Best rugged tablets 2024

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Amazon Fire HD 8 Kids Pro (2022)

(Image credit: Chris Wedel/Android Central)

1. At a glance
2.
Best overall
3. Best compact
4. Best for kids
5. Best budget
6. Best Windows

Most people can make do with a case and screen protector when taking their tablets out into the world. But for some use cases — professionals in heavy-duty work environments, hikers roughing it on the trail, or even kids who can't be trusted with expensive equipment — an actual rugged tablet is necessary. You need waterproofing, military-grade protection against falls, swappable batteries, and other perks. 

For those people, here are the best rugged tablets we've found, running Android, Windows, or Fire OS. Below you find the details you need to pick the right rugged tablet for your needs.

At a glance

Best overall

The Samsung Galaxy Tab Active4 Pro and its case sitting on sand

(Image credit: Samsung)

1. Samsung Galaxy Tab Active 4 Pro

Best Android rugged tablet

Reasons to buy

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IP68 and MIL-STD-810H protection
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Key mapping, glove sensitivity, and loud max volume
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5G, Wi-Fi 6, NFC, CBRS support
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Replaceable battery
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Supported through Android 15

Reasons to avoid

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Heavy, bulky design
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Slow recharge time

A refreshed version of the original Galaxy Tab Active Pro, the Galaxy Tab Active4 Pro has the same 10.1-inch 1920 x 1200 LCD, IP68 water-resistant S Pen, removable 7.600mAh battery, 13MP and 8MP rear and front cameras, and in-display fingerprint sensor as the original.

It also brings back the same ultra-dense design with MIL-STD-810H protection that can withstand being "dropped 26 times from 5 feet onto plywood," temperatures from −40º F to 176º F, environmental conditions like "harsh rain, salt spray, and solar radiation," or being submerged in five feet of water for 30 minutes. It's not quite as fall-resistant as the lighter Galaxy Tab Active3, only handling 1.2m with a case whereas the Active3 can handle 1.5m drops. But it's still plenty darn rugged and has the upside of a much better processor.

The Snapdragon 778G, found in recent popular phones like the Nothing Phone (1)Xiaomi 11 Lite 5G, and Poco X5 Pro, "delivers good performance for daily use and occasional gaming," according to our tests. Paired with up to 6GB of RAM in the Galaxy Tab Active4 Pro, it delivers far better performance than we're used to seeing in a rugged tablet. It makes it surprisingly competitive compared to the non-rugged Galaxy Tab S8.

Back to the Pro's ruggedness. It has built-in 5G to work anywhere you'll get a sub-6 signal. Its battery lasts 15 hours per charge, but it'll also work in "No Battery Mode," directly pulling from a power source without draining the battery's capacity. You can even remove and replace the battery if you wish. The display works with both the S Pen and with gloved fingers.

In terms of enterprise features, it works as a mobile point of sale (mPOS), able to take payments via NFC or let customers sign with the S Pen. It works as a barcode scanner, too, and can register CBRS radio frequencies.

Best compact

Samsung Galaxy Tab Active3

(Image credit: Samsung)

2. Samsung Galaxy Tab Active3

Best compact rugged tablet

Reasons to buy

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Better shock absorption and drop protection than Active4 Pro
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More affordable than Pro
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Significantly lighter than Pro
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Most of the same ruggedness perks
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Updated to Android 13

Reasons to avoid

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Fewer software updates than Active4 Pro
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Slower processor
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Smaller display

Choosing the last-gen Galaxy Tab Active3 over the newer, pricier Galaxy Tab Active4 Pro isn't actually as much of a downgrade as you might expect. For instance, its 8-inch display has the same resolution and 59 more pixels per inch (ppi) than the larger Pro, plus identical support for a waterproof S Pen, fingerprint authentication, and gloved touches.

Originally an Android 10 tablet, the Active3 has now updated to Android 13, giving it all of Google's new tablet software paired with Samsung's own One UI spin and DeX mode. Of course, an 8-inch tablet with 4GB of RAM isn't one you'll use for robust performance or running multiple apps, but the Exynos 9810 is still faster than what most rugged tablets offer, and the newer OS also offers better privacy tools, among other upgrades.

It also has IP68 and MIL-STD-810H protection, plus a cover in the box. 248g or 8.7oz lighter than the Pro, it can fall 1.5 meters without damage when encased, a 0.3m improvement (or nearly a foot, for Americans). The battery is smaller, but still removable with the same No Battery Mode option. For enterprise use, it also has the same retail tricks like mPOS, NFC, and barcode scanning, but it's far more portable if you want a tablet that can be carried around instead of just mounted at checkout.

