The new 8th Gen iPad may be a minor update, but it’s enough to keep the king on its throne. That’s because the A12 Bionic chip provides a welcome speed boost that was once kept to more expensive iPads (which moved up to the A14 chip). The iPad still boasts a fantastic screen for its price, and Apple’s own Pencil and Smart Keyboard Folio are just easier to use than any Bluetooth accessory on the market.
That A12 chip comes in handy now, more than ever, as Apple’s advances in iPadOS have made for more multitasking. Also, iPadOS 14, which ships on the iPad 8, gives you Scribble handwriting to text translation, which makes the Apple Pencil a better buy than before. We just wish Apple would update the iPad’s design (the big bezels are aging) to allow for an easier way to store the Apple Pencil, especially if the iPad won’t work with the excellent 2nd Gen Apple Pencil, which is limited to the iPad Air and iPad Pro.
For a lot of customers, price makes the big difference, so Amazon could have coasted when it comes to the $50 Fire 7 tablet. Fortunately, the most recent iteration of the company’s cheapest slate packs a snappy quad-core 1.3 GHz processor, which helps you navigate apps and browse the web faster than you’d expect from a tablet this cheap. And while previous Fire tablets made you tap to activate Alexa — which made no sense, it’s meant to be summoned with your voice — the Fire 7 finally added voice triggers for the digital assistant.
Just don’t expect any frills that come with more expensive tablets. The Fire 7 tablet’s sub-HD screen is not sharp enough for anyone used to an iPad, and its lock screen is filled with ads unless you pay extra. Still, it’s a great pick for kids looking for a media consumption device.
Sometimes, it takes a second try to make a thing go right. The Surface Go 2 takes aim at all the flaws of the predecessor and knocks them all down. First of all, thinner bezels make way for a bigger screen, arguably the most important part of a tablet. The Surface Go 2 has a 10.5-inch display, compared to 10 inches for the previous model.
The biggest upgrade is the Surface Go 2’s 11 hours and 39 minutes of battery life, which is over 5 hours longer than the original Surface Go.. Microsoft also answered my prayers for a laptop with a great webcam. The 5-megapixel 1080p camera in its top bezel is great for the era of online video calls, and its second front camera sensor adds Windows Hello biometric login. Finally, get the Surface Go 2 with the 8th Gen Intel Core m3 upgrade, it’s a little pricier at $629, but it’s definitely the model for multitaskers.
Apple’s iPad Air (2020) borrows a lot of what we like from the iPad Pro, at a more affordable price, and it’s arguably Apple’s best iPad ever (though it’s still not going to sell as well as the 10.2-inch iPad). It’s got the super-thin bezels you’ll recognize from the iPad Pro, as well as support for the Magic Keyboard, which makes it a true laptop competitor. On top of that, Apple’s blazing-fast A14 Bionic chip helps future-proof this tablet with enough speed for demanding apps and multitasking. Oh, and they managed to put Touch ID in the lock button.
Everywhere else, the iPad Air 4 is great, if not the best. Its 10.5 hours of battery life will be enough to keep you going all day long, and its screen is bright and colorful enough to make your next Netflix binge-watch look brilliant. It’s also great for the work from home era, thanks to its 7-megapixel webcam, which beat the Logitech C920 in head-to-head testing done for our review. We only wish the Magic Keyboard wasn’t so expensive: it’s hard to feel great buying a keyboard for almost the same price as the entry-level iPad.
Android fans finally have a true iPad competitor, at a much more affordable price. Retailing for $229 (and on sale often for much less) the Galaxy Tab A7 is a great 10.4-inch tablet for consuming content. Whether you’re browsing the web or streaming movies, you get to focus on your content more, thanks to its super-thin bezels that are thinner than what you get with Apple’s $329 iPad. Oh, and it’s got endurance to spare, lasting 13 hours and 13 minutes on the Tom’s Guide battery test. Oh, and it’s also got an iPad Pro feature that Apple makes you pay a lot for: facial recognition to unlock the device.
And just like Apple’s pricier tablets, the Galaxy Tab A7 charges over USB-C, so you can continue to cut non-reversible microUSB cables out of your life. And while it’s not as fast as the iPad and its screen isn’t as bright, neither is a serious problem at this price. Especially when Samsung gives you true Android with the Google Play app store, and not the watered-down Amazon Fire tablet experience.
The 12.9-inch iPad Pro may have the better screen, but the 11-inch iPad Pro is arguably better for more people. Not only is its battery life fantastic — over 13 hours on the Tom’s Guide Battery Test — but it’s lighter and fits better with last year’s Magic Keyboard. Plus, it’s $300 less expensive. On top of that, you get the astonishing speed of the Apple M1 chip, which is maybe too powerful for most tablet apps, but they call it the iPad Pro for a reason — this is made for the folks using demanding video and image editing apps.
Of course, the 11-inch iPad Pro 2021 still thrives at the little things. Its bright and colorful display is sharp, its four speakers provide much larger sound than you might expect from such a thin device and. And if you’re willing to pony up the cash its amazing (optional) Magic Keyboard offers the simplest and smoothest tablet typing experience there is.