Microsoft recently unleashed the Windows 10 Anniversary Update on the world and have now announced an upcoming Creator’s update for 2017, but they’ve made few changes to their line of Microsoft tablets on the market. As Microsoft continues to rock last year’s hardware designs, many new players have entered the game.
For this list, we will surface the absolute best that the platform has to offer, for those of you looking for something on a budget, we’ll drop an idea or two for good cheap Windows tablets at the end.
What to look for
Before we dive in, let’s discuss for a moment what makes a great Windows tablet today. For starters, there is no point considering a Windows tablet that is not capable of smoothly running Windows 10. This is not to say that older devices are without their merit, just that the best new features and the future of Microsoft’s software market are firmly in the new OS.
In a Windows 10 capable tablet, you are likely to find a minimum dual-core processor clocked at 1.7GHz or higher. Look for an Intel Core M, i3, i5 or i7 for the best experience. ARM based chipsets can be found too, like the Qualcomm Snapdragon 810. Finally, you’ll do well with an Intel Celeron or Atom class processor as well. Just look for something recent.
A typical starting point for a modern Windows tablet is at 1GB of RAM. This may be enough for some basic web surfing, but I would urge you to consider 2GB of RAM to be your absolute bottom end for a productivity device. The options we will look at today are going to rock 4GB and up.
That’s enough of the theory, let’s do this.
Microsoft Surface Pro 4
First shipping to consumers in the fall of 2015, the Microsoft Surface Pro 4 is a high-end tablet with optional detachable keyboard, ready to rival most laptops on the market today. The 12.3-inch display is backed by, at its best configuration, a 6th gen Intel Core i7, 16GB of RAM and a 1TB SSD.
As the latest and greatest, this device has a starting point of $899, but will jump passed $3000 for the configuration noted above. I had not intended on starting our list with what is likely the best of all the Windows tablets available today, but here it is.
Microsoft Surface Pro 3
With the newer version of the device shipping to consumers, it is easy to forget that the Surface Pro 3 is an excellent device. It recently underwent an upgrade itself, jumping up some specs making for a top end offering of the 4th gen Intel Core i7 chipset, 8GB of RAM and a 512GB SSD.
With a starting price of $799, it is still possible to upgrade parts and add on the detachable keyboard and stylus for a total north of $2000.
ASUS Transformer 3 Pro
What do we have here? Oooh, another Surface Pro 4 contender, but that’s not where ASUS is leaving things, the Transformer 3 Pro, along with a handful of other new tablets and laptops, have a few tricks up their sleeve. The Transformer 3 Pro has a spec sheet that reads similarly to other high-end 2-in-1 tablets on the market right now, but if productivity is your thing, you can attach this already powerful tablet to the ROG XG Station 2, making this a full desktop experience with multiple 4K displays and more.
While still a little tricky to find in the west, we identified a listing for the Transformer 3 Pro on Amazon for $1499.99.
If your lifestyle requires sturdier items, the Panasonic ToughPad might be the Windows tablet for you. Available in a range of sizes and configurations, starting at just 5-inches, there are 7-inch and 10.1-inch variants to be had. A well equipped 10-inch version will get you an Intel Core i5 processor, 8GB of RAM, 256GB SSD and a 1920×1200 display resolution.
Best of all, you are looking at military grade drop and ingress protection on the Toughpad. Prices start around $650 for older 7-inch models, look to spend about $2500 on a well equipped 10.1-inch model, like this one from Amazon.
Dell XPS 12
In the shadow of the Surface Pro line, Dell has as a few tablets that qualify as competitors in Microsoft’s hardware. The XPS 12 is a special case, however, as it has been recently announced with solid specs and a 4K display. That’s right, Dell thinks people are interested in a screen resolution of 3840 x 2160 on a nice 12.5-inch display.
Look for a removable keyboard, Intel processor and a good selection of I/O ports. Truth is, we’ve reached out to Dell for more info on this device, but we’re still waiting, We like what we see so far, stay tuned for more details.
Samsung Galaxy TabPro S
The recently announced Samsung Galaxy TabPro S 10 is a bit of a surprise announcement out of Samsung at the end of January. The 12-inch Galaxy branded tablet seams a successor to the line of Android powered tablets, but has hit the market powered by Windows 10 instead. Looking at the spec sheet, the Galaxy TabPro S comes with a 2160×1440 resolution sAMOLED display, Intel Core M3 processor, like the one in the Surface Pro 4, 4GB of RAM, 128GB or 256GB of internal storage, USB Type-C and more. There will even be a LTE model available for some markets.
While it is still too early to identify if this tablet will live up to the same sort of standards we’ve come to expect of Windows tablets, their track record with this line of tablets running Android lead us to be excited to see what comes next.
We’ve recently had the TabPro S in house for review. We are still liking this tablet, but not as much as we thought we would, sadly.
Announced at MWC in 2016, Huawei is bringing us a great looking Surface Pro 4 competitor in the new MateBook. Starting with a 12-inch, 2160 x 1440 pixel LCD display, the MateBook offers up 4GB or 8GB of RAM and 128GB, 256GB or 512GB of internal storage. Powering the unit starts with a base model Intel Core M3 processor paired with 4GB of RAM, step it up to either the Intel Core M5 or Core M7 to double the RAM. Look for a fingerprint scanner built into the volume rocker, USB Type-C interface and Windows 10 Home or Windows 10 Pro on the inside.
Of course, to compete with the likes of the Surface Pro 4, or the iPad Pro line, for that matter, the Huawei MateBook has optional quick connect Portfolio Keyboard, pressure sensitive MatePen stylus and the MateDock, which adds full size USB ports, an Ethernet port and connection to external monitors.
We’ve had this tablet in house and we are really liking it, check out our full review and stay tuned for a full video rundown as well.
Your pricing breakdown includes a $700 tag to get your feet in the door and up to $1876 for a fully decked out model with all the mentioned accessories. Stay tuned for more, we’re pretty excited about this tablet.
On a budget?
One last thing before we go, The devices we explored today were all fairly high-end, at least they all have price tags in laptop territory. What if you just want a solid bang for the buck inexpensive Windows tablet? Stay tuned, we’ve got a ‘cheap’ Windows tablets list in the works, for now, look for something that comes with a year of Office 365 and try to stay away from the actually cheap devices.
I might recommend the HP Stream 7 for starters, it will run you a little over $100 and is a solid little device to take on the go. Stay tuned for more details, or just head on over to Amazon to grab one for $148 brand new, or $79 if you are comfortable with a refurbished unit and no Office 365.
That’s it for today folks, we will be looking to update this list as new and exciting Windows tablets hit the market in the future, but for now, we think these are the best Windows powered tablets you are likely to find.
Do you have a favorite Windows tablet that did not make our list?