The Best Android Tablets [November 2019]
Unfortunately for Android enthusiasts, it’s a bit of a down time to be shopping for an Android tablet. While there’s no shortage of great devices on the market from the last few years hardware advancement and development, there’s no doubt that plenty of Android manufacturers have outright stopped creating tablets for the platform because of a lack of interest in large-screened Android devices. It’s not that tablets are a bad idea—in fact, with the advancement of display and sound technology, tablets today can be the best way to watch movies or television shows while on the move today. And while both Android 8.0 Oreo and Android 9 Pie have made Android software a bit more usable on large displays, it’s obvious that consumers have focused more on purchasing phablet-sized phones instead of using tablets than can’t be pocketed on the go.
Still, tablets are a great device for lounging around the house watching browsing the web, or watching Netflix in bed as your partner sleeps. And even while the majority of tablet usage is reduced down to online media consumption, many people want to use their devices for more than just watching movies or reading books on the go. Still, these Android devices struggle to compete against devices like the iPad Pro or Microsoft’s Surface Tablet, and even face stiff competition from the likes of Google’s own Chromebook branch. For most, the best Android tablet really depends on what you personally want to do with your device. Do you want something you can play games on? Something just to watch Let’s Plays on YouTube? Do you want to take notes in a classroom, or type up minutes from a meeting? Maybe you need stylus support, or something with a smaller, portable device or a larger, laptop-like screen? And how much are you willing to pay for a device that mostly does things your laptop and your smartphone already do quite well?
These are difficulties facing all tablet devices in 2019, not just the ones that run Android. Tablets in general are facing a bit of an identity crisis this year—they want to be a computing revolution, but they’re stuck in evolution mode. But for some, a tablet can be a great choice for a third device that lets you consume media without using your laptop or desktop computer. There are a ton of tablets worth buying in 2019; you just have to truly consider what your use case is for the device before you drop your hard-earned cash down at your local electronics store. With all that said, let’s take a look at the best Android tablets.
Samsung is the last major manufacturer still making high-end Android tablets in 2019, so if you want a device that can go head to head with Apple’s iPad Pro, this is it. After taking a quick detour to release the mid-range Tab S5e earlier this year, Samsung returned to the table with the Tab S6, the proper successor to their Tab S4 and the first tablet to really grab our attention in 2019. Taking design cues from the S5e, Samsung’s latest and greatest is a reminder that, while Android might not be the king of tablets, Samsung continues to give it their all.
Hardware-wise, this is one sleek device. With a large 10.5″ display on the front and a clean metal design, the Tab S6 shows Samsung’s design powers in full force. While the grey device looks great on its own, it’s the blue and red models that really shine here. The frame is impossibly thin, albeit with a small camera bump on the very back to allow for the dual camera module (with a primary 13MP sensor and a secondary 8MP sensor). No matter which color you pick, the device includes a matching S Pen for taking notes. The fingerprint sensor has been moved from the Tab S4 to sit beneath the screen, similar to what Samsung included on the Galaxy S10 this year.
The whole tablet weighs in at less than a pound, which means you can hold this thing for hours without ever really feeling the weight of the device in your hands. Tablets have come a long way since the 1.5lb iPad first released in 2010, and it truly is remarkable how much tech is stuffed into something this thin and light.
Display and Sound
The display is a bit of a mixed bag. Quality-wise, it’s nearly perfect. An expansive, 10.5″ Super-AMOLED display makes the Tab S6 the perfect media consumption device, with a sharp resolution and HDR10+ certification. Our major complaint comes from the aspect ratio. Samsung has returned to 16:10 displays on their tablets after previously offering 4:3 models, and while it does help to make the Tab S6 perfect for catching up on the latest Marvel movie, it makes using the device in portrait mode just feel too tall. For a device that’s supposed to be built around productivity, it just feels like Samsung didn’t consider that spreadsheets and Word documents just look better on screens that hew closer to 4:3.
Thankfully, Samsung did consider how many reruns of The Office users would be watching on this device, so you’ll find four speakers centered around the Tab S6 for fantastic stereo audio. They sound about as good as anything else you’ll find in the tablet market today.
