Gaming on a tablet has come a long way. From the days of the first iPad being treated as a laughing stock, handheld gaming on a tablet PC has come closer and closer to being true, handheld PCs with excellent gaming capabilities.
Tablet PCs have gotten more and more powerful over the years while retaining their low weight and high portability. If you’re going away from home, or need to share TV access, tablets are a great option for a gaming machine these days.
Having said that, not every tablet is going to have what you need to have a great gaming experience. Below is a list of the best options for anyone looking for a tablet PC that will double as a gaming machine.
Things to Look for in a Gaming Tablet
When it comes to gaming on a tablet, there are several factors that should impact your decision to purchase a tablet or note. We’ve listed below some of the most important features and elements you should be looking for in your next gaming tablet.
This one should be obvious, but there’s no point in buying a gaming tablet if it can’t play the type of games that you’re trying to enjoy. There are plenty of different operating systems out there for ARM-based devices, and each one comes with different software compatibility. An android tablet, for instance, may not have the huge library of a Windows-based tablet, but there are still a huge number of ports and original titles made for Android.
Conversely, Amazon’s own app store doesn’t feature anywhere near as many apps as other stores, like Google Play or the iOS App Store. While these tablets may be the cheapest, the lack of available software makes them a bit tougher of a sell if you have gaming in mind at all.
If you’re going to buy yourself a gaming tablet, make sure you’ll have access to the games that you wanted to play in the first place.
Second, only to the game compatibility list, the performance of your chosen tablet is one of the most important factors when it comes to making a sound decision. There are plenty of tablets on the market that are perfect for surfing the internet or checking your emails, but struggle when it comes to running a decent video game.
How much performance you’re going to need will also depend on what sort of games you’re hoping to play. Most social games or puzzle games that are native to mobile platforms will run just fine. 2D sprites, colorful animations, and bright sounds aren’t too taxing. However, if your hopes are for something closer to a PC gaming experience, with full 3D graphics, action-packed gameplay, and high-quality sound, you’re going to need to aim a little higher.
These days, it’s possible to buy premium tablets that are closer to desktop PCs with their level of power. Make sure you know exactly what sort of gaming you’re looking for and you’ll have an easier time deciding how powerful you need your tablet to be.
Connectivity & Battery Life
Another important factor in your tablet choice should be connectivity & battery life. In terms of connectivity, you’ll want to find a tablet that has as many connection options as possible. Being able to connect controllers or a mouse & keyboard is an important part of having a more traditional gaming experience, so you want to make sure that your chosen tablet is compatible with as many of these devices as possible.
Battery life is important because when it comes to gaming, you’ll probably find that your tablet drains much faster than you’re used to. This is especially a problem if you use your gaming tablet away from home a lot. If you plan on riding trains or going on long journeys, then having a tablet with huge battery life is going to be more important to you. It’s even more important if you’re planning on connecting wireless controllers, as things like Bluetooth will reduce your battery even faster.
The final area that should majorly impact your purchasing decision is your tablet’s overall size. The whole point of a tablet PC is the idea that you’re getting something much more portable than even a laptop can provide. Bearing that in mind, if you plan on pocketing your tablet, rather than keeping it in a bag or suitcase, then you’re going to want to make sure you stick to something a little smaller.
On the other hand, if you’re chasing high-power at any cost, then a slightly bigger tablet might be more your speed. Consider how important it is to you that you be able to carry your tablet without a bag or carry case. If you absolutely need to have a pocket-sized device, you’re going to need to compromise on performance, at least a little.
The Best Gaming Tablet
Now that you know what you need to look out for, let’s take a look at our picks for the top gaming tablet devices currently available on the market.
iPad Pro (2020)
If you’re looking for a great machine for running games, then the iPad Pro(2020) is the choice for you. Apple managed to blow a lot of people away last year with the release of their M1 chip, an ARM-based SoC (system-on-a-chip) that came packed with incredible performance, for the Macbook Air, Macbook Pro, and Mac Mini line of devices.
Well, earlier this year they decided that the iPad Pro series could also stand with an upgrade and released a brand new version of the iPad Pro that takes advantage of the M1 chip. This new line is available in a variety of different storage and memory configurations, but most importantly, is an absolute powerhouse when it comes to running gaming applications.
