The humble tablet has seamlessly transitioned from a fun plaything to a serious business tool in recent years, with powerful processors, extensive app stores, and keyboard support increasing their functionality.
In fact, in 2021, there’s very little that is done on a laptop or desktop PC that can’t also be replicated on a tablet – provided you choose the right one, of course. Now, with many of us adapting to working between home and the office, that's more vital than ever before. We think that the iPad Pro or the Microsoft Surface Pro 7 are the best tablets for business users, although which model in the range to plump for will depend on your budget.
It’s not all about Microsoft and Apple, though. We’ve also picked out Google and Samsung models that will serve you equally well; these will provide you with a lightweight alternative to a traditional laptop, with excellent battery life and versatility.
We’ve also tackled some of the major questions that you have about business tablets, such as whether or not they can run Microsoft Office, and if you should get a compatible keyboard too (the answer to that one being a resounding “yes”).
Which is the Best Business Tablet?
There’s no shortage of tablets out there, but not all are created equal – and they certainly aren’t all suitable for serious business users. We’ve picked out a selection of the best below:
- Apple iPad Pro – Pick the 11-inch model for office business use, the 12.9-inch model for design
- Microsoft Surface Pro 7 – A premium Windows tablet that's ideal for business user
- Samsung Galaxy Tab S7 – A fantastic Android business tablet
- Apple iPad Air – A compromise compare to the Pro, but an excellent tablet
- Microsoft Surface Go 2 – The budget Windows 10 tablet
Any of these tablets would be a great choice for business use. But, with prices running higher than a standard consumer model, it's worth being extra canny with your money. Below, we explain the pros and cons of each of these models.
Measured diagonally across.
In pixels - the higher the number, the greater the screen detail.
As claimed by the manufacturer – actual performance will vary depending on daily tasks.
The built in storage space for files, programs, apps and the operating system
More RAM tends to help a computer to run quickly and multitask
iPad Pro 11
iPad Pro 12.9
Microsoft Surface Pro 7
Samsung Galaxy Tab S6
Microsoft Surface Go 2
Google Pixel Slate
An exceptional tablet, and cheaper than the top-of-the-range 12.9 inch iPad Pro. The screen is glorious and there's plenty of processing power
The absolute best iPad that money can buy, with a price tag to match. Pair it with the Magic Keyboard and it truly is a laptop alternative.
A tablet first and foremost, but a versatile one that isn't modest in its specs, even if the essential-feeling keyboard is an optional extra
One of the best Android tablets business users can choose, with a powerful processor, a great screen and an S Pen included
This is a thin, gorgeous tablet with a great processor, but there's very little to justify the price jump compared to the excellent iPad 10.2
Microsoft's cheapest Surface model, and a perfectly decent tablet. But the keyboard is a necessary extra expense for the Windows experience.
A powerful tablet from Google, running Chrome OS. To be a true business device, it still needs that extra keyboard purchase, however
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Best For: Demanding business users
The iPad Pro is Apple’s premium tablet, and you can get a lot done with it – whether you’re an accountant or a graphic designer, the iPad Pro will likely be the only device you need. Under the hood is Apple’s most powerful iPad processor to date, the M1 chip, and the 11 or 12.9-inch display sizes give it a clear advantage over other tablets for those who like their screens on the larger side.
Is the iPad Pro good for business?
Surely the clue is in the name – the Pro version of the iPad is marketed for professionals, and it has looks and power to match. If you're buying your own, you may balk at the cost. But, if your IT department is treating you to one of these, you'll be getting jealous glances from across the conference room.
Arguably, the latest iPad Pro is a little overpowered for some business needs – if you just need something for email, Slack, and the occasional spreadsheet, you can get by with the iPad Air (or even the basic iPad 10.2). But, if you need a bit more power for more intensive tasks, this is the model for you.
We’ll admit it isn’t cheap – the 11-inch Pro starts at $799 – and you’ll need to add in the cost of the keyboard (another $179). Last years iPadOS update only made it more appealing, adding mouse support, keyboard shortcuts, and a new home screen. With improvements like this, the iPad is securing its place as a genuine MacBook alternative.
Verdict: A fantastic tablet for your business, no matter what your business does
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- Powerful M1 processor
- Slim and light
- USB-C port
- Cheaper than the 12.9
- No headphone jack
- A bit small for designers
- Most powerful iPad yet
- Slim and light
- Apple M1 chip
- Perfect size for designers
- No headphone jack
Surface Pro 7
Best For: Non-Apple users looking for a laptop alternative
Microsoft has been looking for its iPad killer for years now, and the Surface Pro 7 is as close as it's gotten so far. With some impressive specs, lots of power, and a crystal clear screen, you're getting a lot of bang for your buck, particularly if you opt for one of the cheaper models and forego the many accessories available to fill out the experience.
