An iPad, shown, is one of the best tablets of 2019

Tablets today largely fill one of two roles: They can be a content consumption device, useful for streaming Netflix and reading e-books and the like, or, because they're so powerful, they can just about replace your laptop.

Consider Apple’s iPad Pro and iPad Air. They feature specs—including processor speed and display resolution—that match or even exceed what you might find on a laptop, with the added bonus of being relatively lighter and offering better battery life. Coupled with a Bluetooth keyboard or a keyboard case, they can be used to write emails or edit text documents and presentation slides as easily as you can sit back and binge-watch “Stranger Things.”

Apple’s iPad became even more laptop-like this fall with the release of updated software called iPadOS, which allows you to operate the tablet with a mouse and work with multiple apps and windows open side by side.


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Other tablets, like the Amazon Kindle Fire and iPad Mini, are better thought of as media consumption devices. Bigger than all but the largest smartphones, they aren’t hugely powerful but make more sense if you’re merely looking to stream Netflix or read an e-book in bed. They may also be a good choice for the kids, because the devices are still powerful enough to run popular mobile games like “Minecraft,” “Clash Royale,” and “Dota Underlords.”

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The iPad Pro mentioned above performed very well in our labs but costs $950. The list below features four more moderately priced tablets from our ratings. Each was tested for battery life, performance while running complex apps, and the color accuracy of the display. We also factor in reliability and owner satisfaction data collected through reader surveys. Apple, which jump-started the tablet market in 2010 with the original iPad, is well represented here, in part because of the company's high reliability score.

But we include Lenovo and Samsung tablets, too, for Android users. Samsung's higher-end Galaxy Tab S6 didn't make the list, though, because our testers found that—as with the Galaxy Tab S5e—the WiFi connectivity degrades significantly when you hold the tablet in the horizontal position, likely due to the placement of the antennas inside the device. For now, you're better off going with the Galaxy Tab S4.

As with every other product we test, from lawn mowers to mattresses, we bought the tablets below at retail stores to ensure that manufacturers wouldn’t try to influence our testing.

Apple iPad Mini

Apple updated the iPad Mini this spring after nearly four years of all but ignoring its existence. The long wait paid off, however, with Apple delivering a 7.9-inch tablet that not only tops our ratings of sub-8-inch tablets but does so with a huge amount of daylight between it and its nearest-scoring competitors.

Across just about every metric we use, the model scored exceedingly well. The display, arguably the single most important part of a tablet, is bright, accurate, and has a large viewing angle. That means you don’t need to look at the dead center to see the clearest image. The 10-hour battery life and performance for web-browsing and file copying are also best in class.

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Apple iPad Mini (64GB) - 2019

Price: $400

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If there’s one area where the iPad Mini falls short—and that’s a big if—it's that you’ll have to buy adapters to connect common peripherals like SD cards (for loading digital photos) or a big-screen TV via HDMI. Our testers also note that unlike with certain Android tablets, there’s no way to have multiple accounts on a single iPad Mini (or any iPad, for that matter). That could be annoying if you intend to share the tablet with a spouse or child, for example.

While the iPad Mini is by some distance the best sub-8-inch tablet in our ratings, you might also consider the Lenovo Tab 4 8 and Amazon Kindle Fire. These are roughly the same size as the Mini but run Android and Amazon’s own customized version of Android. That’s useful if you've already spent time and money in the Android or Amazon ecosystem and don’t want to buy apps you already own yet again.

Samsung Galaxy Tab A 8.0

For those who prefer to use Android OS, this 8-inch tablet also earned a recommended rating from our testers, who found a lot to like in the 2019 refresh.

For one thing, they noted the long battery life (nearly 14 hours). While the display isn't quite as sharp as that on the iPad Mini, lacking contrast and the vibrant colors found on other displays, the Tab A still performs like a high-end tablet without the high-end price.

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Samsung Galaxy Tab A 2019 (4G)

Price: $280

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Lenovo Tab 4 8

This 8-inch tablet didn't crack our recommended list, but it scored reasonably well compared with the iPad Mini above for roughly one-third the price, which makes it a good value for consumers interested in buying an Android model.

The display produces accurate colors and remains visible under bright light, the battery lasts more than 15 hours, and the device carries out common tasks like browsing the web and streaming video without slowdowns in performance.

The built-in camera, however, is less impressive, producing photos with unnatural colors.

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Lenovo Tab 4 8 (TB-8504F) (16GB, 2GB RAM)

Price: $130

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Apple iPad Air

Apple recently resurrected the name “iPad Air” for this 10.5-inch tablet that sits just below the iPad Pro in terms of features and performance. As with the Pro, our testers had very little to complain about when it comes to the Air. It’s fast, light, and has a display that's sharp and accurately reproduces color.

So what makes the Air an Air instead of a Pro?

For starters, it’s ever so slightly smaller than the 11-inch Pro, but when you're immersed in apps like Netflix and Safari, you'll barely notice the difference. And, while the Air has two built-in speakers to the Pro’s four, you’re almost certainly better off using a decent pair of headphones regardless of your model choice. And finally, the Air’s display runs at a slower refresh rate than the Pro's, which means certain animations (particularly scrolling text) may appear to be smoother on the Pro.

Bottom line: For the everyday consumer, the Air is a good way to save money with little sacrifice.

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Apple iPad Air (64GB) - 2019

Price: $500

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Apple iPad

Apple refreshed its base iPad just one year after releasing the sixth-generation model. What's different? You get more screen—10.2 inches vs. 9.7 on the 2018 iPad. 

The new model also supports Apple's Smart Keyboard cover, a physical keyboard that magnetically clips onto the tablet. Unlike a Bluetooth keyboard, this one doesn't require charging or pairing, which comes in handy when you frequently use your iPad for emailing and word-processing tasks.

That said, if you don't really need the Smart Keyboard, you may be better off getting a sixth-generation 9.7-inch iPad. Our testers rated it slightly higher, and you can now find it at a good clearance sale price.

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Apple iPad (32GB) - 2019

Price: $330

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