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Best tablets 2020

Best tablets 2020: big, small, budget and premium
(Image credit: Apple)

Best tablets Buying Guide: Welcome to What Hi-Fi?'s round-up of the best tablets you can buy in 2020.

Tablets are bigger than smartphones (just) but less capable than laptops (just). If you're thinking of buying one, you need to ask yourself a few questions.

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 simple an ecosystem. Or are you happy with Amazon's FireOS? Members of Amazon Prime might well be, but if you rarely shop at the retail giant, you'll likely find it unsuitable and downright 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.

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 2020 tablet choices so 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 2020: big, small, budget and premium

(Image credit: Apple)

1. Apple iPad (2020)

The 8th generation iPad is much the same, but better than before.

SPECIFICATIONS

Display: 10.2in | Resolution: 2160 x 1620 (264ppi) | Processor: A12 Bionic | Front camera: 1.2MP | Rear camera: 8MP | RAM: 3GB | OS: iPadOS 14 | Storage: 32GB / 128GB | Dimensions (WHD): 25 x 17.4 x 0.7cm | Weight: 490g

Reasons to Buy

Excellent, decent-sized screen
Useful iPadOS 14 features
Keyboard support

Reasons to Avoid

Few upgrades
Limited stereo speakers

It's the new iPad! Or is it? Because not only does the new model look identical to its predecessor, it has nigh-on the same specs, too. There's the same 10.2in retina display, same 8MP rear and 1.2MP front camera array, and more or less the same specifications – 3GB RAM, 32GB and 128GB storage options, and a 10-hour battery life. Even the Silver, Gold and Space Grey finishes carry over.

So what is new? Apple has upgraded the processor – inside you'll find the A12 Bionic, which is the same chip powering the iPhone XS, 2019 iPad Air and fifth-generation iPad Mini. It's not the newest Apple chip, but still delivers a 40 per cent speed boost on the previous iPad with twice the graphics performance. Despite that, the new iPad has a cheaper launch price than its predecessor.

The screen isn't drastically better than the 7th Gen's, but it doesn't need to be. It still does a fine job of rendering images, with a punchy yet natural colour palette, sharply defined detail, and sleek smoothness. And the audio is still typically Apple, being  neutrally toned, detailed and dynamic, but with a touch more clarity.

Not a huge improvement on the 7th Gen, then, but still a nice update to keep the iPad at the top of the tablet pile.

Read the full Apple iPad (2020) review

Best tablets: big, small, budget and premium

(Image credit: Apple)

2. Apple iPad Air (2019)

Another great tablet in the iPad family.

SPECIFICATIONS

Display: 10.5in | Resolution: 2224 x 1668 (264ppi) | Processor: A12 Bionic | Front camera: 7MP | Rear camera: 8MP | RAM: 3GB | OS: iOS 13 | Storage: 64GB / 256GB | Dimensions (WHD): 25.1 x 17.4 x 0.6cm | Weight: 456g

Reasons to Buy

Great video quality
Weighty audio
HDR

Reasons to Avoid

Awkward speaker placement
Lower pixel density than iPad Mini

On paper, the iPad Air is a tricky sell: the standard iPad is cheaper, the iPad Mini is smaller and the iPad Pro is higher-specced for professionals. It's not even the thinnest iPad available. So why should you buy it?

Because it's one of the best tablets Apple makes, which makes it one of the best tablets on the market. Its screen is better than the entry-level model, it's bigger than the Mini and cheaper than the Pro. If you want a device for consuming content rather than creating it, and like the big screen/less portable tradeoff, it's nigh-on the perfect tablet.

The HDR-compatible screen is stunning, and while its pixel density is a little lower than the iPad Mini, the display itself is a lot bigger. It depends on personal preference, but in our view, the Air is the better device for content consumption.

The speakers could be better placed (our hands tended to block one when watching in landscape orientation), but they have plenty of oomph. And when delivered to a quality pair of wireless headphones (which is likely to be the most common usage), the audio sounds superb.

If you want a tablet for movies and music on the go, you'll struggle to beat this.

Read the full iPad Air (2019) review

Best tablets: big, small, budget and premium

3. Apple iPad Mini (2019)

Under-the-skin improvements make the latest Mini even better than before.

SPECIFICATIONS

Display: 7.9in | Resolution: 2048x1536 | Processor: A12 Bionic | Front camera: 7MP | Rear camera: 8MP | Operating system: iOS | Storage: 64/256GB | Dimensions (HWD): 20.3x13.5x0.6cm | Weight: 300g

Reasons to Buy

Bright, punchy and vibrant
Lots of dark detail
Crisp sound

Reasons to Avoid

Blacks could be deeper
Speaker placement

Apple's dinkiest iPad actually offers the highest pixel-per-inch density of all of its tablets and has a few features that are missing from other models: notably, HDR video.

