Girl on iPad

The Best Tablets for Travel in 2019

By Dave Dean Tablets2 Comments


Articles on this site contain affiliate links, meaning we may be compensated if you purchase a product or service after clicking them. Read our full disclosure policy here.

Tablets make a lot of sense for travelers. Entertainment, research, communication, and more are easily dealt with on a device that fits into a small bag and doesn’t have to cost a fortune. The last few months have seen the introduction of some exciting new models, and improvements to many others.

While most people who work while traveling are still better off with laptops, the line between those and high-end tablets is increasingly blurred. You can now buy tablets that will let you get real work done, while still being lighter and having better battery life than most laptops.

From low-cost models for watching movies and keeping the kids entertained to serious powerhouses that’ll handle any workload you throw at them, we’ve rounded up the options across the range.

Whatever your needs and budget look like, these are the best tablets for travel in 2019.

Best on a Budget: Amazon Fire HD 8

  • Size: 8.4 x 5.0 x 0.4 inches
  • Weight: 12.8 ounces
  • Battery Life: Up to 10 hours
  • Storage: 16 or 32GB, plus micro-SD slot
  • Runs on: Android (FireOS)

Best General-Purpose: Apple iPad

  • Size: 9.8 x 6.8 x 0.3 inches
  • Weight: 1.1 pounds
  • Battery Life: Up to 10 hours
  • Storage: 32 or 128GB
  • Runs on: iPadOS

Sale
Best for Lightweight Power: Huawei MediaPad M5

  • Size: 8.4 x 4.9 x 0.3 inches
  • Weight: 10.9 ounces
  • Battery Life: Up to 11 hours
  • Storage: 64GB + micro-SD slot
  • Runs on: Android

Best for Kids: Amazon Fire HD 8 Kids Edition

  • Size: 9.6 x 6.1 x 1.0 inches
  • Weight: 16.7 oz
  • Battery Life: Up to 12 hours
  • Storage: 32 GB, plus micro-SD slot
  • Runs on: Android (FireOS)

Sale
Best for Work and Play: Microsoft Surface Go

  • Size: 9.7 x 6.9 x 0.3 inches
  • Weight: 1.2 pounds, plus Type Cover
  • Battery Life: Up to 9 hours
  • Storage: 64 or 128GB, plus micro-SD slot
  • Runs on: Windows 10

Best for Battery: Lenovo Yoga Tab 4

  • Size: 9.7 x 6.7 x 0.3 inches
  • Weight: 10.9 ounces
  • Battery Life: Up to 20 hours
  • Storage: 32 or 64GB + micro-SD slot
  • Runs on: Android

Best for Serious Work: Microsoft Surface Pro 7

  • Size: 11.5 x 7.9 x 0.3 inches
  • Weight: 1.7 pounds, plus Type Cover
  • Battery Life: Up to 10.5 hours
  • Storage: Up to 1TB, plus microSD slot
  • Runs on: Windows

Best on a Budget: Amazon Fire HD 8

Fire HD 8 Tablet (8' HD Display, 16 GB) - Black

Amazon has dominated the low-cost tablet market for years, offering devices that are surprisingly useful for not much money. The Fire HD 8 is no exception, and if you’re on a budget, it’s the best mix of performance and price out there at the moment.

The 8.4″ display makes this model easy to carry, while still being big enough to comfortably watch movies on. While the 12080×800 resolution is relatively low these days, it’s fine for most purposes, and gives better battery life than higher-spec screens.

You’ll pay slightly more to double the inbuilt storage from 16 to 32GB, and it’s absolutely worth doing if you plan to download a few shows to watch on the plane, or install a bunch of games. There’s also a micro-SD slot on board, for adding extra storage if you need it.

Alexa voice assistant support is built in, and unusually for an inexpensive device, it’s unlikely to break the first time you drop it on the table. Still, as with any piece of electronics, it’s worth picking up a case for it before you head out on the road.

The biggest caveat? By default, there’s no access to the Google Play store. While most apps you’re likely to care about are available on the Amazon equivalent, it doesn’t have as wide a range, and you may find your favorite game or tool just isn’t available there.

Still, with up to 10 hours of battery life, and available in a range of colors, the Fire HD 8 is easily the best budget travel tablet in 2019. If you’re after something with a bigger screen, faster processor, and extra storage and battery life, take a look at the Fire HD 10 instead.

