iPad vs. Android: Which Tablet Should You Buy?

Our editors independently research, test, and recommend the best products; you can learn more about our review process here. We may receive commissions on purchases made from our chosen links.

The Rundown

  • Best Android Tablet: Samsung Galaxy S4 at Amazon, “Samsung DeX allows you to simulate a desktop experience on the device."
  • Best Budget Android Tablet: Huawei MediaPad T1 at Amazon, “Perfectly serviceable entry-level Android tablet, with all the specs you need."
  • Best iPad: iPad Pro at Apple, "An upgrade in every way, and Apple's most powerful tablet ever."
  • Best Budget iPad: iPad 9.7-Inch at Amazon, “The best price-to-performance ratio in an iPad, without too much compromise.”

Our Top Picks

iPad: Strengths

The iPhone/iPad ecosystem is a huge strength for the iPad. This includes the App Store, which has over a million apps, many of which are designed with the iPad's larger display in mind. This ecosystem also includes accessories, which go beyond just tablet cases, wireless keyboards and external speakers. You can do everything from hook your guitar into an iPad to converting your iPad into a miniature coin-operated arcade game (minus the need for quarters).

The iPad also tends to be more stable and easier to use than Android tablets. Apple approves each app individually, ensuring that it (mostly) does what it claims it will do and the worst of the bugs are eliminated. Because Apple and app developers only need to support a limited number of devices, it is easier to stamp out bugs. And while Android has made great strides in becoming easier to use, Apple's device tends to be more simple and less overwhelming.

The iPad is also a market leader, with each iPad release continually pushing the industry forward with one of the fastest tablets on the market. In fact, the iPad Pro exceeds the performance of many laptops.

iPad: Weaknesses

The trade off in being more stable and easier to use is having less customization and ability to expand. While it is great that each app is checked by Apple before being released into the app store, and iPad users can rest a little easier knowing that it is harder for malware to get onto their device, this approval process does lock out some apps that would be useful.

The iPad also lacks the ability to expand its storage through microSD cards. There are other options, such as Dropbox, and you can use some external drives with the iPad, but the lack of support for microSD and Flash drives is a definite negative.

Android: Strengths

The biggest strength of the Android is the vast array of devices from which to choose and the amount you can customize your tablet once you make your purchase. And there are some great premier Android tablets from makers like Samsung to go along with hundreds of other lesser-known name brands. Android has also matured quite a bit over the last few years, supporting some features like widgets (small apps that run on your home screen so you don't have to open them) that Apple has stayed away from.

Android's Google Play marketplace has also come a long way in the past few years.  While the lack of supervision means more of those apps will be throwaways without much use, the boost in numbers does provide a lot more variety than Android experienced when the tablet wars began.

Android: Weaknesses

The lack of supervision over Google Play is one of the big downsides to Android. You might know exactly what you are getting when you download name-brand apps like Netflix or Hulu Plus, but when you see some little-known app, you don't quite know what you are going to get. Amazon fixes this by providing their own App Store for the Kindle Fire tablets, but that means the Kindle Fire has a more limited app selection.

Rampant piracy has also done some damage to the Android platform. While it is possible to pirate apps for the iPad, it's much easier on Android. The greater amount of piracy has led some app developers to stick with the iPhone and iPad rather than risk the money it would take to create an Android version of their apps. This is especially an issue for top tier games, which can take more time and resources to build.

The variety of devices can be a good point when shopping for what you want, it has its downside in support. Android operating system updates are not always compatible with all devices, and it can be difficult for app developers to stamp out bugs on all supported devices. This can lead to stability problems in some apps.

iPad: Who Should Buy?

Apple, Inc.

The iPad is a great tablet for those who want to take the experience beyond just media consumption. While the iPad is great for watching movies, listening to music and reading books, it can also be used to make movies, create music and write books. Apple's suite of office applications and apps like iMovie and Garage Band make much of this possible, and a growing number of third-party apps are providing more substance to the app store.

The iPad is also the perfect tablet for those who are a little intimidated by technology. Apple has decided to go with a more simple design, which may mean less customization, but it also means easier to use. This means you can get to the fun of owning a tablet with less time spent learning to use it.

The iPad also shines the area of gaming, especially those who want to take the experience beyond just Angry Birds and Cut the Rope. Apple has challenged the entire portable gaming market with some of the cool games available on the iPad.

Last, the iPad makes a great companion to those who already own Apple product. iPhone users will enjoy iCloud Photo Library, which lets you share photos between devices, and Apple TV owners will love the ability to wirelessly send the iPad's display to their big screen TV.

Android: Who Should Buy?

Samsung Electronics America Inc.

