The holiday season generally brings happiness. People often get some downtime from work, and as a result, that means they can spend more time with loved ones, even if 2020 forces that to mean your immediate household. But for some, the holiday season also brings some stress — due to trying to find the perfect gift while not spending all of your money. Obviously, Swappa can’t guarantee you a completely stress-free holiday season, but we can help reduce the stress by showing you how to spend less money on your tech purchases.
We’re pushing out gift guides for a variety of top categories this year. You can find a guide for video games, laptops, smartwatches, phones, and home tech, and here in this post — we’ll be covering tablets.
Let’s face it — if someone you know wants a tablet, there is a really good chance they actually want an iPad. Of course, that’s not to say there aren’t any good Android tablets available. In fact, Samsung has several top-notch tablets that run Android. For the sake of popularity, we’re going to begin this Tablet Gift Guide post with sections for the best (read: iPad) tablets and the best Android tablets. After that, we’ll venture into some lower-priced options, and finish up with some recommendations for kids’ tablets.
The current king of the tablet space is the iPad. But while the iPad is the top brand, there are several different models available in the iPad family. Along with the standard iPad, the lineup also includes the iPad mini, iPad Air, and iPad Pro.
The standard iPad is the best choice for most users. The most recent iPad is the 8th generation model, however, we’d recommend checking out the 7th generation as a way to save some money. The 7th and 8th gen models share most of the same specs, such as a 10.2-inch display, up to 128GB of storage, an 8MP wide-camera on the back, and up to 10 hours of battery life when surfing the web, watching a video or listening to music.
These models are also both compatible with the Smart Keyboard and 1st-gen Apple Pencil. In fact, the only real difference is the processor, with the 7th-gen using the Apple A10 Fusion and the 8th-gen using the Apple A12 Bionic. Granted, the A12 Bionic will offer better performance, but the performance offered by the A10 Fusion is more than good enough for the majority of use cases. Getting the 7th generation iPad is a good way to spend less. And, if you were hoping to spend a bit less, you can also check out the 6th generation model.
The iPad mini is perfect for those looking for an iPad with a smaller display, and smaller overall size. Here at Swappa we typically recommend looking at a previous generation model as a way to spend less money. But there was a rather big time delay between the release of the iPad mini 4 and the mini 5. That time delay meant the iPad mini 5 jumped a few generations in terms of the processor, going from the A8 to the A12 Bionic with Neural Engine. The iPad mini 5 also added support for the 1st-generation Apple Pencil, bumped the max storage to 256GB (from 128GB), and also added True Tone on the display. Of course, if you are comfortable with 128GB of storage and aren’t using a True Tone display already, the iPad mini 4 would be a great way to spend even less money.
Similar to the iPad mini, the iPad Air is another model where we will be recommending the current-generation model. The iPad Air 4 is a relatively new release, but it brings several features that make it worth considering. To start, the iPad Air 4 exterior design changed, and it now mimics the design of the iPad Pro, right down to the USB-C port for charging. The iPad Air 4 also comes in a variety of colors that were previously unavailable on any iPad. We like to save money, but we also like being able to choose a color that matches your personal preferences.
This isn’t to say the iPad Air 3 would be a bad choice. In fact, the iPad Air 3 sports a really nice 10.5-inch True Tone display with a resolution of 2224 x 1668. You also get the Apple A12 Bionic chip with Neural Engine and up to 256GB of storage space. But overall, the iPad Air 3 has the look and feel of the standard iPad with the traditional home button for Touch ID, which means, for lots of people, the standard iPad may be a better choice.
As implied by the Pro in the name, this is the top of the iPad lineup. You should choose the iPad Pro if you are buying for a power user. Within the iPad Pro lineup, you have options for an 11-inch or 12.9-inch model. If you’re going with the Pro, you are likely willing to spend a bit more money, which shifts our recommendations to focus more on the current-generation models. In the case of the iPad Pro, this means 2nd-generation for the 11-inch and 4th-generation for the 12.9-inch model.
The 11-inch iPad Pro is top quality and would last several years into the future without much worry. But it may not be the best option for everyone, especially given the iPad Air 4 now features the same exterior design, which in the past was a reason that some people opted to go with a Pro model iPad.
If you are looking for an 11-inch tablet with a squared-off design, we recommend considering the iPad Air 4, which will be a bit less expensive. Otherwise, aside from being a true power user and needing the extra performance, the other group that should consider the iPad Pro is those who want the largest display, which would then be the 12.9-inch model.
It is also important to note that all of the iPad models we recommend are capable of running the latest version of the iOS operating system, which is iOS 14.
Best Android Tablet
The iPad may take top honors in the overall tablet space, but there are still some really good Android tablets worth considering. Samsung tends to make the best Android tablets, and similar to how there are different options, sizes, and price points for the iPad lineup — the same is available from Samsung.
