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The large-format tablet market has absolutely exploded since consumers have gotten more and more used to larger devices. While 12-inch tablets are the ones most often considered the heroes of this category, a lot of budget brands like Amazon and Dragon Touch have decided to provide affordable options in the 10–11-inch range with their HD 10 and K10 models respectively (both available at Amazon). There are also options directly from Google, like the Pixel Slate, that offer a true Chrome OS experience in tablet form. For the sake of this roundup, we’ve just included the largest tablet offered by the brand, because the key here is screen real estate. Below you’ll find our roundup, isolating what each tablet does best. Do you want an all-around productivity machine? Go with a Surface product. Do you want a super design-friendly tablet? Apple might be where you go. But for the best value, you might be surprised where we landed. Read on for our picks of the best 12-inch tablets to buy on the market today.
Excellent screen and peripherals
Small, portable form factor
A little pricey
Accessories cost extra
The Surface line has come a long way since its first generation. With each new iteration of the all-in-one, tablet hybrid, Microsoft has brought the bar higher and now the Surface Pro 7 is one of the best on-the-go devices you can get. The first thing you’ll notice about the Pro 7 is just how small and light it is. At only 1.7 pounds and less than a half-inch thick, you would assume that the power is lacking, but with up to 16GB of RAM and the option for a quad-core Intel i7 processor, this “tablet” performs a lot more like a high-level laptop. Microsoft’s PixelSense displays bring truly impressive specs to the table, too. Here, you’ll find a 12.3-inch screen sporting a resolution of 2736 x 1824 and a unique 3:2 aspect ratio. This screen shape may feel a little less cinematic at first glance, but in our opinion, it allows for much easier productivity. But because of the sharpness of the display, the rich color response, and the solid brightness, the Surface Pro 7 is great for entertainment and design work as well.
The other piece of the Surface puzzle is the Surface Pen, a necessity if you plan to do a lot of creative work on the device. This pressure-sensitive peripheral allows it to feel like you’re actually sketching on the super-accurate display that offers 10 points of touchscreen pressure simultaneously. Some downsides here are the fact that you have to pay a lot of extra money to get all the peripherals we’d recommend for getting full use out of your Surface, and the speakers on the device itself leave a bit to be desired. You can spec your Surface Pro 7 out with up to 1 TB of internal storage, but that skyrockets the price. For our money, the base price of $799 for the lower-speed processor and smaller hard drive is the best value here.
Solid screen experience
Under-powered in some configurations
Thick, dated bezels
The Surface Go is Microsoft’s attempt at making an entry-level Surface product that looks and feels as premium as the top end of their line but cuts a few corners to lower the price. The second generation also leans into the “Go” concept by making the device very light and very portable. At only 0.3 inches thick and a mere 1.2 pounds, this 12-inch tablet is incredibly light, and will work perfectly for a college student on the go. Add that in to the fact that this device starts at $399, making it perfect for accident-prone college students, and you have a truly impressive device for a very specific type of user. The 1920 x 1280 PixelSense display is also a bright spot on the spec sheet as it offers a reasonably dense spread of pixels but also performs very well with colors and brightness. Though it’s a shame you have to pay extra, the keyboard cover and Surface Pen are near necessities to get the most out of the device, and the setup makes it perfect for budding designers and creative types. While you can spec the device out with an eighth-gen Intel Core processor, the entry-level price point will force you to go with the Intel Gold option. This isn’t a deal-breaker, but it’s worth noting that the power will slow down on you with the cheaper option. Everything else, from the speaker performance to the fit and finish of the build quality are reasonably good, but definitely nothing industry-leading. The name of the game here is clearly price and portability, with some sacrifices on the power front.
Great price point
Lackluster build quality
The key to any Amazon Fire tablet is the price. The Kindle e-reader line was always Amazon’s niche, but expanding it to a fully functioning tablet required them to stay far less expensive than the likes of Apple and Samsung. The Fire HD10 is their “big-screen” tablet that offers the real estate that you’d expect of an iPad but without the hefty price tag. This particular model has also been recently updated to include some slightly upgraded specs for a better experience. For starters, the 2.0 GHz Octa-Core processor is a far cry from the first Kindle Fire generation, giving you more speed than you might expect. You will see some speed hangups with the 2GB of RAM on board, and to be honest, it’s surprising that Amazon didn’t include 3GB here as they do on the Fire HD8 Plus. At 1920 x 1200, your LCD screen experience is pretty solid, offering reasonable color response and plenty of pixel density for watching immersive entertainment.
