Even if you have a very capable smartphone and a nice laptop, tablets are still a worthwhile hunk of tech to add to your arsenal.

The touchscreen that can be carried anywhere makes for a portable studio for creatives, a crucial sidekick for commuters and frequent travelers, and a mini TV for people who aren’t missing the newest episode of Dexter: New Blood just because they’re on vacation.

Most anyone can enjoy a tablet. Certainly, no one would be upset to be gifted onem which is why we expect them to be a hot ticket item again this holiday season. But don’t bank on scoring a tablet last-minute — in typical unprecedented pandemic fashion, supply chain shortages mean you’ll want to do your shopping much, much earlier this year. Luckily, that’s another reality retailers are anticipating, so those Black Friday savings you usually wait for have been stirring since October: Walmart is anticipating its third Black Friday Deals for Days Event on Nov. 22, while Best Buy started its official Black Friday sale a week ahead of time on Nov. 19.

SEE ALSO: Best Black Friday 2021 deals, all in one place

A simple question kicks off the process of narrowing down your options: Are you an Apple person? Whether that’s yes, no, or a “What’s an Apple person?,” the buying guide below lays out the pros and cons of the main picks from Apple, Amazon, Samsung, and Microsoft.

Are refurbished tablets worth buying?

Taking a refurbished device off the market is a great way to save money — and save that device from going where e-waste goes to die. Refurbished or renewed tablets are often next to impossible to tell apart from a brand new one. Cosmetic dings are a possibility (the retailer will mention this) but unless stated otherwise, the devices have been reworked and tested to run like new. iPads are probably the easiest tablet to find refurbished, both at Amazon and Apple’s website.

What about a tablet for your kid?

Most tablets made specifically for kids will already be equipped with built-in parental accounts, timers, and pre-selected websites or apps that are strictly for kids.

General-purpose tablets aren’t a bad choice, either — many sites name the iPad as one of the best tablets for kids even though it’s an everyone tablet. These won’t have any parental guardrails baked in, so you’ll need to get creative if you’d rather your kid not have unlimited access to the internet. Apple and Android have features that can filter or block content and prevent purchases, but the closest thing you’ll be able to get to close monitoring is by installing parental control software. Such monitoring features are easy to toggle off or uninstall as your kid gets older or if the family is sharing the device. In the latter case, Osmo is a neat snap-on kit that connects to iPads and Fire tablets for augmented reality-ish learning exercises and games. When your kid moves a physical piece in real life, the same piece moves on the screen.

Here are the best tablets you can buy in 2021:


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