While the slightly restrictive nature of installing software on an i-device does have its drawbacks, Apple has done a good job of building the platform’s gaming software library over the years. Not only have they added native applications, but there’s a huge number of gaming services available on the platform these days, from Google Stadia to GeForce Now.
That also doesn’t begin to count things like Apple Arcade, Apple’s own premium gaming service. Not only are these games designed specifically with the platform in mind, but there have been some truly stunning games released on the service over the past few years. Combine the number of games with the ability to play with a keyboard or gamepad, and the amazing screen quality available on the iPad Pro, and you’ve got yourself a true premium gaming experience.
Of course, you pay extra for the privilege of having a premium-quality setup. Like many things from Apple, the iPad Pro isn’t exactly cheap. Even with the smallest screen and most basic configuration, you’re looking at a starting price of $799.99, and that will only net you a measly 128GB of space, with no accessories. To take full advantage of the device it’ll run you closer to $2000, and that still doesn’t include the pen or keyboard. Definitely not worth thinking about if you’re chasing a more budget-friendly option.
Surface Pro 7
When it comes to gaming, you’re probably not going to find a better platform than Windows. The operating system has been around for so long that the compatible software library is pretty next-level. If you want to play a game from the past 20 years, then there’s probably nowhere better to be able to do it than on a Windows machine. That makes the Surface Pro 7, a great choice for anyone who’s down for some serious gaming.
While there’s a newer model on the market right now, it’s less than perfect for Windows gaming due to being an ARM-based gaming machine. This means that Windows tablets lose their biggest advantage: the huge software library. The Pro 7 is certainly less powerful, but if you’re mainly buying the tablet for games, then you’re still better with the 7 over the X.
With a 2-in-1 gaming device like this, you’ll be able to enjoy pretty much any game that you could on a desktop PC. With support for external devices like mice and controllers, no matter what sort of gaming you’re into, you only need to find somewhere to prop up your tablet and you can get gaming. You’ll also find that the tablet itself is capable of performing insanely well in its higher configurations.
Even games like GTA V, Civ 6, and Fortnite all run smoothly, and with proper Windows-based peripheral support too. If you’ve got a big library of PC games already, you’ll find yourself well-equipped for gaming on the go with this one. Of course, you also get all of the other features that fully-fledged Windows 10 brings you, and with docking, you can even turn it into a console if you have a couple of controllers and an HDMI cable.
As with the iPad Pro we featured above, the major drawback with the Surface Pro 7 is the fact that it does cost quite a bit. At the lowest configuration available the Surface Pro 7 will come in at $749.99, but will only include an i3 processor, 128GB of storage, and 4GB of RAM, so you won’t be getting the proper gaming experience you were hoping for. At the high end, you get the much higher specs mentioned above, but it’ll run you $2299.99.
Samsung Galaxy Tab S7+
Samsung has been doing a good job over the years of producing very elegantly designed devices that match Apple in terms of aesthetic, without the price or rabid fanbase that comes along with it. The Samsung Galaxy Tab S7+ is a great device for gaming on the go, as long as you’re okay with Samsgun’s Android operating system overlay known as One UI. Luckily, the entire point of One UI is to make Android more friendly to use on larger screens, so this 12.4-inch screen fits it quite well.
One interesting feature that the Samsung Galaxy Tab S7+ comes with is the S-pen. In most cases, a stylus would cost you extra, so if you find using your fingers to play touchscreen games annoying, you won’t have to spend hundreds shelling out for some peripherals. As with other Android tablets, you can also expect a pretty decent collection of 3rd party hardware that will work out of the box, so you can have a keyboard and mouse or controller setup working at a moment’s notice.
As with the previous entries on our list, you can expect a pretty top-notch gaming experience. COD: Mobile, PUBg, Fortnite, and Minecraft all work excellently on the device, and with a keyboard and mouse attached, you can have an almost desktop PC-like gaming experience.
While the Samsung Galaxy Tab S7+ cannot match the Windows tablet for its software library or the Apple tablet for its performance, it’s a solid mixture between the two and doesn’t come in anywhere near as expensive as the other premium options. Despite the cheaper price, you’ll still get a premium gaming experience, and thanks to the openness of the Android OS, you shouldn’t have any trouble finding new software to try out.
