The 7 Best Gaming Tablets of 2021

Take your games on the go

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The best gaming tablets allow users to enjoy an ever-expanding selection of mobile games, ranging from casual 5-minute distractions to graphically demanding mainstream titles to full console games played through the cloud. This calls for tablets equipped with fast wireless connections, high-resolution displays, and powerful hardware that doesn’t sacrifice portability and battery life.

What this ultimately means is the top gaming slates tend to be the same ones our reviewers found to be the best tablets as a whole. This includes the premium devices of Apple’s iPad lineup, Android-powered models like Samsung’s Galaxy Tab, and versatile convertible laptops running on Windows.

Far from solely being dedicated gaming tablets, these devices harness the latest processors and mobile technology to provide productivity and well-rounded multimedia features, while also offering the performance to handle the highest levels of mobile gaming.

Browse the list we’ve compiled below for some of the best gaming tablets across a variety of manufacturers and operating systems.

The Rundown
This premium device has always blazed through any games and graphics apps we’ve tested on it.
The 8th generation tablet packs a powerful A12 Bionic processor that can outperform even full laptops and 2-in-1 convertibles.
Our reviewer Jason Schneider found the 12.4-inch, 2800 x 1752-pixel display to be the best screen he’s seen on any tablet.
It’s actually a 2-in-1 hybrid laptop-tablet, and as a full laptop with a keyboard, it’s a highly effective productivity machine.
The Yoga 9i’s convertible design allows you to benefit from the GPU at all times, even in tablet mode.
Best Tablet Alternative:
Nintendo Switch at Amazon
The lineup of available games easily makes the Switch one of the best handheld gaming devices there is.
The Fire HD 10 Plus boasts more RAM, wireless charging, and a soft-touch finish that gives the device a more premium feel.

Best iPad: Apple iPad Pro 12.9-inch (2021)

What We Like
  • Superior tablet performance

  • High-end display and design

  • 5G support

What We Don't Like
  • Pricey

Apple’s iPads continue to set the standard for tablets, with the iPad Pro representing the top of the line in both features and price. The premium device has always blazed through any games and graphics apps we’ve tested on it, and the latest model takes the processing power to yet another level with Apple’s groundbreaking M1 chip. As the same processor used in MacBook Pro laptops and iMac desktops, it ensures the tablet can handle any software available now or in the near future.

Other upgrades on the 5th-generation iPad Pro include support for 5G cellular connectivity—adding it on gives you on-the-go access to high-speed networks for smooth online gameplay without Wi-Fi.

There’s also now an option with a massive 2TB of storage for those expecting to install a large collection of high-end games. Both of these are nice bonuses rather than essential upgrades, and you may already be upping the total price tag with other supported accessories like a keyboard, mouse, and stylus.

The tablet still comes in 11- and 12.9-inch models, both with crisp 264 ppi Liquid Retina displays. The larger screen has also been upgraded with mini-LED backlighting that features 2,596 individual zones of dimming. The resulting levels of brightness and contrast rival that of OLED displays and provide a noticeable visual pop to games and videos.

Operating System: iPadOS 14 | Screen Size: 12.9 inches | Resolution: 2732 x 2048 | Processor: Apple M1 chip | RAM: 8GB or 16GB | Storage: 128GB to 2TB | Camera: 12MP front, 12MP/10MP rear | Battery Capacity: 40.88 watt-hour

Best Value: Apple iPad (2020)

iPad (8th Generation)
What We Like
  • Speedy performance

  • Nice battery life

  • Affordable for an iPad

What We Don't Like
  • Limited storage options

  • Lightning port instead of USB-C

While it’s outclassed in a number of ways by Apple’s pricier models, the base-level iPad is still an excellent value for a high-quality mobile gaming device. The 8th generation tablet packs a powerful A12 Bionic processor that can outperform even full laptops and 2-in-1 convertibles.

