Buying a new tablet can be overwhelming, thanks in large part to a vast array of models that all have names that sound vaguely like the names of Star Wars droids. But before you even get to that point, you need to know what you’re looking for. After all, not all tablets are created equal. Some are massive performance beasts that will cost you your first born child. And some are good just for playing a few games and maybe surfing the web.
The important thing is to know what you need. Not what your friends need. Not what that obnoxious dick at the office needs. What you need. And thankfully for you, we’ve got you covered with this handy little guide. So find what you need, click on through and hopefully you will be good to go.
TABLETS FOR PERFORMANCE
With any Apple product, you are going to end up overpaying for that Apple name. For some people that’s worth it, especially given Apple’s iOS operating system, which many prefer to Android or Windows. And believe it or not, but this isn’t even the most extravagant iPad out there. But we’ll get to that later.
The iPad Pro 9.7, though, is pretty much the top of the line if you want a pure performance tablet. It’s got a gorgeous display, a 12 mp camera which should match what your phone can do – rare for tablets – and best of all, it’s easy to use, especially if you already are familiar with Apple products.
The problem, of course, is the price. I mean, you can get a quality desktop for cheaper than that. But that’s the Apple way, and if you really, really need a performance tablet, something for work and play, you can’t beat this.
This is the huge 256 GB version, but you can get a smaller 128 GB version, or an even smaller 32 GB version, but I wouldn’t recommend that last one. At that point, performance is pretty much out the window, and you’re just paying to own an iPad.
If you’re not an Apple fan and are more comfortable with Android, the Google Pixel C is probably your best bet in the performance market. It’s considered perhaps the finest Android tablet on the market in any class, with an excellent display on its 10.2” screen and the power to match.
The downside of the Pixel C is that it’s heavier than your typical iPod, which wouldn’t be a big deal except the whole point of a tablet is to have something sleek and light that you can just carry around everywhere you go. You can still do that with a Pixel C. It just doesn’t seem like it was made by aliens like its iPad counterparts.
The attachable keyboard also costs a little extra and there’s no slot for expandable memory, but the combination of design, power and the Android operating system mean that it’s the best alternative out there to the iPad in the performance market.
If you just want a tablet that you can use for everyday Netflixy type things, the iPad Air 2 is tough to beat. It’s not something you’re going to use for work, necessarily, but for all things play, it will do the job and do it well.
It’s got that Apple quality that is so reassuring to so many people, and while it doesn’t quite have the storage or camera quality (8mp) of the iPad Pro, it’s also several hundred dollars cheaper. Yeah, that’s a plus.
You can also buy a version that is both Wi-Fi and Wireless enabled, which is handy if you want it for that long car ride.
The Galaxy Tab S2 is probably the best iPad alternative in the everyday use market, with a thin build and performance that’s at least comparable to its Apple rival, which is especially appealing to people who are allergic to Apple’s iOS.
That’s really what it comes down to here: Apple or Android? Whichever you’re most comfortable with will probably determine which of these two tablets in this category you want.
One bonus for the Galaxy Tab S2: it’s compatible for integrated use with Samsung Smart TV’s, so if you’re a Samsung fam, then this is probably the tablet for you.
Oh, and there’s also a smaller 8 inch display version, so that’s always an option.
If you want a decent tablet that isn’t going to cost you a small fortune, this is probably the way to go. The ZenPad still offers a pretty display and plenty of power for a low price.
This version is only 32 GB, which isn’t bad, but obviously pales in comparison to more expensive, performance models. But, the ZenPad does come equipped with a microSD storage slot, which allows you to buy more storage and expand it up to 128 GB. And honestly, if you’re not a power user and just want a decent tablet, that’s probably the way to go. Figure out what you need and then build from there.
Of course, the camera isn’t that great, but that’s what your phone is for, bro. You’re not going to do too much better than this price for a solid tablet.
Look, the term “budget” is relative when it comes to Apple products, but if you want a cheapish iPad, this is your best bet.
The iPad Mini 2 offers the quality of Apple, and really, that’s its biggest selling point. Its camera isn’t that great, it doesn’t have a ton of storage – you can buy upgraded versions, though – and it’s more expensive than the ZenPad. But… it’s an iPad.
That name carries a lot of weight, both in terms of social prestige (I know, you’re not that shallow, but let’s be real here.) and in terms of performance. Apple dominates the tablet market for a reason.
Like its bigger bros, the iPad mini also offers a version that’s both Wi-Fi and wireless enabled, so you can hook it up with AT&T, Verizon, or Sprint.
TABLETS FOR KIDS
When I say “for the kids” I mean both something that you can buy for your kids and something that you can buy if you just need a basic tablet that can do tablety things. I don’t want you to feel bad if you’re buying this for yourself. It’s still a good tablet.
With that out of the way, let’s talk about why: if you just want to play some games and surf the web, which describes 90% of us, the Fire HD 8 will get the job done, and it will get it done at a price you’re not even going to come close to anywhere else.
It’s also got expandable storage for up to 200 GB and it offers something no other tablet offers: easy integrated access to Amazon’s entire suite of products and services. Movies, songs, books… all are right there, and if you have a Prime subscription, they’re all there free. To hell with your kids, buy one of these for yourselves.
Now this… this is what you buy when you just need a cheap tablet for the kids. It’s a basic tablet with not a lot of power, but it’s cheap enough that you can buy one for every member of the family. I’m not going to oversell this because it’s about as basic as it gets, but if you just want something to stick in Junior’s hands for a while so he stops torturing his sister for a few hours, this is the route to go.
THE BEST OF THE BEST
This is for all those who have to have the top of the line, the absolute monsters that do everything up to and including shaming your poorer friends and relations.
The Microsoft Surface Pro 4 blows away virtually every other tablet on the market, with absolutely monster power and a size that makes it start creeping into laptop territory. It’s that versatility, though, that is its true calling card. Sometimes you just want a tablet, and sometimes you need a laptop. With this, you can have both.
Of course, the drawback is that it’s super expensive, but if you just gots to have it, then take a deep breath and click on through.
And this is Apple’s version of a monster. The iPad Pro 12.9 offers everything else the previously discussed iPads offer, only in a bigger package. It’s powerful as hell, and will do pretty much anything and everything you need it to do.
Shockingly, the iPad Pro 12.9 almost seems reasonably priced too, especially for an iPad. It’s only a hair more expensive than the iPad Pro 9.7, which is crazy when you consider that its display is over 3” bigger (that’s what she said?)
The downside – if you want to call it that – is that this monster is, well, a monster. It’s hard to call something this big a tablet, you know? But it’s still more portable than a laptop, and since it’s obviously much bigger than a phone, this fills a need that virtually no other tablet or device can fill. And you can’t beat that.