1. Expert reviews

Tablets: 8 models tested

Daniel Hessel

Updated October 13, 2021

Tablets: 8 models tested

1. Apple iPad 10.2 (9th gen) – BEST CHOICE TABLET 2021

The iPad you need, even if it's not the one you want

Price class: Medium Size: 10.2” Resolution: 2160 × 1620 pixels Chip: Apple A13 Bionic (2x2.65 GHz + 4x1.8 GHz) Camera: 8 MP, selfie camera: 12 MP Video recording: 1080p@30fps Input and output: 1 Lightning, magnetic connector for keyboard Storage: 64/256 GB Speakers: 2

Apple iPad 256GB (2021)

The 9th generation Apple iPad is the tablet you really need, and – fortunately – also the cheapest of Apple tablets. You get sufficient performance for most tasks, enough to keep this tablet usable for a few years. It works OK with games and manages everything else even better, which makes it really difficult to see why you’d need any of Apple's more expensive machines.

All new camera

The 2021 edition of the iPad is actually a rather boring one. The shape is the same as it has been for three generations now. The pen support is still just Apple's first generation. It’s also the only iPad that still runs on Apple’s Lightning connector, as all other tablets have switched to USB-C.

Below the screen you will, as usual, find the TouchID fingerprint reader.

Inside you now get the A13 Bionic instead of last year's A12. This does give the iPad a real performance boost, although of course not the same power as in the Air or Pro models. But even if some games may load a little more slowly, they still work fine in most cases.

Most changes have happened in the front camera, which now has ten times more megapixels, going from 1.2 to 12. But this is largely because the selfie camera has now received support for Center Stage. This means the camera “follows you” if you move your head slightly to the side.

Of course, the camera doesn’t actually move, and so this is just a combination of a little AI and some image cropping. Which is what the extra megapixels are for. This technology first appeared in spring's iPad Pro machines and is actually quite fun. Perfect for making video conferencing that bit better.

An iPad for everyone

As we’ve already said, this year’s iPad is a fairly boring update to an existing product. But even so, you still get most of what you need or want in this package.

This year, the storage memory has doubled, so the smallest iPad now starts at 64 Gb. That’s not tons, but if you don’t intend to store videos and photographs, and are more inclined to download apps and games, then it is enough.

If you want to draw and sketch, the first generation Apple pencil also works very well. If you need a keyboard, there is both Bluetooth and a magnetic connector on one long side to attach one. Most of the functions from iPadOS are here and they work really fast, so you have a complete system with significantly more apps and a longer update time than any Android tablet on the market.

The 9th generation iPad has enough power, screen, battery and other functions to make most people happy. Sure, the iPad Mini is pretty cool, the Air is pretty cool and the Pro is cooler in every way. But in terms of what you get for your money, this basic iPad is actually very affordable.

Lots of functionscenter Stage supportvery quick
Lightning connectorfew updates

Price Comparison

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Apple iPad 10.2 (2021) 256GB Wifi (Silver)...

£404.51
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Apple iPad 10.2 WiFi 9th Generation -2021 (Brand New), Silver / 256GB

£419.00
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2021 Apple iPad (10.2-inch iPad, Wi-Fi, 256GB) - Silver (9th Generation)

£449.97

2. iPad Pro

An incredibly powerful tablet

Price class: Premium Size: 11” (also available as 12.9") Resolution: 2388x1668p Chip: A12X Bionic 64 bit architecture Camera: 12 MP, selfie camera: 7 MP Video recording: 4K Input and output: 1 x USB-C, microphones Storage: 64/256/512/1000 GB Speakers: 4 pcs

Apple iPad Pro 11" 256GB (2018)

The iPad Pro is an extremely powerful tablet. Whether you really need this much power in a tablet is the question. The apps and games we tested ran smoothly, but on the other hand they ran smoothly on our old iPad Pro which has a good few years under its belt.

