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Best tablets 2022: top tablets for movies and music

Best tablets Buying Guide: Welcome to What Hi-Fi?'s round-up of the best tablets you can buy in 2022.

Tablets are a great way of taking a good-sized, high quality screen with you wherever you go. They're bigger than smartphones and come without the threat of work that a laptop brings. A tablet can be an ideal travel companion for entertainment on the go, or an ideal choice for a versatile productivity machine and everything in between. 

The versatility of a tablet is its greatest strength, but it also means that there are many different options to choose from. Apple, Amazon and Samsung are the big players now, and each offers various tablets in different sizes and configurations. They're made to fit all kinds of needs, preferences and budgets, so which tablet is the right one for you?

How to choose the best tablet for you

There are lots of thing to consider when choosing the right tablet for you. What screen size do you want? Bigger-screened tablets make films, photos and TV shows look more impressive and are better suited to gaming, but they're heavier, less portable and usually more expensive.

Which operating system are you after? Android is more open than iOS, but it's not quite as slick or as simple an ecosystem. Or are you happy with Amazon's Fire OS? Members of Amazon Prime might well be, but if you rarely shop at the retail giant, you'll likely find it unsuitable and potentially even irritating.

How much storage do you need? Android devices usually come with slots for memory cards so you can add in extra storage, which could be useful if you've an extensive library of films, music and photos. With an Apple tablet you're stuck with the internal storage. Bear in mind, though, that the rise of streaming means that most people need less storage than they used to.

The best tablet for you will come down to how you want to use it. If you're gaming, you'll want one with tons of power and long battery life, while if you're only sending the occasional email, you can save yourself some money and get yourself a cheaper model.

We've rounded up the best tablet choices for 2022 so that you can find your perfect partner. With models big and small, cheap and pricey, there's sure to be something that fits your needs. Let's find it.

Best tablets

(Image credit: Apple)
Apple's latest iPad Pro is the pinnacle of portable cinema

Specifications

Display: 12.9in
Resolution: 2732 x 2048 (264ppi)
Processor: M1
Front camera: 12MP
Rear camera: 12MP + 10MP ultra wide on rear
RAM: 8GB / 16GB
OS: iPadOS 14
Storage: 128GB / 256GB / 512GB / 1TB / 2TB
Dimensions (WHD): 28 x 21 x 0.6cm
Weight: 682g

Reasons to buy

+
Stunning picture quality
+
Great sound with headphones
+
Hugely powerful

Reasons to avoid

-
Expensive for a tablet

Ever wanted an OLED or QLED TV that you could fit in a backpack? The new iPad Pro 12.9 is that – and plenty more. With its high-end laptop-derived processor, and new mini LED-lit display, this is a real game-changer for Apple's latest premium tablet.

Apple positions its iPad Pro models as productivity and creativity devices, and the new M1 chip takes this to the next level. This is the same chip that Apple has in its
MacBooks.

As for the screen, Apple calls it a Liquid Retina XDR display, with the ‘XDR’ standing for ‘eXtreme Dynamic Range’. This is the first mini-LED backlight in an iPad. There are 10,000 of the things, arranged into 2500 independent dimming zone. That makes for better contrast control with near-perfect blacks and brighter highlights, resulting in a supremely punchy image with great colour authenticity. HDR10HLG and Dolby Vision are all supported.

This tablet is right up there with that of the very best TVs you can buy. Of course, it's hugely expensive and not easy to justify for anyone who has no intention of taking advantage of its productivity potential, but it’s also the best tablet you can buy for watching movies on the move – a luxury, but an extremely persuasive one.

Read the full Apple iPad Pro 12.9 review

Tablet: Amazon Fire HD 10 (11th Gen)

(Image credit: Amazon)
A diminutive, likeable and gifted Fire HD tablet.

Specifications

Display: 10.1in
Resolution: 1920x1200
Processor: 2GHz Octa-core
Front camera: 2MP
Rear camera: 5MP
Operating system: FireOS
Storage: 32/64GB internal, up to 1TB external
Dimensions (HWD): 17 x 25 x 0.9cm
Weight: 465g

Reasons to buy

+
Strong, punchy picture
+
Very able for audio
+
Terrific value

Reasons to avoid

-
Designed to sell subscriptions

Improving on a previous What Hi-Fi? Award-winner was always going to be a tall task, especially without raising the price. But Amazon has cracked it, yet again, with the latest version of the HD10. So what's new? Not a huge amount, actually, but then the previous incarnation was already darn good and the few improvements here are small but significant.

There's a boost for resolution to the rear-facing camera, support for higher-capacity microSD cards now up to 1TB, and a dual-microphone system so that Alexa can hear you better.

The real key change, though, is the physical form of this tablet. It's gone down in size and weight just enough to make it feel a lot more manageable to hold and use, particularly with one hand – and that's all without reducing the 10.1in display, its aspect or pixel count in any way.

