Best tablets for kids you can buy right now
Tablets are multi-functional, reasonably affordable computers that are used for work, play and learning. They're also great devices for children of all ages.
Children use tablets to read books, watch their favorite Netflix series, create music, edit videos, play games, write term papers, and so on. They don't need the latest and greatest iPad Pro, necessarily.
TechRadar has already offered its top 10 ranking of best tablets. But what of the best tablets for children? That depends, of course, on their age, interests, and your budget. We looked at quality, reputation, price, sturdiness, the range apps, and the unique strengths of each device. For toddlers, ruggedness matters more than in-app purchasing, obviously.
For your young adults in college, productivity applications and the availability of design and math software is crucial. For teens, like it or not, a tablet that's great for gaming and social media, and packed with the latest technology, are highly desired features.
Here are the best tablet for kids in each category, whether they want an iPad, Kindle or Android in 2016.
Best tablet for children ages 5-10
iPad Mini 2
A great tablet at a good price with every app your child needs
Weight: 331g | OS: iOS 9 | Screen size: 7.9-inch | Resolution: 1536 x 2048 | CPU: 1.5GHz | RAM: 1GB | Storage: 16/32/64/128GB | Battery: 6470mAh | Rear camera: 5MP | Front camera: 1.2MP
Though iPad Mini 2 came out in 2014, it's still a great tablet, particularly for children. The device is lightweight and perfectly sized for smaller hands, and it sports an amazing screen. Sure, it's been surpassed by the iPad Mini 3 and iPad Mini 4, but those added a few specs and design tweaks that your kids won't miss.
The iPad Mini 2 still runs on Apple's intuitive iOS 9.3 (soon to be iOS 10) platform, and there are tens of thousands of apps optimized for iPad, ranging from education to art to writing, reading and much more. It's not the cheapest tablet, but it should provide your young child everything they need in a tablet and with care, last them all through grade school.
Note: a close runner-up for best tablet for kids was the nabi DreamTab HD8. It costs close to $200, and includes a very strong protective cover, great screen, a digital stylus for drawing, and controls for parents to place time restrictions and block access to inappropriate content.
Read the full review: iPad Air 2
Best tablet for tweens (ages 10-12)
Samsung Galaxy Tab 4
A sleek, sophisticated and extremely precocious tablet
Weight: 278g | OS: Android 4.4 | Screen size: 7-inch | Resolution: 1280 x 800 | CPU: 1.2GHz | RAM: 1.5GB | Storage: 8GB (32gm microSD slot) | Battery: 4000mAh | Rear camera: 3MP | Front camera: 1.3MP
The Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 is a tweener device, one that is short on disk space and power, but is surprisingly capable. Offering a high-quality build and respectable display, the well-constructed tablet can run the many thousands of Android apps available. Plus, it's a great media tablet for young children and it's all at a price where ecosystem lock-in isn't a fear.
There's also a "Kids Mode," a more playful UI designed for younger children If your child is absolutely demanding a tablet, this is a great buy. Note: The 8GB drive will get eaten up fast with music, videos and pictures. Samsung typically offers a 32GB microSD card for about $15 – a must-buy.
Best tablet for teens (ages 13-17)
iPad Air 2
The best pure iPad may be the perfect at-home computer for teens
Weight: 437g | OS: iOS 9 | Screen size: 9.7-inch | Resolution: 2048 x 1536 | CPU: 1.2GHz | RAM: 1.5GB | Storage: 16/64/128 GB | Battery: 74340 | Rear camera: 8MP | Front camera: 1.2MP
Though a bit on the pricey side, the iPad Air 2 is an amazing tablet. Great for gaming and for watching movies, it's also capable of making movies, thanks to the 8MP camera which can shoot 1080p HD video, and the high-quality microphone.
The iPad Air 2 is fast, thin, and does just about everything a teen would demand from a tablet. Perfect for editing audio tracks, for FaceTime calls, for writing emails or outlining a paper, it's also a great lean-back device. iPad Air 2 is probably the one tablet that not even teen's can find something to complain about, and it's a nice stepping stone to the iPad Pro 9.7 if they chose to upgrade down the line.
Read the full review: iPad Air 2
Best tablet for toddlers
Amazon Kindle Fire 7 Kids Edition
Amazing price for a fully functional tablet
Weight: 313g | OS: Fire OS 5 (Android) | Screen size: 7-inch | Resolution: 1024 x 600 | CPU: 1.3GHz | RAM: 1GB | Storage: 8GB (128g microSD slot available) | Battery: 4400mAh | Rear camera: 2MP | Front camera: 0.3MP
The Amazon Kindle Fire 7 Kids Edition doesn't have the greatest specs. It uses Fire OS, Amazon's fork of Android. But, it's a remarkable device. For only $90, your child can have a well-constructed tablet that offers reasonable speed and access to thousands of free Android apps. Plus, if you're a member of Amazon Prime, the device includes thousands of free Kindle e-books, unlimited streaming of free Prime Music and Instant Video from Amazon. The online retailer even throws in a two-year warranty.
It's true the Fire 7 is available for only $50. But the extra $40 is worth it for parents of very young children. Amazon adds a protective bumper and a one-year subscription to FreeTime Unlimited, Amazon's curated media service that offers 10,000 free books, videos and educational games for children. There's also a two-year "worry free" guarantee.
Best tablet for college students
Microsoft Surface Book
The "ultimate laptop" is part tablet, part hybrid device, and probably the future of personal computers
Weight: 1,588g | OS: Windows 10 | Screen size: 13.5-inch | Resolution: 3000 x 2000 | CPU: 2.4GHz | RAM: 8.0GB | Storage: 128GB | Battery: 6800mAh | Rear camera: 8MP | Front camera: 5MP
If you think college is expensive, wait till you test drive Microsoft's new Surface Book, which will likely set you back around $1,499. Thing is, though, this machine can do just about everything a college student needs. It's a high-performance laptop, fully capable of running Windows, Office and the myriad software applications required for nearly any degree. It's also a tablet, which the student can take to class – and use the stylus to capture notes. It's a great gaming device and is suitable for leaning back to watch the latest Netflix series. With its capable front and rear cameras, there's also no excuse for avoiding video calls with the parents.
The few technical concerns are each very important to consider. The device is heavy for a tablet. And it's slightly underpowered compared to high-end pure laptops.
Read the full review: Surface Book
More tablet reviews
Don't see the best tablet for your child? That's okay, because we have plenty of other tablet reviews that didn't fit into our kid-focused recommendations.
We have sorted through all of the best tablets for grown ups - one that children or young adults with a bit more spending money and careful hands might enjoy, too.
Future-proofing your child's education is iPad Pro 12.9 and iPad Pro 9.7, two great examples of more serious tablets ready to run iOS 10 this Autumn, and Samsung Galaxy Tab S2, which will hopefully run Android N by year's end.
- Set on a tablet? Now see our best phones list