Our tester Jeremy Laukkonen was impressed by how it handled modern graphics-heavy titles. He also appreciated the 10.2-inch, 2160 x 1620-pixel Retina display’s sharp, responsive visuals for gameplay and plenty of screen space to enjoy the graphics.

On the software side, the iPad runs on Apple’s latest tablet-specific operating system, iPadOS 14, which makes navigating and switching apps smoother than ever. You can take advantage of the Apple App Store and its huge selection of games, plus you can subscribe to the Apple Arcade gaming service for unlimited access to a variety of titles for a low monthly fee.

Like with other iPads, the 2020 iPad is built for more than gaming. Connecting a Bluetooth keyboard helps with productivity, and the Apple Pencil is a nice creative accessory.

The listed 10-hour battery life is already plenty for games, work, and more, but our tests found it lasting even longer while in use and streaming video. In terms of storage space, the 32GB option leaves limited room to work with, so the 128GB version may be the way to go for gamers.

Operating System: iPadOS 14 | Screen Size: 10.2 inches | Resolution: 2160 x 1620 | Processor: A12 Bionic chip | RAM: 3GB | Storage: 32GB or 128GB | Camera: 1.2MP front, 8MP rear | Battery Capacity: 32.4 watt-hour

The 8th gen iPad 10.2-inch performed well over both Wi-Fi and LTE connections, with more impressive Wi-Fi than cellular results.” — Jeremy Laukkonen, Product Tester

Apple iPad 10.2-inch (8th Generation)

Jeremy Laukkonen / Lifewire

Best Android: Samsung Galaxy Tab S7+

Samsung Galaxy Tab S7+
What We Like
  • Stunning Super-AMOLED display

  • Excellent gaming performance

  • Many game options through Google Play and cloud gaming

What We Don't Like
  • Apps not always well optimized

  • Fairly expensive

Android tablet offerings have traditionally lagged behind Apple’s, but Samsung’s latest flagship model has emerged as a legitimate competitor to the iPad Pro. The premium Galaxy Tab S7+ runs on a speedy octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 865+ processor that can handle high-quality games as well as multitasking and productivity tasks. 

Just as impressive as the S7+’s performance is its visual experience—our reviewer Jason Schneider found the 12.4-inch, 2800 x 1752-pixel display to be the best screen he’s seen on any tablet. It’s boosted by Samsung’s Super AMOLED technology to deliver vivid, accurate colors and deep blacks, and a fast 120Hz refresh rate that matches up with the on-screen action for maximum smoothness during gameplay.

The S7+’s core Android operating system combines with Samsung’s One UI interface for an efficient, modern tablet experience. The Google Play store has tons of games and apps available to download, and you get up to 512GB of internal storage to fill (expandable by up to 1TB via microSD card).

Xbox Game Pass Ultimate subscribers with Android devices can also enjoy Microsoft’s cloud gaming service, which lets you stream high-end Xbox games such as Halo without downloading them. And, with the S7+ supporting 5G connectivity, you can easily play those games on the road even without Wi-Fi.

Operating System: Android 10 | Screen Size: 12.4 inches | Resolution: 2800 x 1752 | Processor: Qualcomm SDM865+ | RAM: 6GB or 8GB | Storage: 128GB to 512GB (microSD up to 1TB) | Camera: 8MP front, 13MP/5MP rear | Battery Capacity: 10,090 milliamp-hours

Not only is this a denser display than anything out there in the tablet space, but it’s also AMOLED, meaning the blacks are as inky and sharp as possible, and the colors are eye-searingly bright.” — Jason Schneider, Product Tester

Samsung Galaxy Tab S7+

 Lifewire / Jason Schneider

Best Splurge: Microsoft Surface Book 3 15-Inch

Microsoft Surface Book 3 (15")
What We Like
  • Top-end hardware with discrete graphics

  • High-quality detachable design

  • Great for productivity and laptop use

What We Don't Like
  • Quite large as a tablet

  • Very expensive

For those willing to shell out for performance, there’s no tablet quite at the level of Microsoft’s Surface Book 3 (specifically the 15-inch model, though the 13.5-inch version can be just as capable). It’s actually a 2-in-1 hybrid laptop-tablet, and as a full laptop with a keyboard, it’s a highly effective productivity machine.