However, if you do need a lot of power, you certainly won’t be short of it with the latest generation iPad Pro, because it’s more powerful than the average computer.

The iPad Pro also comes with a razor-sharp screen with excellent colour reproduction and all the technology you’d expect in a tablet. For example, it has facial recognition, charging via USB-C and a very good battery life. We had no problem at all leaving it 2-3 days between charges when using it sparingly.

However, we felt it needed a fingerprint reader because the facial recognition isn’t always 100%. For example, it has problems recognising people wearing hats and scarves.

And the camera isn’t as good as we’d expect from an Apple device. Images become slightly grainy in poor lighting. The size of the tablet also makes it unsuitable for photography, not that that’s its primary purpose.

Rather a powerful hybrid computer

In terms of size however, and from a completely different perspective, the iPad Pro is very inviting as an entertainment device. We tested the 11-inch version which, with its razor-sharp screen and slimline design, is a nice alternative for a tablet. However, the format could have been more film-friendly, such as 16:9, which we think is better suited for the kind of things people use tablets for.

If you’re looking for an alternative to a hybrid computer, the iPad Pro should definitely be on your list, as in many ways it’s even better than a hybrid computer. But as a tablet, it’s unnecessarily powerful and expensive. If that’s what you're looking for, we’d recommend the regular iPad models, with significantly lower price tags but still enough power for entertainment.

There are just not enough apps and games yet that need this much power.

Similarly if you’re going to use it as a student computer, which it’s definitely capable of, you should probably buy the Smart Keyboard Folio instead – and possibly even the Apple Pencil – to take fast notes. The keyboard then doubles as a protective case and stand for your iPad.

Is Apple straddling the fence?

It feels a bit like Apple is straddling the fence here both in terms of power and price with its two latest tablets. To get decent storage, you have to pay as much as you would for an average computer. So from the point of view of using the tablet for entertainment, we wouldn’t recommend an iPad Pro. It's a bit like buying a Ferrari and using it as a commuter car. If, on the other hand, you want to use it as a computer, it’s a good buy.

The iPad Pro is a great device, totally superior to all others, but it does cost accordingly. It all depends on how you intend to use it and how deep your pocket is. But you’ll definitely be happy with your purchase once you’ve got it in your hands.

Extremely powerfulconvenient sizevery good screen
Poor 4:3 formatexpensive

3. Apple iPad (8th gen)

Price class: Medium Size: 10.2” Resolution: 2160 × 1620 pixels Chip: Apple A12 Bionic (2x2.5 GHz + 4x1.6 GHz) Camera: 8 MP, selfie camera: 1.2 MP Video recording: 1080p@30fps Input and output: 1 x Lightning, magnetic keyboard connector Storage: 32/128 GB Speakers: 2

Apple iPad 10.2" 128GB (2020)

The eighth generation, 2020 model or whatever you want to call it... in any case, the latest Apple iPad is a really competent package for what can be considered a reasonable price. At the same time, it feels a bit like the last of its kind.

The shape is familiar

Talking about the new things doesn’t take long at all. Apple’s latest iPad has been given the A12 chip, unlike last time when it had the A10. And that is the only difference. It certainly makes the tablet much faster, but otherwise it’s identical to the 2019 model.

However, if you’re coming from a slightly older iPad, depending on the model year you already have, you’ll get both a larger screen (10.2 compared to 9.7 inches), support for the Apple Pencil (ludicrously only the first generation) and a magnetic connector to easily attach a keyboard.

At the same time, it was a good construction from the start, so it definitely doesn’t feel cheap. We’d have preferred to see the tablet use USB-C for charging, because this (along with the ageing iPad Mini) is now Apple's only tablet with a Lightning connector.

Fantastic tablet experience

If we were to continue listing things that could have been updated, a better camera for video calls would have been good. Common to all devices using iPadOS is that they don’t support multiple users, something that, given its price class this tablet lacks more than its more pro-oriented bigger siblings (seriously, Apple TV supports multiple users, so this is just ridiculous).

