The 8 Best Windows Tablets of 2021

From gaming to drawing, there's a tablet for you

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The Rundown
Microsoft's Surface Pro 7 delivers a fast, responsive experience, especially when it comes to productivity tasks.
Lenovo’s ThinkPad X1 Tablet is a very powerful 2-in-1 detachable geared toward professional use but with a lot of versatility.
The MobileStudio Pro is Wacom's 'mobile pen computer' for professional artists and designers.
Best Always-Connected:
Microsoft Surface Pro X at Amazon
The Surface Pro X stands out with unique features for the modern professional, including smooth performance and a strong battery..
This is the closest Surface to a pure tablet, very travel-friendly at 1.2 pounds in weight and a third of an inch thick.
This tablet provides laptop functionality with a full keyboard and an active stylus pen for notes, all at an affordable price.
Microsoft’s Surface Book 3 is the tablet that comes the closest to being a full Windows laptop—and a powerful one at that.

Windows 10 has proven to be a quick, versatile operating system, and you can see it in action on the best Windows tablets. While Apple iPads and Android tablets are well-established in the mobile-device space, Windows has excelled more at bridging the space between touchscreen tablets and traditional laptops. Just look at the success of the Microsoft Surface line of 2-in-1 laptop-tablet hybrids. They’re great for anyone looking for the productivity of a full keyboard-equipped laptop with an option for the portability and more casual, hands-on use of a tablet.

Going along with the flexibility of Windows tablets is their considerable variety. Sizes range from portable, streamlined devices to bigger machines with beefier hardware. Some are priced to be affordable, while others have you paying for luxury. Much of it depends on what you’re primarily using the tablet for, whether it’s work, art, or play. Odds are it’s a combination, so we’ve created this guide to help you navigate the features to look for in picking out the right Windows tablet for your needs.

Best Overall: Microsoft Surface Pro 7

Microsoft Surface Pro 7
What We Like
  • Speedy hardware

  • Excellent detachable keyboard design

  • Adds a USB-C port

What We Don't Like
  • Design mostly unchanged

  • Cost of hardware and accessories adds up

Microsoft has dramatically expanded its stable of Surface products since the original tablet’s launch in 2012, but the Surface Pro 7 may be the best of the bunch for the most people. The Surface Pro line has always focused on packing powerful laptop performance within a portable hybrid device, and the latest iteration’s premium hardware maintains the high bar. Loaded with up to a 10th-generation Intel Core i7 processor, 16GB of RAM, and a 512GB solid state drive (SSD), it delivers a fast, responsive experience, especially when it comes to productivity tasks. Its integrated Intel Iris Plus Graphics also allows for a decent level of gaming and media work.

Design-wise, the Surface Pro 7 doesn’t deviate too much from the previous model. It uses the Surface line’s standard-setting detachable 2-in-1 configuration, featuring a sturdy kickstand that holds the tablet up at a 165-degree range of angles. You can then snap the magnetically attaching Type Cover keyboard onto the bottom. As our reviewer points out, it’s an essential accessory that ranks among the best for tablet-based typing, but unfortunately Microsoft continues to sell it separately rather than include it in the Surface Pro’s cost.

The Pro 7’s 12.3-inch display and 1.7-pound weight are also unchanged from the Pro 6—still much more portable than a typical laptop. New to the Pro 7, however, is a USB-C port, a much-needed addition in terms of modern inputs.

The Surface Pro 7 transitions effortlessly from productivity to creativity to entertainment in a way that’s hard to replicate on any other device.” — Jonno Hill, Product Tester

Best for Business: Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Tablet

What We Like
  • Powerful specs

  • Impressive "3K" display

  • Durable Gorilla Glass screen

What We Don't Like
  • Battery life on the low end

Lenovo’s 3rd-generation ThinkPad X1 Tablet is a very powerful 2-in-1 detachable geared toward professional use but with a lot of versatility. The top-end configuration runs Windows 10 Pro on a 1.9-GHz 8th-generation Intel Core i7 CPU and 16 GB of RAM, with up to 1 TB of SSD storage space.

