Tablets can be productivity boosters or they can be time wasters – or both. You can slip one in your bag, use it to take notes, review documents, binge the latest Netflix show, play some games and so on. Amazon US has a whole week of Black Friday sales, so now is a good time to pick up your first tablet or upgrade an old one (tablets tend to last several years longer than smartphones).
The Samsung Galaxy Tab S8+ is the most powerful Android version on this list – it’s not quite as premium as the Ultra, but with a Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 and a 12.4” 120Hz AMOLED display it can handle anything you throw at it. That display supports Samsung’s S Pens, in fact, one comes bundled with the slate.
That’s great for sketching out ideas and taking notes and can be made better with the Note View Cover. The flap is transparent and has a paper-like texture so the tablet feels even more like a notepad. This protects the screen from scratches too, of course, and has a place to stash the stylus. You can also take notes with the Galaxy Tab S8+ Tablet Keyboard cover.
A cheaper option is the Galaxy Tab S8. It’s just as powerful (same chipset), but switches over to an 11” LCD (120Hz). We’ve linked the 128GB model below, but you may want to go for the 256GB one, which is just $30 more (or not, there is a microSD slot). There is an included S Pen stylus, unfortunately, the covers above do not fit this model.
The Galaxy Tab S7 FE is larger than the vanilla S8 – it has a 12.4” display, but it is a 60Hz LCD. This one in particular uses the Snapdragon 778G chipset, so it’s in a lower performance class than the S8 models, but it serves as a middle ground (in terms of price and performance) to the A-series slates.
The Tab S7 FE also comes with an S Pen included and you can pick up a protective Book Cover. This one isn’t design for drawing, however, it’s just for protection.
The FE is a good deal cheaper than the S8 slates, but if that’s still too high, the Galaxy Tab S6 Lite is cheaper still. Despite the model number, this is actually a new model from 2022. It’s less powerful (Snapdragon 720G), but it has a good quality 10.4” display (S Pen included) and stereo speakers by AKG.
Here’s the cheapest option – the Galaxy Tab A8 10.5. This is from 2021 and while its Unisoc Tiger T618 chipset is slower than the 720G, the 10.2” 1,920 x 1,200px display and quad speakers still make this a solid Netflix machine.
Now, if you are looking for bottom of the barrel pricing, the Amazon Fire 7 is down to $40. It’s not powerful, the 7” HD display is nothing special, but the 10 hour battery life is nice. And did we mention that it is $40? Well, $55/€55 if you don’t want ads on the lock screen.
You probably want the Fire 7 Kids edition, anyway, as it comes with a thick, padded case to survive in the hands of a young kid. Even if the little one manages to smash the tablet, it’s still $55, so not a huge loss. Better still, this version is ad-free.
For content consumption and light gaming by older kids (and adults too), the Fire HD 8 tablet offers a better quality screen and a faster chipset. Note that this is the 2022 version with six 2.0GHz CPU cores (up from four). Also, there is a Plus version that bumps up the RAM from 2GB to 3GB and costs $10 extra. That doesn’t matter for streaming so much, but games will definitely feel the difference. Note that these slates show ads on their lock screens unless you pony up an extra $15/€15.
The Fire HD 10 costs a little extra, however, the 10.1” 1,920 x 1,200px display is wroth it not just for the size but for the increase in sharpness too. You also get two extra CPU cores and 3GB RAM as standard. There is a Plus model as well (with 4GB), though that’s $30 extra, which isn’t quite the no-brainer upgrade as the HD 8 Plus.
Amazon also offers a Fire HD 10 productivity bundle – for $145 (basically double the price) you get a Bluetooth keyboard included a free year of Microsoft 365 Personal subscription that you can use on up to 5 devices (normally this would cost you $70). Note that this is set as an auto-renew subscription so you should cancel it if you don’t want to use it past the original year.
That was the Android side of things, now let’s flip over to Windows. The Microsoft Surface Pro 8 is a premium 13” tablet powered by an Intel Core i7 11th gen (i7-1185G7) and is equipped with 16GB of RAM and a 256GB SSD. This supports a stylus and keyboard too (sold separately). Also, since this runs Windows 11, you can also run Android apps on it.
The Microsoft Surface Pro 7+ is a refresh from last year (the original 7-series is from 2019). It’s a 12.3” slate with an Intel Core i5 11th gen (i5-1135G7), 8GB of RAM and 128GB SSD. This one comes with a black Type Cover included.
If you have some software that doesn’t have a good enough Android version and you don’t want to spend Surface Pro money, the Surface Go 2 is a cheap Windows 10 tablet (upgradable to 11 for free). This 10.5” slate is not powerful with its Pentium Gold 4425Y, 4GB of RAM and 64GB eMMC storage, but it is cheap.
There is the newer Surface Go 3, which uses a 10th generation processor (up from 8th), a Pentium Gold 6500Y. This one is much faster on some benchmarks (up to double the performance), however, at $400 it is dangerously close to real laptop category. It’s not a laptop, though, it’s a small, portable tablet, which has its advantages. Still, if it was between the Go 2 and Go 3, we might go for the older model (saving $150 makes time go faster).