Specs and Software
Specs-wise, there’s no major surprises here. A Qualcomm Snapdragon 855, 6GB of RAM, a 7040 mAh batter, USB-C for charging, microSD card support for storage expansion, and of course, Android 9.0 Pie. It’s unclear when the Tab S6 will get Android 10, but with Samsung’s software tweaks on board, a lot of the stuff added to Android in the most recent version already have parallel Samsung versions in One UI. One of the biggest disappointments is the lack of a headphone jack, but with almost everyone else having left the port behind at this point, it’s not all too surprising. There are several software tweaks Samsung made for the Tab S6 that are exclusive to their tablet line including a version of their Dex mode that allows you to replicate a full desktop interface on the tablet. To use it, however, you’ll need a keyboard and mouse, and speaking of which…
In addition to the S Pen, Samsung also offers an optional “Book Cover Keyboard” accessory that starts at a whopping $179. Like Apple’s iPad Pro, it uses a POGO pin interface to connect while offering users a full 64 key layout complete with a touchpad. The keyboard cover essentially turns your tablet into a laptop, but unless you’re really going to be using it often, we suggest just getting the standard Book Cover for the Tab S6 and picking up a cheap Bluetooth keyboard on Amazon instead. Still, when compared to the keyboard offered with the Tab S4, it’s much improved. The keyboard is fully detachable, and the touchpad does help to make productivity tasks a whole lot easier.
Price and Conclusion
The biggest issue with the keyboard comes down to its cost. At $179, we could be convinced to buy the accessory if the Tab S6 started at $499. But with pro-level features comes pro-level pricing, and instead, the Tab S6 starts at $649 for a model with 128GB of storage. There’s also a 256GB version for $80 more, but considering the microSD card support, you’re better off grabbing a 128GB microSD card for $20 and calling it a day.
There’s no doubt in our minds that the Galaxy Tab S6 is the best Android tablet you can buy today, large or otherwise. It’s just a shame that, at the end of the day, Samsung is the only company working to keep Android alive in tablets. Head to head with the iPad Pro, though, it’s difficult to suggest you buy the Tab S6 over Apple’s offering.
- Fantastic build and display
- S Pen support
- Great speakers
- Already behind in software updates
- Multitasking issues
In between launching the Galaxy Tab S4 and Tab S6, Samsung used the first half of 2019 to launch the Tab S5e, a midrange successor with a focus on design rather than performance. We mentioned that Samsung used the design language of the Tab S5e to influence the Tab S6, but at a much lower starting price of just $399, anyone who likes the design of the S6 while being put off by the price will want to take a look at the Tab S5e, which gets you a similar experience while saving $250 on your purchase upfront.
The easiest way to look at the Tab S5e is to see what you get to keep versus what you give up to save that extra cash. The display is the same 10.5″ Super-AMOLED screen, the device still has four speakers surrounding the frame for stereo audio, and the battery is still a massive 7040 mAh. The display, speakers, and battery make for three of the most important features of any tablet, so all of this is good news if you’re put off by the price of the Tab S6 above. You’ll also find the POGO pin connectors along the side of the device for connecting a keyboard, although the keyboard case for the Tab S5e doesn’t include a touchpad. You’ll find a USB-C port for charging, the same 8MP front-facing camera for video calling, and unfortunately, the same lack of headphone jack.
So what’s different? With the Tab S5e, the biggest sacrifices come in performance. Instead of a flagship-tier Snapdragon 855, you’ll find a Snapdragon 670. A solid-enough performer for watching movies or browsing the web, the Snapdragon 670 is good enough for most shoppers, but if you want the most powerful Android tablet money will buy, you unfortunately have to jump up to the Tab S6. Likewise, the Tab S5e offers 4GB of memory, down from 6GB, so you might notice apps reloading more often than they would otherwise. Some other small changes: the fingerprint sensor moves from under the screen to resting on the power button, the starting storage space is reduced to 64GB, and finally, the second camera lens is removed from the back of the tablet, leaving the single 13MP lens instead.
Ultimately, we think that most people would be better off choosing the Tab S5e over the Tab S6 unless they’re really going to take advantage of the extra power and productivity tools included with Samsung’s flagship tablet. If you plan on using the S-Pen, the laptop dock, or Dex mode, of course the Tab S6 is a better choice than Samsung’s midrange offering. But for watching Netflix, browsing the web, checking the weather, or video calls, the Tab S5e keeps the important parts of the Tab S6 without sacrificing too much in terms of performance. Ultimately, it’s down to your personal preference (and the amount of money you’re looking to spend), but if you want a large Android tablet in 2019, it’s clear that Samsung’s lineup are some of the best you can buy.