The Specs

  • Up to 10 hours
  • 8.4″ x 5.0″ x 0.4″ (214 mm x 128 mm x 9.7 mm)
  • 12.8 ounces (363 grams)
  • 8″ display, 1280 x 800 resolution
  • 16 or 32GB, plus micro-SD slot
Buy on Amazon

Best General-Purpose: Apple iPad

New Apple iPad (10.2-Inch, Wi-Fi, 32GB) - Space Gray (Latest Model)

Apple has dominated the tablet market since the first iPad, and continues to do so in 2019. After the company updated the specifications of the base model earlier this year, it remains the best general-purpose option for most travelers.

It’s fast and reliable, with a vibrant 10.2″ screen that’s not annoyingly reflective under bright light. While it’s not quite the slimmest or lightest iPad of this size that Apple has ever produced, the size and weight isn’t something you’ll complain about.

Battery life is fine at ten hours, and while the design looks a little dated in 2019, it’s not enough that you feel you’re buying old technology.

Like most tablets, camera quality is mediocre at best, but using a device this size as your main camera is a bad idea anyway. In the rare case you do need to take a photo with it, it’ll be ok in good lighting, and awful otherwise.

The standard model is Wi-Fi only, but there’s also a version with LTE support that you can drop a local SIM card in for cheap access to cellular data as you travel.

A strong selling point of any iPad is access to the App Store, with its vast array of quality apps and games. Most are available on Google’s Play Store as well, but you’ll still tend to get the better apps first on iOS.

New this year is support for the Apple Smart Keyboard. Although you’ll need to buy it separately, it opens up new opportunities for doing at least light work from the road without having to pay double for the iPad Pro.

There are better options if you’re on a budget, or have more intensive work requirements, but for general travel use, it’s hard to fault the latest iPad.

The Specs

  • Up to 10 hours
  • 9.8″ x 6.8″ x 0.3″ (240 mm x 170 mm x 8 mm)
  • 1.07 pounds (483 grams)
  • 10.2″ display, 2160 x 1620 resolution
  • 32GB or 128GB
Buy on Amazon

Best for Lightweight Power: Huawei MediaPad M5

Huawei MediaPad M5 Tablet with 8.4' 2.5D Display, Octa Core, Quick Charge, Dual Harman Kardon-Tuned Speakers, WiFi Only, 4Gb+64Gb, Space Gray (US Warranty)

Huawei is known for making attractive, powerful mobile devices at reasonable prices, and the MediaPad M5 is no exception. It’s available in both 8.4″ and 10.8″ versions, but the smaller version is most impressive due to the amount of technology packed inside.

While the Kirin 960 chipset isn’t the fastest version the company produces, it’s more than quick enough for everything from gaming to watching HD video. That’s helped by the 4GB of RAM onboard, along with 64GB of storage. There’s also a micro-SD slot for adding more.

Both the front 8MP camera and the rear 13MP version are surprisingly non-awful for a tablet. While there should still be some kind of law against taking photos with a tablet, if you’re going to do it, the M5 is one of the better devices to use.

The gorgeous screen is the M5’s standout feature, though. Bright and vibrant, the display is extremely clear due to the pairing of a small 8.4″ screen with a super-high 2560×1600 resolution. Throw a couple of Harmon Kardon speakers into the mix as well, and you’ve got the perfect device for watching movies on the go.

A large 5100mAh battery rounds out the mix, and you’ll get up to 11 hours of video watching out of it. The included charger can get you from flat to full in as little as two hours, which is good for a tablet of any size.

Nowhere near as impressive, however, is the lack of a headphone jack. On phones it’s usually done for reasons of space and water-resistance, but since neither of those apply here, it’s an odd decision. There’s Bluetooth, and a 3.5mm adapter in the box, but we’d still rather have the jack.

Other than that misstep, though, there’s little not to like about this lightweight powerhouse. If you’re looking for a small tablet that can handle anything you ask of it on your travels, you’ve found it here.

The Specs

  • Up to 11 hours
  • 8.4″ x 4.9″ x 0.3″ (213 mm x 124 mm x 7.6 mm)
  • 10.9 ounces (363 grams)
  • 8.4″ display, 2560 x 1600 resolution
  • 64GB, plus micro-SD slot
Buy on Amazon

Best for Kids: Amazon Fire HD 8 Kids Edition

Fire HD 8 Kids Edition Tablet, 8' HD Display, 32 GB, Blue Kid-Proof Case

The sheer volume of games, apps, and shows aimed at kids is incredible. If you’re traveling with junior members of the family, there’ll likely be times you’re very happy about that fact.

While it’s all accessible on almost any phone or tablet you like, several companies make add-ons or specific versions of their products that are particularly kid-friendly.

