If you're still thinking of tablets as strictly for media consumption, games and email, it's time to take a fresh look at what the latest models can do. Sure, they're still great for entertainment, but they can also function as simple laptops for getting home office tasks done, too.
Disclaimer: CNET may get a share of revenue from the sale of the products featured on this page.
If you're buying for an Apple fan, you'll have to stick with the company's iPads ($299 at Amazon). The good news there is there tends to be quite a few good deals on them during the holiday shopping season. Those serious about getting work done, though, should consider something from Microsoft's Surface line or similar tablets running Windows 10 ($109 at Amazon). And be sure to factor in the cost of a keyboard cover if you want to type; most are sold separately and cost upward of $100.
And don't forget about Android tablets. They're great for entertainment and can be significantly cheaper than both their Apple and Windows counterparts.
Apple iPad (9.7-inch, 2018)Sarah Tew/CNET
Apple's entry-level iPad is the best iPad for most people. The 2018 version has a faster processor and support for the Apple Pencil, which lets you write and draw on the screen with great accuracy. It's otherwise the same as the 2017 model, so if you find that one at a good price this holiday season, it's certainly worth your consideration.
Microsoft Surface GoSarah Tew/CNET
It might be Microsoft's littlest Surface tablet, but it has the same great Surface design and accessories as the larger Pro and at a lower price. Running full Windows 10, you can use it for the same stuff you would any basic laptop and also use regular desktop apps (i.e., not mobile).
Samsung Galaxy Tab S4Sarah Tew/CNET
Samsung's premium Android tablet has a great screen and big sound for entertainment. Combine it with its keyboard cover and you've got a decent little laptop, too. You can go a step further and connect it to an external display and launch Samsung's DeX interface that gives you a desktop-like experience.
Amazon Fire HD 8 (2018)
For pure entertainment purposes (and shopping, too, naturally), it's tough to beat Amazon's Fire tablets. The HD 8 splits the difference between the company's compact entry-level 7-inch model and top-end 10-inch Fire HD 10 ($100 at Amazon), which can be a bit awkward to hold. The latest version adds hands-free Alexa access, so you can shout commands at it to do everything from buy toilet paper to turn on your lights.
Amazon Fire 7 Kids EditionSarah Tew/CNET
The kid-friendly edition of Amazon's Fire tablets are no different on the outside or inside than its other models. What's different is what it comes with: One year of Amazon FreeTime Unlimited, a kid-proof case and a two-year worry-free guarantee. FreeTime Unlimited gives your kids access to thousands of apps, videos and books that have been curated by age groups. The Fire 7 ($50 at Amazon) is a good size for travel and smaller hands, but if you want a bigger screen with higher resolution, the Fire HD 8 and HD 10 are also available in kid-friendly versions.
Google Pixel SlateSarah Tew/CNET
Google's 12.3-inch tablet follows in the same vein as Microsoft's Surface Pro models, walking the line between a tablet and a laptop. However, it's running on the company's web-based Chrome OS, so along with apps from the Chrome Web Store it can run Android apps from Google Play as well as Linux apps.
Microsoft Surface Pro 6Sarah Tew/CNET
Laptop performance in a tablet doesn't get better than the Surface Pro 6. It hasn't changed much from last year's model, though there is a new matte-black color and a quad-core Intel processor that pushes it past the competition as well as its predecessor. Unfortunately, the keyboard cover and active pen are not included.
Lenovo Miix 520Sarah Tew/CNET
While Microsoft's Surface Pro is our go-to for a Windows 10 tablet PC, Lenovo's Miix line is a close second. The tablet is less expensive than the Surface, has good performance and battery life for the category, and Lenovo includes the keyboard cover and an active pen, which means your overall cost is lower, too.
Already have a tablet? Do more with it using one of these excellent accessories.
Logitech Slim Combo iPad caseSarah Tew/CNET
This keyboard case makes Apple's entry-level tablet feel a little like an iPad Pro. There's a whole line of them, too, so whether you have an old or new iPad, there's a Combo case for you.
Logitech CrayonSarah Tew/CNET
Made primarily for schools but now available to the public, the Crayon is a smaller, lower-cost alternative to Apple's Pencil. It works with Apple Pencil-supported apps so it's perfect for anything from note-taking to sketching.
Logitech K780 Multi-Device Wireless KeyboardSarah Tew/CNET
Logitech clearly knows how to make good tablet accessories, and here's more proof. The K780 is a full-size keyboard that connects to up to three devices by either Bluetooth or the company's unifying receiver that plugs into a USB port. You can switch between devices with a quick button-press, and the back edge of the keyboard holds your tablet or phone.
More holiday gift picks
- Best gifts under $25
- Best gifts under $50
- Best gifts under $100
- Best gifts under $250
- Best gifts under $500
- Best deals since Black Friday
The best tech gifts of the year: CNET's top picks.
CNET's 2018 Holiday Gift Guide: Gift recommendations at all price points.