Have you ever bought a tablet and found that it wasn’t as good a deal as it seemed? Maybe it was prone to freezing or just wouldn’t run certain apps at all. When it comes to browsing Facebook, you’ll usually be okay, but what if you want to use the tablet for games? Whilst no tablet is going to run Grand Theft Auto, there are a lot of high-quality games that are optimized for mobile phones and tablets which won’t cause any problems. In fact, mobile gaming has exploded in the last few years with the rise of games like Candy Crush Saga or Hearthstone, so there’s never been a better time to upgrade your old tablet.
So which is the best gaming tablet? We’ve done our research and wrote up a list of high-quality gaming tablets so that you can make an informed decision and pick the tablet that best suits your needs.
As you can see, our top recommendations are very varied, which means we’re positive there’s one here which is perfect for you. Without further ado, let’s take a closer look at each of our choices and see what makes them worth your money.
Apple iPad Mini 2 – Best Apple Gaming Tablet
For a lot of people, the word “iPad” is synonymous with “tablet”, because in the past few years Apple has released consistently high performing (if a little expensive) tablets and phones. The iPad Mini 2 has inherited the technical capabilities but has a low price comparable that’s even cheaper than some similarly powerful tablets.
Even though this tablet is now a few years old, apps and media run smoothly and it still performs well enough on newly released games, with framerates in the 30s and 40s. The Mini 2 also has one of Apple’s “Retina” displays, with a high resolution of 2048×1536. We found that the Retina display greatly reduced pixelation and made colours appear more vibrant when compared to other tablets.
Apple has always been big on variants. The Mini 2 comes with an option to pay more for a version that accepts a SIM card, so that you can connect to mobile networks in 3G or 4G (depending on location), however in our experience, the standard WiFi version is more than sufficient unless you plan to frequently use your tablet in places that don’t have WiFi.
Battery life is around ten hours, which is respectable especially given the high-quality screen and processor. The tablet uses Apple’s lightning cable to recharge via USB or an outlet if you have a USB adaptor.
The major disadvantage of this tablet is that the storage space it comes with is not upgradable. This means that if you buy the 16GB version, whenever you approach capacity, you’ll need to upload files to the cloud or a wireless hard drive to free up space. Additionally, in contrast to an Android tablet, Apple favour a closed garden approach to design. This means that you can only use Apple-approved apps and hardware. It’s possible to “jailbreak” your tablet, but this voids the warranty and isn’t for the faint of heart.
Overall, the iPad Mini 2 is a powerful tablet that, despite its age is still going strong. It’s more than enough to handle anything released over the last few years and has a stunning high-resolution screen that really makes the colours pop. If you’re set on an iPad and don’t mind the limited storage space, then this could be the perfect gaming tablet for you.
High-quality retina display
Decent battery life
Strong performance on games from the last few years
Limited storage space
Is a few years old, may struggle with newer games soon
NVIDIA Shield K1 – Best Tablet for New Games
When a company that primarily makes PC graphics cards comes out with a gaming tablet, people pay attention. The NVIDIA Shield K1 is an 8” tablet with a 1920×1200 display, which means it has very crisp visuals, which is what you’re looking for in a gaming tablet.
This is a powerful Android tablet which is capable of decent framerates in recent games and comes with a few features which help make this a great purchase for any gamer. Firstly, the left and right edges are rubber coated to reduce the chance of you dropping it whilst playing. Secondly, the top and bottom edges contain speakers, meaning the tablet provides stereo audio as opposed to a more common mono output. Thirdly, this tablet features a mini HDMI slot so that you can plug it into a TV and have whatever is on its screen displayed on your far bigger TV.
The K1 has two features that, when combined, make it the ultimate gaming tablet, although they do come at an additional cost. This tablet supports the Shield controller, which is an Xbox style games controller you can connect and use to get superior control in the game. This is a huge advantage since games generally have touchscreen controls and some kind of games (like FPSs) work better with a controller.
Next, you can sign up for GeForce Now (although the first three months are free with purchase), which is a subscription service NVIDIA offers that allows you to stream 1080p games directly from their servers to your tablet. This means that without installing the games, or waiting for them to download overnight, you can hook your tablet up to a big screen, connect a controller and play 1080p console games with little to no lag. Amazing.
The downside is that you need a pretty good WiFi connection, and you can’t go idle for too long, otherwise they disconnect you, but you’d pay roughly the same amount of money for a console, and you can’t take that with you when you leave the house.
