When thinking of tablets, most people picture something like the iPad Air 2: A small, self-contained touchscreen device with a strictly mobile interface, ideal for personal entertainment, media and light productivity. However, it’s not the only option when it comes to choosing a tablet. Here are some alternatives that you might prefer.
Samsung Galaxy Tab S2
You could easily mistake the 9.7-inch Galaxy Tab S2 for an iPad Air 2. It’s a solid choice if you like what the iPad has to offer, but you’re hesitant to jump to the iOS ecosystem.
The two tablets have similar dimensions, builds and displays, though the super-slim Tab S2 is 8-percent thinner than the already svelte iPad. The Tab also has a plastic back and aluminum frame, while the iPad is all aluminum. Check out their other minor differences in this spec-by-spec comparison.
The two tablets are also priced comparably. If you don’t need cellular data connectivity, a Wi-Fi only iPad Air 2 (starting price US$399) could actually be the more affordable choice. But if you do want to be able to run your tablet over your cellular data plan, the $499 Tab S2 starts off a bit cheaper than the $529 Wi-Fi + Cellular version of the iPad.
Either way, keep in mind that this tablet has been around since 2015 (though it received a processor boost in 2016). More importantly, Samsung is expected to launch a newer version of this tablet at the end of this month. Since the wait is so short, it’s probably worth seeing what Samsung comes up with next. Either way, shop around for a compelling bargain, as you’ll probably find one.
Google Pixel C
Google’s Pixel C tablet (not to be confused with its Pixel and Pixel XL smartphones) is a high-end tablet with an intimidating $599 price tag. But paying that premium will get you a top-shelf tablet with a classy aluminum build, 10.2-inch/308 PPI display and a pure Android operating system with the latest updates.
We’re a little hesitant to recommend this one over the iPad Air 2 considering its steep price, and the fact that it doesn’t have a host of universal advantages. However, it could still fit the bill for Android connoisseurs and Google fans.
If you mostly use your iPad as a toy (viewing music, videos, social media and the like) maybe you don’t need a lightning-fast option, and the increased convenience of a smaller size could serve you well. If that’s the case, choose an iPad mini over the iPad Air 2. You’ll get a more compact device, a less-speedy processor and possibly a lower price.
There are two options for Minis: the Mini 4, which is the same price as the Air 2 but has a slightly downgraded A8 chip (the Air has an A8X) and the Mini 2, which has a slower A7 processor but costs $269 for Wi-Fi only/$399 for Wi-FI + Cellular. Both have 7.9-inch Retina displays (though the one in the Mini 4 is improved over its predecessor).
The 9.7-inch iPad Pro is an upgrade over the iPad Air 2, starting at $599 for a Wi-Fi only version/$729 for the Wi-Fi + Cellular. Is the price difference worth it? Maybe, if you can justify the extra expense with increased productivity.
The iPad Pro has the same form factor as the iPad Air 2, but with the internals of its big brother, the 12.9 inch iPad Pro. That means the iPad Pro is trying harder to be stand-in for your laptop. It starts off with 32 GB of built-in storage (double the Air 2’s 16 GB) and supports the Apple Pencil and Smart Keyboard (sold separately for $99 and $150, respectively) so you can outfit it as a 2-in-1 convertible.
If you’re considering the iPad Pro, you could also check out this list of its popular alternatives. 2-in-1s are increasingly popular, and other manufacturers arguably have a better grip on this space than Apple does.