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We won’t lie—the state of Android tablets in 2020 is rockier than ever. While Android tablets are the best they’ve ever been, it seems manufacturers are slowly moving away from making tablets altogether, focusing instead on providing users with bigger, better phones. The app ecosystem for Android tablets never quite took off in the way some users might have hoped, and it seems the overall market for tablets—Android, iOS, or otherwise—has been dwindling. Sure, tablets are still purchased, especially in the sub-$300 of the market, but the rise of larger phones have taken over and slowed the need for a secondary device. Samsung’s Galaxy Note 10 Plus, Google’s Pixel 4 XL, and Apple’s iPhone 11 Pro Max are all bigger than ever before, making a tablet a harder sell to many consumers.
If you’re going to buy a tablet in 2020, you’ll want it to feature the biggest and brightest display, perfect for watching movies, TV shows, playing games, and doing anything else a tablet can do. These devices are big enough to feel like a different product from your phone, while also being smaller and more portable than your laptop. Whether you’re looking for something to browse the web, watch Netflix while lounging on the couch, or to read a magazine on the go, a tablet with a large display is the way to go.
But what should you look for in a large tablet? There are plenty of options all over the price range for 10″ tablets, but not all of them are worthy of your cash. Whether you’re looking for the best of the best, or something on the budget end of the market, we have suggestions for any user looking for a great large Android tablet.
Last year’s Galaxy Tab S6 was our pick for the best 10″ Android tablet you can buy for most of this year, but as we head into 2021, it’s time to replace our pick with Samsung’s successor, the Tab S7. As an iterative update, Samsung kept most of the things we liked about the previous model, but upgraded the Tab S7 in some key ways that help it to compete better with Apple’s iPad Pro and the redesigned iPad Air. While the Tab S7 still falls victim to the same problems that plague Android tablets, it’s easily the best choice on the market today, at an affordable, competitive price.
Let’s start with the display. Samsung offers two versions of the Tab S7 this year, and the biggest difference between this model and the more expensive Tab S7+ comes down to AMOLED. Although Samsung included an AMOLED display with the 2019 Tab S6, only the Plus version of the Tab S7 holds onto AMOLED this year, with the standard Tab S7 using an LCD display instead.
Despite the switch in screen technology, this is still an outstanding display. With a 120Hz refresh rate, the Tab S7 looks buttery smooth, matching the refresh rate seen on the iPad Pro and beating out Apple’s new $600 iPad Air. The AMOLED display on the larger S7+ makes a big difference, but for most buyers, it’s just not worth the upgrade cost.
Samsung did keep the quad speakers from the Tab S6 around on this model, so even without AMOLED, it’s a great movie experience for anyone who loves to watch Netflix in bed.
Outside of the changes to the display, most of what made the Tab S6 our top pick last year remains in the Tab S7. Samsung upgraded the processor from a Snapdragon 855 to a Snapdragon 865+, while also boosting the RAM to either 6GB or 8GB, depending on which model you pick. The included S Pen keeps the same look as last year’s model, but sees a major drop in latency to just 9ms. Samsung continues to sell an optional keyboard case, and the new Dex mode helps make productivity that much easier. It doesn’t solve all the issues Android tablets are known for, but Samsung’s continued support for Dex show the company is committed to improving Android on larger screens.
The Galaxy Tab S7 doesn’t reinvent itself as we’ve seen with many of Samsung’s previous tablets, but it’s a good piece of gear perfect for everything from streaming new episodes of The Mandalorian on Disney+ to finishing essays on Sunday night. At $549, its immediate competition is the new iPad Air from Apple, which loses the high refresh rate display and included stylus, but gains access to Apple’s lineup of seriously impressive iPad apps. Ultimately, if you’re dead set on an Android tablet, this is the one to get, but as always, Apple’s iPad lineup is as strong as ever.
Even before launching the Tab S6, Samsung used the first half of 2019 to launch the Tab S5e, a midrange tablet with a focus on design rather than performance. It may be nearly two years old, but with a a much lower starting price of just $339, anyone who likes the design of the S7 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 plenty of cash on your purchase.
If you’re willing to settle for older hardware, the Tab S5e is a solid alternative to Apple’s entry-level iPad. With a 10.5″ AMOLED display, quad speakers, and a large battery, this is a great grab-and-go tablet, perfect for Netflix, YouTube, and any other casual apps. Unfortunately, you lose your high-end Snapdragon 865+ processor, dropping down the a Snapdragon 670. Even with its age, its a solid-enough performer for watching movies or browsing the web, but if you want the most powerful Android tablet money will buy, you unfortunately have to jump up to the Tab S7. Likewise, the Tab S5e offers 4GB of memory, down from 6GB, which may push apps to reload more often.
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.
Although its age makes it a tough recommend for many readers, if you don’t mind picking up a tablet nearing on its second anniversary, the Tab S5e is a solid choice—especially at $330. Just make sure you know the limits of its processor before forking over your cash.
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 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 with its 2019 revision, 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.
If the Tab S7 goes head to head with the iPad Air, the Tab S7+ challenges Apple’s iPad Pro. Though Samsung’s high-end tablet keeps most of the the features from the standard Tab S7, the display is completely new. At 12.4″, this is the largest tablet on this device, and the switch to AMOLED also makes it one of the brightest and most vivid. It keeps the 120Hz refresh rate as well, for butter smooth scrolling and gameplay.
Otherwise, almost everything here is the same. Same processor, same RAM options, same selection of available storage. The ‘plus’ model of the Tab S7 really only changes the display, and for many users shopping for a full laptop replacement, that might be enough to pony up the extra cash. Still, starting at around $800 (depending on whether the tablet is on sale), it’s tough to recommend the S7+ over the standard S7 for most shoppers. It’s worth considering if you can get a good deal, but otherwise, just stick to the smaller tablet. It’s cheaper, easier to use, and still features most of the things that make the Galaxy Tab series so special.
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 in 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.
In 2019, we recommended Lenovo’s Smart Tab M10 as a unique addition to anyone’s tablet lineup, especially if you’re looking for a hybrid tablet-smart display device. Lenovo has refreshed their M10 for 2020 with the M10 Plus, and not only does it carry on the tablet-dock tradition, it’s even cheaper than ever before. Starting at $169, Lenovo’s M10 Plus uses the same MediaTek processor as the Fire HD, but at an improved 2.3GHz clock speed for faster browsing and app performance. The standard model includes 2GB of RAM and 32GB of storage, but if you’re willing to step up to higher tiers, you can increase your performance with 4GB of RAM and up to 128GB of storage.
For most people considering the M10 Plus, there are two things to pay attention to here. The first is the tablet’s 10.3″ 1080p display, which is slightly larger than last year’s model and features improved visuals across the board. Second, and more importantly, is the included speaker dock in the box. Powered by Dolby, these dual front-facing speakers allow you to blast your favorite movies, TV shows, podcasts, music, and more as you’re cooking, cleaning, or just hanging out before bed.
With Google Assistant built-in, the M10 Plus also works as a hands-free smart speaker, allowing you to control your smart lights, check the weather, and anything else Assistant allows you to do. If you’re looking for a device built around media consumption, the included speaker dock is a must-have for your next weekend of binging The Office.
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