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The Best Gaming Tablets You Can Buy in 2021 | Digital Trends

The idea that gaming is something you can only do on a souped-up, multicolored PC — or on the box under your TV — is dead. Mobile gaming has arrived, luring millions of people with a wide range of challenges from matching three fruits in a row to colonizing planets. The best Android and iPhone games vary widely, but sometimes the lack of smartphone screen real estate can cramp your style. If portability is still a prime factor, then split the difference with the best gaming tablets.

While the emerging category of dedicated gaming phones may be starting to heat up, the idea of specialized gaming tablets seems to have died with the Nvidia Shield. The best gaming tablets today are somewhat though not entirely distinct from our best tablets, but they have a few standout features that make them optimal for gamers as well as overall tablet users.

Best gaming tablets at a glance

Best overall: Apple iPad Pro (11-inch)

Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

Two things that set the iPad Pro head and shoulders above the crowd when it comes to gaming are the enormous, sharp, and smooth 120Hz display and the completely unrivaled raw processing power. We’ve highlighted the 11-inch model as the best pick because it’s a little more affordable and manageable, but if you want to get lost in something like Civilization VI, then the 12.9-inch model is even better. Pairing this tablet with some of the best iPad Pro games will be enough to keep the most demanding of gamers happy. Apple’s tablets stand apart from the Android crowd because of the level of polish and the optimization of many apps, and nowhere is this difference starker than with games. This is also a great-looking tablet, with convenient Face ID built in, and a host of fun augmented reality apps and games. Battery life is good enough to keep you gaming on the go for hours. The obvious downside is the high cost.

Read our full iPad Pro review

Best Android gaming tablet: Samsung Galaxy Tab S7 Plus

Samsung Galaxy Tab S7 Plus keyboard in use.

If you’d prefer an Android device to an iPad, then you won’t do better than the Galaxy Tab S7+ from Samsung. It boasts a lightning-fast Snapdragon 865 Plus processor backed by 6GB RAM and 128GB that is expandable up to 1TB. There’s a stunning 12.4-inch Super AMOLED display that you’ll never tire of looking at. It also has AKG and Dolby Atmos audio, 10,090mAh battery life, and a stylish design. Samsung’s special Game Booster promises a lag-free gaming experience and a partnership with Discord brings live chat features to the Game Launcher. The Galaxy Tab S7Plus has S Pen support, too, which is great if you like to write notes by hand or sketch but also doubles as a remote control.

Read our full Samsung Galaxy Tab S7 Plus review

Best small gaming tablet: Apple iPad Mini 5

An Apple iPad Mini 5 in hand.

Apple’s iPad Mini is a optimal option if you want something truly portable. The 7.9-inch display lacks the smoothness of the Pro and the shine of Samsung’s AMOLED, but it’s still sharp and bright. The performance is excellent, so running the latest games smoothly is not going to be a problem. You can also have some augmented reality fun with things like Angry Birds AR: Isle of Pigs, and there’s support for the Apple Pencil if you like the idea of sketching. Battery life is less than stellar, especially if you’re playing a lot, and the price is typical Apple — on the high side –but there’s no strong competition at this size.

Read our iPad Mini review

Best gaming tablet for kids: All-new Fire HD 10 Kids tablet

The new Amazon Fire Kids tablet laid on a table showing kids apps.

While now the most powerful tablet on our list for children, the Fire HD 10 Kids Tablet is also by far the most affordable. Your teen isn’t going to be firing up Fortnite on this, but it is still well worth recommending for younger kids up to seven years old. It really is a full Fire HD tablet, but with protective bumpers for kids, and lots of tutorials for accessing parental controls, English/Spanish content, and more — plus a free year of Amazon Kids+ to experiment with.

This updated edition Fire HD 10 Kids Edition improves core performance with an octa-core processor, 3GB RAM, and up to 1TB of expandable storage. It also comes with a 10.1-inch, 1080p screen, USB-C cable, and 9W power adapter in the box.

Worth considering:

Apple iPad Air 4 (2020)

An iPad Air 4 in hand.
Andrew Martonik/Digital Trends

Check out the latest iPad Air if you prefer a smaller, portable screen on their tablet but appreciate the features of an iPad Pro. Its compact screen allows for quicker hand or finger movements during your gameplay, making it a great option. Plus, you can choose between 65GB and 256GB of storage. This iPad also supports the Smart Keyboard Folio for more serious work. It’s a standard size at 10.9-inches and uses an upgraded A14 Bionic chip to outperform its previous models. 

Many users will appreciate that the Apple iPad Air 4 has a USB-C connection to connect and charge rather than the Lightning cable of older, standard iPad models. This new connection makes charging your iPad even faster and more reliable.

Read more in our full iPad Air (2020) review

Frequently asked questions

How do gaming tablets differ from other tablets?

Most tablets can be used for playing simple games, but if you are an avid gamer who spends long hours playing high-processing games, you’ll need a tablet that can match your usage needs. So, if you play games with heavy files sizes, look for tablets offering ample storage space. Take, for instance, the Apple iPad Pro that offers up to 2TB storage, which is more than enough for most heavy games. Another difference could be the processing power. Most heavy games require a powerful processor for seamless play so look for tablets like the iPad Air and the Samsung Galaxy Tab A and S series that offer super-fast loading and lag-free gaming.

Does battery capacity matter in a gaming tablet?

Battery life is one of the most underrated features in a gaming tablet. No matter how powerful of a device you buy, if it lacks a good battery life, you can’t fully enjoy it. So, if you are looking to play or stream games continuously, look for gaming tablets with at least 6-8 hours of battery life. Devices like the Apple iPad Pro, iPad Air 2020, Amazon HD Fire 10 boast 10-13 hours of performance on a single charge, making them excellent options for uninterrupted heavy gaming.

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