The tablet is here, and it’s time to jump on the bandwagon (or upgrade your month-old antiquated one). Perhaps you need a tablet for a specific purpose — a companion for long flights, an educational tool for the kiddos. Or perhaps you just want to be savvy to the way the modern man reads/watches/interacts with the digital world — it’s good to stay current. And since we sit on the precipice of a tablet-beats-laptop world (or some hybrid that emerges from the two), it’s good to get your fingers accustomed to the flatscreen. Live at the front of the curve.
Apple iPad Air 2 or Mini 3
Best Overall Tablet(s): Apple’s iPad is largely seen as the top tablet, and for good reason. The design, the robust app ecosystem and the above-average battery life all contribute to making it a solid all-around pick for those just diving into the tablet universe. The 10-inch iPad Air 2 is suitable for those who’ll use their slate for movie viewing or presentations, while the 7.9-inch iPad mini is ideal for those who are after a more compact device. The two are neck-in-neck in terms of specifications, so it really boils down to a preference of size and heft.
Google Nexus 9
Best Android Tablet: If you’re not already invested in Apple’s ecosystem (or you just prefer to roll alongside Google) the Nexus 9 is the tablet to get. Unlike most other Android tablets, this one sports a “pure” version of Android 5.0: no bloatware, no add-ons, just Android the way Google engineers envisioned it. It’s nimble, easy to handle, and packs a 64-bit processor that’ll run circles around most of its direct competitors. The 8.9-inch screen hits the sweet spot as far as we’re concerned, and at $350, it certainly punches above its weight.
Microsoft Surface Pro 3
Best Windows Tablet: It took Microsoft a few tries to really nail the execution, but its latest 12-inch Surface Pro 3 is indeed worth the asking price. It’s thin and powerful, and it includes an unadulterated version of Windows. That last inclusion makes it possible for the slate to transform into a full-fledged laptop with the addition of a click-in keyboard. Overall, this is the most versatile and business-focused tablet of the bunch. If productivity is a top concern, it’s worth the surcharge to have a non-hamstrung operating system by your side.
Samsung Galaxy Tab S 10.5
Best Pen-Enabled Tablet: If you’re cool with digesting a user guide for an hour prior to use, this slate offers a plethora of extra features that you won’t find elsewhere. For starters, Samsung’s included stylus (S Pen) makes this unit ideal for doodling or taking handwritten notes (the software can then translate those into typed text). For artists, students and presenters, it’s a no-brainer. Moreover, Samsung’s take on Android adds split-screen and multitasking views, and the spacious 10.5-inch display is ideal for showing to a crowd.
Amazon Fire HD Kids Edition
Best Kids Tablet: Granted, we’re referring to kids of all ages here, but there’s still no denying that this one would survive a lot longer in the playroom than most other tablets. Wrapped in a rugged shell and built to take spills, the Fire HD Kids Edition also ships with a year of FreeTime Unlimited — a mode that allows parents to easily restrict what their kids can access while giving youngsters gratis access to 5,000 books, movies, TV shows, educational apps and games. Amazon even throws in a two-year “worry-free guarantee” — if your child destroys it, Amazon will send you a new one. Not half bad for $149.