Best Rugged Tablet Android Central 2021
For some, the ideal tablet is a one that's super affordable or one they can use while out and about or at home for basic web surfing, watching videos, and playing games. For others, however, a tablet is an important business tool, especially for those who work in the field. For them, a rugged tablet, or at least a tablet with an ultra-rugged case, is necessary. The Samsung Galaxy Active3 checks all the boxes in terms of what you'd want in the best rugged Android tablet.
- Best Overall Rugged Tablet: Samsung Galaxy Tab Active3
- Best Affordable Rugged Tablet: Samsung Galaxy Tab Active2
- Best Rugged Tablet for Field Workers: Samsung Galaxy Tab Active PRO
- Best Rugged Tablet for Microsoft Windows Users: MobileDemand Flex 10B
- Best Rugged Tablet for Business: Panasonic ToughPad FZ-G1
- Best Rugged Tablet for Kids: Amazon Fire HD 8 Kids Edition
- Best Rugged Tablet Samsung Alternative: Vanquisher Ultra Rugged Android Tablet
Best Overall Rugged Tablet: Samsung Galaxy Tab Active3
In the two-plus years since the Galaxy Tab Active2 was released, Samsung has been hard at work upgrading its popular work tablet. Even though you may not be able to see the improvements at first glance, since the Galaxy Tab Active2 and Galaxy Tab Active3 look like they could be twins, there are several noticeable improvements from generation to generation.
For starters, the Galaxy Tab Active3 comes with a newer version of Android (10), as well as a newer and faster Samsung Exynos 9810 chip. The Active3 starts at 128GB of internal storage, and it can be expanded to 1TB via a microSD card. The camera is upgraded from 8MP to 13MP, and you get an even bigger battery at 5,050mAh vs. 4,450mAh. Whereas the Galaxy Tab Active2 was rated for drops up to 1.2 meters, the Galaxy Tab Active 3 can handle 1.5 meter falls.
Aside from the hardware improvements, there are some pretty useful software improvements here, notably Samsung DeX integration, support for Google ARCore, and a No Battery Mode that extends the device's usefulness even after the batteries run out.
The Galaxy Tab Active3 still gives you GPS and S Pen support, facial and fingerprint recognition, and Samsung's Knox security. The two biggest downsides to the newer Active3 are that it weighs a little more (but only 10-15 grams) and that it is more expensive than its predecessor.
- Even better shock absorption and drop protection than Active2
- The touchscreen works even with gloves on
- Swappable batteries on the fly
- Expandable microSD storage up to 1TB
- Google ARCore support
- More expensive than Active2
- Slightly heavier than Active2
Best Affordable Rugged Tablet: Samsung Galaxy Tab Active2
Samsung has been making ruggedized tablets for years, and while the Galaxy Tab Active2 is not the top dog, it sage means you can still get wonderful features at a lower price point. It comes equipped with Wi-Fi capabilities as well as an LTE connectivity option, Bluetooth, NFC, GPS (only when in Wi-Fi mode), and Android 9 Pie.
With an 8-inch, 1920x1080 high-res screen and weighing 1.6 pounds, the Galaxy Tab Active2 is designed with military-grade durability, meeting the MIL-STD-810G testing standard. This means it can withstand drops, shocks, vibrations, rain, dirt, mud, sand, water, altitude, freeze & thaw, extreme temperature ranges, temperature shock, and humidity. It can even be submerged in up to five feet of water for up to 30 minutes. It comes with an adaptable S-Pen that is also IP68 certified for submersion in water.
Two really neat features found in the Active2 are the Wet Touch mode, which lets you use the water-resistant screen even if your hands are wet, and the White Glove mode, which makes it possible to manipulate the screen through gloves, ideal for cold weather and clinical settings.
The tablet has an 8MP auto-focus rear camera and 5MP front camera, accelerometer, gyroscope, geomagnetic sensor, 3GB RAM, 8, 16, or 32GB solid-state drive (SSD) options, and non-slip grip. Security-wise, it includes a fingerprint scanner, facial recognition for unlocking hands-free, and Samsung Knox defense-grade security. It charges via the built-in POGO pin, and the battery runs for up to 11 hours per charge.
- High-definition screen
- Lots of security features
- Can operate hands-free, with S-Pen
- Now more affordable
- Heavier than some others
- Battery life not as long as others
- GPS only works when using Wi-Fi
Best Rugged Tablet for Field Workers: Samsung Galaxy Tab Active Pro
With a 10.1-inch screen, this Wi-Fi tablet (LTE option also available for $80 more, plus plan) operates on Android 9 Pie and includes Bluetooth and GPS as well. It comes with 64GB of storage, expandable up to 512GB via an optional microSD memory card. It is also equipped with a 13MP rear and 8MP front camera.
