Whether you’re an Apple, Android, or Windows fan, you have dozens of options to choose from when shopping for a new tablet, enough so that it’s easy to slip into analysis paralysis.
The first step should be outlining why you want a tablet in the first place: Is it for work? Do you want a device that’s slightly larger than your smartphone for reading or playing games? Do you plan to share it with the family? These questions (among others) should inform your decision.
Amazon Fire HD 8
The Fire HD 8 runs on Amazon’s Fire OS software, which is based on Android, so it offers many popular apps found in Google and Apple’s respective app stores. The 1,280-by-800 pixel resolution screen is notably less sharp than those found on pricier alternatives, though that’s to be expected of a sub-$100 tablet. The Fire HD 8 is available in 16GB and 32GB storage options, but there’s an SD card slot for expanding that up to 256GB. Plus, it comes with Amazon’s voice enabled assistant Alexa, which can be accessed by holding down the home button.
The Fire HD 8 is also an exceptional choice if you plan to share the tablet with children and other family members. Users can build their own profiles, including one for children with content restrictions, educational goals and time limits. And the tablet’s casing is less fragile than those of premium models like the iPad and Galaxy Tab S3, easing concerns when tossing it in your bag without a case or handing it off to a clumsy family member.
Here are the other big differences between the iPad and iPad Pro: storage options cap at 128GB instead of 512GB, it has an 8-megapixel camera instead of 12 that doesn’t record in 4K, and there are two speakers instead of four. The screen is also slightly smaller than the 10.5-inch Pro and has a lower refresh rate, which may make scrolling a bit slower. But none of these differences hamper the experience so long as you’re not a professional media editor, and just looking to do things like watch Netflix, check email, or browse the web.
Samsung Galaxy Tab S3
What makes the Tab S3 a better value than Microsoft and Apple’s offerings is its inclusion of Samsung’s S Pen stylus. By contrast, Apple charges $99 for the Apple Pencil, while Microsoft’s Surface Pen weighs in at $59.99. The S Pen can do more than the Surface Pen or Apple Pencil, too, including handy features like hovering over a word or phrase to translate text. The software also supports multitasking capabilities that make it possible to view apps in split screen mode and send content between your phone and tablet.
Apple iPad Pro
The newest model now comes in a smaller 10.5-inch size form, in addition to the significantly larger 12.9-inch variant. Apple high-end tier also includes new screen tech that makes scrolling smoother, a zippier processor and the same 12-megapixel, 4K shooting camera found on the iPhone 7. And of course the Pro models are the only iPads compatible with Apple’s Smart Keyboard and Apple Pencil.
The iPad Pro is best suited for those who intend to use it primarily for tasks that require hefty processing power, or need more screen real estate and storage space (like professionals who frequently edit photos or design 3D models on the go). For most other tasks, the cheaper standard iPad is more than sufficient.
Microsoft Surface Pro
Microsoft’s Surface stands out for its adjustable hinge, slim yet comfortable keyboard (sold separately) and sleek design. The most recent Surface Pro model, which Microsoft released in June, is 20% faster than the Surface Pro 4, and includes a redesigned kickstand that’s more flexible. I also prefer Microsoft’s keyboard cover and Surface Pen to Apple’s accessories: the ApplePencil does little more than draw and shade, while the Surface Pen’s top button functions as a shortcut for pulling up stylus-optimized apps.
Be sure to give the previous generation model a look, too. The Surface Pro 4 starts at $649, which is $150 cheaper than the fifth generation’s $799 base price. The older version runs an earlier version of Intel’s Core i-processor, but there’s little else that differentiates the two.