Tablets have long occupied an odd middle ground between smartphones and laptop computers. Larger screens mean the devices are better for consuming media and playing games, but a lack of a full-fledged operating system means tablets are likely to underdeliver for heavier computing tasks.
There are now a multitude of tablets available that can fill a vital role for different types of professional users—in some cases, even replacing a work laptop entirely. If you’re in the market for a new tablet, these six options are each suited to one or more business niches, and could be your must-have device for getting work done on the go.
Apple iPad Pro
The latest generation of iPad Pro has a lot of features that point toward Apple’s continued goal of making it a laptop replacement, none more so than the inclusion of Apple’s M1 processor, the very same one in its latest generation of MacBooks and Mac desktops. This latest generation has an eight-core CPU that can reportedly outperform the previous model by 50%, and an eight-core GPU that boosts graphical performance by 40%. Toss in a new Liquid Retina XDR display on the 12.9″ model and you have an on-the-go device that’s a powerhouse for creative professionals.
Samsung Galaxy Tab S7/S7+
If you want an iPad Pro experience but aren’t an Apple user, you’re not out of luck: The Android-powered Samsung Galaxy Tab S7 and S7+ both have similar specs, designs, and peripherals. The Galaxy Tab S7 has a couple of features that the iPad Pro doesn’t: The seventh generation of Galaxy Tabs are available with 5G, and the tablets come with the Samsung equivalent to the Apple Pencil, the S Pen, making them also a great device for creatives.
The Microsoft Surface series
As a form factor, tablets are great, yet most suffer from a common problem: They’re mobile devices first, work devices second. That’s not the case with the Microsoft Surface series. These tablets and hybrids are in appearance tablets, but run Windows, making them ideal devices for traveling professionals who want a work machine that’s smaller and more portable with the option to use it just like a laptop. There are a lot of options (and price points) when it comes to the Microsoft Surface series, so you’re best to check it out for yourself and choose the right fit.
Samsung Galaxy Tab Active Pro
If you work in the field, on the front line, or any other place where your tablet is needed for work despite risks of damage, then you need a device that can handle a few bumps, so take a look at the Galaxy Tab Active Pro. Available with LTE connectivity or as Wi-Fi only, the Galaxy Tab Active Pro is MIL-STD-810G and IP68-rated, and its included S Pen is IP68-rated as well; Samsung also reports a 15-hour battery life. Plus, it comes with enterprise management software built in.
HP Elite X2 G8
HP’s 2-in-1 Elite X2 G8 is built for the enterprise, and it has one of the biggest screens you’ll find on a tablet at 13 inches. There are a bundle of different configuration options, but HP touts all of them as being built for security. “From the BIOS to the browser, above and below the OS, these constantly evolving solutions help protect your PC from threats,” HP said.
Apple iPad Mini 6th generation
The 2021 iPad Mini got a total redesign bringing it line with Apple’s current aesthetic, but it’s not just looks where it improved over the previous generation. The new iPad Mini is an iPad Pro in everything but size: It has the new A15 Bionic chip, support for Center Stage video conferencing, 5G, Apple Pencil 2 support and other features that make it a practically pocket-sized pro machine that’s a great compromise for professionals who want iPad Pro power in a smaller form factor.
Editor’s note: This author updated this list; in particular, the 2020 iPad Air was replaced with the 2021 iPad Mini