeProof’s Fre) the iPad mini 4 makes for a great go-anywhere tablet. Big enough for movies, small enough to carry in a rucksack, and long-lasting enough to survive quite a while without needing to return to a mains socket with annoying regularity.
However, the size of the iPad mini is beginning to feel like a compromise and the newly expensive price a barrier to entry. The newer, larger and cheaper iPad 2017 (see above) is probably a better option these days.
Price when reviewed: £300 inc VAT, 32GB Wi-Fi
Samsung has taken its rather lovely Galaxy Tab S 8.4 and given it a mighty impressive once-over. The screen size has shrunk to 8in, but the wider 4:3 aspect ratio makes a positive difference and image quality remains top dollar. Despite a 5.6mm thin body, both performance and battery life have taken a turn for the better, too. The only quibble? The price.
1,536 x 2,048
|Octa-core Exynos 5433|
|14h 07m video playback|
“There’s really no reason not to choose the Samsung Galaxy Tab S 8.4.”
Unless your particularly partial to Apple’s iOS, there’s really no reason not to choose Samsung’s Galaxy Tab S 8.4 instead. It is, in short, absolutely bloody lovely. It’s light, and achingly slim, but yet the first thing that will strike most people will be the sheer quality of the 8in display.
By default, the Super AMOLED screen serves up colours that are far more rich and vivid than most of its rivals, but whether you want a more subdued range or intense oversaturation, you can choose between sRGB and Adobe RGB modes in the settings. And whichever you do choose, colour accuracy is better than pretty much any tablet out there.
The clincher here, however, is that the design and screen quality are married with superb performance and competitive battery life. Factor in the ability to extend the Samsung’s storage quickly and easily via a microSD card, and this tablet is the reason that many people should consider buying an Android tablet rather than going with Apple.
10. Amazon Fire 7
Price when reviewed: £50 inc VAT
600 x 1,024
|Quad-core Mediatek MT8217|
|8h 30m video playback|
It’s a 7in tablet. It costs £50. For many people, that will be all they need to know. Sold.
Still here? Okay. Let us explain why you should buy one.
Of course, you can’t expect cutting-edge design – the Fire is over 1cm thick – or high-end specifications, but this is a very usable tablet for pocket money. The display is chunky and pixelated compared to the phone you have in your pocket, and Amazon’s Fire OS brings its own limitations to the table, but if you already have a Prime subscription you probably won’t care. The new 2017 Fire 7 tablet also comes with Alexa built-in, making it the cheapest device with a display to feature Amazon’s voice-assistant. This makes the Fire 7 is a half-decent tablet for £50. If you want a tablet for the kids, or one that you don’t mind knocking around a bit on a camping holiday, this is a pretty good bet.