Even Nintendo, a company known for their refusal to bring their games to mobile devices, had to admit that customers love playing games on the go. That’s, of course, no news to Android fans who have been enjoying addictive mobile games for years. But it’s one thing to play a game such as Candy Crush Saga, and it’s something completely different to immerse yourself in the complex gameplay of Hearthstone, a deceptively simple and insanely fun fast-paced strategy card game from Blizzard Entertainment, the creators of Warcraft, Diablo, and StarCraft series.
Best Android Gaming Tablets
|NVIDIA||NVIDIA SHIELD K1||1101|
|Samsung||Samsung Galaxy Tab S||449.99|
|Asus||Asus ZenPad S 8||449|
While simple, casual games run on just about any budget or mid-range Android device, triple-A titles, including The Room, Asphalt 8, Dead Trigger 2, Real Racing 3, Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, Minecraft, or UNKILLED, require beefy hardware specifications to achieve smooth frame rates. The good news is that you can choose from many Android gaming tablets with powerful graphics and processors. Let’s have a look at some of the more popular gaming tablets available today.
Nvidia Shield K1
When Nvidia first announced their Android gaming tablet, not everyone was convinced they can pull it off. After all, it’s one thing to develop and manufacturer dedicated graphics cards, and it’s something else to create an entire handheld device from scratch. Fortunately for all gamers, they’ve succeeded and created what might well be the best mid-range Android tablet on the market—gaming or not.
The Nvidia Shield K1 tablet has a plain, understated design that smartly ditches the typical showy gaming aesthetics in favor of a more mature design, one that you actually wouldn’t be ashamed to display in public. The top and bottom edges of the tablet house speaker grids which are coated with rubber grips for more secure gaming. The back has a matte black finish interrupted only with a silver Shield logo right in the middle.
All control buttons, slots, and ports are located around the edges, and the only two other things on the front and back of the tablet are Shield’s 5 MP cameras. Both cameras are virtually identical in terms of their image quality and low-light performance, but the rear-facing camera can shoot full HD video at 30 frames per second.
Moving inside, the K1 is powered by the Nvidia Tegra K1 chipset which has four 2.2 GHz Cortex-A15 cores and Nvidia’s own GeForce Kepler GPU with 192 processing cores. This translates to an impressive score of around 73,000 in AnTuTu, placing the tablet near the top. Given how large modern Android games can be, it’s a shame that Nvidia included only 16 GB of internal storage with just 11.24 GB available out of the box. At least, you can extend the storage space with a microSD card.
The one thing that makes the Nvidia K1 so different from other Android tablets is its support for the GeForce NOW game-streaming service. Using NOW, gamers can play PC titles, such as Mad Max, and The Witcher 3, on the tablet. The NOW app streams games at 1080p at up to 60 frames per second over Wi-Fi, allowing you to control them with the optional Shield Controller. You can also do things the other way around and stream mobile games to your TV.
While we had a blast playing games on the K1, it were the tablet’s speakers that blew us away. Believe it or not, they sound almost as good as the JBL Charge 2 or UE Boom 2. And unlike with the latest iPhone, you have a 3.5mm headphone jack to plug in your favorite headphones or dedicated speakers, if you so desire. Shield’s 5,200mAh battery lasts around 5 hours, which is a respectable value for a relatively compact 8.0” tablet with a resolution of 1920 x 1200 pixels.
As it is, the Nvidia Shield K1 is a fantastic mid-range Android tablet for anyone, not just gamers. It offers an excellent value, near-stock Android 6.0 experience, and plenty of extra features that guarantee you’ll always have something to do.
What Users Like
- Great gaming and multimedia performance
- You can play PC games on the tablet
- Long battery life
- Sharp cameras
- Android 6.0 Marshmallow
Samsung Galaxy Tab S
There’s no doubt that Samsung knows how to make beautiful Android devices. At 0.65 pounds 0.26-inch, the Samsung Galaxy Tab S is one of the lightest and thinnest tablets on the market. Its light weight makes it easy to hold, preventing fatigue after long use. Samsung’s signature oval home button is located on the bottom bezel, and so is a pair of capacitive buttons for going back and switching between apps. The location of the buttons together with the small size of the bezels doesn’t provide nearly as much thumb space as we would like to have, but Samsung sells handy cases, which elegantly solve the problem.