- Gorgeous display
- Quad speakers
- Thin design
- Competes with iPad Air with less apps
- Midrange processor
- No S-Pen support
Though the original Fire HD 10 was immensely disappointing, the last two years have seen Amazon’s largest tablet become a great value on its own. After being reinvented in 2017 with a new design and a new lower price, Amazon’s 10″ tablet was updated again this year with new colors, a new processor, and a USB-C port, all for the same $149. The new 2019 Fire HD 10 comes in a variety of colors, including muted blues and reds that look fantastic and help make the device feel a bit more adult, despite their plastic builds. As mentioned, the aging microUSB port has finally been replaced with a USB-C port, so you can finally recycle your old cables, while the processor has been bumped up to be 30 percent faster.
While certain aspects of the HD 10 have changed for 2019, our two favorite pieces of Amazon’s best-selling tablet remain the same. The 1080p display still looks as sharp as ever, and at this price point, it’s truly hard to beat. Same goes for the quad speakers arranged along the sides of the device. You simply cannot outdo the speakers on this tablet for under $200—hell, even the $329 iPad lacks true stereo sound. Don’t get us wrong—this is certainly a budget tablet, and you’ll have to make do with installing Google apps manually if you need them. But for under $200, this is the perfect device for watching Netflix around the house.
- Bright, new 1080p display
- Amazon's software features
- Brand new lower price
- Plastic build
- Budget price means budget performance
The evolution of the original Kindle Fire tablet, the 2019 Amazon Fire 7 is the only $50 tablet on the market you should even consider purchasing. While the price of the tablet itself is really the main feature here, $49.99—or five monthly payments of just $10—gets you a pretty good tablet experience for the money. The device features the same processor as the more expensive Fire HD 8, 1GB of RAM, up to eight hours of mixed usage across the board, and an IPS display that, while relatively low-res (1024×600), is capable of displaying decent colors and solid viewing angles. Even though the tablet costs more than one sixth as much as an iPad, performance on the device is actually pretty solid. So long as you go into the Fire 7 expecting a budget experience, you’ll be please with what comes your way with the device.
Of course, we do have to nitpick some of the tablet’s weak points. As we’ve seen across the board, the actual cameras included on the device are terrible to say the least, and the build quality on the cheapest Fire is about equal to the other three devices. That single gigabyte of RAM means multitasking on this device is basically a no-go, and even keeping apps in your Recent Apps list will be a real pain when using the device. The device only has a mono speaker on the back of the device that makes watching media on the go a real pain if you don’t have headphones. There’s also the problem that comes with purchasing a 7″ tablet in 2019, since it isn’t all that much larger than some smartphones on the market today.
Still, the Amazon Fire 7 is a great starter tablet, especially for something you’re looking to simply keep around the house for quick browsing or the occasional YouTube video. We think upgrading to the Fire HD8 is the better buy, especially considering the larger, higher-res display, but there is one thing the Fire 7 has that no other tablet on the market can sell you: a six pack of the devices available for only $249.
Amazon did roll out a new version of the Fire Tablet in 2019, and while the processor speed hasn’t changed, it has more memory bandwidth, as well as double the storage space for the same price. It also comes in some sharp new colors. That said, if your current Fire Tablet is running fine, there’s no major reason to upgrade to the new ones.
- It's $49
- Amazon's digital services have gotten pretty good
- You get what you pay for
- No Play Store support
If you’re looking for a budget offering without switching to Amazon’s Google-less operating system, Samsung’s Galaxy Tab A is a decent place to start. Updated for 2019, the Galaxy Tab A is the perfect bare-bones Android tablet for anyone who wants something to use around the house. With a large, 10.1″ 1080p LCD display, the Tab A is perfect for watching movies, even if the screen isn’t quite as bright or vivid as the display on our other Samsung-made recommendations. Powered by the Exynos 7904A processor and 2GB of RAM, this is perfect for light browsing, looking at photos, streaming Netflix or Hulu, or catching up on Facebook without having to lug around your laptop.
The basic model includes 32GB of storage that can be expanded via microSD card, and unlike the top-tier Tab S6, the Galaxy Tab A still features a 3.5mm headphone jack for use with wired headphones. Unfortunately, you lose out on the fingerprint sensor, and the battery drops from roughly fifteen estimated hours down to ten. The speakers truly make up the biggest disappointment. Like Apple’s cheaper iPads, they’ve been pushed to the side when you’re using the tablet in landscape mode, which means the sound only comes from one side of the tablet. Still, if you can afford the extra $50 price increase over the Fire HD 10 (which does offer proper stereo sound), it’s not a bad tablet to consider. If Samsung refines the Tab A next year with an improved speaker placement, they might have the best budget 10″ tablet on the market yet.