Lenovo M10 Plus
Android is a pretty great platform when it comes to gaming. Not only does the Play Store feature a huge amount of gaming software, but there’s also a huge developer community online that creates fan games and mobile ports constantly. We feel that the Lenovo Tab M10 Plus offers the best gaming experience when it comes to android thanks to the decent gaming performance combined with absolutely stunning value. Also, it features vanilla Android, which is always a nice touch for anyone after the highest level of customizability possible.
The Lenovo Tab M10 Plus is a great tablet when it comes to getting an android gaming experience without running up a huge cost. It’ll run pretty much anything you can install from the App Store that still supports Android 9.0. That includes everything from Call of Duty: Mobile and Minecraft, to newer titles like MTG: Arena, and with support for all peripherals that support Android, you’ll never be stuck for a keyboard and mouse, or gamepad, to use.
The main draw for the Lenovo Tab M10 Plus is the price, and overall portability of the device. While the 10-inch tablet probably isn’t going to fit into your pocket, unless you’re wearing some JNCO jeans, it’s still much more portable than most of the other tablets featured on this list.
If it has a drawback it’s that the machine isn’t as powerful as the other high-end gaming devices we’ve already talked about. Also, running Android means you don’t have access to the wide library features on Windows tablets. Having said that, Android has a huge library all of its own, and considering just how much cheaper the Lenovo M10 Plus is, the value between this and the higher-end tablets is pretty much on par.
Amazon Fire HD 10
If you’re looking for a gaming tablet that’ll cost you as little as possible while still providing you with a decent gaming experience, then your best bet is the Amazon Fire HD 10. While the featured app store is incredibly restricted, you can install your own applications from a browser, and with HD resolution you should still find yourself having a good time with this tablet, all without much outlay on your part.
The Fire HD 10 features considerably less power than most of the other tablets we’ve featured for gaming, however the good thing about Android gaming is that there are plenty of games that can still be played on low-end devices. Combined with the use of services like Xbox Cloud Gaming or Geforce Now, you’ll be able to play even some high-end games on this device despite the weaker specs.
Another advantage to the Fire HD 10 is the fact that it’s much more likely to fit inside your pocket, especially if you have larger than normal pockets. It’s still a 10-inch screen like the Lenovo M10 plus but is slightly less wide, so you can probably just about jam it into your pocket without a case on it. Even if you want to avoid the risk of it falling out and smashing the floor, it’s very lightweight and can be easily carried inside a jacket or bag.
While you shouldn’t expect high-end gameplay, you can at least get a good game of Minecraft or Fortnite on the HD 10. Even better, this device makes a perfect emulation machine, so if you’re into retro gaming then you’ll find plenty on offer here. Thanks to the proliferation of mouse and keyboard peripherals, you can even emulate old microcomputers and DOS games, something much harder to do on many smartphones.
Overall, the biggest disadvantage to the Fire HD 10 is that the performance isn’t great for a lot of high-intensity gaming, and FireOS is a pretty restrictive operating system when it comes to customization. If you enable and install your own gaming apps from 3rd parties, then you’ll see there’s a decent gaming experience to be found on the Fire HD 10, especially for anyone who wants tablet gaming but on a budget.
There are some devices on the market that don’t quite fit the definition of a “tablet” as we understand it, but that are nonetheless great options for gaming on the go. Check out our honorable mentions on the list below.
It’s not impossible to make the argument that this is in fact a tablet. Technically it features a screen larger than most smartphones and is basically a flat computer, but it doesn’t feature a touchscreen and comes with quite a lot of physical controls built-in. So, this doesn’t quite qualify as a gaming tablet, but it is basically a handheld Windows 10 gaming PC, so at the very least you should consider this an option if you’re on the lookout for a new handheld gaming device. At least, you should consider it when it actually releases to retail over the next few weeks.
The biggest draw of the ONEXPLAYER is that it’s purpose-built to allow a PC gaming experience while you’re away from home. You can install anything you like on it that would also install on a regular Windows 10 PC, and games with controller support will just work natively.