But this is an iPad and although most of it’s familiar, none of it’s bad. Apart from the user account issue, iPadOS, which the tablet version of iOS is now called, is a very mature, function-packed and stable system. Of course, its biggest strength is the App Store, whose plethora of apps designed for larger screens is much superior to that for Android. At the same time, this tablet will keep up with updates for a good many years to come, which means the price tag doesn't seem as high.

The eighth generation iPad is perfect for anyone who “just wants a tablet” without wasting money on luxury features. It’s fast and will be able to keep up for years to come. And if you want to jazz it up with a pen or keyboard, it’s a great choice.

Fastwell builtgood platform and ecosystem
Physically identical to its predecessorno USB-C for chargingiPadOS doesn’t support multiple users

4. Samsung Galaxy Tab S7

Samsung goes all in

Price class: Premium Size: 11” Resolution: 1600 x 2560 pixels Chip: Qualcomm Snapdragon 865 (1x3.09 GHz, 3x2.42 GHz, 4x1.8 GHz) Camera: 13+5 MP, selfie camera: 8 MP Video recording: 4K @ 30 FPS Input and output: 1 x USB-C, magnetic contact Storage: 128 GB Speakers: 4

Samsung Galaxy Tab S7 11.0 SM-T870 128GB

The Samsung Galaxy Tab S7 is Samsung's attempt to bridge the tablet category and the slightly more diffuse "a tablet can also be a computer" category. In terms of performance, you get pretty much what's in their top mobile model, the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra, including the pen.

Faster pen

The pen that comes with the Tab S7 is significantly chunkier, but also more comfortable, than the one you get with the Note 20 series. However, the shape means you don’t get a dedicated space for it inside the tablet, but have to settle for a magnetic mount or a special pocket in the accessory shell.

The pen uses the same technology as the Note one does, with an incredibly fast response time and an even more "authentic” writing feeling.

When it comes to hardware in general, there’s a decent camera, really good sound from the four speakers and ample storage space in combination with the already fast Snapdragon chip. The screen may not be quite in the same class as the Note 20, but the OLED screen offered is still among the best you can find on a tablet.

The battery life is also pretty impressive. If you want to use this for an entire working day, in most cases it will cause you no problems.

DeX comes and goes

Other than the pen, productivity is the big thing here. This is achieved primarily through Samsung's DeX mode, which in this case means a very Windows-like desktop environment and the ability to run apps in windows. When DeX works as it should, it really feels like the best of both the Android and PC worlds.

Sadly, we find a lot of apps don’t want to play nicely with the whole windows concept, which leads to quite a buggy experience at times. Of course, much of this is due to the fact that Android isn’t built to run this way (yet), but the fact is that these glitches make the potentially fantastic experience lag a fair bit behind against the much simpler approach of arch-rival iPad Pro; a product that can boast of a much more lively ecosystem of tablet-adapted apps.

The Samsung Galaxy Tab S7 is the best Android tablet you can buy today, period. Sometimes DeX mode is fantastic, the pen is incredibly accurate and even if you completely skip DeX, you still get a really well-built tablet. At the same time, DeX isn’t perfect and you risk having to settle for a phone app expanded to tablet size. A fantastic combo from both Samsung and Android is well on its way to offering a new kind of computer experience.

