by Avery Swartz
Published in Today's Parent, April 3, 2019
Click to read on the Today's Parent website
Tablets have quickly gone from bonus device to family staple, becoming more and more common as prices go down and features increase. They are a great gadget that everyone from mom and dad to kids of most ages can share and enjoy—especially when you’re on long car rides. Yes, tablets can be used for watching cartoons, but these days they do so much more. From interactive educational games to eBooks to apps that teach kids how to code, these portable powerhouses have a lot to offer. Here are our top tablet picks for families with kids of all ages.
Good things come in small packages. The newly refreshed Apple iPad mini is a powerful yet compact tablet with a 7.9-inch Retina screen. It has all the features of the full-size version, plus its most powerful processor yet—this small but mighty tab can now even edit high-definition video. Weighing less than a pound with a battery that can last up to 10 hours, it’s a great device for on-the-go families who are passing the iPad around. The new mini is the first to support Apple Pencil ($129), which is a treat for budding artists, and can be connected to any keyboard via Bluetooth.
Apple iPad mini, $529, apple.com
A great option for older kids to do their schoolwork, the Microsoft Surface Pro 6 is really a computer in tablet form. Like its desktop or laptop counterparts, it runs Windows 10 and the full versions of professional software like Microsoft Office 365 and Adobe Creative Suite, not the “light” or app-only variety. It’s great for writing essays and other typing-heavy tasks, especially when using the separately-sold Microsoft Type Cover—our favourite of all the tablet keyboards on the market. The Surface combines the power and functionality of a computer with the portability of a tablet, and families that splurge on a Surface Pro might not need a separate computer at home.
Starting at $1179, microsoft.com. Type cover and Surface pen are sold separately (for $169 and $129, respectively).
At only $75 for the 8″ model and $155 for the 10″ model, it’s hard to beat the price of an Amazon Fire HD Tablet. It’s a great budget pick for families who are primarily interested in video and entertainment in a portable format. Netflix, Prime Video, Prime Music, Spotify and Kindle eBooks all work well on Amazon’s handy device, but it runs Amazon’s operating system (not Android or iOS), meaning only a limited number of games and apps are available beyond the video and music options. But rest assured that Facebook, Instagram and Candy Crush are also on the list.
Amazon Fire HD Tablet 10.1”, $155, amazon.ca, Amazon Fire HD Tablet 8”, $75, amazon.ca
For those accustomed to the Android ecosystem, the Samsung Galaxy Tab S4 is your best bet. This device is better suited to older children, or for parents to use and sometimes share with little kids, because it’s definitely a pro-level (and pricey!) device. The Super AMOLED high-definition display and Dolby Atmos audio promise to enhance your next Netflix binge session, and when work calls you can connect a Bluetooth mouse or external monitor to the tablet for enhanced productivity. The Galaxy Tab S4 can be a smart home hub too—it integrates with Samsung’s SmartThings app to control connected devices in your home, from your washer and thermostat to lights and TV. Plus, its S pen ($79) has a cool language translation function: use the pen to highlight text on the screen and a pop-up translation appears, courtesy of Google translate.
Samsung Galaxy Tab S4, $870, thesource.ca. Other optional accessories include the Book Cover keyboard ($199) and Charging Dock POGO ($89).
Apple’s iPad is the best all-around tablet for the whole brood and their varied interests. The 9.7-inch Retina screen displays video in all its high-definition glory, and the newest version of iPad (released in spring 2018) supports Apple Pencil ($129) for note taking and drawing. Apple’s App Store is full of educational apps and games, and the iPad is a great device for exploring Apple’s Everyone Can Code and Everyone Can Create curriculum. The new iPad also supports apps that use augmented reality, bringing virtual objects into the real world (ever wanted to virtually dissect a frog? Now you can!).
Apple iPad, $429, apple.com.