In terms of durability, this tablet is ideal for those working in the field thanks to the MIL-STD-810G military-grade durability that, like the Active2, protects it against just about anything, from inclement weather to extreme temperature, dirt, dust, water, humidity, drops, shocks, and more. It also has the Wet Touch, and White Glove modes found in the Active2 and comes with an IP68-certified S-Pen. Fingerprint biometric access and facial recognition are also included, along with Samsung Knox and the POGO pin connectivity for charging, which can also be used to connect an external keyboard.
With an impressive 15-hour rated battery life, the 6.69 x 0.39 x 9.58-inch, 1 lb. tablet adds features like a UHD camera with AR features along with Google ARCore with AR Assist so it can sense your environment. It also has, in addition to the accelerometer, barometer, gyro sensor, and geomagnetic sensor, a hall sensor and RGB light sensor.
- Pretty lightweight and compact
- Decent price
- Can be used just about anywhere
- Might not need extra features
- Large screen might be too big for taking with you
Best Rugged Tablet for Microsoft Windows Users: MobileDemand Flex 10B
While there is an Android equivalent of this tablet (aptly named the 10A), this version is ideal for Windows users who want to extend that familiar experience to out in the field. Featuring dual-band W-Fi, an Intel Celeron quad-core processor, and the Windows 10 Professional operating system, this 10.5 x 0.7 x 7.2-inch, 2 lb. tablet comes equipped with a 10.1-inch capacitive multi-touch screen, front and rear cameras, 128GB eMMC, 4GB RAM, Type-A USB, USB-C, mini HDMI, and a 3.5mm jack.
It's ultra-rugged thanks to being enclosed in a durable, protective case with corner bumpers and an oleophobic scratch-resistant screen protector. It has been drop-tested to meet the MIL-STD-810G standards for operation in extreme conditions. It conveniently comes with a carry handle and backhand strap as well.
With a 3,000mAh battery, the Flex 10B should be able to last a full workday. The screen, however, is only 1,200 x 800 resolution. It also comes with two Realtek Audio speakers, and a Snap Mount Plate installed on the back for quick release when it's mounted to something; it's compatible with RAM mounting hardware, which is sold separately. There's also a keyboard option.
- Easy to mount with the right hardware
- Convenient built-in carrying features
- Android or Windows options
- Expensive for what it is
- Heavier than others
- Screen is not high-res
Best Rugged Tablet for Business: Panasonic Toughpad FZ-G1
Panasonic has been making its line of ToughPad and ToughBook ultra-rugged tablets and laptops, respectively, for some time. The company recently launched the ToughBook A3 tablet, which is designed specifically for first responders. But the FZ-G1 is a good option for other professionals as well who need a solution that can withstand just about anything.
With a 2.6GHz Intel Core i5 processor (adjustable to 3GHz via Turbo Boost technology), 8GB RAM, 256GB SSD, and 10.1-inch 1,920 x 1,200 resolution screen with multi-touch and digitizer support for the included stylus, this tablet can respond to 10-point gestures both with gloves off or on or while using the stylus. It can withstand everything from inclement weather to extreme temperature drops and falls from as high as four feet. The anti-reflective screen is also designed to excel during outdoor use. It's IP65 rated to withstand dust, liquids, and all-weather conditions as well.
Featuring dual-band Wi-Fi so you can also connect to the 5GHz band, it has an HDMI port for connecting an external display, USB 3.0 port for connecting other peripherals, like a monitor, keyboard, and mouse to get the full PC experience; It also has Bluetooth 4.1 for wirelessly connecting devices and works with the Microsoft Cortana voice assistant, Microsoft Edge web browser, and Windows Store. Loaded with Windows 10 Professional, it comes housed in a magnesium alloy chassis with ABS elastomer corner guards and port covers. The tablet also includes a pre-installed replaceable screen film and raised bezel.
- Can easily connect peripherals for PC experience
- Very responsive screen
- Very expensive
- No LTE connectivity option
Best Rugged Tablet for Kids: Amazon Fire HD 8 Kids Edition
Rugged tablets aren't just for use while working in the field: there's another subset of customers who need them just as much as busy professionals – kids! While parents love to give kids some screen time, it's scary to hand over your expensive, premium tablet to them, even with a basic protective case on it. To accommodate kids' slippery fingers and their propensity to bump and drop things, a tablet like this offers great peace-of-mind.