The iPad Mini’s form makes it the perfect portable cinema. At 7.9in, the screen is significantly more cinematic and immersive than that of even the biggest iPhone, the 12 Pro Max, which measures 6.7in. That 21 per cent increase in display real estate is the equivalent of going from a 55in to a 65in TV. At the same time, the iPad Mini remains lighter and more portable than its bigger siblings.

Inside is the A12 Bionic chip, which you’ll also find in the iPhone XS and XR, and storage options come at 64GB and 256GB, with no other choice. The front-facing camera has been given a big boost but the rear lens stays the same.

Ultimately, this iPad Mini is excellent with video, and the screen looks even more gorgeous than the rest of the iPad range. It's bright and punchy, with distinctive highlights and plenty of detail in the shadows. The image really pops, making it a joy to watch. The sound is tops too, boasting bags of dynamism and detail. 

For a small tablet, it makes a big impression.

Read the full Apple iPad Mini (2019) review

Best tablets 2020: big, small, budget and premium

(Image credit: Amazon)

4. Amazon Fire HD 10 (2019)

The HD 10 is one of the best tablets out there for the money.

SPECIFICATIONS

Display: 10.1in | Resolution: 1920x1200 | Processor: 2GHz | Front camera: 2MP | Rear camera: 2MP | Operating system: FireOS | Storage: 32/64GB internal, up to 512GB external | Dimensions (HWD): 26.2x16x1cm | Weight: 504g

Reasons to Buy

Good camera
Fast processor
Decent sound

Reasons to Avoid

Very Amazon-focussed

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 with the latest version of the HD10. So what's new? There's a faster processor, a more powerful front camera, USB-C charging (rather than micro-USB), support for higher-capacity microSD cards, and, of course, support for Amazon Alexa.

When it comes to TV and movies, colours are bright, tonally accurate and vibrant, while blacks are inky, dark and detailed. The screen’s 16:10 aspect ratio in landscape mode is remarkably easy to get used to, particularly if you’re accustomed to Apple tablets. 

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 the full Amazon Fire HD 10 (2019) review

Best tablets: big, small, budget and premium

(Image credit: Apple)

5. Apple iPad 7th Generation

Sacrifices have been made in the name of affordability, but the iPad remains an excellent tablet.

SPECIFICATIONS

Display: 10.2in | Resolution: 2160x1620 | Processor: A10 Fusion | Front camera: 1.2MP | Rear camera: 8MP | Operating system: iOS 13 | Storage: 64/256GB | Dimensions (HWD): 25 x 17.4 x 0.75cm | Weight: 483g

Reasons to Buy

Natural, detailed video
Loud, dynamic speakers
Good value for money

Reasons to Avoid

No HDR
Beaten for black depth
Speaker placement

You might have presumed that the iPad Mini would be the most affordable tablet in Apple’s range, however, that honour actually goes to the standard iPad, now in its 7th generation (it's even cheaper now that it's been superseded by the 8th gen model). It is missing some tech featured in the Mini but does come with the bonus of the Smart Connector, which allows the 7th Generation iPad to be connected to Apple’s Smart Keyboard (neither the previous model nor the Mini can be connected).

The iPad’s IPS screen has increased in size to 10.2in and resolution has been increased to maintain the pixel density of 264 ppi. It lacks the laminate layer, anti-reflective coating, True Tone (which automatically adjusts colours and brightness to match ambient lighting) and wide colour support of other tablets. And this is the only iPad in the current range that doesn’t support HDR. It’s also the only model that doesn’t have one of Apple’s newer processors. Instead, the A10 Fusion chip of the outgoing model has been carried over.

When it comes to picture and sound, it has the supremely natural colour balance for which Apple devices are renowned. There’s excellent detail and definition, too, and motion is handled exceptionally well. The iPad Mini pips it with a little more punch and deeper blacks but it's still a good watch. Audio performance is strong. There’s weight, solidity and dynamic variation here that other tablets, including the current iPad Mini, can’t match. 

Undoubtedly sacrifices have had to be made to deliver a large screen at a low price. But Apple’s least impressive tablet is still an impressive tablet. 

Read the full Apple iPad 7th Generation review

Best tablets: big, small, budget and premium

6. Amazon Fire 7 (2017)

Those on a budget can't really go wrong with the Fire 7.

SPECIFICATIONS

Display: 7in | Resolution: 1024x600 | Processor: 1.3GHz | Front camera: VGA | Rear camera: 2MP | Operating system: FireOS | Storage: 8/16GB (plus up to 256GB microSD card) | Dimensions (HWD): 11.5x19.2x1cm | Weight: 300g

Reasons to Buy

Warm colour palette
Price
Good battery life

Reasons to Avoid

Unsophisticated picture
Tinny speakers
Poor camera

If you're on a tight budget, Amazon's tablets are always worth a look. And no more so than the Fire 7 – it's exceptionally good value. As long as you don't expect mind-blowing AV quality, you'll be pleasantly surprised. 