The Surface Book 3’s internals include a 10th-generation Intel Core i7 processor and up to 32GB of RAM and 2TB of solid-state storage. It’s also equipped with a Nvidia GeForce GTX 1660 Ti graphics card with Max-Q and 6GB of VRAM, making for an impressive gaming experience that won’t be matched by the pure tablets on this list. Simply put, a dedicated graphics processor of that caliber is going to be hard for any tablet- or smartphone-grade system-on-a-chip to beat.

Unfortunately, you can take advantage of the discrete graphics card only when the Surface Book 3 is docked in laptop configuration. Detach the screen from the keyboard base and you get a rather large, unwieldy tablet, albeit a powerful and versatile one.

You can also benefit from the high stylus quality of the Surface Pen, as well as the ability of any Windows tablet to play all the full PC video games that are available for the Windows operating system.

Operating System: Windows 10 Home | Screen Size: 15 inches | Resolution: 3240 x 2160 | Processor: Intel Core i7-1065G7 | RAM: 16GB or 32GB | Storage: 256GB to 2TB | Camera: 5MP front, 8MP rear | Battery Life: 17.5 hours with base

Best Windows: Lenovo Yoga 9i 15-inch

Lenovo Yoga 9i 15-Inch
What We Like
  • Very fast CPU and discrete GPU

  • Versatile convertible 2-in-1 design

  • Nice 4K display

What We Don't Like
  • Fairly unwieldy size

  • Expensive

The Yoga line of laptops from Lenovo all have the convenient flexibility to flip into a portable Windows tablet, but the 15-inch Yoga 9i is particularly gamer-friendly. Rivaling Microsoft’s (more expensive) Surface Book line, the Yoga 9i similarly packs a dedicated graphics card into a 2-in-1 tablet, in the form of a Nvidia GeForce GTX 1650 Ti with 4GB of VRAM. 

Instead of the Surface Book’s detachable format, the Yoga 9i’s convertible design allows you to benefit from the GPU at all times, even in tablet mode. That means immersive gaming visuals and smooth gameplay on a portable slate you can hold in your hands.

The giant 15.6-inch screen also features 4K resolution (3840 x 2160-pixel) for top-tier color and clarity. (A 14-inch Yoga 9i is available, but with only integrated Intel graphics.) 

The rest of the Yoga 9i’s hardware is equally impressive, and fully customizable through Lenovo’s site. You can load in a 10th-generation Intel Core i7 or even i9 processor, up to 16GB of RAM, and SSD storage up to 2TB—it adds up plenty of performance for just about any task as a laptop or a tablet.

Plus, unlike other brands where key accessories are often sold separately, the Yoga 9i ships with an active stylus for drawing and note-taking, complete with a built-in storage slot on the side where it charges when not in use.

Operating System: Windows 10 Home or Pro | Screen Size: 15.6 inches | Resolution: 3840 x 2160 | Processor: Intel Core  i7-10750H | RAM: 12GB or 16GB | Storage: 256GB to 2TB | Camera: 5MP front, 8MP rear | Battery Capacity: 69 watt-hours

Best Tablet Alternative: Nintendo Switch

Nintendo Switch
What We Like
  • Hybrid portable console design

  • High-quality first-party games

  • Relatively low-priced gaming console

What We Don't Like
  • Limited handheld battery life

The Nintendo Switch has the unique distinction of being a video game console and a portable gaming tablet at the same time. With a 6.2-inch touchscreen, it’s not incredibly big (especially with many smartphones these days sporting larger screens), but it’s still got the feel of a traditional tablet in your hands. You get to put the touch capability to use when games call for it, along with the benefits of full gaming controls attached on either side.