The main selling point of the Samsung Galaxy Tab S is the gorgeous, colorful Super AMOLED capacitive touchscreen with a resolution of 2560 x 1600 pixels, amazing 100000:1 contrast ratio, and support for 94% of Adobe RGB color gamut. It’s likely the best tablet screen currently available for mixed multimedia consumption, including pictures, movies, and, above all, games. The included movie app can automatically adjust the color gamut, sharpness, and contrast of the screen to enhance your viewing experience.
To make those 4,096,000 pixels move without any frame rate drops, Samsung went with the Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 chipset, Adreno 330 GPU, and 3 GB of memory. By today’s standards, those are not the best components we see in use, but they still hold up to this day. It’s possible to push the tablet beyond its limits by running multiple demanding apps at the same time, but you really have to try hard to do that. Another handy way how you can take advantage of the available processing power is Samsung’s multi-window function. Using this feature, you can, for example, have watch videos and check your email simultaneously, although the selection of supported apps is somewhat limited.
Other notable features include a fingerprint scanner and an IR blaster on the top edge. The tablet runs on Android 4.4 with TouchWiz UI slapped on top of it. This iteration of TouchWiz is a far cry from the stock Android experience, but some of its features are easy to get used, even if they can be quite resource-hungry.
Even with the 7,900mAh battery, you can’t expect the tablet to last a whole day of heavy use. The high-definition screen eats up electricity like thousand hungry piranhas. One way how you can overcome this problem is to purchase a power bank, or you can just stay in a close proximity to a charger.
For its high-end price of around $500, the Samsung Galaxy Tab S isn’t the most affordable tablet you can buy. But it has a stunning screen, ample processing power, and beautiful design. Let your own budget decide whether the tablet is worth the price.
What Users Like
- Vivid, sharp screen
- Elegant, lightweight design
- Great performance
- Above-average battery life
ASUS ZenPad S 8
ASUS has achieved something remarkable with the ZenPad S 8: The company has created a stunning fashion-oriented tablet for a fraction of the cost of the small iPad. ZenPad’s textured back cover combined with small bezels and compact size give it a universal appeal and timeless elegance. Mind you, those are some strong words for a tablet that retails for around $150 on Amazon.
The crown jewel of the ZenPad S 8 is its 8” IPS LCD capacitive touchscreen with a resolution of 1536 x 2048 pixels and a 74% screen-to-body ratio. Even though the screen takes most of the real-estate on the front side of the tablet, both the top and the bottom bezels are large enough to give your thumbs something to hold onto while you play an Android game or watch a movie. The display also supports the ASUS VisualMaster technology for exclusive visual enhancements that combine hardware and software to deliver an incredibly realistic visual experience. It includes latest image processing technology found on high-end TVs, intelligent contrast enhancement, sharpness optimization, and an ambient sensor for a vivid outdoor viewing experience, among other things.
ASUS went with an Atom chipset, instead of MediaTek or Snapdragon. More specifically, the ZenPad S 8 has an Intel Atom Z3580 inside, alongside a PowerVR G6430 GPU and 4 GB of memory. There’s also a cheaper version with just 2 GB of memory and Atom Z3560 available, but we highly advise you to avoid it. 2 GB RAM is simply not enough these days for serious multitasking. That being said, the performance of the beefier version of the tablet runs smoothly and handles all modern Android games with ease.
The only thing we didn’t like about the tablet is the rear-facing 8 MP PixelMaster camera. Despite being fast and responsive, even pictures taken under direct sunlight turned out to be slightly blurry and washed out. The front-facing 5 MP selfie camera is much better, being on par with all tablets in the sub-$200 price range.