The 12-hour battery life is another area where this tablet seems to excel. Because this is an Android-based OS, you can expect to run any Android-friendly apps, but anecdotally, the Fire line tends to struggle on heavier apps, due in part to the software skin loaded on by Amazon. One surprising benefit to this model is that Amazon includes a 1-year warranty out of the box (way better than the 90-day warranty on the lower models), meaning they are confident this tablet will last you longer than other budget options. The package itself does feel a little cheaper, with a somewhat plastic-y build and a 2MP front-facing camera. The whole package is well under a half-inch thick and comes in at about $150, making it a premium-looking tablet for a budget price.
Solid build quality
Older WIndows 8
No USB-C port
The Asus Transformer Book T300 is a dependable midrange 2-in-1 device. It uses an Intel Core M Processor, 4GB RAM, and 128GB SSD hard drive. The 12.5-inch display utilizes up to 1920 x 1080 pixel resolution, bringing it up to the standard you'd expect of a display of this size.
There's only one camera, a front-facing one, and it's only 2MP but it does the job for when you need to make quick conference calls. That's the only real flaw in an otherwise respectable midrange device. It has a battery life of about eight hours, offers unlimited cloud storage for a year via ASUS WebStorage, and there's even support for the ASUS Active Stylus Pen if you'd rather manipulate the screen with a stylus than your finger. Just factor in the extra expenditure if that's what you want to do.
It's super thin, too, measuring only 0.6 inches when closed and 0.3 inches with the keyboard detached. Plus, it weighs a just three pounds. It comes with Windows 8.1 pre-installed, but you can upgrade to Windows 10 if needed.
You can read more about Windows 10 as an operating system here.
Great I /O and ports
Slightly bulky build
No full OS
The Chromebook Flip C302 is Asus’s all-around, all-in-one, 12.5-inch laptop. Chromebooks are often considered budget devices, and at around $400, this might seem a little steep for a touchscreen laptop that doesn't run full Windows. But you actually get a lot of bang for your buck here. There’s an Intel Core processor here, and even though it’s an m3 rather than the more marquis options, it powers the lighter Chrome OS very well. The 4GB of RAM is a little low, but again, the OS is so light on the load that it actually should be ample for most uses. While you don’t get a ton of ports here, with a microSD card slot, the expandability options are a lot better than you might see on something like an iPad. That’s good because the 64GB of on-board storage feels a bit low for a laptop. The backlit keyboard sports pretty decent key travel, and considering most true tablets go with a keyboard cover rather than having a true keyboard component, the I/O here will be solid. The fully articulating screen allows you to treat this like a laptop or folded back like a tablet, and though it isn’t winning and resolution awards, it does offer the reasonable crispness of a 1920 x 1080p screen. At a little over 2.5 pounds, it’s a tad heavier than you’d get from a tablet-only device, but with the added benefits of the keyboard and trackpad, that might be a tradeoff that makes sense to you. Though the design does feel dated, too, that is one of those trade-offs that you’ll make with a device that isn’t more than $500.
Ultra-premium form factor
Plenty of power
Durability is suspect
The third generation of the iPad Pro brought with it a whole new form factor for any iPad—doing away with the home screen button and swapping in the bezel-less, gesture-based system familiar on the latest iPhones. What this gives you is a truly modern-feeling device, even now that it’s a generation old. You can spec out these iPads with as little as 64GB of space and as much as 1TB of storage, and you can opt for Wi-Fi or Cellular, but now that there is a new-gen of the iPad Pro, you’ll be looking at renewed options. That’s not a bad thing, because it allows you to get what feels like a truly premium Apple iPad for as little as $750.
The spec sheet also likely won’t surprise you, with the stunning 12.9-inch Liquid Retina Display, pushing pixel boundaries before it was cool. The A12X bionic chip with its adaptive Neural Engine is also lauded as the main reason this device can be used as a main computer rather than just an iPad. Even the 7MP front-facing camera blows most tablets in this class out of the water with ultra-crisp video calling capability. The build quality and form factor are naturally top-notch, though there are durability concerns with such a thin, bezel-less design. There are newer iPads out there, and there are cheaper iPads out there. But for power and form factor here, paired with the affordable sub-$800 price point, this might provide the best value for Apple lovers.