The ONEXPLAYER features 12GB DDR4 RAM, an 8.4 inch 2560x1600 IPS display, and a choice of 3 different 11th Gen Intel processors. The processor you get is also tied to the size of the SSD inside, with the player coming in 512Gb, 1TB, and 2TB versions. No matter which one you go for, you can expect a high-end gaming experience with many modern games running in 1080p at least 60fps.
The main drawback here is availability. The ONEXPLAYER was launched via IndieGoGo, and while the company behind the device has said they plan on releasing it to retail very soon, there’s no confirmation of this availability just yet. As with any crowdfunded device, we’re also not 100% sure if the company will deliver on all of its promises, but it’s still an intriguing prospect that is worth checking out.
GPD Win 3
The GPD Win 3 is a very similar device to the ONEXPLAYER, but with a few key differences that make it worth mentioning. It’s a fair bit smaller, so should more easily fit into your pocket, and it also features a sliding screen that hides an actual physical keyboard which can be important if you run into trouble with your OS. Other than that, they’re very similar devices, although the Win 3 isn’t quite as powerful as its chunkier cousin.
Another important factor here is that while both devices are crowdfunded, GPD has successfully funded and shipped numerous products in the past, and they’ve always met with their advertised specs. On that front, you can at least be confident that GPD knows how to deliver on their promises, so the Win 3 is definitely a safer bet, and can actually still be purchased through the Indiegogo page.
How we Choose and Test Our Picks
When it comes to a new tablet PC, your choice should reflect your needs. Sure, you could pick up the cheapest tablet you could find and probably have fun with a few games, but if you’re going to simply get bored in a few months and stop using it then you’ll have wasted your money.
This list represents the best current options on the market for anyone looking for a true gaming experience on a tablet. Whether you prefer iOS, Windows, or Android, you’ll find something here that’ll suit your needs.
We’ve made sure to test all of the tablets we put in our lists rigorously. We’ve ensured that every tablet we write about will provide a decent gaming experience no matter how much they’re worth. If you need a tablet for another purpose, feel free to check out our other lists to ensure you’re making the right purchasing decision.
—————- Archived Gaming Tablets —————-
Nvidia Shield vs Acer Predator 8 Comparison
Now let’s try and find some differences, starting with the specs.
The first noticeable difference is the processor. The Nvidia’s Tegra K1 is a beast – getting such a goliath chip at this price is almost surreal. Its 2.2Ghz looks down on the Predator’s 1.6 like a supermodel looks down on a mere ‘model’.
The Predator 8 is perfectly capable of running most games with no lag, but when it comes to the top titles, to the most power-hungry new releases, the Nvidia is streets ahead. To continue my abysmal model analogy – the Shield has the brain of Imam (studied political science at the University of Nairobi and speaks five languages) while the Acer has the smarts of Miss Teen Carolina 2007.
The Nvidia Shield has already received an upgrade to Android 6.0 Marshmallow.
Both have the same amount of RAM (2GB) and identical screen stats – 8 inches with 283 pixels per inch. But the Acer has double the amount of in-built storage. That’s a big plus that could make a difference to some people.
Another slight difference comes with the cameras – the Shield wins this round thanks to a 5 megapixel front camera; the poor old Acer only gives us 2 MP. Is the camera really important on a gaming tablet? Not in my book!
The Predator is slightly lighter, which over four hours of gaming is going to be a plus. Some will find it more comfortable, too, with its rear-mounted grip pads. And on the bare stats it looks like the Predator also has the edge in terms of battery life.
While it’s true you can get over 8 hours of life with it, that stat goes out of the water when you actually play games on it. Like the Shield, after a few hours you’re going to have to plug it in if you want to keep gaming. I suppose we should give the Acer a slight edge in this section just for those times you’re using it for simple computing tasks – it will slightly outlast the Shield.
Are you an audiophile? Then you’ll appreciate the loudness of the Predator 8. Acer claim it’s the loudest tablet on the market, made possible by its 4 front-facing speakers.
Ultimately, the Shield K1 is superior in most of the ways that really count. It has games that have been specially optimised for it, like Portal and Half-Life 2. It will also let you stream PC games, the optional controller is ace, and the stylus is one of the best around.
I’d like to see Acer make some upgrades to the Predator range, because there’s a lot of potential there. For now, though, we’re packing it away, and powering up our Shields.