The Android 7.0 update makes the Pixel C the best Android tablet you can buy.

Best overall

The Pixel C

Pixel C

See at Google

We liked the Pixel C when it first arrived at the end of 2015. We thought the aluminum design was striking, even at a time where we saw aluminum and other metal devices from all the people making phones and tablets and decided the added weight (a 10.2-inch aluminum tablet can be hefty) was a fair trade for the excellent way it was designed and built. The NVIDIA Tegra X1 processor handled everything well and the 1:√2 aspect ratio was easier to get used to than anyone had guessed. We really loved the display. The 2560x1800 display was bright and crisp and represented the Pixel brand very well. But we couldn't help but feel the tablet hadn't reached its full potential.

Android 7.0 and the native multi-window display feature changed that. With either of the keyboard folio covers, multi-window turned the Pixel C from yet another Android tablet with a keyboard case into something you really could use for light work or school. We're not trying to validate any company's claim that a tablet can replace a laptop when it comes to productivity, but when you need to do it, The Pixel C is the best way to do it.

Bottom line: No tablet is perfect. Neither is Android. But when you want to combine the two, the Pixel C is the best way you can spend your money until someone else can build something better.

One more thing: Because this is a Google hardware product, the Pixel C will be among the first Android tablets to be updated with new features.

Why the Pixel C is the best

A tablet that covers every need.

The Pixel C does everything you would want a tablet to do. YouTube or anything else on the web is great on the gorgeous screen, all the apps you love work well. The NVIDIA Tegra X1 processor is a screamer when it comes to gaming. This can be said about many Android tablets. The difference really did come with the Android 7.0 update.

Working, whether it's on a presentation for your boss or a paper for your professor, is very different on a tablet than it is on a more conventional computer. Apps are designed to be more simple and easy to use with a touch screen while omitting many of the battery-hungry features you would find in their desktop counterparts. The biggest hurdle has always been finding a way to organize the things you're doing on your screen while you're doing them. Samsung has had this figured out for a while, and even those of us who don't appreciate a split-window view on a phone will see the value on a 10.2-inch screen. The Pixel C now offers a native Android solution, with arguable better hardware (and a better keyboard) and current software.

The software has finally caught up with the excellent design and build and we put the Pixel C at the top of the Android tablet hill.

Budget power

NVIDIA Shield Tablet K1

NVIDIA Shield Tablet K1

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The Shield Tablet is a gaming powerhouse featuring NVIDIA's cutting-edge 2.2 GHz Tegra K1 processor. Forward-facing stereo speakers offer quality sound, and the now optional stylus opens up helpful functionality for day-to-day usage. But the Shield Tablet's software is what really sets it apart. Built right into the notification tray, for example, is the ability to stream what's on your screen to Twitch. Remote access software combined with the optional hardware gamepad allow you to play games that are running on your PC.

Alternatively, the GeForce Now cloud gaming service lets you do the same with games and computers hosted by NVIDIA. The Shield Tablet K1 recently received a mild refresh over the original, changing the exterior styling a little but more importantly reducing the price by $100. You no longer get a charger or the stylus included in the box, but the savings do give you enough extra cash to pick up the cover and controller. Which you really want if you're going to use the Shield to its fullest.

Bottom line: Even for those that aren't hardcore gamers, the NVIDIA Shield Tablet is a powerful tablet and offers excellent value for the price.

One more thing: The 8-inch Shield Tablet is great for people who want something smaller, but still very capable.

Slim and sleek

Samsung Galaxy Tab S2

Samsung Galaxy Tab S2

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The Samsung Galaxy Tab S2 brings together some of the best components available. As usual, Samsung delivers a high-quality display and manages to do it in a particularly slim package. To top it all off, it's got the processing power to handle just about anything you could throw at it.

The Samsung Galaxy Tab S2 is available in two sizes, 8 inches and 9.7 inches, each only 5.6 mm thin. The display resolution comes in at 2048x1536 pixels, which is more than enough for enjoying HD movies or 3D games. Inside you'll find a 1.9 GHz processor and 3GB of RAM. An 8-megapixel camera sits on the back, and the home button doubles as a fingerprint sensor. The Galaxy Tab S2 ticks all of the boxes on hardware and while Samsung's software still divides opinion, it's packed with useful features.

Bottom line: While a bit pricier than other Android tablets, the slim design and beautiful screen are things you won't find in any other tablet.

One more thing: The Galaxy Tab S2 also has a great fingerprint sensor built into the home button.

For the enthusiast

Nexus 9

Nexus 9

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Google partnered with HTC to deliver the Nexus 9 tablet as a spearhead for the Android Lollipop release. As it stands, the Nexus 9's blazing fast 64-bit 2.3 GHz processor and direct affiliation with Google provide it with a healthy degree of future-proofing, despite the fact it's over a year old. The Nexus 9 shuns the 16:9 form factor favored by so many Android tablets and instead goes for a more portrait friendly 4:3 with a 2048x1536 resolution display. So it's much nicer to hold in either orientation.

The back of the Nexus 9 has a soft touch coating available in a few different colors, but what's great about it right now is that you can find it for some bargain prices. Deals are frequent and since it's a Nexus you're getting the latest software, usually before everyone else. If you want to get some work done with the Nexus 9, there's an optional keyboard cover for it, too.

For the nerds out there who like to be on the bleeding edge (or more so, developers), the Nexus 9 is one of the early devices with access to any Android developer previews. But think twice before putting them on a daily driver.

For Android enthusiasts, the Nexus 9 is an easy pick. But if you just want a big tablet, running Android and don't want to spend too much, check it out.

Bottom line: For the Android enthusiast, the Nexus 9 is an excellent test-bed for custom software installations. It's fully unlockable and factory software is readily provided.

One more thing: The Nexus 9 should be eligible for the Android beta software program for people who want the bleeding edge.

Conclusion

Like most things, there is no one Android tablet that's right for everyone. That's one of the big reasons Google was able to break Apple's dominance in mobile computing — they offer a choice for just about everyone. Whether you want the stylish look and thin profile of the Samsung Galaxy Tab S2 or the high-powered yet low-priced NVIDIA Shield K1 — or anything in between — someone is making a tablet that will work for you.

Our pick with the Pixel C is tough to beat. Great construction, an awesome screen, and current software with all the features you hear about directly from Google make it the one tablet we can recommend to everyone.

Best overall

The Pixel C

Pixel C

See at Google

We liked the Pixel C when it first arrived at the end of 2015. We thought the aluminum design was striking, even at a time where we saw aluminum and other metal devices from all the people making phones and tablets and decided the added weight (a 10.2-inch aluminum tablet can be hefty) was a fair trade for the excellent way it was designed and built. The NVIDIA Tegra X1 processor handled everything well and the 1:√2 aspect ratio was easier to get used to than anyone had guessed. We really loved the display. The 2560x1800 display was bright and crisp and represented the Pixel brand very well. But we couldn't help but feel the tablet hadn't reached its full potential.

Android 7.0 and the native multi-window display feature changed that. With either of the keyboard folio covers, multi-window turned the Pixel C from yet another Android tablet with a keyboard case into something you really could use for light work or school. We're not trying to validate any company's claim that a tablet can replace a laptop when it comes to productivity, but when you need to do it, The pixel C is the best way to do it.

Bottom line: No tablet is perfect. Neither is Android. But when you want to combine the two, the Pixel C is the best way you can spend your money until someone else can build something better.

One more thing: Because this is a Google hardware product, the Pixel C will be among the first Android tablets to be updated with new features.