Those are fine specs for a laptop, and you can spend a lot of time typing on the large included keyboard with the tablet resting back on its kickstand. But detach the 2-pound tablet and you can carry around a vibrant 13-inch in-plane switching (IPS) display with “3K” resolution at 3000 x 2000 pixels.

It’s designed and tested to be durable, built with Gorilla Glass in the screen and sturdy weather-resistant materials all around. The tablet also comes with a ThinkPad Pen Pro stylus that clips to the side. It’s perfect for artists, designers, architects, or any professions that call for drawing, signing, or note-taking. Battery life is a bit on the short side, hurting its portability, but the inclusion of two USB-C ports supporting Thunderbolt 3 is a fairly rare and forward-thinking feature for a tablet.

Buying my own Lenovo 2-in-1 was a smooth experience, and when I had a question out of the gate, I was able to reach a Lenovo rep and have my needs addressed right away.” — Anton Galang, Product Tester

Best for Drawing: Wacom MobileStudio Pro 16

What We Like
  • Built for professional artists and designers

  • Top-of-the-line drawing pen

  • Beautiful, color-accurate 4K screen

What We Don't Like
  • Quite expensive

Digital tablets for drawing have been around a long time, and Wacom is no stranger to the field. The MobileStudio Pro is the company’s “mobile pen computer” for professional artists and designers, a Windows 10 tablet with serious performance and a serious price tag. It comes in 13-inch and 16-inch versions, with 3840 x 2160-pixel 4K resolution on the 16-inch screen. Now in the product’s second generation, the top-end model has been upgraded to an Intel Core i7-8559U processor with 16 GB RAM and a 512 GB SSD. It also includes an advanced Nvidia Quadro P1000 graphics chip to handle both 2D and 3D work, along with a RealSense 3D-scanning camera.

Of course, a drawing tablet is nothing without the drawing instrument itself, and the MobileStudio Pro includes Wacom’s deluxe Pro Pen 2. It supports tilt, multitouch, and an astronomical 8,192 levels of pressure sensitivity—far more than the typical stylus on the market. As you’d expect, it’s accurate, responsive, and feels great against the tablet’s screen. There is also a customizable touch ring and eight shortcut buttons to the side of the display, and the whole thing is flippable for the convenience of right- or left-handed users. A fully adjustable stand is sold separately, but it may be worthwhile for anyone already investing in the tablet as their professional creative studio.

Best Always-Connected: Microsoft Surface Pro X

Microsoft Surface Pro X
What We Like
  • Always-ready LTE connectivity

  • Slick, slim, lightweight design

  • Excellent webcam for video conferencing

What We Don't Like
  • Expensive

  • Not the strongest performance

If you’re trying to choose which Microsoft Surface is right for you, the Surface Pro X stands out with unique features for the modern professional. Microsoft partnered with Qualcomm to create a custom ARM-based processor for the device, recently updated as the SQ2. It offers smooth performance for your work tasks and extra-efficient battery life listed at 15 hours. It also allows the Pro X to be “always connected,” tapping into fast LTE Internet anywhere you might need it.

The Pro X also breaks some new ground on the design side compared to the rest of its Surface family. It’s more sleekly shaped, touted as the thinnest Surface Pro at 0.28 inches. Slimmed-down bezels surround the attractive 13-inch PixelSense screen. Even its 5MP 1080p front-facing camera is surprisingly sharp, among the best you can find on a tablet or laptop. It helps make the Surface Pro X an ideal tool for video conferencing on the road—and with the AI-powered Eye Contact feature, you’ll always look like you’re looking right at the camera while you’re naturally looking at the screen. Finally, a pair of USB-C ports provide more options for connectivity.

As usual with Surface machines, the keyboard and cover are sold separately, but it’s comfortable, backlit, and worthwhile to own. It also has a convenient built-in storage slot for the Surface Slim Pen (if you opt for one) that charges the stylus wirelessly so it’s ready to write whenever you are.