Never ones to miss an opportunity, Amazon’s done exactly that, with a solid mix of hardware, software, and services that nudge it into first place in this category.

The size of the Fire HD 8 is ideal for little hands, and the same things that make the standard version our budget pick — 10-hour battery life, 32GB storage, low pricing — make it a great option for kids as well.

The most noticeable difference with the Kids Edition is the colorful (and very durable) bumper case that wraps around the tablet to protect it from drops, and there’s a lengthy two-year replacement guarantee for when even that isn’t enough.

On the software side, Amazon has built in the ability to restrict content to only things that are age-appropriate, along with usage limits, and lets you manage those settings either on the device or via a remote dashboard.

There’s also a year of Freetime Unlimited, Amazon’s service that provides access to 15,000+ movies, books, games, and educational apps for 3-12 year olds.

The company also markets 7″ and 10″ versions of its Kids Edition tablets, but the 8″ offers the best mix of price and specifications. Especially given the price, it’s the ideal option for traveling kids.

The Specs

  • Up to 12 hours
  • 9.6″ x 6.1″ x 1.0″ (244 mm x 155 mm x 26 mm)
  • 16.7 oz (474 grams)
  • 8″ display, 1280 x 800 resolution
  • 32GB, plus micro-SD slot
Buy on Amazon

Best for Work & Play: Microsoft Surface Go

New Microsoft Surface Go (Intel Pentium Gold, 8GB RAM, 128GB)

Microsoft’s Surface Go is an interesting device. With a 10″ screen and sub-$400 starting price, it sounds very much like a normal tablet… until you realise it runs Windows 10.

The Pentium Gold processor inside the Go isn’t going to set any speed records in 2019, but you can still run the majority of Windows apps, and even play a few basic games, without the machine becoming unusably slow.

The optional keyboard cover is surprisingly enjoyable to type on, and includes a trackpad so you’re not reduced to poking the screen at arm’s length. Battery life is rated at up to nine hours, and you’ll likely get around six or seven in the real world.

It’s an attractive device, with the build quality and bright, colorful 1800×1200 display both much better than you’d expect from any Windows machine at this price point. Since storage is limited, being able to add a micro-SD card is very welcome, since it’s the perfect place to dump photos, TV shows, and other stuff you need occasional access to on the road.

The adjustable kickstand makes the Go equally useful whether you’re writing emails, watching movies on the plane, or reading in bed, and if you buy the Surface Pen, it’s a pretty good graphics tablet as well. It runs Windows 10 S out of the box, which can only access apps from the Windows store, but there’s a one-way upgrade to Windows 10 Home available.

So what’s not to like? The price tag, mostly. Sure, it starts at $349, but for that you’ll only get the base version with 4GB of RAM and 64GB of slow storage, and no Type cover.

Those specs aren’t enough to run anything but the most basic of Windows apps, and if you’re planning on using it only as a tablet without keyboard or trackpad, you’d be better off buying an iPad.

By the time you make it a good productivity machine, with a keyboard and double the RAM and storage, you’ll have spent closer to $600. That’s not unreasonable for a machine of this quality, but it’s a fair jump from that starting price.

There’s nothing else quite like it on the market, though, and that’s why it’s still easy to recommend. If you’re after an attractive, lightweight machine that does double duty as an entertainment device and true productivity tool, it’s very much worth a look.

The Specs

  • Up to 9 hours
  • 9.7″ x 6.9″ x 0.3″ (245 mm x 175 mm x 8.3 mm)
  • 1.15 pounds (522 g), not including Type Cover
  • 10″ display, 1800 x 1200 resolution
  • 64GB eMMC or 128GB SSD, plus micro-SD slot
Buy on Amazon

Best for Battery: Lenovo Yoga Tab 4

Lenovo Tab 4, 10.1' Android Tablet, Quad-Core Processor, 1.4GHz, 2GB RAM, 32GB Storage, Slate Black, ZA2J0143US

Just after an inexpensive tablet that does the basics well and will get you through a long-haul flight without complaint? Lasting up to 20 hours between charges, and with most versions costing under $200, the Lenovo Yoga Tab 4 ticks all the right boxes.

The tablet is available in a few different configurations, ranging from an 8″ model with 2GB of RAM and 16GB of storage, all the way through to a 4GB/64GB “Plus” model with a faster processor, more storage, high-resolution 10″ screen, and LTE.

We’d recommend a model with at least a 10″ screen and 32GB of storage — most cost little more than the cheapest version, and you’ll get much more use out of them.