Thanks to a chipset that can go all the way up to an 8th-gen Intel i7, should you feel like splashing out on the top-of-the-line model, there's plenty of power in the Pro 7. No need to worry about it struggling under the weight of graphics-intensive presentations or the biggest of spreadsheets.
Microsoft Surface Pro 7 accessories
Unfortunately, the Microsoft Surface Pro 7 isn't much without the accessories, and that's its one downfall. The keyboard case alone costs an extra $150, while the stylus and the mouse could run you nearly $100 each. You can find alternatives online for much cheaper, but you'll be missing out on the full-on Microsoft Surface experience, which is a sacrifice in and of itself.
Rumor is that a new Surface Pro is to be announced this fall, but for now, the Surface Pro 7 is the best Microsoft tablet you can buy.
Verdict: An excellent tablet for any business, as long as you have the budget for accessories
Surface Pro 7
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- Detailed and clear screen
- USB-C port
- Excellent peripheral support
- Need accessories for full experience
- Battery life acceptable, not outstanding
Galaxy Tab S7
Best For: Android loyalists in need of versatility
There isn't much room at the top for a non-iPad/Surface in the tablet wars, but Samsung is doing its best to compete. The Galaxy Tab S7 improves on its long linage of previous Tab S models, by bolster power and battery, naturally, but also offers 5G connectivity this time around.
Size wise, it offers the same screen dimensions as the entry-level iPad Pro at 11-inches, but the Tab S7+ gives you a little more screen space with a 12.4-inch display. The S7+ also a larger battery, although RAM, storage and processor options are the same across both the S7 and S7+.
One neat feature of Samsung's Tab S7, is DeX, which is the brands bespoke laptop-like interface. With this option, the tablet has a proper desktop interface, and can also be connected to a monitor, for a more traditional PC experience. It's also possible to add a mouse and keyboard.
Samsung Galaxy Tab S7 Accessories
Unlike most models on this list, the Galaxy Tab S7 includes an accessory free of charge: the updated S Pen. Unfortunately, the keyboard isn't included, which is arguably the more necessary accessory — and it'll cost you a pretty penny ($200) to add it to your order. Still, the device will cost you less than even the cheapest iPad pPro, making paying out for the keyboard much easier to swallow.
Verdict: A respectable alternative in the iPad/Surface two-party system
Galaxy Tab S6
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- Stylus included in box
- DeX feature makes it a laptop competitor
- Detailed 10.5-inch AMOLED display
- Keyboard costs extra
Best For: Those on a budget that also want some power
If you can’t stretch to the iPad Pro, consider the Air instead. It may not be quite as powerful, with its A12 chip instead of the Pro’s A12X, but for a $300 saving (at least), it’s a hard compromise to turn down. While you might be eyeing up the standard iPad 10.2 for an even cheaper Apple solution, we think the Air pips it, thanks to its support for Apple’s Smart Keyboard.
Is the iPad Air good for business users?
Absolutely – while the iPad Pro has the all-important ‘Pro' right there in the name, the iPad Air can more than satisfy the requirements of most professional users. It's slim and light, making it easy to carry to work or take between meetings. The processor will make it a breeze to open documents and multi-task. And the accessories (sold separately, of course) will let you tailor it into a laptop replacement.
You’ll appreciate the battery life too, with the Air netting you around 10 hours between recharges – more than enough juice for a work day, plus overtime (or unwinding with Netflix at the end of the day). That 10.5-inch Retina screen also gives you a little more display space than other tablets.
Unsure on whether to opt for the Pro or the Air? Read our dedicated iPad guide
Verdict: A great choice for the everyday business tablet
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- Compatible with Apple Pen and Smart Keyboard
- 10.9 inch screen
- Cheaper than the iPad Pro
- Pricier than the similar 10.2-inch iPad
- No additional ports
Microsoft Surface Go 2
Best For: Business on a budget
The Microsoft Surface Go 2 is the cheaper, less powerful alternative to the Surface Pro 6. We’ll admit that it’s no powerhouse, but starting at $400, it would be churlish to criticize it for that. If you’re mainly after a tablet for day-to-day activities, and you’re not looking to do anything too demanding, the Surface Go 2 is a great alternative to a laptop.
Is the Surface Go 2 good for business users?
Sure it is. This isn't the slimmest or most powerful tablet in Microsoft's Surface range, not by far – but it will certainly do the job, and costs a lot less than the Surface Pro 7 or older Pro 6.