Our tester Zach Sweat admitted the custom Nvidia processor in the Switch doesn’t quite match up to contemporary consoles like the Xbox One or PS4, and its small size, 720p display, and few available apps make it a fairly mediocre tablet for non-gaming purposes.

The lineup of available games, though, makes it easily one of the best handheld gaming devices there is. No other tablet can offer access to first-party Nintendo titles, including well-loved franchises like Mario, the Legend of Zelda, and Pokémon.

Another big differentiator for the Switch is the ability to dock it to the TV when you want to play on a big screen, along with other console-oriented features. The detachable Joy-Con controllers, equipped with advanced motion sensors and HD rumble, come in pairs that can be split between two players. It’s an innovative design that makes the Switch excellent for local multiplayer and parties.

Screen Size: 6.2 inches | Resolution: 1280 x 720 | Processor: Nvidia Custom Tegra X1 processor | Storage: 32GB internal (microSD up to 2TB) | Battery Capacity: 16 watt-hours

If you like to play games with friends on your couch, take your gaming with you on the commute or travels, and just plain love Nintendo games, then the Switch is an easy choice.” — Zach Sweat, Product Tester

Nintendo Switch Lite

Lifewire / Zach Sweat 

Best Budget: Amazon Fire HD 10 Plus (2021)

What We Like
  • Improved hardware but still affordable

  • Bright, crisp screen for the price

  • Wireless charging

What We Don't Like
  • Middling performance

  • Restricted operating system

Amazon has been the go-to provider of budget tablets for years, and the lineup now includes a new model at the top. The Fire HD 10 Plus’s primary upgrade is its 4GB of RAM, versus the 3GB of the latest base Fire HD 10 and the 2GB of the previous generation.

The difference, unfortunately, is not one that’s clearly noticeable at the devices’ mid-tier level of performance, but any boost is welcome for gaming purposes, and the price remains in the same range of affordability.

Other differentiators of the Fire HD 10 Plus include convenient wireless charging and a soft-touch finish that gives the device a more premium feel. The 2021 tablets also tout improved 10% brightness, contributing to the admirable display that our reviewer Jordan Oloman always considered a strength of the Fire HD 10—a crisp 10.1-inch display at 1920 x 1200-pixel resolution makes it a great value for a gaming tablet.

The software is generally unchanged, running Fire OS and an interface heavily focused on Amazon’s media collection. This can help Amazon Prime subscribers quickly find the myriad content they have access to, but users accustomed to the full Android experience will feel limited by not having the Google Play store and several key apps. If you need to, it is possible to install Google Play with some extra effort.

Operating System: Fire OS 7 | Screen Size: 10.1 inches | Resolution: 1920 x 1200 | Processor: MediaTek MT8183 | RAM: 4GB | Storage: 32GB to 64GB (microSD up to 1TB) | Camera: 2MP front, 5MP rear | Battery Capacity: up to 12 hours

Final Verdict

Powerful all-around tablets are ideal for gamers, and the Apple iPad Pro (view at Amazon) in particular features a top-tier processor and high-end design that makes it an excellent choice. For those who prefer an Android tablet, the Samsung Galaxy Tab S7+ (view at Amazon) delivers similarly fast performance, with an impressive AMOLED display that helps heighten immersion on the games you download or stream.

About Our Trusted Experts

Anton Galang is a Lifewire contributor who began writing about tech, gadgets, and gaming in 2007 as part of PC Magazine. He is a big fan of gaming on the go, whether it’s on his iPad, Nintendo Switch, or Lenovo 2-in-1 convertible tablet.

Jeremy Laukkonen is a tech writer for Lifewire and a number of trade publications. He has created an automotive blog as well as co-founded a video game startup. He is an expert in Android and Apple devices.