The tablet comes housed in a blue, pink, or purple rugged bumper case and includes a two-year worry-free guarantee that Amazon will replace it if it breaks. Kids can stream content over Wi-Fi or download for viewing on the go. It has 32GB of internal storage, but you can expand it up to a whopping 1TB via an optional microSD memory card. A one-year subscription to Amazon Kids+, formerly Amazon FreeTime, affords access to more than 20,000 games, books, videos, and other educational content from sources like PBS Kids, Nickelodeon, and Disney; it's $2.99/mo, thereafter.
Boasting a 12-hour battery life, parents will also love the passcode-protected parental controls where they can set time limits, educational goals, and curfews and manage content for up to four kid profiles. The tablet has a quad-core processor, 2MP front and rear cameras, 1,280 x 800 resolution screen, dual speakers, USB-C charging, and an advanced audio port design in the case. It measures 9.2 x 7.2 x 1-inches and weighs 1.2 lbs.
- Amazing features for kids
- Guaranteed replacement if it breaks in two years
- Can store lots of content with an optional memory card
- Exclusively designed for young kids
- Not waterproof
Best Rugged Tablet Samsung Alternative: Vanquisher Ultra-Rugged Android Tablet
If for whatever reason, you don't want to get a Samsung Galaxy tablet, the Vanquisher ultra-rugged tablet is a viable alternative worth considering. It comes with an 8-inch screen and is IP67-rated, which makes it waterproof as well as dustproof. It can withstand moisture, extreme temperatures, drops, vibration, rain, dirt, mud, sand, water, altitude, and humidity. The touchscreen includes a protector as well.
The tablet includes Wi-Fi, NFC, Bluetooth, and GPS, as well as comes with an integrated Zebra 2D QR scan engine and RFID reader if you're using it while working in a warehouse, for example, and scanning items via barcode. Operating on Android 7.1 Nougat, it comes with an 8MP rear as well as front camera, Qualcomm octa-core processor, 4GB system memory, 64GB storage (expandable up to 128GB via optional microSD card), and a 10,000mAh battery that can run for up to 10 hours per charge, or up to 500+ standby hours.
It's pretty heavy, though, at 3.49 lbs. (measures 9.13 x 6.22 x .087 inches) and doesn't offer a cellular connectivity option.
- Viable Samsung alternative
- Great for warehouse work, scanning barcodes
- Outdated operating system
- Big and heavy
- Not a lot of storage
Why opt for a rugged tablet?
There are a variety of reasons why you might want a rugged tablet, and what constitutes the best rugged Android tablet will really depend on that reason. If it's for work purposes because you work out in the field, in a clinical setting, or just travel often for your job and want something that can withstand the elements, you'll want something that's not just rugged to withstand drops and falls but also weather-proof. Maybe you're a photographer, for example, who goes for photoshoots during the cold winter months, bringing along your tablet to preview pics.
But if you want something rugged for a young child so they can have their own tablet to knock around without worry, all you really need is something that comes in a super-rugged bumper case. Although being waterproof is an added bonus.
Assuming you're looking for a rugged tablet, however, because you really need something that can withstand anything Mother Nature or human error might throw at you, and you want to be able to operate it with gloves on, while wet, or in a variety of other settings, you can't go wrong with the Samsung Galaxy Tab Active3. It's the perfect size for taking with you, it's affordable, and it has all of the features you could possibly need. You can even buy it unlocked and opt for an LTE plan for connectivity where Wi-Fi isn't available.
It's worth noting that if you just want a rugged tablet because you tend to have slippery fingers or take your tablet with you everywhere and want to prevent screen cracks, scuffs, and bumps, you might be better off just considering buying an ultra-rugged protective case for the tablet you already have, or the premium tablet you want. There are plenty of them out there for the most popular tablets that will keep the expensive device protected. For example, if you were to opt for the Amazon Fire HD 8 tablet versus the specific Kids Edition one, you could choose from a wide selection of stylish yet rugged cases for the device to use when needed. And the best part is that you can take the tablet out of that case and transfer it to a more stylish one when you're using it at home.
Credits — The team that worked on this guide
Christine Persaud resides in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, and has had her share of accidents with devices, from broken screens to shattered housings. She loves tech, TV, cooking, baking, and wine.
Jeramy Johnson is proud to help Keep Austin Weird and loves hiking in the hill country of central Texas with a breakfast taco in each hand. When he's not writing about smart home gadgets and wearables, he's defending his relationship with his smart voice assistants to his family. You can follow him on Twitter at @jeramyutgw.
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