For Microsoft Office duties, social media and email, it’ll do the job just fine. Add a keyboard and mouse (and touch pen too if you like), and you’ve got yourself a neat little device.
Verdict: A cheap way to switch to a tablet
Surface Go 2
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- Great entry price
- Modest specs make it best for casual users
- Compatible with keyboard and pen peripherals
- USB-C port
- Keyboard is an optional extra
Should I Get a Tablet for Business?
A few years ago, the answer to this question would have been a resounding no – or at least, it wouldn’t have been recommended without a laptop on standby too. Now though, the line between tablet and laptop is becoming increasingly blurred. All of the tablets we’ve recommended above are keyboard compatible, and some also have mouse support. The iPad range is rolling out its iPadOS update later in the year, which makes the tablet more like a laptop than ever.
Tablets can offer everything your laptop can do, but in a more compact form, and usually with better battery life. However, it’s worth considering a couple of elements before throwing your laptop in the trash for good. Do you need to run any specialist software for your business, and is it supported on tablet platforms? Ditto for hardware – do you need to connect to any particular devices? Tablets are pretty flexible when it comes to peripherals, but they’ll never match the versatility of a laptop.
How Much Does a Business Tablet Cost?
The cost of a business laptop really depends on what you need to use it for. At the lower end, you can get away with something like an iPad 9.7-inch if you don’t need to run any demanding software. These start at $329, but naturally, you’ll need to add in the cost of a keyboard too.
At the top end, a business tablet can run you over $1,000+, plus that additional keyboard cost. However, if you’re talking about a vital bit of business kit – something that lets you run or work for your company efficiently on a daily basis – we think it’s a small price to pay.
Yes, we know that you can get tablets cheaper – you could go out right now and buy one for under $100. However, your experience is likely to be poor, and you’ll be left with an underpowered, disappointing slate that hinders you, rather than helping you. Don’t scrimp on the cost of a tablet: if you pick well, a really good one will become another essential member of your team.
Do I Need a Keyboard for a Business Tablet?
Yes. We may sometimes overlook the humble keyboard, but go without one for a few hours, and you’ll soon learn to appreciate it. Not only is typing on a screen not very comfortable for a long period of time, it also means that the display real estate is half occupied by the virtual keyboard.
Not only that, but many keyboards also double as a stand for the tablet itself, propping it up and emulating a laptop design. Not many tablets come with a keyboard out of the box, and for a decent one, you’re looking at around $100. With that said, we really do recommend it if you’re serious about making a tablet your main business device.
Which Tablets Can Run Microsoft Office?
All of them! That’s right – you don’t need to buy a Windows 10 tablet to have access to everyone’s favorite office suite. While Microsoft used to be fairly protective of its software in the past, in recent years it has seen the logic of opening it up to as many people as possible, meaning that you can now download the Office app on Android, and even Apple tablets.
As is the case with Microsoft Office on any platform, you’ll need to sign up for a subscription to make full use of the software.
Should You Get a Data Plan?
Wifi points are pretty ubiquitous these days, especially if you’re in a populated location, but if you absolutely rely on an internet connection to carry out your business, a data plan is a good investment. There are two ways to tackle this – firstly, you can choose to pick up a tablet with a dedicated SIM-card slot. Be aware that these tend to be more expensive than those without: for example, there’s a $150 difference between the wifi iPad Pro model and the cellular model.
A cheaper way to tackle the problem is to tether your mobile to your tablet, and use your existing data plan. There’s a few caveats to this – you’ll always need to have your phone with you, and you’ll be using up your phone’s data allowance – but for those that need to connect to the internet without wifi sporadically, it can be a smart move.
Can You Get Business Tablet Deals?
As with most business buying, you’re most likely to get a discount if you’re buying in bulk. Kitting out your entire office with tablets? You’re bound to be able to strike a deal, either with the manufacturer directly or via a reseller. Pick up the phone and ask for a quote, and feel free to ask for a little movement if you’re not happy with the price.
For smaller companies however, there’s less chance of making a saving, especially if you’re just after one tablet. In this case, it’s worth keeping an eye on seasonal sales like Black Friday, and buying at the right time.
Can You Set Admin Rights on a Business Tablet?
If you’re a sole owner of a business, then you probably won’t be too worried about administrative rights. However, if you work in a large company and want a little more control over what your staff can access and change on a tablet, then you’ll be pleased to hear that it is possible to set different levels of access with administrative rights on all the main platforms.
The actual method for doing so varies slightly for each one. For example, Apple has its dedicated Apple Business Manager portal, which gives administrators granular control over company devices via the cloud.
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