iPad and tablet in-depth buying guide 2024

When it comes to choosing a tablet, the options can be overwhelming. We’re here to help you find your new tablet. Whether you want a tablet for streaming media, gaming, work, or artistic endeavors, we’ll help you decide what features matter (and break down your options by price range). 

We also discuss brands and operating systems—do those things even matter? Let’s find out.

Before you buy a tablet, ask yourself two important questions:

What tablet features matter most?

Is this tablet for an adult or a child? For work or just for play? Knowing what you’ll use your tablet for (or who’s using the tablet) is essential for narrowing down your list of options.

How much do you want to pay?

Hey, we all have a budget. We’ll look at tablets in three different price ranges and explain the benefits of each one.

What tablet features should I consider?

Cellular data + Wi-Fi® or just Wi-Fi: Do you want a tablet with its own dedicated cellular plan, or do you plan to use your tablet only where there’s Wi-Fi access? Cellular-enabled tablets cost a bit more upfront, plus the cost of a monthly data plan. The benefit to a cellular tablet is that you’ll be able to access the internet in places where there’s spotty Wi-Fi, or no Wi-Fi at all, like at parks or in vehicles.  

Processor: Just like on a computer or cell phone, your processor is the tablet’s brain. The faster it is, the faster your tablet will be. How fast do you need your tablet to be? That depends on what you want to do with it. Hardcore gaming, working with multiple process-heavy apps, or using specialized software to make videos? You’ll want a powerful processor (CPU) and graphics card (GPU).

Internal storage: This is the space for storing apps and media like books, games, movies, and music. But how much storage will your tablet need? Here are some general guidelines:

  • 64GB: You stream media, but don’t download very much of it. You have a few apps, but nothing too big. You don’t mind deleting unused apps and media as needed to keep the tablet running smoothly.
  • 128 – 256GB: You download plenty of apps and a few mobile games, and store photos and some videos that you’ve taken yourself. You can download a few movies, but don’t mind deleting them after watching.
  • 512GB – 1TB: You’re a power user. You’ll download lots of apps and media. You need to store files for months or years. If you’re using a tablet for business apps and communications, you’ll want at least 512GB of internal storage.

Cloud storage (for files and media) can offer a way to relieve the pressure on your tablet’s internal storage. Android tablets usually offer expandable storage.

RAM: Random access memory is your tablet’s short-term device storage, and it works in tandem with the processor to make apps run smoothly. RAM is what allows you to switch between apps and tasks quickly. The more RAM you have, the more agile your tablet will be.

Battery life: These days, most tablet batteries have good longevity. If you think you’ll be running your tablet battery down often and will need to recharge quickly, look at charging speed and battery life. The Samsung Galaxy Tab S9+ 5G offers super-fast charging (use a 45W adapter for this).

Tablet features for work

What tablet features do you need to do your job? If you spend most of your day typing and plan to use your tablet for work, you’ll want to look for accessories like keyboards (check out the optional keyboard for the iPad Pro) so you can use your iPad Pro like a laptop. If you use Microsoft Windows for work, the Surface family of tablets offer work capabilities that rival most Windows laptops. 
man looking at tab and smiling

What brand of tablet is best, and does the operating system matter? 

Does a tablet’s brand or operating system matter? And what’s the difference between Apple and Android? 

People love to argue about which brand and operating system (OS) is the best. But most people choose a tablet based on what they’re familiar with, and also, their existing media. 

For example, if you already use Apple products, you probably own Apple-specific content—like Apple music or movies—that you can’t access on an Android device.  

Many apps have versions that work on the various operating systems. Before you switch from one OS to another, be sure to check if your favorite apps work on your potential new tablet’s OS.   

How much do you want to pay? Tablets by budget 

The range of tablets available today means it’s easy to find one that fits any budget. And if a big, one-time payment isn’t an option, many companies—including AT&T—offer tablet installment plans when you add a tablet line to your wireless account.  

Price ranges here are current as of April 2024. Prices don’t factor in the cost of a monthly data plan for cellular tablets, but you can shop our data plans

Best entry-level tablets (under $300)

At this price point, you’ll find tablets perfect for streaming shows and movies, playing simple games, and reading e-books. These tablets also make good hand-me-downs for kids, should you ever care to upgrade to a more robust tablet.  