Amazon has given this model a warmer colour palette, making for more realistic skin tones, and as long as you don't go nitpicking for detail and contrast ratios, it's perfectly watchable (especially for kids' cartoons, which we suspect will be its main use). The sound is nicely balanced and suitably detailed, too. And because it's an older model, its already cheap price is now discounted, where you can still find it. Buy buy buy! 

Read the full Amazon Fire 7 (2017) review

Best tablets: big, small, budget and premium

7. Apple iPad Pro 10.5in

Powerful, great to use, and capable of excellent video.

SPECIFICATIONS

Display: 10.5in | Resolution: 2224x1668 | Processor: A10X Fusion | Front camera: 7MP | Rear camera: 12MP | Operating system: iOS | Storage: 64/256/512GB | Dimensions (HWD): 25x17.4x0.6cm | Weight: 469g

Reasons to Buy

Powerful sound
Impressive display
Unparalleled performance

Reasons to Avoid

Price
Overkill for pure multimedia

Content creators will want an iPad Pro – this is a machine made for creating, while the standard iPad is built for consuming. As such, it's a little over-powered if all you want it for is watching movies and playing the odd game. 

Not that you'll have a bad time – far from it. The screen is ridiculously sharp and bright, and at this size, films are an absolute treat. It sounds pretty great too, balancing dialogue with the soundtrack nicely and automatically adjusting for the best sound depending whether it's in portrait or landscape mode. 

Sure, you probably don't need one. But if you can afford it, why wouldn't you?

Read the full Apple iPad Pro 10.5in review

Best tablets: big, small, budget and premium

8. Amazon Fire HD 8 (2018)

You’ll have to pay a lot more to do better.

SPECIFICATIONS

Display: 8in | Resolution: 1280x800 | Processor: 1.3GHz | Front camera: 2MP | Rear camera: 2MP | Operating system: FireOS | Storage: 16/32GB (plus up to 400GB microSD card) | Dimensions (HWD): 12.8x21.4x1cm | Weight: 363g

Reasons to Buy

Lots of features
Alexa Voice Control
Decent picture

Reasons to Avoid

Limited audio and video playback
Runs quite slow

This tablet was great value at its original price, so now it's available for less, it's an absolute steal. Like other Amazon tablets, its bright colour schemes are more cheap and cheerful than sleek and sophisticated, but that's no bad thing if you just want a tablet for occasional use around the house (or to let the kids run wild with). Its screen has a natural palate and plenty of detail to get your teeth into, while audio playback is pretty decent for casual listening. Another great value tablet from Amazon.

Read the full Amazon Fire HD 8 (2018) review

Best tablets: big, small, budget and premium

9. Lenovo Yoga Tab 3 8in

A few minor bugbears aside, the Yoga Tab 3 is a budget tablet worth considering.

SPECIFICATIONS

Display: 8in | Resolution: 1280x800 | Processor: 1.3GHz | Front camera: n/a | Rear camera: 8MP (rotatable camera) | Operating system: Android | Storage: 16GB (plus up to 128GB microSD card) | Dimensions (HWD): 14.6x21x0.7-0.3cm | Weight: 466g

Reasons to Buy

Clever, flexible design
Good stereo speakers
Decent camera

Reasons to Avoid

Screen lacks fine detail
A little heavy for gaming

This might be a budget tablet, but it feels much more expensive than it is. The spine is much thicker than the rest of it, with good cause – it houses a rotatable 8MP camera that can be positioned to be rear- or front-facing. 

There's also a metal kickstand to help prop it up in its many poses (it's not called Yoga for nothing). 

The screen might lack a bit of detail, but the sound more than makes up for it, with plenty of expression and balance on offer.

Read the full Lenovo Yoga Tab 3 8in review

Best tablets: big, small, budget and premium

10. Samsung Galaxy Tab S3

This Galaxy Tab is good, but not quite out of this world.

SPECIFICATIONS

Display: 9.7in | Resolution: 2048x1536 | Processor: 2.15GHz | Front camera: 5MP | Rear camera: 13MP | Operating system: Android | Storage: 32GB (plus up to 256GB microSD card) | Dimensions (HWD): 23.7x16.9x6cm | Weight: 429g

Reasons to Buy

Sophisticated stylus
Good battery life
Crisp picture

Reasons to Avoid

Android is a bit clunky
Overblown colours
Sound could be better

This premium tablet comes with the S Pen, which is Samsung's stylus. Images on screen look so sharp you could cut yourself on them, while motion is handled with aplomb. The only slight niggle with the screen is colour reproduction, which tends to be more bold than natural. But you get superior sound, which you can tweak to your heart's content, and played right, you'll get noticeably more detail and dynamism from music. Dolby Atmos also comes as standard.

Read the full Samsung Galaxy Tab S3 review