Really good pen feelthe screenDeX (sometimes)
No compartment for the penDeX (sometimes)

5. Huawei Matepad Pro

Wonderful hardware with OK software

Price class: High end Size: 10.8 ins Resolution: 2500 x 1600 pixels Chip: HiSilicon Kirin 990 Camera: 13 + 8 megapixels Storage: 128 GB RAM: 6 GB Connections: USB-C Battery: 7250 mAh, fast charge up to 40 watts, reverse wireless charging

Huawei MatePad Pro 128GB

Huawei have previously released a number of slightly simpler tablets under the name of Mediapad, but with the Matepad Pro they’re now stepping up and trying out the slightly tougher high end segment. It's obvious that Huawei would want to try to challenge the top tablets in terms of both function and status – Apple's iPad Pro and Samsung's Galaxy Tab S series – and, were it not for the elephant in the room, they might well have succeeded. This tablet is slightly cheaper than the two aforementioned giants’ products, but still matches their top models in terms of hardware. Of course, the problem here is Android, or rather the lack of a fully-fledged version of that operating system, as well as Google's framework and all its services. And you just can’t ignore that. Although Huawei have their own app store which is steadily growing, it hasn’t yet gone as far as it’s going to need to. However, it’s undeniably easier to live with running web versions of various services on such a large screen than it is on a phone.

The tablet has a really nice design, with thin screen edges and rounded corners. The back cover, in dark grey aluminium, gives it a solid and robust feeling which corresponds to how it feels when you hold it. It quite simply feels premium.

The IPS screen is 10.8 inches, and it has a fairly high resolution of 2500 x 1600 pixels. It’s bright and, just like Huawei's computers, it offers wonderful colour reproduction that really makes you feel good. Of course, Huawei's excellent Kirin 990 chip is also pretty special, and 6 GB of RAM along with 128 GB of storage is definitely plenty. You can also supplement this with a memory card if you want more storage, but unfortunately Huawei has only used its own memory cards for a few years now. The problem isn’t that these are expensive, but that they’re often quite difficult to obtain.

The sound is also really impressive. Regardless of where we place the tablet, it’s rich, full and detailed thanks to the four speaker drivers. We must also praise the cameras, which are really good for tablet cameras (these aren’t devices you’d primarily use for taking photographs or videos). The most important thing in the context of a tablet – which are often used for video conferencing – is the selfie camera. In this tablet, you can find this in a so-called camera hole in the screen, which you barely notice. The resolution of the rear camera is 13 megapixels, while the selfie camera offers 8 megapixels. More than good enough.

Huawei have also released two accessories in the form of the M-Pencil stylus and the Smart Magnetic Keyboard, which means that it can to an extent be used like a laptop. The accessories work very well, they’re stylish and they do exactly what they promise to do. How useful they are in practice, however, is another matter, as this tablet will never be a replacement for a laptop.

The battery is rated at a generous 7250 mAh and supports 40 watt charging. Just like Huawei's newer mobile phones, the Matepad Pro also supports reverse charging, meaning that you can charge other gadgets wirelessly by placing them against the back of the tablet.

If you don’t care about the absence of Google's services, and can imagine doing a fair bit of work to create a tablet that at least feels like an Android device, this is an extremely affordable high-end tablet you might want to consider. But if you want an easier time, you should probably spend a few hundred more and go for an iPad Pro, or even take a closer look at Samsung's Galaxy Tab S6.

High performancestylishgood screennice accessories
Lacks support for Google services

6. Samsung Galaxy Tab S6 Lite

Fully equipped medium class tablet

Price class: Medium Size: 10.4” Resolution: 2000x1200p Chip: Exynos 9611 (4x2.3 GHz, 4x1.7 Ghz) Camera: 8 MP, selfie camera: 5 MP Video recording: 1080p Input and output: 1 x USB-C, microphones Storage: 64 GB Speakers: 2 pcs

Samsung Galaxy Tab S6 Lite 10.4 SM-P610 64GB

The Samsung Galaxy Tab S6 Lite not only has a complicated name, but would have done better to be marketed as something other than a budget version of the Tab S6. Yes, you have Samsung's S pen to write on the screen with, but it’s also a very competent medium class tablet in itself.

Pen without a holder

To start with the pen, it's actually one of the most annoying features of the tablet. There's no problem with the pen or the note and sketch functions that are built-in. There are a few less functions than with Note phones, but the main functions are still there and they work well. The best one is making handwritten notes in a floating window while watching a video or similar.