Best for kids

Amazon Fire HD 8 Kids Pro (2022)

(Image credit: Chris Wedel/Android Central)
Best rugged tablet for kids

Reasons to buy

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Amazing features for kids
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13-hour battery
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Strengthened aluminosilicate glass and included case
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Guaranteed replacement if it breaks in two years
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Can store lots of content with an optional memory card

Reasons to avoid

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Exclusively designed for young kids
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Not waterproof

Rugged tablets aren't just for construction workers and retail. Kids' slippery fingers (and lack of care or respect for tech) mean that you need to buy them rugged slabs that can handle chaos and minor damage.

Parents who want to give kids some screen time but don't want to give them an expensive tablet should consider one of the many Amazon devices for kids. Each Fire HD Kids tablet comes with a case and has a rugged design built to withstand damage to both the display and internal components.

The Amazon Fire 7 Kids and Fire HD 10 Kids Pro are two excellent tablets that we love, but we're instead going to highlight a device that strikes the perfect balance of size and durability: the Fire HD 8 Kids Pro (2022).

It comes with a pro-style case that can withstand falls but isn't as bulky and uncomfortable to grip as Amazon's standard "Kid-Proof case." Our reviewer noted that his kid loved the Pro more than the standard HD 8 Kids for this very reason. He also detailed how the new Pro software for older kids makes Kids+ content easier to discover, which his kid appreciated.

Amazon promises that the display has "strengthened aluminosilicate glass" to protect it from scratches and drops without a screen protector. And in terms of software protection, Amazon has some robust parental controls like requiring 30 minutes of reading before allowing for gaming or setting timed limits on usage.

Best budget

OUKITEL Rugged tablet press photo

(Image credit: OUKITEL)

4. OUKITEL RT5

Best budget rugged tablet

Reasons to buy

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10-inch FHD display
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IP68 MIL-STD-810H rugged protection
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4G / expandable storage slots
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Android 13
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More affordable than Galaxy Tab Active

Reasons to avoid

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Budget performance
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No promised updates, support
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No NFC, fingerprint sensor

OUKITEL has released a bevy of rugged Android tablets in recent years, including the T1, T3, and T5. Each model has jumped from Android 11 to 12 to 13, while also slowly upgrading in terms of performance and other specs. The OUKITEL T5 gives you the latest software, a larger and slightly brighter display, more RAM, and other perks.

In terms of ruggedness, OUKITEL promises the T5 will withstand falls below 1.5 meters, about the same as the Galaxy Tab Active3, as well as 30 minutes underwater and dusty environments — with military-grade ratings for water, dust, and shock.

The 12nm 2GHz MediaTek MT8788 isn't going to win any awards for performance, about on par with what you'd see on, say, a Fire HD tablet. But 8GB of RAM will give it an edge over older models, enough for standard browsing and apps. It comes with 256GB of storage, plus slots for 1TB expandable storage and a 4G SIM card.

The 10.1-inch FHD+ display hits a respectable 400 nits, not quite bright enough to be fully visible outdoors but good enough at this price. The high-res cameras are a nice touch, and the 10,000mAh battery gives it enough juice to last all day.

Best Windows

Two workers look at a MobileDemand Flex 10B rugged tablet

(Image credit: MobileDemand)

5. MobileDemand Flex 10B

Best rugged tablet running Windows

Reasons to buy

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Easy to mount with the right hardware
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Convenient built-in carrying features
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Android or Windows options

Reasons to avoid

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Expensive for what it is
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Heavier than others
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Screen is not high-res

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.

Why opt for a rugged tablet?

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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 to pair one of the best Android tablets with a rugged case and a screen protector. It won't make the tablet fully waterproof like a rugged tablet, but it'll protect it against most damage.

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.

That's the case with most Fire HD Kids tablets, which ship with a case that makes them rugged. This could also apply to the upcoming Galaxy Tab S9, which is rumored to sport IP68 water and dust resistance; it would just need a case to make it fully rugged, without the usual performance downgrades you have to accept.

Christine Persaud
Contributor

Christine Persaud has been writing about tech since long before the smartphone was even a "thing." When she isn't writing, she's working on her latest fitness program, binging a new TV series, tinkering with tech gadgets she's reviewing, or spending time with family and friends. A self-professed TV nerd, lover of red wine, and passionate home cook, she's immersed in tech in every facet of her life. Follow her at @christineTechCA.

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