The TCL TAB 8 SE features an 8-inch display and weighs only 10.6 oz. With 4G LTE cellular connectivity, 4GB of RAM, and up to 64GB of storage (expandable to 1TB), it’s a very affordable option.  

Many tablets in this price range aren’t available with 5G connectivity. A notable exception is the Samsung Galaxy Tab A9+ 5G. With 4GB of RAM and 5G connectivity, and a Qualcomm® Snapdragon® 695 processor, the A9 is a great tablet for most users. Streaming, moderate mobile gaming, work apps, video chat—it’s all doable on the A9. 

Req's 5G capable device for 5G. May not be available in your area. Details: att.com/5Gforyou 

Best mid-range tablets ($300 to $800)

If you’re looking for a tablet with upgraded features:

The Samsung Galaxy Tab S9 FE 5G offers an excellent alternative to an iPad-dominated category. With a 12.4-inch display, 6GB of RAM, and S Pen support, the S9 FE 5G is great for creative tasks or just vegging out while watching movies, while providing speedy connectivity for gaming or video conferencing. The S9 is also a good fit for those who need the flexibility of a tablet that can double as a laptop with the addition of a keyboard cover.

Apple’s iPad series includes three tablets that costs less than $800—the flagship iPad (both 9th and 10th Generation), the iPad Mini (6th Generation) and the iPad Air (5th Generation). Visit AT&T’s Apple page to check out all of AT&T’s offers on Apple products and compare the various iPad models.

If you’re wondering which iPad is the least expensive, it’s the iPad 9th Generation. While not as fast as its successor, iPad 9th Generation still packs a punch with a 10.2-inch display, 4G LTE connectivity, and weighs just 1.09 pounds.

If you prefer a small but mighty tablet, the iPad mini (2021) packs a newer and more powerful processor than the iPad 9th Generation, but comes in a compact, ultra-portable size and weighs just 0.66 pounds. Cost-wise, the iPad mini falls between the latest iPad and the iPad Air. The mini can connect to Bluetooth® keyboards, but if you want a tablet that you can work comfortably on, stick with the full-size iPad (or consider the iPad Air or iPad Pro).

Want an upgrade to processing power, speakers, and cameras? The iPad 10th Generation (2022) features a 10.9-inch Retina display, landscape stereo sound, 4K video, and 5G connectivity. If you’re interested in using your iPad for work, the 10th Generation is also compatible with Apple’s Magic Keyboard Folio—a great addition for when you get tired of onscreen typing.

Although it shares roughly the same dimensions as the iPad 10th Generation, the iPad Air weighs a few grams less, but features an upgraded processor (newer chipset, and more powerful CPU and GPU).

Best high-end tablets ($800 and higher)

Looking for a top-of-the-line tablet? You’re in the right place. 

In May 2024, Apple released a new iPad Pro and iPad Air. Both are available in two sizes, 11-inch and 13-inch, and multiple storage capacities.  

The new iPad Pro features Apple’s newest M4 chip. The Pro’s touchscreen display is available with a nano-glass finish, which reduces glare from ambient light. The new iPad Air features a landscape front camera and new case colors, including Blue, Purple, and Starlight. Both new iPads work with the Apple Pencil Pro

The Samsung Galaxy Tab S9+ 5G tablet features a 12.4-inch display and comes with 265GB of storage. It’s powered by the Snapdragon® 8 Gen 2 chip and has an IP68 rating—which means it’s water-resistant in up to 5 feet of water for up to 30 minutes (we don’t recommend testing this, though, even if you've purchased device protection).  

The S9+ also has excellent battery life and super-fast charging capabilities—you’ll want to use a 45W adapter and USB-C cable (not sold with the tablet) to get the fastest possible charging.

Best tablets for kids

If you’ve decided that your kid is ready for a tablet, there are plenty of affordable, kid-focused options to choose from. If you aren’t sure about your children’s digital readiness, check out our article on choosing a device for kids. We’ll discuss device types, screen time, and online safety for kids’ digital devices.  

AT&T also offers the AT&T Secure Family app (available on both Apple and Android tablets) to help keep track of your children’s online activity. 

For tablets, the AT&T amiGO Jr. Tab, and Android tablet that comes with a lightweight and durable case with a built-in handle. Created with younger kids in mind, it comes pre-loaded with Google Kids Space and offers safe browsing, screentime limits, and parental monitoring. 

If your children are naturally disaster-prone, consider adding device protection for your tablet for a little added peace of mind.