The disadvantage is that the tablet lacks the Note series' characteristic pen holder. Instead, it’s supposed to be stored along one long side with a sort of folded magnetic bracket. This means you’ll quickly put the pen away and then almost forget that the tablet supports one at all.

As a regular tablet, however, this one is exemplary for its price class. The build quality is high and even if the screen isn’t the most crisp, the resolution is easily sufficient and the screen's performance doesn’t leave very much to be desired.

Plenty of functions

On the inside, there’s more than enough to keep you satisfied. In terms of performance, the S6 Lite ranks at about the same level as last year's Galaxy S10 phones, which isn’t at all bad. Storage is decent and can be expanded with a memory card if needed.

The cameras are pretty much what you’d expect for a tablet, i.e. nothing to write home about. However, the selfie camera is good enough to handle video conferencing and the speakers work well enough for both film and conversation. So, yes, overall, it’s reasonable for the price tag.

In addition to all that, the S6 Lite has inherited many functions from both the more expensive tablets and phones. This means that, in addition to everything Android has to offer and the pen functions, you have a lot of extra functions, security solutions and a clever child mode to take advantage of.

The Samsung Galaxy Tab S6 Lite would probably have benefited from being called something less budget-price like. Because if you want the perfect Android alternative to the iPad, in about the same price class, this is the ideal choice.

Nice to have a pengood performancegood build quality
No holder for the pen4G version could have been cheaper

7. Apple iPad (2018)

The ideal budget tablet

Price class: Medium Size: 9.7 ins Resolution: 1536x2048p Chip: A10 Fusion 2.34GHz Camera: 8MP Video recording: 1080p Input and output: 1 Lightning, headphone jack Storage: 32/128 GB Speakers: 2 pcs

Apple iPad 9.7" 128GB (2018)

The 2018 model of the Apple iPad has an obvious place in the iPad family. While Pro models are intended for professional use and this year's Air model is the more go-to adult model, this version of the iPad is the usual gateway to the range. It’s a simple, inexpensive way into Apple's ecosystem and a way to introduce the iPad as a tool in schools and so on.

Reasonable budget machine

The standard edition of the iPad has been updated with a slightly fresher system chip compared to its predecessor, and it now supports Apple Pencil (first generation). The pen, and support for it, are included so it has no "missing” functionality in the entry-level model, and they also allow for more advanced drawing on the tablet than fingers alone can handle.

The A10 chip in the iPad was hardly the most modern chip even when the tablet was first released. But there’s still plenty of power for most things you’ll want to do with it, and we never felt the tablet was slow. Games do load a little slower than on more expensive models, of course, but for the applications the tablet is intended for, it’s good enough.

You’re not really lacking any of the functions in iOS, and can write, run some apps simultaneously on the screen and so forth. Of course not at the same speed, but fast enough for most people.

In addition to faster processors, more expensive and more recent iPads boast both the more versatile USB-C connector, a screen that adapts colours to ambient light and a special connector for Apple's own keyboard (though a Bluetooth keyboard still works just as well). In addition you also have the differences in screen size and resolution compared to the iPad Pro.

Good everyday iPad

These are important aspects to remember. Because an iPad looks more or less like it always did, and iOS looks and works like it always did. Apple's ecosystem, with the App Store and the amount of apps adapted for tablets, still far outshines Android.

iOS for tablets isn’t perfect, and in particular it lacks support for several users, but the apps still make the iPad really appealing.

At the same time, not many people need an iPad as a replacement for a laptop for serious work. For most users, the iPad is something to read on, check emails, browse the internet, play games and so on (or as an entertainment machine for the kids). For those tasks, Apple's cheap iPad works really well and is definitely enough for most people. In a world of rising Apple prices, it’s also the closest to a budget model you’re likely to find, but still a good one.

Apple's 2018 edition of the iPad is still a perfect choice for the everyday user, and it doesn’t feel like too many important modern functions are missing.