When it comes to TV and movies, colour temperature accuracy has improved and there's a definite shift to a punchier, more contrasty and slightly sharper feel. Admittedly that comes at a slight cost of the more natural approach of its predecessor but it's certainly just as good in overall picture performance.

The HD 10’s ‘Dolby Atmos’ integrated dual stereo speakers are somewhat optimistically branded but the sound with music and films is convincing and emotive, with plenty of detail across the frequencies and a pleasing, realistic musical build.

As long as you're happy to use Amazon's apps, this remains a great bargain buy.

Read our full Amazon Fire HD 10 review

Tablets and smartphones: Apple iPad 9th Generation

(Image credit: Apple)
The iPad (9th Generation) makes some welcome tweaks to a winning formula

Specifications

Display: 10.2in
Resolution: 2160 x 1620 (264ppi)
Processor: A13 Bionic
Front camera: 12MP
Rear camera: 12MP
RAM: 3GB
OS: iPadOS 15
Storage: 64GB / 256GB
Dimensions (WHD): 25 x 17.4 x 0.75cm
Weight: 487g

Reasons to buy

+
Excellent picture quality
+
Refined sound for headphone listening
+
Sophisticated front camera

Reasons to avoid

-
Short on meaningful upgrades
-
Design starting to look dated

The iPad 9th Generation doesn’t have many significant upgrades over its predecessor (which itself was an iterative update on the iPad 7th Generation), and this feels like a model for those who haven’t upgraded for a while. However, the improvements are relevant and well executed, keeping this affordable tablet at the forefront of the ‘all rounder’ domain.

It’s easy to take for granted just how slick the picture quality is across the iPad range, but the superb performance of the iPad 9’s display is evident. Colours are punchy while remaining naturalistic, and there’s plenty of sharp detail and refined textures to enjoy. Watching films on a small screen is often considered a compromise, but the iPad 9 reminds us that needn’t be the case.

With a camera set-up better suited for our increasingly online lives, as well as sound quality that maximises Apple’s own much-improved music streaming service, the iPad 9th Generation is still the best tablet at its price. If your current device has seen better days, or you're looking for an entry-level model for video calls that can also hold plenty of content to keep family members occupied, then this is an excellent option.

Read the full Apple iPad (2021) review

Tablet: Apple iPad Air (5th Generation)

(Image credit: Apple)
An astonishingly powerful Air, but how’s the AV performance?

Specifications

Display: 10.9in
Resolution: 2360 x 1640 (264ppi)
Processor: M1
Front camera: 12MP
Rear camera: 12MP
RAM: 8GB
OS: iPadOS 15
Storage: 64GB / 256GB
Dimensions (WHD): 25 x 18 x 0.6cm
Weight: 461g

Reasons to buy

+
Still a lovely design
+
Extraordinarily powerful
+
The same great picture and sound

Reasons to avoid

-
Poor placement of front camera
-
Nearly no change to AV performance

The iPad Air (5th Generation) is a big deal. That’s almost entirely because, in a move predicted by next to no one, Apple has decided to cram into its supremely slim and lightweight chassis the awesomely powerful M1 processor.

While the iPad Air 5th Generation is undeniably an improvement over the iPad Air 4, its key upgrades are to its processor and front-facing camera. Those upgrades are each great in their own right, but for us what really matters are the picture and sound performance, and in these areas it’s pretty much business as usual.

There’s nothing wrong with that, though, as the iPad Air is supremely talented in these areas and more or less untouchable by other tablets in its price range. There’s an argument that the standard iPad is the better performance-per-pound proposition for the pure content consumer, but the new Air is the model to go for if you can afford it.

Read the full Apple iPad Air 5th Generation review

Tablet: Apple iPad Mini

(Image credit: Apple)
The littlest iPad has come on leaps and bounds

Specifications

Display: 8.3in
Resolution: 2266 x 1488px (326ppi)
Processor: A15 Bionic
Front camera: 12MP
Rear camera: 12MP
RAM: 4GB
OS: iPadOS 15
Storage: 64GB / 256GB
Dimensions (WHD): 20 x 14 x 0.6cm
Weight: 293g / 297g (wi-fi / cellular)

Reasons to buy

+
Much improved build
+
Engaging audio
+
Punchy picture

Reasons to avoid

-
No headphones socket
-
Some compromised tonal detail

This bigger-screened, better sounding iPad Mini is a huge improvement on the last model and just the ticket if an 8-inch tablet is what you’re after. It's small enough to carry around in a jacket pocket while offering a viewing and listening experience that’s way beyond that of even a large mobile phone.

The bezel has shrunk right down meaning that, while the device remains the same size as the previous generation, the screen itself is actually bigger. The picture quality is better too. The 500nit LCD panel is less leaky for light than before, making video look punchy and exciting.

It's sound which has moved on leaps and bounds, though, with a vastly improved level of dynamic expression to now match the trademark Apple crisp sense of timing. There are also speakers on both ends of the tablet, for the first time, meaning that you get a sense of cinematic sound even without headphones.

