Best business tablets 2021

We take a look at some of the best tablets around, from Microsoft's Surface Go to the iPad Pro

IT Pro best business tablets 2021

At the beginning of last year, not many could have expected that the humble tablet, which combines the screen size of a laptop with the mobility of a smartphone, would become one of the hottest commodities of 2020.

Nevertheless, the figures speak for themselves: the second quarter of 2020 saw global tablet shipments increase by more than a quarter, from 29,7 million to 37.5 million. In fact, the world’s top five tablet vendors – Apple, Samsung, Huawei, Amazon, and Lenovo – all experienced double-digit growth, reaching shipment levels usually only reserved to the holiday season in Q4.

Although not as popular as smartphones or laptops, it's not hard to notice that tablets are experiencing somewhat of a revival recently. This is largely due to the rise in remote working and the heightened demand for virtual office components, and tablets “tick so many boxes for remote work and education use”, according to Canalys analyst Ishan Dutt.

“The ability to collaborate virtually as well as view and interact with digital content has become paramount, especially in the education space," he told IT Pro last year, commenting on Q2's 26% rise in worldwide tablet shipments.

"The coronavirus pandemic has increased competition for communal screen access between household members forced to stay indoors. Tablets help overcome this problem by allowing each family member to have their own device. And they are more budget-friendly than desktops and notebooks,” he added.

So, if you haven’t already, why not give the tablet a try? In order to help you make the right choice, IT Pro has compiled a list of the best tablets which will benefit you and your business.

Microsoft Surface Pro X

Microsoft Surface Pro X on a table

The Surface Pro X is unlike Microsoft's other 2-in-1 devices; it's powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon processor, rather than Intel, in order to take advantage of the chip built-in 4G connectivity and advanced battery-saving features. The rub, however, is that it can’t run the full gamut of x86 Windows apps. Saying that, this isn’t nearly as much of a problem in reality as we anticipated. While there are some apps which aren’t available, our experience was untroubled by performance woes. 

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 10.2in (2019)

Apple iPad 10.2 (2019) on a window sill

The humble iPad may have been eclipsed by its ‘Pro’-branded siblings in terms of power and performance, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a great choice for business users looking for a lightweight, on-the-go device. Thanks to the introduction of iPadOS, it’s now almost as functional for high-powered productivity as a proper laptop, and that’s even more the case if you can stomach the cost of Apple’s Smart Keyboard.

True, raw hardware power isn’t as good as it could be, but what it lacks in speed, it makes up for in stamina. The battery life is outstanding, and the quality of the design remains as polished as ever. What really seals the deal, though, is the price, with a 32GB iPad and Smart Keyboard together totalling just over £500. 

Price when reviewed: £291 exc VAT

Read our full Apple iPad 10.2in (2019) review for more information.

Samsung Galaxy Tab S7+ 

Samsung Galaxy Tab S7+

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. 

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.

Google Pixelbook Go 

Google Pixelbook Go

The original Google Pixelbook was an absolute home run for the tech giant, demonstrating that Chromebooks have more potential than their reputation of being rinky-dink rubberised laptops for schoolchildren. On the downside, its professional appeal came with a rather hefty price tag of almost £1,000.

Now, Google is hoping to distil the Pixelbook’s charm to a wider range of consumers by introducing with the budget-friendly Pixelbook Go. We were certainly impressed - the Pixelbook Go offers all of the things we loved about its predecessor - including an elegant, well-designed chassis, smart software capabilities and a gorgeous screen - in a much more approachable and wallet-friendly package.

However, there are some downsides. The performance isn’t quite what it could be, for one - although we’re not sure we’d sacrifice that outstanding battery life for a bit more oomph, given that ChromeOS still can’t run a lot of the intensive software that needs it. That in itself is still a bit of a problem, and as with the Surface Pro X, organisations looking to roll out this laptop are advised to make sure they can access all the apps and services they need to within the constraints of ChromeOS. 

Price when reviewed: £691 exc VAT

Read our full Google Pixelbook Go review for more information

Microsoft Surface Go 2

Microsoft Surface Go 2

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 

Huawei MatePad Pro

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. 

Apple iPad Pro 12.9in

The iPad Pro 12.9-inch could be considered as the closest alternative you'll get to a laptop. As its name suggests, it's a 12-inch iPad, with the option of a keyboard to turn the tablet into a 12-inch MacBook. Almost.

The third-generation iPad Pro 12.9-inch is fast. Although it's not as fast as a MacBook Pro quite yet, it will be able to run the full version of Photoshop that certainly takes a significant amount of power.

The design of the latest 12.9-inch iPad Pro has seen some refinements, including the replacement of the Touch ID button with facial recognition and USB Type-C support - perhaps the most significant design tweak for the iPad Pro.

But it's a cut-down version of the universal connectivity port, allowing you only to connect a limited range of external devices. Although it can be used to charge your tablet, you can't connect up things like printers. It will allow you to transfer photos from a camera and a secondary monitor, but that display will only mirror what's on your iPad rather than doubling up your screen estate.

Apple has moved where the contacts are for the folio case (so no reusing your old case and there's a thinner bezel, with an updated keyboard and Apple Pencil to boot.

Both of these accessories will cost you more than previous versions and the tablet itself is more expensive too, at 969 for the 64GB iteration. The top of the range version with the keyboard case and pencil will cost a whopping £2,187.

Price when reviewed: £969 inc VAT

Read our full Apple iPad Pro 12.9in review for more information.

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