ASUS sells a nifty stylus, Z Stylus, to provide a natural writing and drawing experience. The stylus has 1024 levels of pressure, 150 hours battery life, and its writing tip is just 1.2mm thick, allowing you to quickly jot down notes or doodle silly pictures. The functionality of the Z Stylus is tied into the innovated ZenUI, which has more than 1,000 features, most of which are surprisingly useful and unobtrusive.
What Users Like
- Lightweight and sleek
- Razor-sharp screen
- microSD card slot
- Solid performance
Sony Xperia Z4
Not to be confused with the Xperia Z4 smartphone, the Sony Xperia Z4 is a 10.1” tablet with a brilliant 2K display and specifications that make many of its rivals pale in comparison. From the first moment you get your hands on the tablet, you know that it means a serious business. Despite being a large 10-incher, the Z4 is just 6.1mm thick and weighs only 389g. Its rounded edges and curved corners make it comfortably fit in your hands, and the textured back cover gives you something to hold onto why you carry the tablet around.
These days, waterproof smartphones are becoming increasingly commonplace, but waterproof tablets are still a dime a dozen. That’s why we were happy to find out that we can take the Xperia Z4 with us to a bathtub without clenching it like a lifeline. Its IP68 certification ensures that even if you manage to drop it into water, the tablet will survive just fine, thanks to its waterproof construction up to 1.5 meter and 30 minutes.
If the ASUS ZenPad S 8 gave the iPad mini a run for its money, the Sony Xperia Z4 does the same with mini’s large brother. Put the two tablets side by side, and you immediately notice how much better the display is on the Z4. With its resolution of 2560 x 1600 pixels and X-Reality Engine, Sony has created what might as well be the brightest screen and the most vivid IPS LCD capacitive touchscreen on the market. Compared to its predecessor, the Xperia Z2, the new display is 40% brighter
Ticking below the display is a Qualcomm MSM8994 Snapdragon 810 chipset with Adreno 430 and 3 GB of memory. The tablet delivers a buttery smooth performance with no frame rate drops even when playing demanding games, such as Hearthstone. Unfortunately, Sony doesn’t let you take full advantage of Z4’s power by implementing side-by-side multitasking.
Sony clearly saved some cash on the rear-facing camera, as it produces somewhat underwhelming pictures, which, while serviceable, are leaps and bounds away from what you might be used to from Sony’s smartphones. The sharp front-facing camera saves the day with its above-average sharpness and low-light performance.
Overall, the Sony Xperia Z4 is a deal you shouldn’t miss. Because of its age, you have a good chance of finding a good second-hand model or stumbling upon a great discount on Amazon.
What Users Like
- Fantastic display
- Great battery life
- User-friendly overlay
- Smooth performance
Lenovo TAB 2 A10
In the world of extravagant high-end smartphones and tablets, the Lenovo TAB 2 A10 doesn’t initially seem all that remarkable. That is until you discover that it costs just $149, has a full HD screen with vivid colors and excellent viewing angles, and plays all the latest Android games with ample processing power to spare.
The 10.1” IPS LCD capacitive touchscreen with 1200 x 1920 pixels is really the main highlight of this tablet. For an entry level price, you can have a premium multimedia experience for hours on end. That’s because the 7000 mAh non-removable Li-Ion battery comfortably lasts a full day of moderate usage.
The Lenovo TAB 2 A10 is powered by a MediaTek MT8732 chipset and 2 GB of memory. The MediaTek chipset isn’t the fastest chipset in the world, but it holds up nicely and we never found ourselves longing for something better, especially not for the amazing price. Unsurprisingly, neither the 8 MP rear-facing camera nor the 5 MP front-facing camera are nothing to write home about. They take usable pictures, but don’t expect them to replace your high-end smartphone or a point-and-shoot camera anytime soon.
What was surprising about the tablet was its sound quality. The TAB 2 features a multi-speaker sound bar located on the back, near the top edge of the tablet. The speaker is enhanced with Dolby Atmos Cinematic Moving Audio, to deliver gorgeous sound that flows in all directions. Combined with the sharp display, the Lenovo TAB 2 A10 is an amazing multimedia and gaming machine.
What Users Like
- Full HD display
- Great audio quality
- Long battery life
- Strong performance