Best Compact: Microsoft Surface Go 2

Microsoft Surface Go 2
What We Like
  • Portable and sturdy

  • Good mix of performance and battery life

  • Strong value

What We Don't Like
  • Not for more intensive tasks

The Surface Go 2, compared to the Surface Pro and other big siblings, is the runt of Microsoft’s touchscreen family—but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. It’s the closest of the group to a pure tablet, very travel-friendly at 1.2 pounds in weight and a third of an inch thick. Its 1920 x 1080-pixel, 10.5-inch screen is larger than the original Surface Go’s without increasing its overall measurements, thanks to thinner bezels around the display. It’s the most compact Surface product and, importantly, the most affordably priced.

The Surface Go 2’s low price and tiny size, though, is just the starting point. Upgrading the hardware and adding key accessories like the Type Cover keyboard and a Surface Pen add to the price tag, weight, and overall amount you’ll need to tote around. But it’s hardly a burden, especially in comparison to 2-in-1s that work more as laptops than tablets. Plus, you’re still getting plenty of productive power for such a portable device. You can equip it with a fast and energy-efficient Intel Core m3 processor for a bump in performance without taking a hit in battery life. The result is a premium tablet that can be carried around all day and can take on any task, for a price that likewise won’t weigh you down.

Best Budget: Chuwi UBook X

What We Like
  • Affordably priced

  • 2-in-1 detachable hybrid design

  • Nice-sized screen

What We Don't Like
  • Mediocre performance

  • Weaker keyboard

With the Chuwi UBook X, you don’t just get a Windows tablet for an affordable price—you also get laptop functionality with a full keyboard and an active stylus pen for notes and sketches. Mimicking the Microsoft Surface design of an adjustable rear kickstand and magnetically detachable keyboard, the UBook X is plenty sturdy, even without the premium-level build quality. Its 12-inch display has a resolution of 2160 x 1440 pixels, amounting to a 3:2 aspect ratio that provides a bit more height than standard widescreen when in landscape orientation.

The UBook X runs on a quad-core Intel N4100 processor, a fairly dated chip that allows for decent battery life. Combined with its integrated Intel UHD 600 graphics and 8GB of RAM, you can’t expect to play graphics-heavy games or do significant media editing on the device, but it works just fine for basic productivity tasks and entertainment. As a whole, the UBook X holds nice value primarily for casual tablet use rather than as an intensive professional machine.

Best Splurge: Microsoft Surface Book 3

Microsoft Surface Book 3
What We Like
  • Powerful performance and graphics

  • Effective, high-quality design

  • Long battery life with keyboard

What We Don't Like
  • Expensive

  • Less portable as a tablet

Microsoft’s Surface Book 3 is the tablet that comes the closest to being a full Windows laptop—and a powerful one at that. It’s a premium machine that you can deck out with more premium hardware than ever, all the way up to a 10th-gen Intel Core i7 CPU, 32GB of RAM, and a whopping 2TB of SSD storage. Going well beyond smooth performance for any productivity apps and multitasking, it even includes a Nvidia GeForce GTX discrete graphics card that can take on multimedia editing and fairly high-end gaming. You take advantage of that GPU only when connected to the keyboard base, though, not when using the tablet on its own. The keyboard also provides extra battery life ranging up to a listed 17.5 hours on the larger model.

The display portion of the Surface Book 3 detaches from the keyboard with the push of a button, leaving you with a roomy 13.5-inch 3000 x 2000-pixel tablet, or an even bigger one at 15 inches and 3240 x 2160 pixels. The 15-inch size in particular feels large to hold in your hands, but at 1.8 pounds without the keyboard, it’s not much heftier than other Windows tablets. This innovative convertible design has hardly changed over the Surface Book’s iterations, but it works for the discerning audience it was built for.

Designers and media creators will appreciate the upgraded internals, along with the unique benefits of having a large screen that you can set on your lap and draw on with a precise stylus pen while running the top creative apps.

