Best business tablets 2022
We take a look at some of the best tablets around, from Microsoft's Surface Go to the iPad Pro
The business tablet market experienced a significant uptick midway through 2020, with analysis from Canalys sighting increased global shipments jumping from 29.7 million to 37.5 million by the end of the year. This growth continued throughout 2021, with 46 million units shipping in the fourth quarter of the year, and shows no signs of slowing down in 2022.
Greater demand for remote working equipment due to the pandemic has been largely attributed for the rise in shipments, with tablets seen as a great option for businesses and students as well - flexibility that's reflected in our best business tablet roundup below.
What to look for
When choosing a business tablet, it’s important to consider what specific roles or functions it’s going to be used for, as this will influence what features you will need to look for and the level of performance you’ll require.
Apple, Samsung and Huawei often use their own first-party silicon to power their devices, but you’ll also find tablets with third-party processors. Qualcomm Snapdragon chips are almost always the most reliable of these, while the MediaTek processors often found in cheaper devices are usually best avoided if you need top performance. For organisations that want a device they can give to front-line workers to host specific business apps, however, these cheaper devices may be a cost-effective solution.
Due to their mobile nature, it’s also worth thinking about the connectivity of your device. Opting for a tablet with support for the latest Wi-Fi 6 or 6e standard will future-proof your device and allow it to make the most of business-grade wireless infrastructure. If you’re offering devices to mobile workers who need access to mobile broadband when out on the road, then it’s advisable to pick a 5G-enabled model over a device that’s limited to 4G for similar reasons.
What tablet operating system should I pick?
In the world of pure tablets - as opposed to convertible and hybrid devices - there are only two real choices: Android or iPadOS. As with smartphones, iPadOS devices are highly polished but comparatively expensive, while Android tablets offer greater choice and affordability, but aren’t necessarily as impressive.
That said, outstanding Android-based tablet devices do exist. Indeed, there’s several on this list. The question of which OS to go for, then, comes down more to your particular needs than it does to inherent quality. If you’re already invested in one particular ecosystem via other devices, it may be logical to stick within that ecosystem and take advantage of the benefits of a unified platform, but you can also mix things up without losing out.
Google’s focus on productivity and app integrations makes Android a good fit for those who want to use their tablet mainly as a companion device. On balance though, iPadOS is better for those looking to do serious work, thanks to the inclusion of a number of quality-of-life features introduced by Apple over the years, including an app dock, multi-tasking support and USB-C connectivity.
Should I buy a tablet with a keyboard?
These days, the line between convertible laptop and tablet is becoming increasingly blurred. Thanks to the growing sophistication of tablet devices and the prevalence of cloud-based apps, many tablets are viable options for light work tasks, and many now come with optional keyboards to better support this.
If you’re planning to use your tablet for general-purpose computing - including tasks like replying to emails, typing up reports and conducting online research - opting for a keyboard can significantly improve your efficiency. If you’re more focused on using it for handwritten notes, social media management or general organisation, then you may be better off forgoing this option, however.
What size of tablet should I buy?
Tablets tend to come in three main sizes: 8in, 10in and 12in. While examples of other sizes can be found, these are the most common, and between them they cover most use-cases for tablet computing.
Each is best-suited to particular tasks; smaller 8in tablets are ideal for things like social media management, emails and communications, as they’re small enough to be comfortably carried around while still offering a decent amount of screen real estate. 10in devices, meanwhile, are well suited to note-taking and digital art thanks to a balance between working area and portability, while the larger 12in models are most useful for content consumption and document editing - particularly when paired with a keyboard.
You may also want to consider the ergonomics of different sizes; some may find larger tablets to be unwieldy to use on the move, for example, while others might find smaller tablets don’t offer enough space for comfort. Much of this is down to personal preference - although it’s also worth noting that, due to space constraints, larger tablets tend to be more powerful than smaller ones.
Can a tablet replace a laptop?
Tablets have become incredibly advanced over the last several years, and some argue that they’re now capable of replacing traditional laptops. As with most things, however, whether or not you can get away with swapping your notebook for a tablet will depend on how you want to use it.
From a purely technical perspective, tablet devices can match laptops in most areas; performance for high-end tablets is at least as good as what you’d expect from an equivalently-priced PC, and the displays are often better than most laptops. They support touchpad, mouse and keyboard interactions, and they often boast additional features that laptops don’t usually have.
The big sticking point, however, is compatibility. Because they’re limited to running mobile apps, there’s a lot of software that simply won’t run on tablet devices, and even when there’s an app-based equivalent, it’s often a cut-down version. It’s certainly possible to use a tablet for all your day-to-day work computing, but if that’s your goal, you’d be well advised to make sure that everything you want to do can be accomplished via mobile apps first.
Microsoft Surface Pro X
Best for remote workers and digital nomads
Microsoft's flagship Surface X Pro is unlike any of the tech giant's other 2-in-1 devices in that it is powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon chip, as opposed to an Intel one. This enables it to use the chip's built-in 4G connectivity and, ultimately, battery-saving functions. There are downsides, however, such as the inability to run the full gamut of x86 Windows apps. Though it is worth noting that it isn't nearly too much of an issue as most users anticipated at launch; there are a few apps that are simply not available, but it wasn't enough to dampen our experience, which was without any performance issues.
There’s a lot to like about the Pro X, too; it’s sleek, it’s lightweight, and the 4G optimisation makes it absolute perfection for on-the-go working, and it's undoubtedly an impressive feat of engineering. Hopefully, too, it's the start of a very promising sub-category.
