Amidst shrinking market size for tablets, companies have started to target working professionals lately. This pivot is backed by the hopes of replacing their laptops with a thin-and-light tablet that has a keyboard slapped onto it along with some software enhancements to support their work life. Besides work, such tablets are better even for entertainment, given the truckload of features they come with—quad-speaker setup being one of them.
There are a handful of brands competing in the space that offer a varied selection of tablets comprising of Android, iOS, and Windows-powered devices. We have divided this list into two sections—one that ranks the higher-priced models costing upwards of $649 and another that includes tables priced below that mark.
These are some of the best premium tablets in 2020.
This category is for those looking for nothing but the best and price generally isn’t a point of consideration, or is the last one, when buying a tablet. The devices listed below are known to offer an uncompromising experience both for work and play. But they will set you back a minimum of $649 while you can breach the $1000-mark easily by opting higher-end variants and accessories.
Apple iPad Pro
Even though Apple may refresh its iPad Pro lineup pretty soon, the 2018 models are still the best among all. The iPad Pro (review) was launched with an upgraded design with thinner bezels and the Face ID biometrics system on the front. On the inside, Apple included its current-best mobile chip—A12X Bionic—that is capable enough to tackle even the most demanding apps and can even beat some laptop processors in benchmarks.
Moreover, the iPad Pro continues to be the only Apple tablet with support for the Apple Pencil 2 that attaches magnetically to the tablet for charging. Starting this fall, the high-end Apple tablet will receive iPadOS update that will bring a host of productivity-focused features to improve the tablet’s usability. The slate offers a truly premium experience and demands an equally premium price of $799 for its base model with its accessories costing extra.
Microsoft Surface Pro 7
Microsoft’s Surface line, which has now entered its seventh generation, continues to stand out from the crowd, as it is one of the very few to sport a kickstand, giving the device a unique character. Keeping the aesthetics as is, Microsoft just refreshed the Surface Pro 7’s internals with the latest 10th-gen CPUs from Intel, which include a better integrated GPU than the previous gen. Thankfully, the company didn’t forget to include a USB-C port this time around, though it still isn’t Thunderbolt 3-enabled.
Even with all its exceptional design choices, the Surface Pro 7 (review) is an expensive machine, especially if you factor in the cost of the keyboard case and the stylus, which are a must for this tablet. It gets particularly concerning when you see that the base model comes with a lowly i3 chip, 128GB of storage, and 4GB of RAM, which will force you into getting a pricier model to begin with. Even though we liked the tablet in our review, its dated frontal design is now getting increasingly boring.
Microsoft Surface Pro X
All tablets want to be your on-the-go companion, and Surface is no different. The all-new Surface Pro X uses an ARM-based processor to bring all the goodies of an always-connected device like a smartphone to your PC. Besides bringing support for 4G LTE connectivity, this also translates into a thinner build, thanks to the fan-less design. Microsoft went a step ahead and included a removable SSD while also managing to squeeze in a 13-inch screen, which takes advantage of a redesigned stylus that charges wirelessly.
Though you must keep in mind that the Surface Pro X is a first-gen novel device that is capable of disappointing you in more ways than it pleases. For one, the tablet runs an ARM processor that cannot handle all the apps and programs Windows OS casually handles on an Intel chip. Apart from some first-party apps from Microsoft and a few others, the app ecosystem for this machine is quite limited, at least right now. Plus, the asking price also doesn’t work in its favor.
Microsoft Surface Pro 6
The last year’s Microsoft Surface Pro 6 remains unrivaled and iconic enough that it inspired other tablets with its unique kickstand. Speaking of it, the kickstand is flexible enough to stay in position at any angle that’s comfortable to use both while typing and doodling. The tablet still stands strong against other laptops, despite including a generation-old processor now. The Pro 6 is capable enough to handle all your basic office work with some light photo editing on top of it.
Except for the internals and a Type-C port, the Surface Pro 6 doesn’t differ much from its successor. You’re still getting an excellent keyboard accessory along with a stylus—both of which are sold separately. Now that the device is a year old, you can easily find it retailing at a substantial discount, making it an even better deal than it originally was. Though you’ll be missing out on all the improvements the new Intel processors bring.
Samsung Galaxy Tab S6
While the two tablets are close to a year old, the Galaxy Tab S6 was announced quite recently and will go on sale only by September. Despite the fact, the high-end Samsung tablet inherits its design from the Galaxy Tab S5e (review) launched earlier this year. It brings a plethora of improvements even when compared to its direct predecessor—the Galaxy Tab S4. For starters, the device comes running the Snapdragon 855 chipset that brings it on par with recent flagship smartphones.
