Monday, January 16, 2017

The 10 best tablets you can buy in 2017

Update: Now that it's new year, a good few of these tablets will be likely getting refreshes at MWC 2017 - check out our coverage at the end of February for all the info!

The best tablets of 2016 are all about combination, with most offering a decent keyboard and desktop-style experience to sound the death knell for laptops.

From Apple's larger iPad Pro to Android's Google Nexus and Samsung tablets, there's a lot of choice out there. And it's more than just iOS 10 and Android Marshmallow devices (with Android Nougat on some too), unlike the best smartphones - Windows makes an appearance too.

In terms of how we decide which goes where, we rank them based on multiple elements including performance, battery life, screen quality and more, with price playing an important part too.

1. iPad Pro 9.7

A brilliant tablet that brings power to portability

Weight: 437g | Dimensions: 240 x 169.5 x 6.1 mm | OS: iOS 10 | Screen size: 9.7-inch | Resolution: 1536 x 2048 pixels | CPU: A9X | RAM: 2GB | Storage: 32GB/128GB/256GB | microSD slot: No | Battery: TBC | Rear camera: 12MP | Front camera: 5MP

  • Great speakers
  • Pencil and keyboard support
  • 256GB version
  • Lower power than larger version
  • Smaller screen impedes multitasking

The best tablet you can buy right now is the iPad Pro 9.7 - the smaller screen with powerful innards is the best combination on the market.

While there are plenty of brilliant Android tablets around at the moment, the newest iPad offers a lot of the power of the larger iPad Pro, along with the Smart Keyboard and Pencil support, but brings it in a much more bag-and-palm friendly size. Oh, and those four speakers are just brilliant too.

It's a decent laptop alternative for those trying to work out if they need the worry of a new Windows device, but only if you're working on rudimentary files. Free access to Apple's office suite helps a huge amount though...

  • What's next? We're expecting a new iPad Pro 2 (and maybe two) to appear in March or April this year, to coincide with iOS 10.3 launch.

2. Samsung Galaxy Tab S2

A top notch iPad rival
Weight: 256g/389g | Dimensions: 198.6 x 134.8 x 5.6mm/237.3 x 169 x 5.6mm | OS: Android Marshmallow | Screen size: 8.0-inch/9.7-inch | Resolution: 1536 x 2048 | CPU: Octa-core | RAM: 3GB | Storage: 32GB/64GB | Battery: 4000mAh/5870mAh | Rear camera: 8MP | Front camera: 2.1MP
Thinner, lighter design
Rare expandable memory
Improved interface
Older model
Battery life not great
There are plenty of reasons to invest in the Samsung Galaxy Tab S2 - especially if you're after a top Android tablet.
This is the best tablet that Samsung has ever produced - it's both reading and web surfing-friendly, has a sensational Super AMOLED screen, and you can pick it up in 8-inch and 9.7-inch variants.
Almost impossibly thin, pumped full of power and with a slicker interface it gives the best iPads a real run for its money - although we're still waiting for a refresh, which this line badly needs.
Read the full review: Samsung Galaxy Tab S2
  • What's next? The Samsung Galaxy Tab S3 looks likely to appear at MWC 2017 after it appeared to head through certifications channels.

3. iPad mini 4

The best small-screen tablet
Weight: 299g | Dimensions: 203.2 x 134.8 x 6.1mm | OS: iOS 10 | Screen size: 7.9-inch | Resolution: 1536 x 2048 | CPU: Dual-core 1.5 GHz | RAM: 2GB | Storage: 16GB/64GB/128GB | Battery: 5124mAh | Rear camera: 8MP | Front camera: 1.2MP
Brilliant screen
Sleek design
Touch ID finger scanner
Smaller display can be hard to read
No Pro version
The best 7-inch tablet at the moment is definitely the iPad mini 4. If you like the look of Apple's iPad Air 2 and iPad Pro, but find them a) too big, b) too expensive or c) both, then you're in luck as the diminutive iPad mini 4 gives you the best of Apple's tablet world in a form factor that's not only beautiful, but highly portable.
It lacks the Pro features of a keyboard or Pencil support (the latter would be really nice to have on this smaller display) but overall it's got a decent screen upgrade and more than enough power to enjoy every day.
Read the full review: iPad mini 4

4. Google Pixel C

This is the best Android tablet
Weight: 517g | Dimensions: 242 x 179 x 7mm | OS: Android Nougat | Screen size: 10.2-inch | Resolution: 2560 x 1800 | CPU: Tegra X1 | RAM: 3GB | Storage: 32GB/64GB | Battery: up to 10 hours | Rear camera: 8MP | Front camera: 2MP
Fantastic screen
Premium design
Plenty of power
Keyboard is pricey
Google's Pixel C is simply the best Android tablet. It has it all: a fantastic display, heaps of power and a premium design. Plus, for those willing to splash the cash, the keyboard is a great accessory. It's not quite a laptop replacement, but for those in the market for a premium Android tablet - look no further. That's especially great as you can now download Android 7 Nougat software.
Read the full review: Google Pixel C

