Tablets with the best screens

Screen quality is a critical ingredient of a great tablet.

Color, saturation, and contrast are only a few factors that contribute to a great tablet screen. Sarah Tew/CNET

The importance of a tablet's screen quality cannot be understated. The vast majority of your interactions with a given tablet take place on its display.

When it comes to qualifying the best, there's more to the screen quality of a tablet than meets the eye -- proverbially speaking. There's a lot of focus on high resolutions and pixels per inch (PPI) and, although these are important, there are other components that contribute to the overall quality of a screen. Brightness and black levels, as well as color accuracy and range, are all equally important factors to consider.

We've rounded up the tablets with the best screens, taking into consideration the various traits that together make Netflix binges and Angry Birds marathons even more hypnotizing and visually immersive. This list is updated as new tablets come out.

If you want a portable tablet for work or school, the Windows 8.1-equipped Lenovo ThinkPad 8 makes a great on-the-go option. Sarah Tew/CNET

Lenovo ThinkPad 8
Windows 8.1 tablets are great for productivity, but if you need something more portable than the Microsoft Surface 2, Lenovo's ThinkPad 8 is a top compact candidate. The 8.3-inch slate packs a supersharp screen, 64GB of internal storage, and various ports for connectivity options -- all in a slim and trim package. The ThinkPad 8 doesn't include a stylus, and it's a bit more expensive than other 8-inch Windows 8.1 options, but it's still currently one of the best in its category. Read the full review.

The Nexus 7 continues to be the best small tablet for the money. Josh Miller/CNET

Google Nexus 7 (2013)
Google's Nexus 7 was one of the first small tablets to offer great performance and a comfortable build for an affordable price; however it has more competition these days. The 2013 model offers an Amazon Kindle Fire HDX 7-matching 1,920x1,200-pixel resolution and 323 ppi. The 7-incher also runs pure Android and gets the latest updates, thanks to being a Google-branded slate. Though it's hardware isn't as cutting-edge as it was when it was released, its fair price keeps it relevant. Read the full review.

The iPad Mini Retina packs more pixels than the Amazon Kindle Fire HDX and the Google Nexus 7. Sarah Tew/CNET

Apple iPad Mini Retina
The Apple iPad Mini Retina is the smallest member of the iPad family, yet it can still hold its own in the tablet market. The 7.9-inch Mini features a 2,048x1,536-pixel resolution and is unsurprisingly a razor-sharp stunner. Its range of color isn't as wide as the Apple iPad Air's (spoiler alert!), but its 326 ppi is higher than that of the Google Nexus 7 and Amazon Kindle Fire HDX 7. Read the full review.

Perfect for binge watching your favorite shows, as long as you don't accidentally exit yourself mid-episode. Josh Miller/CNET

Samsung Galaxy Tab Pro 8.4
The Samsung Galaxy Tab Pro 8.4 is currently one of the most pixel-dense tablets available. As an 8.4-incher, it's smaller than the Amazon Kindle Fire HDX 8.9, yet it matches the Kindle with a 2,560x1,600-pixel-resolution and boasts a higher 359 ppi. The Galaxy Tab Pro 8.4 is also a smooth performer and packed to the brim with Samsung software extras. What's not to like? The capacitive buttons on the bottom bezel are easily triggered when holding the tablet in landscape mode, and its $399 price tag might dissuade some shoppers -- though it's the same price as the iPad Mini (above). Read the full review.

Apple's iPad Air.
Apple's Air packs all of the iPad appeal in a super-thin and sleek package. Josh Miller/CNET

Apple iPad Air
Despite its name, the iPad Air is a tablet heavy-hitter. In addition to donning Apple's crisp Retina Display, it offers low black levels, high contrast, and precise color accuracy. The iPad Air's superlight build, speedy performance, and signature sleek design give it the must-have appeal iPads are known for. Read the full review.

The Kindle Fire HDX 8.9 is one of the most pixel-dense tablets. Josh Miller/CNET

Amazon Kindle Fire HDX 8.9
Now that your Amazon Prime membership has increased, the Kindle Fire HDX 8.9 is the best tablet to take advantage of those membership perks. It was recently dethroned as the most pixel-dense slate by the Samsung Galaxy Tab Pro 8.3, but it has a brighter screen and more accurate color reproduction. For its competitive price, the impressively sharp screen, light design, and zippy performance make it the complete package for Amazon Prime members. Read the full review.

Read the full CNET Review

iPad Mini (with Retina Display)

The Bottom Line: The new iPad Mini somehow shrinks down the iPad Air into an even more compact package, sacrificing nearly nothing. It's more expensive than before, but it's also the perfect smaller tablet. / Read full review

Read the full CNET Review

Amazon Kindle Fire HDX 8.9

The Bottom Line: With everything that was great about the HDX 7 and more, the Amazon Kindle Fire HDX 8.9 isn't just a great value, it sets the standard for a media consumption tablet. / Read full review

Read the full CNET Review

Apple iPad Air

The Bottom Line: Functionally, the iPad Air is nearly identical to last year’s model, offering only faster performance and better video chatting. But factor in design and aesthetics, and the iPad Air is on another planet. It’s the best full-size consumer tablet on the market. / Read full review

Read the full CNET Review

Google Nexus 7 (16GB, 2013)

The Bottom Line: Thanks to its stellar performance and affordable price, the Nexus 7 is the Android tablet to get. / Read full review

Read the full CNET Review

Amazon Kindle Fire HDX 7

The Bottom Line: Armed with a powerful processor and Amazon's exhaustive content library, the Kindle Fire HDX delivers incredible value for its price, especially for Amazon Prime members. / Read full review

About the author

Eric Franklin is a section editor covering how to and tablets. He's also co-host of CNET's do-it-yourself and how-to show, The Fix and is a 20-year tech industry veteran.

Xiomara Blanco is an associate editor for CNET Reviews. She's a Bay Area native with a knack for tech that makes life easier and more enjoyable. So, don't expect her to review printers anytime soon.



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