Final Verdict

Perhaps not surprisingly, many of the best Windows tablets are found within Microsoft’s Surface line of hybrid devices. The diverse catalog includes some 2-in-1 laptop-tablets that tout powerful hardware while others favor travel-friendly features, but the Surface Pro 7 offers the most attractive balance of performance, portability, and value for most buyers. Lenovo also makes a 2-in-1 ThinkPad X1 Tablet with a 3K display and durability that’s great for business users.

How We Tested

Our expert reviewers and testers put Windows tablets through a comprehensive set of tests. First and foremost, we evaluate them on design, focusing specifically on weight, thickness, and overall portability. Other important factors we look at are screen size and resolution, specifically video, images, and text. Audio and wireless connectivity play a part in evaluating the multimedia experience. For objective performance, we use benchmark tests like PCMark, Cinebench, 3DMark, and others.

For Windows tablets, we also pay a great deal of attention to productivity; testing if the tablets can act as a substitute for a laptop in terms of word processing, image editing, and games. Finally, we consider the price tag, evaluating the value proposition based on the competition to make our ultimate recommendation. All of the Windows tablets were purchased by Lifewire; none were provided by manufacturers.

About Our Trusted Experts

Anton Galang is a Lifewire writer and reviewer who first started covering tech products in 2007 with PC Magazine. Based in Chicago, he currently works on a Windows 2-in-1 tablet-laptop from Lenovo.

Jonno Hill is a lifelong tech lover who built his first computer in middle school. He has a background in design, motion graphics, and video production and has written for PCMag.com and AskMen.com in addition to Lifewire.

Rajat Sharma has been writing about technology for over six years now, and has reviewed hundreds of gadgets (across multiple categories) over the course of his career so far. Before joining Lifewire, he worked as a senior technology journalist with The Times Group and Zee Media Enterprises Limited, two of India’s biggest media houses.

FAQ

What’s the difference between Windows tablets and Apple or Android tablets?

Windows tablets run on Microsoft’s Windows 10 operating system, which is designed for use on both tablets and full PCs (and points to why it’s showcased so well on Microsoft’s own Surface tablet-laptop hybrids). Apple pioneered the modern tablet industry with the iPad, which now comes in several varieties and runs on its own iPadOS. iPads can use apps only from Apple’s app store, while Google’s Android OS is more flexible—the Google Play store has the largest app selection of them all, and other companies like Samsung and Amazon have their own app stores depending on your Android device. Windows tablets can run apps from the Microsoft Store, as well as any standard PC program.

 

Can you play games on Windows tablets?

A wide selection of games designed for tablets and mobile devices are available for download on the Microsoft Store. You might also be able to install traditional PC games, particularly if you have a 2-in-1 laptop, but your mileage will vary depending on your machine. Most tablets aren’t equipped to handle the heavy 3D graphics of the latest big-name titles. Reducing the settings to lower graphics quality may help, provided you have a fast enough processor and GPU. The powerful Microsoft Surface Book 3, for example, benefits from an advanced dedicated graphics card, but only when the tablet is docked to the keyboard.

What to Look for in a Windows Tablet

Display - The most crucial component of any tablet is the screen, and a number of factors come into play when determining a display's quality. Probably the most important is resolution, the number of pixels that make up an image, with a higher density meaning crisper, sharper images. But bear in mind that higher resolutions won't matter as much on smaller tablets, so 1080p may look as sharp on an 8-inch model as "3K" does on a 15-inch tablet.

Performance - There are few things more irritating when you're using a tablet on the go than an interminable wait for web pages to load or applications to start. Like laptops, Windows tablets are dependent largely on CPU in most use cases, though if you intend to game a lot on your tablet, GPU is also critical. In terms of load and boot times, getting and SSD rather than a traditional hardware can be crucial.

Size - The advantages of a larger display are obvious, but you should bear in mind that one of the best features of a tablet (as compared to a full size laptop) is how portable and easy to carry around it is. If you're looking for a full-fledged productivity machine, maybe you do need a 15-inch screen, but for the hybrid role tablets were initially designed to fill, an 8-inch screen can actually be a boon.

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