5. Sony Xperia Z4 Tablet

Lighter, faster, waterproof… a real iPad Air 2 rival
Weight: 389g | Dimensions: 254 x 167 x 6.1 mm | OS: Android Marshmallow | Screen size: 10.1-inch | Resolution: 2560 x 1600 | CPU: Snapdragon 810 | RAM: 3GB | Storage: 32GB | Battery: 6000mAh | Rear camera: 8.1MP | Front camera: 5.1MP
Gorgeous display
Improved lightweight design
Keyboard dock included
Nearly discontinued
Low storage
The Sony Xperia Z4 Tablet is the best option for PS4 owners as it allows you to stream games from your console direct to the tablet when you're in another room of your house.
Link up your PS4 controller to the Z4 Tablet and you'll be gaming in bed, in the kitchen and on the toilet.
The included keyboard dock in the box also makes for a great stand, it's now been given a lovely Black Friday price drop plus it'll be getting Android 7 Nougat software in the future too.
However, there's a question of how long that support will last, given the tablet is starting to disappear off sale in some outlets - so make sure you pick it up for a bargainous price.
Read the full review: Sony Xperia Z4 Tablet
  • What's next? We're not necessarily expecting to see a new Sony tablet at MWC 2017, but there's a chance that this could be the reason the brand has a stand out there - the Sony Xperia Z6 Tablet would make sense.

6. iPad Pro

Apple's biggest slate isn't its best, but it's not far off
Weight: 713g | Dimensions: 305.7 x 220.6 x 6.9mm | OS: iOS 10 | Screen size: 12.9-inch | Resolution: 2048 x 2732 | CPU: Dual-core 2.26 GHz | RAM: 4GB | Storage: 32GB/128GB | Battery: 10,307mAh | Rear camera: 8MP | Front camera: 1.2MP
Expansive screen
Hugely powerful
Great speakers
Heavier than many tablets
The iPad Pro won't be for everyone due to the size and cost, but for those it does appeal to (and can afford it) you're unlikely to find a better tablet for your needs, and you'll swiftly find it indispensable.
Whether its graphics, multi-tasking or providing a pseudo-Mac experience when you're away from the office the iPad Pro is capable of so much.
Even the Pencil - hilarious name aside - is an impressive tool for a particular niche. For the more professional user, or just one that cares about a larger, more expansive screen to work on, this is the best tablet out there and more than capable of replacing a laptop.
Read the full review: iPad Pro
  • What's next? Like the smaller iPad Pro 9.7, there's a good chance we'll be seeing a refreshed iPad Pro 12.9 2 in the first half of 2017, with more power than ever before (and the high price tag to go along with it).

7. Microsoft Surface Pro 4

The tablet that can replace your laptop
Weight: 766g/786g | Dimensions: 292.10 x 201.42 x 8.45mm | OS: Windows 10 Pro | Screen size: 12.3-inch | Resolution: 2,736 x 1,824 | CPU: Various | RAM: 4GB/8GB/16GB | Storage: 128GB | Battery: up to 9 hours | Rear camera: 8MP | Front camera: 5MP
Larger, sharper screen
Vastly improved Type Cover
Built in kickstand
Can a tablet really replace your laptop or home PC? That's still up for debate, but the best tablet trying to make that happen is the Microsoft Surface Pro 4.
It does a fine job with the full blown version of Windows 10, an integrated kickstand and optional keyboard attachment. Great for for creative professionals, students and everyday folks alike, this is a top choice and the best Windows Laptop we've reviewed.
Read the full review: Microsoft Surface Pro 4
  • What's next? We're expecting to see the refreshed Surface Pro 5 in spring 2017, with a new rechargeable stylus alongside.

8. Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact

Compact, portable and powerful
Weight: 270g | Dimensions: 213.4 x 123.6 x 6.4mm | OS: Android Marshmallow | Screen size: 8.0-inch | Resolution: 1200 x 1920 | CPU: Snapdragon 801 | RAM: 3GB | Storage: 16GB | Battery: 4500mAh | Rear camera: 8.1MP | Front camera: 2.2MP
Great battery life
Very thin and light
Waterproof body
Low res screen
Not great value
Tablets don't have to be big and cumbersome, and the rather clumsily named Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact is testament to just that.
It's not Sony's best tablet - that goes to the Z4 further up the page, but it's super-slim profile, waterproof chassis, bright display and solid line up of specs means it'll comfortably slip in your bag and won't baulk at the first sign of rain.
However, it's a little older now, so be warned that it won't be getting all the Android updates you might hope for - and it, too, is on the cusp of being discontinued, so be warned that you'll need to get it for a low price to make the purchase worthwhile.
Read the full review: Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact

