Serious and professional gamers may end up spending a small fortune on their heavy-duty rigs, focusing on top-quality processors, graphics cards, displays, cooling, and peripherals.
However, things are different in the mobile ecosystem. Tablets can perform a variety of functions for both work and play, and in the latter case, you don't have the flexibility of traditional gaming rigs and swap-in, swap-out upgrades whenever a more powerful graphics card or processor lands on the market.
Mobile gaming requires particular hardware to prevent overheating and to prevent lags in performance, but with the emergence of game streaming -- which shunts the PC power required to play games away from the user and to a service provider -- gamers have more options than before when it comes to selecting a suitable tablet for gaming on-the-move.
Below, ZDNet has compiled our top picks for game-ready tablets across the Android, Windows, and iOS ecosystems.
Tech specs: 12.4-inch Super AMOLED display | Qualcomm Snapdragon 865 Plus processor | 6/8GB RAM | Adreno graphics | Up to 512GB SSD storage | microSD card support
Currently on offer for $849.99 (a discount applied to trade-ins), the Samsung Galaxy Tab S7+ is for those looking for a tablet with powerful specifications. If you're a fan of Android gaming, this could be the right tablet for you, especially considering its 120Hz refresh rate and the inclusion of a Snapdragon processor.
Wi-Fi-only or cellular options are available. You also receive 4 months of YouTube Premium for free.
- Super AMOLED display, good refresh rate
- Optional 5G connectivity
- Expensive with higher specifications
Tech specs: 11 or 12.9-inch display | Silicon M1 processor | Up to 16GB RAM | Up to 2TB SSD storage |
For those who want their games to look the best they can possibly look, the Apple iPad Pro, available in 11 or 12.9-inch display options, sports a Liquid Retina or Liquid Retina XDR screen which we've found produces stunning visual results at up to 2732x2048, 264 PPI. An anti-reflective coating is a nice touch for gamers, and the M1 processor -- together with up to 16GB RAM -- produces plenty of power to play without lagging or crashes.
- An expensive investment just for gaming
Tech specs: 15.6-inch Ultra HD 4K display | Intel Core i7 processor | 16GB RAM | NVIDIA Quadro P1000 graphics | 512GB SSD storage |
The Wacom MobileStudio Pro 16 tablet is a product designed with creative applications in mind, and this mobile workstation sports heavy specs that will also ensure gaming is a seamless experience -- and with such a large display for a tablet on offer, this would suit gamers who want to take advantage of a powerful display and strong graphics capabilities.
- Large, touchscreen display
- Low storage for the price point
Tech specs: 12.3-inch PixelSense display | Up to an Intel Core i7 processor | Intel UHD/ Iris Plus Graphics | Up to 16GB RAM | Up to 1TB SSD storage |
Microsoft's Surface Pro 7 is a hybrid tablet-laptop device for those who prefer the Windows ecosystem for their gaming activities. This tablet comes with Windows 10 Home, upgradable to Windows 11, and is one of the most lightweight options we recommend, coming in at roughly 1.7 pounds.
- Flexibility of use, built-in kickstand
- Good battery life
- Fixed SSD storage
Tech specs: 13-inch display | Qualcomm Snapdragon 870 processor | 8GB RAM | Adreno 650 graphics | 128GB SSD storage |
Operating on Android, the Lenovo Yoga Tab 13 is set for those who want a speedy device with a large display, sporting 2K Dolby Vision resolution, integrated JBL speakers, and compatibility with AAA gaming titles.
Lenovo's model also includes the "Time of Flight" camera which can be used for basic augmented reality functions and an "entertainment space" to manage your games and media collections.
- A useful, stable kickstand
- AR features
- 60Hz refresh rate
- Due to its size, this may not be suitable for travel
Amazon Fire HD 10
Budget-friendly, with options for kids
Tech specs: 10.1-inch Full HD display | octo-core processor | 3GB RAM | Mali-G72 MP3 graphics | 32GB SSD storage | microSD slot
The Amazon Amazon Fire HD 10 is another contender if you want a gamer-friendly tablet. This product runs on the tech giant's Fire OS platform and can be used to access subscription-based streaming services as well as games purchased through the Amazon app store.
However, it should be noted that there are shortages of Amazon's Fire tablet range, and so you may need to shop around to secure one ahead of Christmas.
Alternatively, if you're in the market for a child-friendly gaming tablet that has a protective shell and you don't have to worry about when it comes to accidental purchases, the Amazon Fire 10 Kids Pro can also be purchased from Best Buy.
- Reasonable battery life
- Stock shortages are common this year
- Low storage amount
How did we choose these products?
When we compiled our favorite tablets for gaming over 2021, we considered a variety of factors: storage, processing performance, graphics, and display size -- all of which are key factors in finding a mobile device suitable for gaming.
Which is the right one for you?
Unlike smartphones, which while are becoming bigger and with versatile screen options -- including foldable and flexible screens -- tablets generally offer a larger screen size, and perhaps more importantly, give developers more real estate to create comfortable control layouts.
You should focus on finding a tablet that is comfortable for you to hold for long periods -- so, not too large or bulky -- and one that has a good amount of storage (or the ability to increase this with a microSD card), and reasonable battery life.
Is storage important?
If you plan to download and execute games locally on your tablet, you need to make sure the device has enough storage to handle today's games. Many of today's tablets come with between 64GB to 128GB SSD, but if this isn't enough, you should consider a device that is also equipped with a microSD slot to bolster your storage.
What's the deal with graphics cards, anyway?
Graphics processing units (GPUs) are dedicated to tasks including screen rendering for images, video, and other content. Modern games usually have high rendering demands on our PCs and mobile devices and the performance of a graphics card is often considered more important than other processors for gamers -- but this may not apply when it comes to the limitations of mobile game apps.