The tablet scene has drastically changed over the past couple of years. Gone are the days when cheap, plastic 8.0-inch Android tablets were flooding the shelves. Mobile manufacturers are instead turning to larger, more expensive tablets that incorporate accessories like stylus’ and keyboards.
We’re still waiting for the big iPad updates from Apple for this year, but if you’re in the market for a tablet, there are a plenty of great options right now.
Best Budget Tablet: Lenovo Yoga Tab 3 Plus ($299)
Runner Up: Huawei MediaPad M3
The Yoga Tab 3 Pro came out early in 2016 with one very interesting feature: a built-in pico projector. While it certainly made that product stand out, it also pushed it decidedly into the +$500 range. The new Yoga Tab 3 Plus is a larger 10.1-inch device, but it’s also now only $299. While the pico projector has been taken out, the Tab 3 Plus still has that convenient barrel hinge for watching videos, front-facing speakers and some pretty great performance to boot.
Best Android Tablet: Pixel-C ($599)
Runner Up: Huawei Matebook
We now have the Pixel phone, but let’s not forget that it comes from a line of Google-built products, including the Pixel-C. When we found out that Google was getting serious about designing and manufacturing its own tablet, there was plenty of reason to be excited.
From the exterior, there’s everything to like about the Pixel-C: the intuitive magnetic hinge, the beautiful aluminum chassis, and the great display. And now that Google has finally introduced some serious multitasking in Android, the Pixel-C is a better product than ever before.
Best Small Tablet: iPad mini 4 ($399)
Runner Up: Lenovo Yoga Tab 3 Plus
We didn’t get an update to the iPad mini line in 2016, so it’s a good thing the previous version was such a solid device. The iPad mini 4 came out back in late 2015, but it still holds up today as a smaller iPad that is perfect for reclining on the couch or taking on trips. The display is amazing, the performance holds up and the app selection is the very best. We don’t know for sure if we’ll be getting an update to the mini line this year, but either way the iPad mini 4 is still a great buy, especially if you can get it on discount online.
Best Budget iPad: iPad Air 2 ($399)
Runner Up: iPad mini 4
It’s been awhile since the iPad Air 2 was the newest, hot iPad from Apple. Even though it came out way back in 2014, it really has all the modern iPad features you’d expect to see, including Touch ID and a really thin design. The 9.7-inch tablet was once $599, so at it’s current $399 price, you’re getting quite the deal. Even though it might be the final iPad in the “Air” line, Apple still supports the device at this point, making it the cheapest option for getting a full-size iPad.
Best 2-in-1 Tablet: Lenovo IdeaPad Miix 510 ($799)
Runner Up: Surface Pro 4
We didn’t get a new Surface or Surface Pro in 2016, leaving the window open for a company like Lenovo to offer its alternative. Late this year we got the IdeaPad Miix 510, a 2-in-1 Surface competitor that actually works wells as both a laptop and a tablet. With a Core i series processor, Windows 10, and a unique watchband-style kickstand, the Miix 510 is made for getting actual work done.
At a starting price of only $599 (with an extra $130 for the detachable keyboard), the IdeaPad Miix 510 was the best 2-in-1 Windows 10 tablet to come out in 2016. Until we get the Surface Pro 5 (perhaps later this fall), the IdeaPad Miix 510 is a great 2-in-1 option.
Best Overall Tablet: iPad Pro 9.7 ($599)
Photo by Flickr user designmilk.
In just about every way that matters, the 9.7-inch iPad Pro is the long-awaited up to the iPad Air 2. It’s the traditional iPad size, but with all of the multitasking and power that came with with the massive 12.9-inch iPad Pro. That means it works with the Apple Pencil, new keyboard cover, and got a performance boost—all to make for a product you might just be able to get some work done on.
More than anything of that, though, the iPad continues to be the go-to tablet in a more general sense. Apple has pushed to make the iPad the premiere location for exclusive fullscreen apps that are built with the iPad in mind. The hardware and design are simply the best—and with the new splitscreen mode, it looks like the software is finally catching up too. In many ways, the iPad Pro is Apple following Microsoft’s lead with what it has achieved with the Surface Pro, but when you’re building on the foundation that is the iPad, it only sweetens the deal.
Rumors are pointing to a new slate of iPads coming in the not-so-distant future, but for now the 9.7-inch iPad Pro is the best tablet you can buy.