For example, the Galaxy Tab S6 and the Tab S5e each sport a 10.5-inch display. But, the Galaxy Tab S6 is more of a “pro” model, whereas the Galaxy Tab S5e is the model for most users. To that point, the Galaxy Tab S5e is likely the better option for most users because it offers more than enough in terms of power and performance for everyday usage (surfing the web, browsing social media, editing and sharing images), and it does so at a much lower price.
The Galaxy Tab S6 has a better processor and has an option for 256GB of storage (the Tab S5e maxes out at 128GB). But overall, both of these models are nearly the same size and weight, and they each have the same 8MP front-facing camera and the same expectations in terms of battery life. The other difference and potential decision-making factor is the S Pen support, which is only available in the Galaxy Tab S6.
Tablets aren’t always necessary, especially if you already have a smartphone and a laptop. But while they aren’t necessary, they can be nice to have because they offer a bigger screen as compared to a smartphone, and they also provide a more comfortable way to sit on the couch and browse the web. Given that, you may be wondering what kind of tablet you can get for less. We’ll be focusing on the $200 and $100 price points, and our recommendations are from Samsung and from Amazon.
Best Tablet Under $200
The Samsung model is the Galaxy Tab A, which is a 10.1-inch (1920 x 1200) tablet that was released in 2019. This is a budget-priced model that can be found close to the $200 price point. Features include a 1.8Ghz octa-core processor, 5MP front-facing camera, 8MP rear-facing camera, 32GB of storage, a microSD card slot for expansion and a 6150 mAh battery that should offer up to 13 hours of run time.
The Amazon model is the Fire HD 10, which was also released in 2019. This Amazon tablet is closer to the $100 mark, as compared to topping out near the $200 mark. Features of the Fire HD 10 include a 10.1-inch (1920 x 1200) display, 2GB of RAM, and 32GB of internal storage. While Android-based, the Fire HD 10 runs Fire OS.
The Amazon tablet would be a bit better in terms of budget, but it will also serve rather well if you are already comfortable with the Amazon ecosystem in terms of Kindle eBooks and Amazon Prime Video.
Best Tablet Under $100
Shifting down to the $100 price point, and we’re going to be taking a look at another Samsung tablet, and another Amazon tablet. But these two models are less expensive and also smaller in size.
Up first is the Samsung Galaxy Tab A with an 8-inch (1280 x 800) display. The Galaxy Tab A features a 2.0GHz quad-core processor along with 2GB of RAM, 32GB of internal storage, and a microSD card slot for expandable storage. You’ll also get a 2MP camera on the front, an 8MP camera on the back, and a 5100 mAh battery that Samsung touts as being able to offer a long-lasting binge-ready battery life.
Next up in the sub-$100 category is the Amazon Fire HD 8. This model was originally released this year, in 2020. Specs for the Fire HD 8 include an 8-inch (1280 x 800) display, 2GB of RAM, 32GB of internal storage, and expandable storage via a microSD card slot. As we noted with the sub-$200 tablets, the Fire HD 8 would be a good option if you are looking for a low-priced tablet, and are already happy with the Amazon ecosystem for Prime Video, Kindle eBooks, and more.
Best Tablets for Kids
The best tablet for kids will be somewhat dependent on the “kid” you are buying for. For younger kids, the low-priced Fire HD tablets are great. These come at a low price, which is good if they get damaged. They also offer plenty of content via Amazon and have built-in parental controls, Amazon Kids+ (which was formerly called FreeTime Unlimited). You also have access to thousands of Android apps.
If you are shopping for an older kid, a better option may be an iPad. This would put them in the Apple ecosystem in terms of apps and messaging, and as many families already have an iPhone (or two, or three, or more), sticking with Apple and iOS will allow them to share services with other family members. Apple recently announced Apple One, which shares services such as Apple Music, Arcade, TV+, Fitness+, and more, all for one low (family) price. An iPad, depending on the model you choose, can also be used for schoolwork, in addition to fun after-school activities.
Swappa’s Quick Picks
It’s the holiday season, and there is so much to think about — that can add unnecessary stress. As we noted at the beginning of this guide, we can’t guarantee you a completely stress-free holiday season, but we can help reduce the stress. In that respect, here are some quick picks:
- Best iPad on a budget: iPad (7th gen)
- Best iPad: iPad Air 4
- Best Samsung tablet on a budget: Samsung Galaxy Tab S5e
- Best Samsung tablet: Samsung Galaxy Tab S6
- Best tablet (low-priced and easy to use): Amazon Fire HD 8 (2020)
Whichever model — or models — you end up choosing, you can rest assured knowing that you’ll find the best prices right here in the Swappa marketplace. And, if the models we selected throughout this post aren’t perfect in your eyes, you can tap the green button below to check out all the different tablets that are available on Swappa.