The Galaxy Tab S6 is a house to Samsung’s trademark Super AMOLED screen which is arguably better than LCD panels. Its companion S Pen now attaches to the tablet, albeit at the back and its keyboard cover has also been redesigned to serve as a kickstand. The keyboard deck itself now includes a trackpad which will make it easier to work on the tablet. Samsung’s DeX mode helps in getting a desktop-like feel on a tablet device. It is priced starting at $649, which includes the S Pen, while the keyboard cover costs extra.
You need not pay top dollar for a premium experience as several tablets in the upper-mid-range segment, at times, offer a better value. The device could be a previous-gen flagship that now retails with a price cut or a brand-new tablet model that was launched in this price segment. Nevertheless, these tablets have regularly topped our “The Best” lists and are sure not to leave you disappointed in any way.
Samsung Galaxy Tab S4
Launched late last year at a starting price of $649, the Galaxy Tab S4 (review) now retails for $499 in the US while you may find an even better price if you look harder during sales. It was recently updated to Android 9 Pie with One UI running on top, giving it a software experience similar to its successor. The tablet sports the same 10.5-inch QHD AMOLED as the Tab S6 so there shouldn’t be a visible difference.
A Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 processor powers the tablet and it comes paired with 4GB of RAM. You will find the S Pen bundled with the tablet itself, thus saving you some cost. In our review of the device, we found that the high-end tablet offers great battery life and its four stereo speakers complement its superior display. Samsung also included its DeX mode in the tablet that is made usable using the keyboard attachment sold separately.
Apple iPad Air
The 2019 iPad Air (review) stands as a strong contender while being the default recommendation for most people looking to buy an Apple tablet. It does recycle the old iPad design but compensates for that with its refined internals which includes the new A12 Bionic chipset. This processor is also found inside the 2018 iPhone models and is powerful enough for anything you can throw at it, including photo and video processing.
What it doesn’t have is a pair of stereo speakers like the Pro models do, however, the existing ones sound loud and clear. The Touch ID sensor has stayed with the older design which is preferred by many over Face ID. Apple released the iPad Air running iOS 12 but it will soon receive the iPadOS update bringing it on par with the iPad Pro with all the upcoming multitasking features.
Microsoft Surface Go
Coming from Microsoft’s stable, the Surface Go (review) borrows a lot of its features from the premium Surface Pro series. The company has included an uncompromising build quality that is akin to its Pro lineup. An impressive 10-inch display sits on the front that is flanked by stereo speakers on either side. This smaller Surface tablet has its own keyboard accessory which is made using the same premium material as the one for the Surface Pro.
Similar is the case with the Surface Pen which you can purchase separately. It is powered by an Intel Pentium Gold processor which should be enough for basic tasks but anything more demanding than basic will start showing some signs of bottlenecking. The 10–inch tablet will come preloaded with Windows 10 S but you can upgrade it to the full version for free with a few clicks. The base model is priced at $399 with the keyboard and stylus costing extra.
Huawei MediaPad M6 10
This Huawei tablet is indeed the cheapest device in this list with a starting price of 2299 yuan or $334. But don’t let this price lead you into believing that the tablet is lacking in any way. It is an incremental upgrade over the MediaPad M5 10 (review) and packs the latest-gen Huawei HiSilicon Kirin 980 processor that is similar to the Snapdragon 855 in terms of raw performance. Even though the tablet is quite affordable, it isn’t easily available outside China and the price may go up depending on your country of import.
Based on our review of the MediaPad M5 10 from last year, the MediaPad M6 10 should be an excellent performer. Though, its heavily-customized skin may not be to everyone’s taste. The large 2K display should be great for media consumption and the four speakers in a stereo arrangement have proven to enhance the experience. It charges using a USB Type-C port and has a fingerprint scanner on one of its bezel. Huawei brought back the headphone jack which was lacking in the previous model.
Apple iPad Mini
In the end, we have the Apple iPad Mini (review) which manages to be the lone 8-inch premium tablet with a starting price of $399. The 2019 iPad Air and iPad Mini share the same internals including the high-end Apple A12 Bionic chip. With this, you can expect superior performance in a form factor that allows portability. Not many point out, but the iPad Mini with its 8-inch display is much better for handheld gaming than a 10-inch tablet is.
Our review of the iPad Mini noted its long battery life and screen performance, while the speakers also turned out to be decent. For the most part, you’re unlikely to notice any visual difference between the 2019 model and any of the previous iPad Mini models launched so far, unless you look closely. The Mini does support the first-gen Apple Pencil but the stylus would cost another $99. Apple will also release iPadOS for its smallest tablet alongside its other premium offerings.
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