This is a fantastic solution to the limited gaming capabilities of a tablet, and although this tablet is powerful enough to compare to similarly priced alternatives, its main selling point is that for anyone looking to play console games or new releases, this is the best solution short of buying a console.
Designed for gaming
Stereo sound, mini HDMI port
GeForce Now and Shield controller basically turn this into a console
You need to pay more for the full experience, tablet, controller and streaming service
You need a fast WiFi connection
Asus Transformer Book T100HA – Best Hybrid Gaming Tablet
Sometimes, you want to do a bit more on your tablet, but the touchscreen keyboard limits how effective you can be. That’s why a few years ago, serious texters preferred Blackberry, with its tiny physical keyboard. Hybrid tablets (also known as convertible tablets) are this generation’s answer to the Blackberry. They’re a tablet for everyday use, and when you want to get some work done, they attach to the familiar keyboard/trackpad combo of a laptop.
So how do they hold up? Well, they’re generally a tad more powerful than a tablet, a tad less than a laptop, and this Asus Windows tablet is no exception.
Since this is a Windows gaming tablet, you have access to the full Steam library of games, although you won’t be able to play all of them due to the high system requirements of some games.
Generally speaking, as long as a game isn’t too new or graphically intensive, this tablet can play it on low to mid settings. Games like The Sims 3, Civilisation V, The Walking Dead and Portal all run at 30 fps or greater, making this a strong contender for anyone who likes classic games from the last few years. Older games run even better, so if you’re into classic console emulation this is the perfect tablet for you. You can plug a controller in too, which helps a lot since the touchscreen just doesn’t cut it for a lot of these games.
The keyboard is responsive and satisfying to use, and isn’t a nuisance to attach or remove. The speakers are adequate, but a little tinny sounding at high volumes. You’d do well to invest in a Bluetooth speaker or a decent set of headphones if you wanted to use this for music.
When in “laptop” mode, it’s a little top heavy which causes the screen to tilt back a bit, and this system really struggles to run anything at greater than medium graphical settings, which is a significant disadvantage for a gaming tablet to have.
Despite these faults, we can safely say that this is the best hybrid gaming tablet for the price. Alternatives can easily cost over $1000, and so this is a fantastic, low-cost piece of hardware, especially for games that are a few years old. Whilst we wouldn’t recommend it for Battlefield 1, the system is more powerful than a standard tablet and as a result, it outperforms other cheap Windows tablets in day to day use.
Removable keyboard and trackpad
Plays semi-recent games at decent fps
Inexpensive entry into the world of hybrids
Keyboard feels satisfying to use
Lacks the power to play recent games
Slightly top heavy in laptop mode
Speakers could be better
Lenovo Yoga Tablet 3 – Best Tablet for Light Gaming
If you want a tablet that’s great for everyday use, but want to make sure it’s good enough to handle the most popular games, like Candy Crush or whatever newcomer is popular at the time, the Yoga 3 is the tablet for you. It lacks the power of our other top choices but makes up for it with its many other strengths.
Take a look at the design of it, for a start. Whilst most tablets require you to buy a case that works as a stand, the Yoga 3 has a stand built in. Not only that but the speaker bar at the bottom fantastic. It uses Dolby Atmos technology and comes with a preinstalled Dolby app that lets you customise how it outputs sound. The sound quality is great even at high volumes, and remains clear and crisp without becoming tinny.
At the bottom left corner, you’ll notice it has an 8-megapixel camera. This camera can actually rotate 180 degrees which is a neat little innovation and saves the manufacturer from including a front and rear camera, instead just opting for one high-quality one.
The battery life is around 14 hours, which is the longest out of all of our recommendations. Combined with the great speakers and stand, this makes it a great tablet for binge watching a TV show, and as ever, Netflix is only a few taps away on the Google Play store.
But this is a list of gaming tablets, so how does it hold up? Light or casual games run like a dream, and while more intensive games like Dead Trigger 2 take a little longer to load, performance is smooth enough to play without any hitches. We did notice some slight delays when playing Hearthstone, but usually only when there was a lot of activity onscreen. This tablet can play PS2 era games like Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas without any trouble at all, assuming you don’t mind suing touch controls.
All in all, this is a media-focused tablet that performs reasonably well for gaming. The speakers sound great, the additional design features are well thought out and the overall aesthetic is appealing to the eye. This is a great tablet for TV and light to moderate gaming, but if you’re looking to run the latest and greatest games, you might want to consider one of our other top picks.