Don’t expect blistering performance from the non-Plus versions, but they’ll handle most entertainment tasks just fine and last forever while they do it. If you need more storage, there’s a micro-SD slot available, and a fingerprint scanner built into the power button.

Some of the Tab 4’s specifications are looking a bit dated in late 2019, but when it comes to battery life, it’s still right at top of the pile.

The Specs

  • Up to 20 hours
  • 9.7″ x 6.7″ x 0.3″ (245 mm x 170 mm x 8 mm)
  • 10.9 ounces (309 grams)
  • 9.7″ display, 1280×800 or 1920×1080 resolution
  • 16, 32GB, or 64GB, plus micro-SD slot
Buy on Amazon

Best for Serious Work: Microsoft Surface Pro 7

Surface Pro 7

As good as Microsoft’s Surface Go (above) is, you’ll soon hit some limitations if you’re a full-time road warrior.

The screen is a bit small to look at for several hours at a time, the battery life is a couple of hours too short, and you’ll notice the slow CPU as soon as you fire up Photoshop or have several tabs open in your browser.

If you want a tablet that can be a complete laptop replacement, you’ll need to step up to the Go’s big brother, the Surface Pro. With Windows 10 Pro and the latest generation processors, and configurable up to 16GB of RAM and 1TB of storage, performance is the match of any other travel-sized Windows laptop.

The 12.3″ screen is a more appropriate size for working on all day, and at up to 10.5 hours, battery life is noticeably longer. There’s both a USB-C and older USB-A port for plugging in your accessories, a welcome inclusion at a time when manufacturers seem to be in a hurry to rip the latter out entirely.

The typing experience remains enjoyable, even more than the Go for long typing stints since it’s closer to being a full-size keyboard, and it’s significantly lighter than almost any standard laptop on the market.

Just like the Go, the Surface Pro is relatively expensive for what it is, especially since the keyboard cover still isn’t included by default. Yet again, though, there’s nothing else out there with the same mix of performance, weight, and usefulness — its few competitors are similarly priced, but just don’t perform as well.

The i5 version of the Surface Pro 7 with 8GB of RAM and 256GB is the sweet spot of performance versus price, and what we’d recommend for most people.

The Specs

  • Up to 10.5 hours
  • 11.5″ x 7.9″ x 0.3″ (292 mm x 201 mm x 8.5 mm)
  • 1.7 pounds (770 g), not including Type Cover
  • 12.3″ display, 2736 x 1824 resolution
  • 128GB, 256GB, 512GB, or 1TB (plus micro-SD slot)

Buy from Microsoft


Main image via cuncon, other images via respective manufacturers.

About the Author
Dave Dean

Dave Dean

Facebook Twitter

Founder and editor of Too Many Adapters, Dave has been a traveler for 20 years, and a geek for even longer. When he's not playing with the latest tech toy or working out how to keep his phone charged for just a few more minutes, he can probably be found sitting in a broken-down bus in some obscure corner of the planet.

Comments

  1. Avatar

    Travel tablets: too many sizes! This year I’m traveling w iPad Pro 10.5 which I justified as a mobile drawing/painting tool via Procreate. I’ve been using it for browsing, movies, podcasts on the road as well. Apple never really considered how to hold the damn thing. The key board is meant to sit on a desk. In that case you might as well have a travel laptop: bigger screen, full operating system, ports (I wish). Lying in bed trying to hand hold the slippery 11 inch slab is tiring and awkward. And puts the screen a bit too close to the face. As a travel media consumption device, an 8 inch tablet is way better size. If held close screen is big enough to be immersive. Lighter and less tiring to hold. I’m actually psyched about Note 10+ size. I wonder if the 6.8 inch display might not be the perfect travel size. Paired with a Windows laptop (or Dex or something) for productivity, Samsung may have finally hit on ideal combo for travel. What do you guys think?

  2. Dave Dean Author

    Yes, agreed about the iPad Pro 10.5. I think it’s a great piece of technology for certain uses, especially for creatives, but it’s close to the size of a small laptop without many of the benefits. It’s definitely big and unwieldy to hold for long periods.

    We’ve been recommending 7-8″ tablets as the best option for a long time, but they’re increasingly hard to find — most companies have gone up to 9-10″, if they still make tablets at all.

    A Note 10+ wouldn’t work well for me personally — it’s too big for me to want to carry as a phone full-time, but still relatively small as a tablet. If any companies eventually get foldables right (not looking great so far!), that might end up being a good compromise option for travelers if they’re light enough. Big maybe at this stage.

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.