Jason Schneider has a decade of experience in covering technology and media, contributing to Thrillist and Greatist in addition to Lifewire. He is an expert in consumer tech, including personal tablets.

Zach Sweat has written for IGN Entertainment and other publications, in addition to reviewing gaming hardware and other products for Lifewire. He has a background in both multimedia journalism and photography, and is an expert in gaming.

FAQs

What games can you play on a tablet?

It depends on several factors, including the tablet’s operating system—some games are released only for iOS/iPadOS or Android devices, while full PC games can be played on Windows tablets. Your tablet’s hardware and graphics capabilities also play a big role, since older and lower-end models may not have the power to play more intensive, newer games smoothly, or at all.

Are there any tablets made specifically for gaming?

Most tablets are meant to serve a variety of purposes, from entertainment to creation to productivity, but some do aim to deliver enough performance to run today’s increasingly intensive mobile games. The Nintendo Switch is primarily a home gaming console with handheld, tablet-style functionality. Nvidia introduced its gaming-focused Shield Tablet K1 in 2014, but it has since been discontinued.

Can you use a controller to play games on a tablet?

Yes, most tablets can be connected to gaming controllers of different kinds, usually wireless via Bluetooth. Some tablets also support connections to a mouse and keyboard with a trackpad. Games released for tablets, though, can typically be played with touch controls and don’t require a controller.

Apple iPad 10.2-inch (8th Generation)

Jeremy Laukkonen / Lifewire

What to Look For in the Best Gaming Tablets

Performance

High-end games can potentially be the most demanding things you run on your tablet, so more processing power generally means smoother gaming performance and a more future-proof selection of titles you’re able to play.

Current-generation iPad models will have no issues in this department, thanks to Apple’s revolutionarily fast in-house chips—namely the Apple A12 Bionic and on. Other premium-level tablets like those in Samsung’s Galaxy Tab line feature Qualcomm Snapdragon processors that likewise provide more than enough performance for your gaming needs, paired with RAM and graphics hardware that appropriately balance power consumption and battery life.

More budget-priced tablets like Amazon’s Fire HD line take a noticeable hit in performance. While they can handle the majority of basic, non-graphics-heavy mobile games, the newest 3D titles may not be playable at the level gamers expect, if at all.

Operating System

Among other things, the operating system a tablet runs on defines the device’s user interface, navigation, and overall feel of its day-to-day use, so choosing one is often a matter of personal preference and familiarity. For gaming purposes, it also plays a critical role in determining which titles you will actually be able to play.

Apple iPads use a tablet version of iOS called iPadOS that will feel very familiar to users of iPhones and Mac products. Apple’s App Store features a huge selection of games that have gone through a thorough review process, and the Apple Arcade subscription service offers unlimited access to 200+ games for $4.99 per month. Tablets running on the more flexible Android OS have an even wider pool of games available on the Google Play Store, and the Google Play Pass service (also $4.99 per month) includes a list of 500+ games and growing.

If you go with a hybrid tablet-laptop like the Microsoft Surface, however, you can take advantage of the Windows 10 operating system that can run both mobile apps and any PC games compatible with your hardware.

Samsung Galaxy Tab S7+

 Lifewire / Jason Schneider

Display

Since a bigger screen is one of the main advantages of playing mobile games on a tablet instead of a smartphone, the size and quality of your tablet’s display should be a significant part of the discussion.

Most slates offer screens measuring at least 10 inches diagonal, with larger 10- or 12-inch models that often come with upgraded hardware. You can even find screens as big as 15 inches, usually in the form of convertible Windows laptops, but this starts to make the tablet less convenient to hold and transport. 

To add to the visual experience, premium tablet models may feature advanced display technologies like Apple’s Retina displays and Samsung’s AMOLED screens, which can boost clarity, crispness, color, and brightness. Some displays even include fast 120Hz refresh rates for extra-smooth and responsive gameplay. 

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