Best tablets Buying Guide: Welcome to What Hi-Fi?'s round-up of the best tablets you can buy in 2023.
If you're a frequent traveller, or perhaps like to take your movies, TV shows and music on your daily commute, then a tablet could be one of the best AV investments you can make. 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. Each of these brands also uses different operating systems (iPadOS, Android and FireOS) on their respective tablets, and each is compatible with different accessories.
They're made to fit all kinds of needs, preferences and budgets, so we've rounded up the best tablet choices for 2023 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.
The quick list
The latest iPad is a well-rounded and versatile tablet that we wouldn’t hesitate to recommend to anyone.
In a range of great-value tablets, the Amazon Fire HD 8 currently offers the best value of them all.
It’s hugely expensive but the latest iPad Pro 12.9 is a glorious way to watch movies on the move.
It might not be the most subtle device on this list and it’s certainly not perfect, but the S9 Ultra is still a lot of fun.
Apple’s smallest iPad takes everything that makes its bigger tablets great and squeezes it into a more compact chassis.
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The best tablet overall
The iPad has officially hit double digits with its latest iteration. This 2022 model marks the biggest change the standard iPad has undergone since the first one was introduced way back in 2010. This is most evident in the design, this 10th-generation tablet having shed its predecessor's monochromatic shell in favour of bright hues and squared-off edges.
So has Apple brought its darling first tablet into the modern age? Or are we witnessing an iPad identity crisis?
In some ways, the iPad's 10th generation feels like a major overhaul, and in others, it feels like a simple refinement. The new design certainly makes this feel like a generational shift as we wave goodbye to the home button and Lightning connector; however, the minor (yet still appreciated) upgrades to picture and sound aren’t indicative of a next-generation product.
We commended the iPad that came before it thanks to its already winning performance, commenting that a design update was overdue. Now with an even better AV experience packed into a slick new design, the standard iPad has its time to shine again and is easier than ever to recommend – if you can stretch to its elevated price tag.
Read the full Apple iPad (2022) review
The best cheap tablet
When it comes to buying new tech there are a lot of false economies, but Amazon’s Fire range of tablets isn’t one of them. If you want the best performance-per-pound model, look no further than the latest Fire HD 8.
The Fire HD 8’s low price – we’ve seen it drop as low as £55 during one of Amazon’s many sales – means managing expectations when it comes to pretty much all areas of the tablet. There’s more plastic here than anything else, the processor can’t cope with top-tier games, and the screen can be quite reflective, but it has more than enough to deliver the basics.
The 8-inch screen is bright and punchy, and blacks are good considering it’s backlit. Colours look natural, and while the overall picture performance is a long way behind what you’ll get from an iPad, it’s still very good for this price.
The two speakers, which are on the top edge so you don’t block them with your hands, are nothing to write home about, but they’re engaging enough if you don’t have a pair of headphones to plug in. Doing so will reward you with a more balanced and composed performance, though.
If an iPad is out of your price range and you don’t need high-end specs, Amazon’s Fire HD 8 is excellent value for money.
Read our full Amazon Fire HD 8 (2022) review
The best premium tablet
With its 12.9-inch screen, Apple’s iPad Pro isn’t exactly the most portable tablet you can buy, but it is the most well-specced when it comes to watching movies on-the-go.
Its use of Mini LED tech means it’s a bit like having a flagship TV that’ll fit in your bag. The picture it produces is sharp and detailed, colours are well-judged and delicately shaded, and contrast is unbeatable, with deep and insightful blacks. Highlights aren’t quite as bright as its predecessor, but you do get a slight increase in detail to make up for it.
You’ll benefit from using a decent pair of headphones with the iPad Pro, but the built-in speakers do offer a surprisingly spacious and atmospheric listen, even if the lack of bass does seriously limit their cinematic impact.
The iPad Pro is much more than just a portable movie screen, though. The M2 processor inside gives it power to spare, while support for the Magic Keyboard and Apple Pencil (neither of which are included in the box, sadly) makes it a real productivity powerhouse.
There’s talk of an OLED model arriving in 2024, but for now this is the best premium tablet you can buy by some distance.
Read the full Apple iPad Pro review
The best Android tablet
The Ultra is the crown jewel in Samsung’s three-strong Galaxy Tab S9 range – and with its 14.6-inch screen it's even more of a whopper than the iPad Pro (above).
Despite those extra inches the S9 Ultra is only marginally heavier than the iPad Pro, thanks in no small part to its skinny but sturdy aluminium frame, but the headline feature here is obviously that massive AMOLED display. There’s no denying its picture is punchy and vibrant, with excellent depth to the blacks, but it lacks authenticity. Switching the colour profile to the ‘natural’ setting helps, but it still looks soft and lacking in detail compared to the iPad’s Mini LED screen. It’s adept when it comes to motion, though, which is just as well considering how noticeable any shortcomings on that front would be.
Despite the slim dimensions Samsung has found space inside the S9 Ultra for an AKG-tuned quad speaker array, which, thanks to the physical separation of the drivers, sounds nice and spacious. It’s fairly full-bodied, too, you just have to be careful not to block them with your hands when you’re holding the tablet. Unfortunately the same can’t be said once a pair of headphones are connected, whereupon things generally sound flatter and less enthusiastic.
The iPad Pro is better, but if you want a big screen and prefer Android to Apple, the Samsung Galaxy Tab S9 Ultra is a decent option.
Read the full Samsung Galaxy Tab S9 Ultra review
The best small tablet
This latest 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 500-nit LCD panel is less leaky for light than before, making videos look punchy and exciting.
Its sound has moved on leaps and bounds too, with a vastly improved level of dynamic expression to now match Apple's trademark 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. It's just a pity there's no 3.5mm headphone socket, of course.
Read the full Apple iPad Mini 6 review
The best cheap small tablet
The Amazon Fire 7 tablet is cheap. Really cheap. And let's face it, with the cost of living shooting through the roof, how many people have a wad of cash sitting around for an iPad? Maybe it's time to embrace the budget options, and Amazon’s plucky little starter tablet is here to try and ease you into the budget tab lifestyle.
It's important to remember, though, that cheap and good value are two very different things. The Fire 7 certainly ticks the first box, but how does it fare on the second?
The Amazon Fire 7 is the plucky underdog in the tablet world: it doesn’t have a gimmick, it doesn’t have class-leading specs and it won’t have you throwing out your iPad any time soon. But it doesn’t need any of those things because it occupies such a unique space, and that's being a functional and entertaining tablet for roughly the price of half a tank of petrol. And on that front, it's a winner.
Read the full Amazon Fire 7 review
The best cheap large tablet
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.
As long as you're happy using an Amazon-centric interface, this remains a great bargain buy.
Read our full Amazon Fire HD 10 review
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 capacity, 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.
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.
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