Price when reviewed: £1,087 exc VAT
Read our full Microsoft Surface Pro X review
Apple iPad Pro 12.9in (2021)
Best for creative types
The iPad Pro 12.9in is a fabulous piece of hardware and arguably the best tablet you can buy. It's as powerful as the MacBook Air and MacBook Pro, it has great battery life for a device this compact, and the new Mini-LED display tech puts it in a different league to most other devices of its kind.
It's almost as good as a traditional laptop, but just slightly held back by an inability to make full use of a second display and, of course, its eye-watering price. If you buy both the tablet and keyboard, it's considerably more expensive than the equivalent Apple MacBook Air, although the iPad does, admittedly, have a touchscreen and a far nicer display.
It's £999 for the 12.9in Wi-Fi model with 128GB of storage. The Smart Keyboard Folio adds a further £199, while the Magic Keyboard with touchpad adds £329. That brings the price of the 12.9in iPad pro up to £1,328 if you want the full laptop alternative experience.
Price when reviewed: £1,107 exc VAT
Read our full Apple iPad Pro 12.9in (2021) review for more information.
Samsung Galaxy Tab S7+
Best iPad alternative
The Samsung Galaxy Tab S7+ is clearly intended as a direct competitor to Apple's market-leading iPad Pro. Just like its rival, it comes in two different screen sizes, with the regular S7 costing £619 and including an 11in screen. Unlike the iPad Pro, it comes with a bundled stylus – now even more responsive thanks to the 120Hz screen – and you can expand the Tab’s 128GB storage via the SD card slot by up to 1TB.
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Build quality is excellent, despite skinny bezels and a 5.7mm thickness, and performance is impressive. Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 865+ pushed it to a single-core result of 965 in Geekbench 5, with a multicore score of 2,814; that’s twice as fast in multicore processing than our work laptop, a 2016 MacBook Pro with a dual-core Intel Core i5-7267U.
There's no denying that the iPad Pro is the more versatile tablet, whether that’s due to its extra features, range of apps or richer ecosystem of accessories. But the Galaxy Tab S7+ is a great tablet for everything from working on Word documents to watching Netflix. And the price, which is considerably less than the iPad Pro equivalent, makes it a tempting purchase.
Price when reviewed: £666 exc VAT
Read our full Samsung Galaxy Tab S7+ review for more information.
Microsoft Surface Go 2
Best Windows experience on a budget
The Microsoft Surface Go 2 is a smaller and cheaper version of the highly desirable Surface Pro with a 10-inch display, a lower-powered processor and less storage than the flagship, but retaining many of the same features as its bigger brother.
Although in principle, the Surface Go 2 shouldn't be included in the same bracket as its bigger brother, it works extremely well for what it is and you'll probably quickly start to respect its might in such a small package.
Even when demanding pretty strenuous workloads, the Surface Go coped well, despite only packing in an Intel Core m3-8100Y processor compared to its peers' i5 and i7 models. And, with USB-C support included, it means you can easily add peripherals including a mouse or external display if you so wish.
The small size and lack of multithreading muscle might put off power users, but this was never meant to be the kind of machine you’d use at a desk for eight hours. It’s a portable slice of Windows utility that can go anywhere, and a brilliant one at that.
Price when reviewed: £424 exc VAT
Read our full Microsoft Surface Go 2 review for more information.
Huawei MatePad Pro
Best budget tablet
The Huawei MatePad Pro has all the capabilities of an iPad or Surface Pro, except for the fact it can't access certain apps due to the fact it doesn't have Google’s Play store . This is a little bit of a turn off for many, particularly as most users are hooked into Gmail and services like WhatsApp, but if you're willing to be adventurous with your operating system, the MatePad Pro has a lot to offer.
The screen is superb, scoring 96.3% of the sRGB gamut and its brightness peaking at 454cd/m2. There is also the Kirin 990 processor under the hood, making it one of the fastest tablets around. What's more, its battery lasted 12hrs and 21mins in our test. So it might not have all your favourite apps, but it can do a lot of other things, all for the tidy sum of £400 (exc VAT)
Like the Surface Pro and iPad Pro, Huawei is marketing its MatePad Pro tablet as a PC replacement. It's is actively pushing people to buy a MatePad Pro bundle, which adds the M-Pen stylus (sold separately for £100) and MatePad Keyboard (£130) with the tablet for £610.
The feeling of a desktop in disguise is enhanced by the operating system’s Desktop mode, which you can activate from the settings bar. Similarly to Samsung’s DeX mode, click it and you switch to a windowed environment, complete with a Start menu and the ability to work with two windows side by side.
However, the Huawei MatePad Pro is arguably poor value compared to the iPad Pro;
Price when reviewed: £400 exc VAT
Read our full Huawei MatePad Pro review for more information.
How we test
When it comes to tablets, our testing methodology is almost identical to smartphones. To measure performance, we use the Geekbench 5 app, which measures single- and multi-core speeds. In the event that this isn’t available for a particular tablet, we’ll use an alternative benchmark app, then run that app on another device for which we do have Geekbench results, and use that to gauge relative performance.
We test the display with a colorimeter and the open-source DisplayCal software, measuring the maximum brightness and contrast, as well as what percentage of the sRGB colour gamut the panel can represent. We’ll also test how accurately those colours are reproduced, based on the average Delta-E - which indicates how closely it mirrors the target hue.
In order to test battery life, we used a looped video playback test, setting the screen’s brightness to around 170cd/m2 in order to ensure comparable results and putting the device into flight mode. We’ll then play the video until the battery dies, measuring how long this takes. This allows us to compare different devices, but doesn’t necessarily indicate real-world performance; this is assessed by examining the average battery life over the course of our testing, subjecting it to real-world use across a variety of workloads.
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