The pricethe appspen support
Slightly old hardwareonly support for old Apple Pencil

8. Huawei Mediapad M5

Quirky tablet with its heart in the right place

Price class: Medium Size: 10.8” Resolution: 2560x1600p Chip: HiSilicon Kirin 960s Camera: 13 MP, selfie camera: 8 MP Video recording: 1080p **Input and output: **1 x USB-C, microphones Storage: 64 GB Speakers: 4 pcs

Huawei MediaPad M5 Lite 10" 64

The Huawei Mediapad M5 is part of Huawei's attempt to go for the iPad Pro market. In many ways it succeeds, although the design of the tablet is a bit confusing.

Never get used to the buttons

The tablet's design feels both luxurious and well-built, with a solid combination of metal and glass. On the back there are four speakers, which means that you get really good sound in all positions.

What’s less good, however, is the positioning of the logo, camera, buttons and connections. It’s difficult to say exactly what it is, but during all our months with the tablet, we never learned where everything is on it.

It’s clearly intended to be used in landscape mode, but the home button is placed for use in portrait mode. And the charging connector is located next to the power and volume buttons, which is also a bit confusing.

Very powerful

Fortunately, it’s the touchscreen you’ll use the most. And it’s a really nice screen, too. Maybe not the absolute best screen we've seen, but in every way pretty decent in terms of resolution, colours and blacks.

On the inside, there’s a really fast chip from Huawei's own company Hisilicon, which gives plenty of oomph to both work and games. While there is support for memory cards in the tablet, we think that 64 gigabytes of storage feels a bit stingy. However, we can’t criticise the battery life, which is fine for a full working day, if that’s how you're going to use the tablet.

Using Android on a tablet has long been a bit of an annoyance. This is because very few apps are adapted to the format, unlike how things are for the iPad. However, this has improved over recent years and in combination with Huawei's own interface over Android, it can be seen as manageable nowadays, but apps still appear in strange resolutions and so on because they aren’t adapted to the larger format.

This isn’t Huawei's fault, but it's still a problem. Nor have Huawei added quite as many business functions and connections to computers to the Mediapad M5 as they have in their Mate series of phones, for example. You can buy a keyboard to make it feel more like a laptop, but there’s no support for a more advanced pen.

The Huawei Mediapad M5 is incredibly well built and really fast. At the same time, it feels like a bit of a confused design, but it’s still a really good choice for anyone who wants a tablet primarily for entertainment use.

Well-builtfastgood battery life
Muddled designandroid on tablets still lags behindnot enough storage space

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Everything you need to know about tablets

It’s hard to imagine that tablets have only been on the market for a few years. The Apple iPad created this new computer format and now there are lots of different models and sizes from manufacturers such as Samsung, ASUS and HP. As early as 2014, more tablets were sold than regular computers. The iPad still dominates the higher price segment, but there are many interesting tablets in the low and medium-price segments. Which tablet is best for you? The answer depends on several different factors, such as your budget, your size preferences, any support for mobile broadband, but also what the tablet will be used for. Your needs will vary depending on whether you plan to browse the internet from your sofa or work with spreadsheets at the office.

Two operating systems dominate the market today, Android from Google and iOS from Apple. Most apps are made for both of these systems and today there are hundreds of thousands of applications and games to download with a single click. Microsoft has also launched operating systems for tablets. In fact it’s launched two different versions. One version for simpler tablets with low-power ARM processors (which are also used by Apple and Android), and another version for advanced x86-compatible tablets based on the same processor technology as standard Windows computers. So far, however, they haven’t seen any real sales success, which in turn has led to Windows tablets having to wait much longer to access the same apps that are available on the Apple Appstore and Google Play.

We continuously test and recommend the most interesting tablets on the market. Soon we’ll be reviewing even more models. Next in line to be tested are the iPad Air, iPad Mini and Google Nexus 7.

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