The 7 Best Gaming Tablets of 2021

Take your games on the go

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The Rundown
Laptop-level performance guarantees you can run even the most visually intensive mobile titles with ease.
The 8th generation tablet packs an impressive A12 Bionic processor that can outperform even full laptops.
It runs on a speedy octa-core processor that can handle high-quality games as well as multitasking and productivity.
It’s equipped with a Nvidia GeForce GTX 1660 Ti graphics card with Max-Q and 6GB of VRAM, making for a powerful gaming experience.
The Yoga 9i's convertible design allows you to benefit from the GPU at all times, even as a tablet.
Best Tablet Alternative:
Nintendo Switch at Amazon
You get to put the touch capability to use when games call for it, along with the benefits of attached full gaming controls.
Amazon offers some of the most compelling budget tablets around, and the Fire HD 10 is the biggest and best of them.
in this article

The best gaming tablets can put a wide, growing world of games in your hands, anywhere you go. Sure, smartphones offer mobile gaming that can fit in your pocket, but tablets give you the luxury of a larger screen, longer battery life, and often more powerful hardware. The performance aspect is a crucial one—since tablets are rarely made specifically for gaming, the devices that handle games the best are often the best tablets in general, for any purpose. You can surf the web, read documents, type on a keyboard, or draw with a stylus, and then kick back with a few games.

When narrowing down the top tablet choices, much like with smartphones, it usually comes down to iPad versus Android. For gaming, Apple’s trailblazing tablet has a clear edge. The quality and performance found in the various models of iPads (especially at the higher end) are hard to deny. Still, there are plenty of reasons you might go with an Android tablet, such as a Galaxy Tab from Samsung, or even a Windows tablet.

We’ll walk you through the best of these options and guide you toward the right tablet to help you get your game on.

Best iPad: Apple iPad Pro 12.9-inch (4th Generation 2020)

Apple iPad Pro 12.9-inch 2020
What We Like
  • Extremely powerful tablet for gaming

  • Large, beautiful display

  • Controller, mouse, and keyboard support

What We Don't Like
  • Pricey

If Apple iPads represent the top tier of tablets, the iPad Pro could be considered the best of the best. The 4th-generation model maintains its roomy 12.9-inch screen (with a smaller model at 11 inches) and a 2732 x 2048-pixel resolution. That’s a 264 pixel-per-inch (PPI) Liquid Retina display with additional motion and color technologies that makes your games look crisp, smooth, and stunning.

Oh, and then there’s the A12Z Bionic chip that may be the fastest you’ll find on a tablet, now upgraded to 6GB of RAM on all models and an 8-core graphics processor, all but guaranteeing you can run even the most visually intensive mobile titles with ease.

This laptop-level performance comes at a steep price, so you might consider other options if you’re not set on investing big on a tablet. But if you’re looking for a slate fully geared toward gaming, it’s hard to beat what the iPad Pro has to offer. With configurations that include up to 1TB of storage space and a battery that can last about 10 hours, you can load up on games and play all day.

Audio sounds excellent through its four strong speakers, and the high-end cameras even feature a laser-based LiDAR scanner for more immersive augmented reality (AR) applications. You can connect a variety of wireless controllers, with a mouse and keyboard recently added. It's as handy for productivity as it is for fun.

Operating System: iPadOS 14 | Screen Size: 12.9 inches | Resolution: 2732 x 2048 | Processor: A12Z Bionic chip | RAM: 6GB | Storage: 128GB to 1TB | Camera: 7MP front, 12MP/10MP rear | Battery Capacity: 36.71 watt-hour

"Perhaps one of the most striking decisions Apple has made here is the inclusion of a USB-C port, which replaces the Lightning port at the bottom of the device." — Jordan Oloman, Product Tester

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

Apple’s classic, base-level iPad may not be as tricked out as its pricier counterparts, but it’s an excellent value for a plenty powerful piece of hardware for mobile gaming. The 8th generation tablet packs an impressive A12 Bionic processor that can outperform even full laptops and 2-in-1 convertibles, so it won’t have a problem with graphics-heavy titles.

The 10.2-inch, 2160 x 1620-pixel Retina display offers crisp, responsive visuals for gameplay and plenty of screen space to enjoy the graphics. It can be helpful for, say, sitting in a tower and sniping far-off enemies in Fortnite.

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 Apple's 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 the iPad Pro, there’s also a lot more you can do with the 2020 iPad beyond gaming. If you connect a Bluetooth keyboard, you’ll also be able to squeeze some productivity in between games. It supports the Apple Pencil, meaning you’ll have the option to get creative with the powerful stylus. With a battery life that can top 10 hours, you’ll have plenty of time for games, emails, and sketching. When it comes to storage space, the 32GB option doesn’t give you a ton of room to work with, so the 128GB version may be the way to go if you plan on downloading a lot of modern games.