Throw in a super-slick user experience, the rather handsome looks, USB-C recharging and the interesting addition of Apple Pencil support and you’ve got yourself a little winner. Just a pity there's no 3.5mm headphones socket, of course.

Read the full Apple iPad Mini 6 review

Best tablets 2022: big, small, budget and premium

(Image credit: Future)
A diminutive, likeable and gifted Fire HD tablet.

Specifications

Display: 8in
Resolution: 1280x800
Processor: 2GHz
Front camera: 2MP
Rear camera: 2MP
Operating system: FireOS
Storage: 32/64GB internal, up to 1TB external
Dimensions (HWD): 20.2 x 13.7 x 0.9cm
Weight: 335g

Reasons to buy

+
Clear and competent picture
+
Expansive sound
+
Snappy operation

Reasons to avoid

-
Nothing of note

This impressive new Amazon tablet packs much of the same specs as the Award-winning 10in model into a package two inches smaller. And it's a resounding success.

It's roughly the same height and width as a paperback book, and is slim, rounded at the edges and surprisingly light – perfect for holding and slipping into a bag.

The image is impressive. The picture runs remarkably smoothly, and bar the odd moment of judder, it’s a competent performance overall. It has some nice features too, like Adaptive brightness (which optimises brightness levels according to the surrounding light) and Blue Shade, which reduces the amount of blue light on the screen. As a tablet of this size will often be used for reading before bed, this is a nice touch.

The new gaming mode makes games look a little more vibrant, and on the audio front it delivers an expansive presentation with excellent separation. Overall, it's a good-sounding tablet for the money, and all said, a great all-rounder.

Read our full Amazon Fire HD 8 (2020) review

Best tablets 2022: big, small, budget and premium

(Image credit: Future)
An awesome Android tablet for watching TV and movies.

Specifications

Display: 12.4in
Resolution: 2800x1752
Front camera: 8MP
Rear camera: 13MP
Operating system: Android
Storage: 128GB (plus up to 1TB microSD card)
Dimensions (HWD): 28.5 x 18.5 x 0.6cm
Weight: 575g

Reasons to buy

+
Punchy, immersive screen
+
Effective quad speakers
+
Premium look and feel

Reasons to avoid

-
Better app support in iPadOS
-
No headphone jack
-
Expensive

Samsung continues to fly the flag for Android tablets and, for those of us who see a tablet as a portable movie and music device, this Galaxy S7 FE is a tempting option. There's an AKG sound system, a large, 12.4-inch screen and of course a low price tag.

There's no HDR support, which seems a shame, but there is Dolby Atmos... which seems overkill. It's worth pointing out there's no headphone jack but Bluetooth audio is on board and you have Samsung's familiar S-Pen stylus.

Watching video the size of the screen is a real bonus, while colours are bright and punchy. Don't expect the last work in black detail or definition but overall it's an easy to watch, enjoyable image, ideal for on-the-go TV and films. What's more, the sound is really quite impressive for a tablet.

The Samsung Galaxy Tab S7 FE is a really appealing tablet. By offering a big, bright screen in a cinematically suitable aspect ratio, it immediately stands out against the competition.

Read our full Samsung Galaxy Tab S7 FE review

How we test the best tablets

Narrowing down the expansive tablet market into a small selection of tablets that we  would recommend is harder than it sounds. Thankfully, here at What Hi-Fi? we have years of expertise and plenty of resources to ensure that we can rigorously test these options so we can recommend them to you with confidence. 

Thanks to our dedicated testing rooms found in Bath and Reading, alongside our knowledgeable and experienced team, we can conduct thorough tests to explore what these devices can do. Our main area of focus is picture and sound, meaning that these tablets all must excel at delivering a quality AV experience; but features, cameras, battery life and software are all also key factors when it comes to testing these tablets.

In order to combat any personal preference or bias, each product we review is given a group consensus before any verdict is made. This step in the process also ensures that we haven't missed anything during the initial testing phase, as well as approaching the performance from different viewpoints to get a more holistic view of the device overall.

All of these tablets are also compared to others within their price ranges; this helps to contextualise the device within its category and enables us to consider if we would recommend it over its competition. It's important to remember that no product exists in a vacuum, so looking further than the device itself is crucial.

Our Best Buys are a collection of products that we believe provide the best experience at their price points, and ones that we would recommend you buy with peace of mind, knowing they have the What Hi-Fi? seal of approval. 

You can check out our full range of Best Buys if you're looking of more approved tech recommendations.

Lewis Empson
Staff Writer

Staff Writer Lewis is the newest addition to the What Hi-Fi? editorial team. Previously Gaming and Digital editor for Cardiff University's 'Quench Magazine', Lewis graduated in 2021 and has since worked on a selection of lifestyle magazines and regional newspapers. In his down time he enjoys gaming and regular cinema trips.