Built in stand, rotatable camera
Great for light gaming
Long battery life
Slightly longer loading times for big games
Some lag when screen is crowded
Samsung Galaxy Tab S – Best Android Tablet for Gaming
So we covered the best Apple tablet earlier, what about the best Android tablet for gaming? Well, we’ve found it. The Samsung Galaxy Tab S is a monster of a tablet. Its processor is capable of almost 50% higher speeds than some of the others we’ve reviewed, and it’s capable of running even the most graphically intensive games on the Google Play store (Need for Speed: Most Wanted, Modern Combat 4 etc.) at their highest settings.
Even when you aren’t gaming, the strength of the processor is still a huge bonus. All too often, tablets work well on a single task and lag when you try to open multiple apps or switch between windows, but the Tab S does not have this problem. Swipes are registered immediately and even when using three or more apps at once, we never encountered any slowdown.
There’s another area in which this tablet outshines its competition too: the screen. It has the highest resolution out of any of our top picks, and the colours it displays are vibrant and eye catching. It’s comparable with Apple’s Retina Displays, although it doesn’t have the anti pixelation capability.
Aesthetically, there’s not much to look at, although Samsung have made up for this by including a host of useful features like a fingerprint scanner, an ultra power saving mode (which boasts over three weeks standby time) and a dynamic backlight that uses the front camera to see how much light you have in your surroundings before adjusting itself accordingly.
The only real downside to this tablet is that it heats up when under stress. Nothing major, and you’re not going to get burned, but it’s noticeable enough to cause concern.
Overall, this is a fantastic general purpose tablet, with more than enough power to play just about anything you can throw at it. If you don’t fancy shelling out for the NVIDIA Shield K1’s additional accessories, and you just want to play whatever you find on the Play Store on high settings, this is the tablet for you.
Great for multi-tasking
Lots of interesting features
Heats up when in use
Best Gaming Tablet – Buyers Guide
Before you buy a gaming tablet, there are a few important specifications to look out for and we’ll cover these below to help you make an informed decision.
Tablet screens come in various different shapes and sizes and are measured in terms of distance from the bottom left corner to the top right. Low-end tablets are usually around 8”, and high-end tablets are usually around 10 or 12 inches. Bigger doesn’t always mean better, though. Pay attention to the resolution of the screen. This is the term for how many pixels the screen can display and is measured by horizontal pixels x vertical pixels. The higher the numbers, the clearer the display will be, meaning you could have a 40” 720p TV that doesn’t look as crisp as a 25” 1080p TV. If you’re interested in the more detailed visual aspects of your tablet, you can find specifications here http://pixensity.com/list/tablet/
When it comes to tablets, there are two big operating systems: Android and iPhone OS (or iOS). iOS only comes on Apple products and Android comes with just about everything else. So what’s the difference? Well, since Android is open source, which means you can tinker around with it to improve the performance or feel of your device, whereas iOS is great for people who want their tech to “just work”. iOS tends to get the newest games first, although Android has a lower quality threshold for apps on the Play Store, meaning there might be more games, but not all of them will be good.
If you’re familiar with a computer processor, great, a tablet one works the exact same way. If you aren’t, the processor is the “brain” of a computer. It handles all of the information and calculations that apps need in order to work. The speed of a processor is measured in Hz, that is, the number of calculations it can perform per second. Higher numbers mean more calculations can be done, so that’s what you should aim for. That said, it’s not worth paying a lot more money for a 2 GHz processor over a 1.9 GHz since your tablet’s other components also affect how fast it is.
Standard vs Hybrid
Nowadays it’s not uncommon to see “hybrid” tablets, which are tablets that come with a detachable keyboard. Generally speaking, these lack the power of a traditional laptop and are more comparable to netbooks. These can be great if you’re already buying a tablet and want to use it for word processing or playing PC games with a keyboard and mouse, although if you aren’t interested in this, you may as well save your money and opt for a standard tablet.
In the list above, we’ve outlined which are the best gaming tablets for a variety of purposes. We’re positive that there’s one in here which is perfect for your needs and gaming habits, but overall, our number one best gaming tablet has to be the Samsung Galaxy Tab S. It’s an extremely powerful piece of hardware that won’t break the bank and can handle anything you can come up with. We sincerely hope that this list has helped you come to a decision, so buy with confidence knowing that our research was thorough and in depth, and thanks for reading.