If there’s one tech product category that covers a vastly differing array of devices, it must surely be tablets.
Simply defined as devices with touchscreens, many tablets have become much more than that. While some are as basic as you’d expect from the definition, others may vie to take over from your laptop.
To illustrate how big the differences can be, in a single month we’ve found ourselves testing a basic £90 tablet – the Amazon Fire HD 8 – alongside the high-end Samsung Galaxy Tab S7+ (£799). The latest Apple iPad (£329) sits pretty in the middle.
These three big-name tablets, from brands that hold more than half of the tablet market between them (according to technology market analyst Canalys), nicely represent the three tiers of tablet you have to choose from. Read on to find out what each tier has to offer and which one is likely to tick your boxes.
Find out more about the tablet features you should pay attention to in our guide on how to buy the best tablet
Amazon vs Apple vs Samsung: features compared
Amazon Fire HD 8 2020
Samsung Galaxy Tab S7+
|Processor speed (GHz)||2||2.49||3.09|
|Claimed internal storage capacity||32GB||32GB||128GB|
|Screen size (inches)||8 inches||10.2 inches||12.4 inches|
|Screen resolution||800 x 1280||2160 x1620||1752 x 2800|
Budget tablet: Amazon Fire HD 8 2020, £90
Ultra-cheap tablets tend to be small and portable. They’re usually well suited for browsing websites, reading ebooks and watching videos (dubbed ‘content consumption’), but lack the speed and top-tier processing power of higher-end devices.
The latest Amazon Fire HD 8 is a perfect example of this. Amazon’s devices have long been known as the budget choice for those willing to make compromises between price and performance, especially speed.
However, this year, Amazon has upgraded its Fire tablet processors, claiming 30% faster speeds. If this claim is true, current Fire owners that upgrade to a 2020 model should notice a dramatic speed boost when loading apps and websites.
Other compromises remain, though. Screen resolution is pretty low, meaning images and text are unlikely to have the crisp, clear qualities of expensive alternatives. And the small amount of Ram means you’ll be limited to doing a single task at once.
Is it a good bet despite its limitations? Read our full Amazon Fire HD 8 2020 review to see how it got on in our labs.
Mid-priced tablet: iPad 2020, £329
Apple’s starter-level iPad costs over £200 more than the Fire HD 8, and in a side-by-side spec sheet comparison, you can see why.
The processor has a faster ‘clock speed’, meaning it will feel nippier in everyday use, and the extra 1GB of Ram should assist with opening a couple of apps at the same time and quickly switching between them.
The larger screen is also an obvious step up, with a resolution that’s more than twice that of the Fire HD 8. The extra pixels mean that the iPad should deliver sharper, crisper text and clearer images.
The iPad also benefits from a fingerprint scanner, for quicker and easier logins than having to type in a password or Pin.
Our full reviews look into screen colour, battery life, speaker quality and ease of use to assess if higher specs make for a better tablet in practice. Read the full iPad 2020 review for our verdict.
High-end tablet: Samsung Galaxy Tab S7+, £799
This tablet needs to be a huge step up from the iPad to feel worth the money. The technical differences are obvious; a faster processor, double the Ram and 128GB of storage.
In fact, it’s so powerful on paper that Samsung markets it as a tablet for getting work done on, plus you can buy a detachable keyboard that effectively turns it into a laptop. Its large screen size of 12.4 inches also puts it on a par with smaller laptops.
There’s even a laptop-like mode, called Dex, that lets you open apps in small windows, in a very similar way to the Windows OS that operates on many laptops.
It also comes with both facial recognition cameras and a fingerprint scanner for easy logins, and its S-Pen stylus, which lets you write and draw on the screen, comes as standard. This is one advantage over rival Apple, which asks you to spend more than £100 extra for the Apple Pencil.
Read our full Samsung Galaxy Tab S7+ review to see how it fares in our lab tests and whether we think it’s a viable laptop replacement.