Best business tablets 2023
We take a look at some of the best tablets around, from Microsoft's Surface Go to the iPad Pro
The humble tablet has often been overlooked in favour of laptops and even large smartphones, but it has gradually become a viable business option over the last few years.
Whether on its own or with accessories like a physical keyboard and stylus, the tablet is versatile, portable and full of capabilities. What's more, some of the biggest tech companies around, such as Apple, Samsung and Microsoft, have recently been producing some of the finest tablets we've ever seen, adding more powerful CPUs, greater collaboration features and stunning touchscreen displays.
So much so, that picking the best tablet for your business is no simple task. Here at IT Pro, we've curated the best for 2023 to help you make the right choice.
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 are 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 8 Pro for Business
Best for Windows 11
The lukewarm reception the Surface Pro 7 and 7+ got from critics may have forced Microsoft to make some substantial changes with the Surface Pro range. Whatever the company did, it certainly was welcome as the Surface Pro 8 for Business is a real improvement. With its bigger screen, Thunderbolt 4 connection and intuitive stylus, the 8 is one of the best Windows tablets around.
Performance-wise the Pro 8 offers a significant boost compared to both the 7 and 7+, and its 5,108 multithreaded scores in GeekBench 5 put it above a number of other Windows and Android-based offerings. For comparison, the Samsung Galaxy Tab S7 only managed 2,814 for multithreaded. Similarly, under our display calibrator tests, the Pro 8 showcased 99% of the sRGB colour space - just 93.5% for the Galaxy Tab S7.
What's more, as a Microsoft flagship the Surface Pro is a perfect tablet to get the full Windows 11 experience (or 10 if you don't upgrade). It's also stocked with Office 365 apps and usually comes with subscription offers.
|Processor||Intel Core i7-1185G7|
|Screen resolution||2,880 x 1,920|
Price when reviewed: £1,316 exc VAT
Read our full Microsoft Surface Pro 8 review for more information.
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.
|Processor||Apple M1 (8-core CPU/GPU)|
|Resolution||2,048 x 2,732|
Price when reviewed: £1,107 exc VAT
Read our full Apple iPad Pro 12.9in (2021) review for more information.
Lenovo Tab P11 Pro
Best Android tablet
The Lenovo Tab P11 Pro is a solid and versatile Android-based tablet that offers laptop-like performance. It has a stunning 11.5in display with a 120Hz refresh rate and 2,560 x 1,600 resolution. It's also housing a Snapdragon 730G chip with 6GB RAM and does pretty much everything an SMB would need it for, but for around half the price of its rivals like the iPad Pro or the Surface Pro.
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Admittedly, the P11 Pro is held back slightly by its Android software, particularly with apps like Google Docs and Microsoft Office where the design is more for smaller touch screens. Both can feel a bit basic when used with the keyboard and touchpad and far off the experience one would fine on a Windows tablet.
However, the Tab P11 Pro is still a thoroughly good business product if you can operate on Android. Its battery life was excellent - 17hrs 6mins in our looped video test - far better than the iPad Pro (13hrs 30min) and far cheaper too. What's more, its display offered up 99.6% of the sRGB colour space under our calibrator. That score was just below the iPad Pro, but a tiny bit higher than Microsoft's Surface Pro 8. However, its GeekBench 5 scores were a little less impressive - 533 for single-core, 1,698 for multi - and quite far off the iPad Pro and the Surface Pro.
|Processor||Qualcomm Snapdragon 730G|
|Screen resolution||2,560 x 1,600|
Price when reviewed: £500 exc VAT
Read our full Lenovo P11 Pro review for more information.
Microsoft Surface Go 3
Best Windows experience on a budget
With the greater need for portable devices, it is no surprise that Microsoft has attempted to bring a budget version of its Surface range to market - the Surface Go 3. Similar to the Surface Go 2 and the original Surface Go, the 3 looks to repackage the appeal of the more powerful Surface Pro products with lower specifications.
To clarify, this is no portable workstation, but more of an everyday tablet for those with fewer hardware demands. What you do get is the tablet version of Windows 11 and a fairly decent screen. Under our calibrator test, the Go3 hit 98.9% for sRGB colour coverage - almost the same as the more expensive Pro 8.
The innards, unfortunately, lack a little bit of power and there is very little here to compete with Apple or even any other Surface tablet. In GeekBench 5, it hit 1,611 for multithreaded performance which is closer to the Nokia T20 than a normal Surface offering. If you need to run multiple applications at once and love the Surface range you might want to pay the extra and get the 8.
However, if you just need something to type on or a machine to run and present spreadsheets, this is good enough and very cheap. It's almost too cheap to be classed as a 'Surface' laptop.
|Processor||Intel Pentium Gold 6500Y|
|Screen resolution||1,920 x 1,080|
Price when reviewed: £391 exc VAT
Read our full Microsoft Surface Go 3 review for more information.
Best budget tablet
Nokia is so synonymous with feature phones and telecommunications services that you may be forgiven for not realising it also offers tablets. And, while its T20 isn't the most glamorous of hardware offerings, it is a fine business tablet for those on a budget.
It's not a great multimedia device; there's no dedicated stylus and its only managed 74% of the sRGB colour space under our calibrator test. It also didn't offer up much power in GeekBench 5 hitting just 1,165 for multithreaded workloads. So it isn't much of a workhorse either, but it can work well for those that have minimal requirements from their tables. It runs a neat and tidy installation of Android, with all the standard Google apps and services, so your staff will be completely familiar with all it offers.
It also has a surprisingly solid aluminium build, rather than a plastic body like one would expect at this price range. What's more, it comes with a two-year update warrant for the OS, meaning it is going to have the security your business needs long after purchase.
|Processor||Unisoc Tiger T610|
|Screen resolution||2,000 x 1,200|
Price when reviewed: £199.99 exc VAT
Read our full Nokia T20 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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