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

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 generally lagged behind Apple’s, but Samsung’s latest flagship model is emerging 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.

Perhaps even more dazzling than the S7+'s performance, though, is the visual experience—our reviewer 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.

Your reasons for choosing an Android tablet, of course, likely include the Android operating system, which 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 on the S7+ (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+ touted as the first tablet to support lightning-fast 5G connectivity, you can 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-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

Best Splurge: Microsoft Surface Book 3 15-Inch

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

While it certainly doesn’t come cheap, Microsoft’s Surface Book 3 (specifically the 15-inch model, though the 13.5-inch version can be just as capable) offers the most impressive tablet experience you’ll be able to find. 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.

It’s loaded with powerful internals that 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 a powerful 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.

You can take advantage of the discrete graphics card only when the Surface Book 3 is docked in laptop configuration, but you’ll still get plenty of versatility in true tablet mode when you detach the screen from the keyboard base. You can also get incredible stylus quality with the Surface Pen when you feel like getting artsy after a long gaming session. Another huge benefit with any Windows tablet is the access to full PC video games that are available on Windows machines.

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 one that will make gamers in particular happy. Rivaling Microsoft’s powerful (and pricey) 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 as a tablet. That means immersive gaming visuals and smooth gameplay right in your hands, wherever and whenever you want it. The giant 15.6-inch screen also rocks 4K resolution (3840 x 2160-pixel) for unmatched 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 all the way up to 2TB. It boasts blazing-fast performance for just about anything you want to do with the device 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 i9-10980HK | 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

You might be thinking, “the Nintendo Switch is a video game console,” and you’d be right. But, at the same time, the Switch is also a perfectly portable gaming tablet. With its 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.

While the small size, 720p display, and few apps available for the Switch may make it a fairly mediocre tablet for non-gaming purposes, the lineup of available games make it easily one of the best handheld gaming devices there is. No other tablet is going to give you access to the best new games straight from Nintendo, with acclaimed titles from well-loved franchises such as Mario, the Legend of Zelda, and Pokémon. You can also download a select number of cross-platform mobile games like Fortnite for free on the Switch.  

A 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, which include advanced motion sensors and HD rumble, come in pairs that can be split between two players. It’s an innovative design that helps make the Switch an excellent fit for local multiplayer and parties.

Screen Size: 6.2 inches | Resolution: 1280 x 720 | Processor: Nvidia Custom Tegra 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

Best Budget: Amazon Fire HD 10

Amazon Fire HD 10
What We Like
  • Bright, crisp screen for the price

  • Great for kids

  • Quite affordable

What We Don't Like
  • Mediocre performance

  • Restricted operating system

If you don’t have a very big budget, you can still get a decent tablet that will let you enjoy games on the go. Amazon offers some of the most compelling budget tablets around, and the Fire HD 10 is the biggest and best of them. They run Amazon’s own Fire OS (built on Android) and have access to Amazon’s market for apps and games. This isn’t exactly the same as what you’d find on Google Play, but there are still plenty of entertaining options available. And, if you absolutely need Google Play’s offerings, you are able to get Google Play installed—albeit with a little effort.

The 9th-generation Fire HD 10 from 2019 offers a 10.1-inch display with a 1920 x 1200-pixel resolution, meaning you’ll get a large, clear picture. The base storage maxes out at 64GB, but you can expand that by up to 512GB with a microSD card. It has an octa-core processor with 2GB of RAM and can run for a listed 12 hours of battery life.

While the hardware’s performance won’t make it the best gaming platform on this list, it’s easily the most affordable. And, if you just want a tablet to enjoy media and play the occasional mobile game to pass the time, this will do the job.

Operating System: Fire OS 7 | Screen Size: 10.1 inches | Resolution: 1920 x 1200 | Processor: MediaTek MT8183 | RAM: 2GB | Storage: 32GB or 64GB (microSD up to 512GB) | Camera: 2MP front, 2MP rear | Battery Life: Up to 12 hours

This is a device most suited to streaming video, running 2D or low-poly 3D games … and moving between a few social media apps.” — Jordan Oloman, Product Tester

Final Verdict

The high-performing hardware and overall quality of Apple’s iPads make them excellent choices for gaming tablets, with the iPad Pro (view at Amazon) leading the pack and the base iPad (view at Amazon) as a more affordable alternative.

Samsung’s Galaxy Tab S7+ (view at Amazon) is a similarly powerful alternative for those looking for an Android tablet. Its large, vibrant display makes games look great. 

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.

Jordan Oloman is a Lifewire writer and reviewer who has also appeared in PC Gamer, Kotaku, IGN, GamesRadar, RockPaperShotgun, and several other gaming and tech publications.

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.

Jason Schneider has a decade of experience in covering technology and media, contributing to Thrillist and Greatist in addition to Lifewire. He holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Music Technology, Computer Science, and Communications.

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.

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.

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