9. iPad Air 2

The iPad Air 2 is still a good choice
Weight: 437g | Dimensions: 240 x 169.5 x 6.1mm | OS: iOS 10 | Screen size: 9.7-inch | Resolution: 1536 x 2048 | CPU: Triple-core 1.5 GHz | RAM: 2GB | Storage: 16/64/128GB | Battery: 7340mAh | Rear camera: 8MP | Front camera: 1.2MP
Superbly powerful
Unbeatable app selection
Older model
Lacks smart connector
Until the iPad Pro 9.7, this was the best tablet in the world. Even though it has been replaced by Apple, it's still a brilliant tablet that has further raised the bar for the rest of the competition in terms of build quality, features and performance.
The best part is this is now cheaper thanks to the release of the iPad Pro 9.7. Apple's range of tablet-optimised apps and a slick user interface makes the iPad Air 2 extremely versatile while also being incredibly easy, and enjoyable, to use.
Read the full review: iPad Air 2
  • What's next? It looks like a cheaper version of the iPad Pro 9.7 could be emerging later this year, with the same A9 chipset as the iPhone 6S - is the iPad Air 3 on its way?

10. iPad mini 2

A great tablet but a little old
Weight: 331g | Dimensions: 200 x 134.7 x 7.5 mm | OS: iOS 10 | Screen size: 7.9-inch | Resolution: 1536 x 2048 | CPU: Dual-core 1.3 GHz | RAM: 1GB | Storage: 16/32/64/128GB | Battery: 6470 mAh | Rear camera: 5MP | Front camera: 1.2MP
Amazing screen
Solid design
Cheap price
One of the oldest on test
Screen resolution not great
Apple has just jumped in with another addition to our best tablet ranking with its iPad mini 2 from all the way back in 2013 - but still on sale (although for how much longer is anyone's guess).
It may not be as high-spec as the iPad mini 4, which is much higher in the list, but it's much cheaper than the latest mini option and still offers a great choice if you're looking for a small tablet.
Be warned that the screen resolution isn't the sharpest, but if you just want an easy portal to Apple's incredible range of apps and aren't too bothered about specs, this is a great value option.
Read the full review: iPad mini 2

Tablet apps

As with today's best smartphones, applications play a big role on tablets – once you've decided which of these tablets is right for you, check out our top app lists so you can get your fill of Temple Run, update your friends on Facebook and read the latest news, all on a bigger screen.

Also consider

If you're not quite ready to part with your cash, then take a look at the slates which will be coming out this year. A few have launched but we're waiting for them to come in for review before seeing if they make it into the top 10, while others are based on rumours but we feel confident they will arrive in 2016.

Samsung Galaxy Tab Pro S

Windows 10 where you'd expect Android to be
Weight: 693g | Dimensions: 290.3 x 198.8 x 6.3mm | OS: Windows 10 | Screen size: 12-inch | Resolution: 2160 x 1440 | CPU: Intel Core M | RAM: 4GB | Storage: 128GB/256GB | Battery: up to 10.5 hours | Rear camera: 5MP | Front camera: 5MP
Sleek design
Good use of Windows 10
Poor keyboard
Plastic design
The Samsung Galaxy Tab Pro S was unveiled at the very start of 2016 and boasts a great screen, solid build and Windows 10. It's an odd device, but one that works better than we expected it to. The keyboard dock isn't great, with a cramped mouse and keys which aren't the easiest to type on - but over all Samsung's made a solid Windows slate.
Read our review: Samsung Galaxy Tab Pro S

Huawei MateBook

Weight: 640g | Dimensions: 278.8 x 194.1 x 6.9mm | OS: Windows 10 | Screen size: 12-inch | Resolution: 2160 x 1440 | CPU: 6th Gen Intel Core m | RAM: 4/8GB | Storage: 128/256/512GB | microSD slot: No | Battery: 4430mAh | Rear camera: No | Front camera: 5MP
Solid design
Keyboard accessory
No MicroSDS card slot
Only one USB port
Huawei's first Windows 10 device is a well-designed 2-in-1 that rivals the Microsoft Surface Pro 4 and iPad Pro in places. It's a promising, yet pricey, first 2-in-1 from the Chinese company, managing to feel fresh despite arriving late to the party.
Read our review: Huawei MateBook

Sony Xperia Z6 Tablet

The high-end waterproof tablet
Things have gone a bit pear-shaped in Sony's camp in 2016. After we expect it to launch either the flagship Xperia Z6 or Xperia Z6 Tablet (or both) at MWC 2016, Sony did neither - instead launching the confusing new X series instead. That's left the talk of the Xperia Z6 Tablet a little up in the air. Will we ever see this tablet?
Tips for Sony: what we want to see on the Sony Xperia Z6 Tablet
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