If you're looking to buy an Android tablet, you're probably in one of two main categories: (1) those who want to use the device for watching movies, reading books, listening to music and playing casual games and (2) those who want to customize their experience or love to tweak their device to get the most out of it.

Android tablets will appeal to those who mostly want to consume entertainment because the initial price tag can be significantly cheaper. This means more money for the good stuff, and the cheaper 7-inch tablets like the Google Nexus 7 and Kindle Fire are more than capable of running Netflix, Hulu Plus, playing music and reading books.

Android also provides a more customizable experience. So if the first thing you do when you get a new smartphone or gadget is to hit the settings to get it just right, you might be the perfect Android user. Home screen widgets might intimidate some people, but they can be both useful and pretty cool.

And just as the iPad can interact with other Apple devices, Android tablets can be a great companion to those who already own an Android smartphone.

Best Android Tablet: Samsung Galaxy S4

With the Samsung Galaxy S4, you get more than just a tablet: a keyboard cover allows you physically convert this device into a laptop, and Samsung DeX capability means you can simulate a desktop experience on the device, too. The 10.5” super AMOLED display ensures a crisp, vibrant picture whether you're working or streaming movies, and the built-in speakers have cinematic Dolby Atmos Surround sound so your media looks as good as it sounds. The device also comes with an S Pen stylus so you can write or draw on your tablet using a full palette of digital brushes and pens.

Like most other Samsung devices, Google Assistant is built into the S4, so you can use voice commands to check the weather, answer phone calls, or play music without touching the device. It can also act as a smart home hub if you have connected devices like lights, thermostats, and more. With up to 16 hours of battery life and fast-charging capabilities, it barely needs to spend any time plugged in. Choose between 64GB and 256GB of internal storage, which can be expanded up to 400GB with a microSD card.

Interested in reading more reviews? Take a look at our selection of the best Android tablets

Best Budget Android Tablet: Huawei MediaPad T1

Huawei MediaPad T1
Courtesy of Amazon.com

A budget of $100 won’t buy even the most basic of iPads, but it can get you a perfectly serviceable entry-level Android tablet. The MediaPad T1 from Chinese electronics giant Huawei has everything you need for surfing the Web and watching movies.

The seven-inch tablet has a screen resolution of 600 x 1024 pixels with on-cell IPS, meaning it can reproduce 90 percent of Adobe RGB for sharp contrast and bright colors. The screen is built with a 178-degree wide-view angle, so you can share the viewing experience with someone seated at a different angle.

Performance is geared for a budget price, but delivers the specs you need to perform most tasks. The T1 has a Spreadtrum SC7731G chip with a 28nm quad-core 1.2 GHZ ARM and operates on Android 4.4 KitKat. Other features include a 2MP camera, a battery that can browse the Web for eight continuous hours and a lightweight metal unibody case.

Best iPad: iPad Pro

iPad Pro

Best Buy

The newest iPad Pro is an upgrade in every way — and Apple's most powerful tablet ever. They've eliminated the home button in favor of an all-screen design that is undeniably eye-catching. Available in both 11- or 12.9-inch sizing, the tablet has laptop-like power thanks to Apple’s A12X processor. It can handle everything from video to photo editing without stuttering, freezing, or making you miss your laptop. The addition of an optional attachable Smart Keyboard makes it easier to type emails or documents.

The iPad Pro’s new design is as welcome as its outstanding performance. Gone are the squared-off corners. Instead, Apple has opted for a more rounded design that allows for a true edge-to-edge display. And, at 2388 x 1668 pixels, it’s worth every penny. If there’s one side effect of the new display, it’s the loss of a headphone jack. But with so many Bluetooth headphones available, it’s hardly missed. Fortunately, the new design didn’t reduce battery life as a 7,812mAh battery ensures 10 hours of web browsing on Wi-Fi.

Best Budget iPad: iPad 9.7-Inch

Apple iPad (5th Generation) 32GB Wi-Fi Gold

 Walmart

Apple’s release of the 2017 iPad represented an opportunity for Apple to integrate a less expensive option into their lineup appealing to budget-conscious iPad shoppers. With 32GB of internal storage (128GB also available), the 2048 x 1536 9.7-inch Retina display is paired with Apple’s A9 chip for excellent performance along with 10 hours of battery life for nearly all-day use. Weighing 1.03 pounds, the iPad has replaced the iPad Air 2 in the company’s lineup performance-wise, while the body still feels very similar to the original iPad Air. Even so, the A9 processor runs slightly faster than the iPad Air 2 and that’s noticeable across the hundreds of thousands of available iPad apps. Notably, Apple was only able to get two speakers on this iPad, although they sound great across apps, video and music. At the end of the day, this is the best price-to-performance ratio iPad Apple has ever offered without compromising too much to get there.