Ports and expandability
Low on-board storage
Dragon Touch, by all measures, is decidedly a budget brand, and when you can get an Amazon-branded device near this same price point, you might wonder why you should dip into this option. For starters, if price truly is your sensitivity point, this 10-inch tablet offers a lot of features for a sub-$100 price point, but it’s not without its shortcomings. The quad-core 1.3 GHz processor paired with 2GB of RAM is just about the middle-of-the-road for any device. It’s most likely enough power for the average users and considering this tablet runs Android 8, it shouldn’t choke up very easily. But don’t expect to be running lots of design programs or digging into actual work. The 1200 x 800 display, though not fuzzy by any means, is definitely meant as more of a casual entertainment configuration, not a premium, design-based tablet. The build and design of the tablet actually seem really good, with thin bezels, a thin, portable chassis, and a rubberized material on the back to protect against clutzier use. Two other great features are the presence of a Micro HDMI port to send the visuals to an external screen, and the option to expand the admittedly limited 16GB of storage through the MicroSD card slot. All of this makes a pretty compelling package for someone who wants a casual living room device that won’t break the bank.
Excellent build quality
Tons of power
Incredibly sharp display
Unfamiliar software experience
The Pixel Slate is kind of the black sheep of the tablet market. That’s because, while Microsoft and Apple have put tons of expertise in (and have seen great success from) their hardware endeavors, Google has struggled of late with most of their hardware. Even the Pixel phones have fallen lower on the popularity scale. While the Slate offers a super-premium build quality, and an end-to-end, Google-built solution for tablets, it didn’t see much success when it was launched. However, this is exactly why it provides excellent value right now. The price point on these few-year-old devices is very low, firmly in the mid range of the market for what was launched as a highly premium device.
There are three processor options, the lower-end Core m3 from Intel, and the higher-end i5 and i7 options, too. This is really rare to see in a tablet, and provides truly laptop-like speeds. The lowest RAM available is 8GB, but you can spec the Slate up to 16GB, but because a Chrome OS is built into this device, specifically for this device, even the 8GB of RAM should keep the speeds running smoothly and without any hiccups. While the tablet offers 10 hours of battery life, it would be nice to see a bit more considering how much care and attention Google has put into the rest of the specs.
The 12.3-inch display also offers incredible resolution, offering more pixels per inch than almost any other tablet on the market. The build quality feels just as high-end as an iPad or a premium Samsung tablet too. The pen and keyboard options for the Slate do feel a little clunkier than the more fleshed-out peripherals of Surface devices, and the software experience does feel unfamiliar considering it isn’t true Android, true Windows, or true iOS. But because of the value offered by the price point here, this device has earned its number-two spot on our list.
It’s no surprise to see a Windows Surface product topping the list, and with the Pro 7’s processor options, next-level display, and versatile peripherals, this really is the best tablet for most people. However, you might be surprised to see the Pixel Slate as our runner-up. The Slate edges out the iPads on the market because you can find these products either renewed or second hand for much cheaper than iPads, and for that money, you get a lot of tablets. If you want a true laptop-style experience in tablet form, go with the Surface Pro 7, but if the price is your hangup, you should consider the Slate.
Jason Schneider has a degree in music technology and communications from Northeastern University. He has been writing for tech websites for nearly 10 years and brings even more years’ of consumer electronic expertise to the table.
Display: When you’re talking about large-format tablets, the display is clearly a key consideration. Many entry-to-mid-level tablets hover around 1080p resolution, providing plenty of crispness for media consumption, but nothing to write home about. The higher-end models tend to nearly double that resolution, giving you a much higher-definition experience. Keep this, alongside color response, in mind if you want to use your tablet for art and design.
Storage & power: There’s a wide range of options for tablets, but typically you’ll find RAM capacities that span from 2GB to as many as 16GB, with the greater side of the spectrum being much better for heavy browsing and media use. Internal storage can be limited to as little as 16GB or as much as 1TB, but the lower end often comes with micro SD card slots to expand that storage. Processors have a lot more variety, with Apple building their own and Windows/Android tablets choosing between Intel’s mobile core processor or more of a phone-style processor. These are all important specs to keep in mind as they relate to your use. Professional purposes will require more power and more storage, whereas “casual couch use” can lean more to the lower end.
Form factor: The build quality of a tablet often hinges on how much you spend. The more you pay, the more metal, glass, and attention to detail will be involved. Budget tablets tend to be plastic-y, but some of the lower-end models tend to be a little less prone to scratching because of rubberized backs.