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Best rugged tablet 2022

Panasonic ToughBook A3 tablet held in front of a lake
(Image credit: Daniel Rubino / Android Central)

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, the best Android 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.

Samsung Galaxy Tab Active3

(Image credit: Samsung)

Samsung Galaxy Tab Active3

Best overall rugged tablet

Reasons to buy

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Even better shock absorption and drop protection than Active2
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The touchscreen works even with gloves on
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Swappable batteries on the fly
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Expandable microSD storage up to 1TB
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Google ARCore support

Reasons to avoid

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More expensive than Active2
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Slightly heavier than Active2

Until the Galaxy Tab Active4 officially launches in late 2022, the Samsung Galaxy Tab Active3 remains the best rugged tablet available. It received a ton of upgrades over the now-discontinued Active 2, starting with enhanced shock protection and the ability to register touches from gloved fingers. Many other rugged tablets lack Samsung's mobile expertise, while the Active 3 gives you the One UI experience you're used to, only housed in a more robust design.

The Galaxy Tab Active3 launched with Android 10 but recently received Android 12 and will update to Android 13/ One UI 5 next year. It has the Exynos 9810 chip, 128GB internal storage with a 1GB microSD card slot, an upgraded 13MP camera and 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.

Samsung Galaxy Tab Active Pro

(Image credit: Samsung)

Samsung Galaxy Tab Active Pro

Best rugged tablet for field workers

Reasons to buy

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Pretty lightweight and compact
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Decent price
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Can be used just about anywhere

Reasons to avoid

-
Might not need extra features
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Large screen might be too big for taking with you

With a 10.1-inch screen, this Wi-Fi tablet (LTE option also available for $80 more, plus plan) operates on Android 11 (its final update) 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 Active3, 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 Active3 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.

Two workers look at a MobileDemand Flex 10B rugged tablet

(Image credit: MobileDemand)

MobileDemand Flex 10B

Best rugged tablet for Microsoft Windows users

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.

Panasonic ToughPad FZ-G1 rugged tablet

(Image credit: Panasonic)

Panasonic ToughPad FZ-G1

Best rugged tablet for business

Reasons to buy

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Can easily connect peripherals for PC experience
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Very responsive screen

Reasons to avoid

-
Very expensive
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No LTE connectivity option

Panasonic has been making its line of ToughPad and ToughBook ultra-rugged tablets and laptops, respectively, for some time. The company launched the ToughBook A3 tablet, which is designed specifically for first responders, around the same time. But the FZ-G1 is a better option for other professionals who need a rugged tablet 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.

Amazon Fire 7 Kids 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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10-hour battery
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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 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.

We reviewed the Amazon Fire 7 Kids tablet with the help of two 6- and 8-year-old kids who tested it across various camping and road trips, and they were very happy using the device to play some of the excellent games for Amazon Kids tablets, and enjoy the perks that come with the free year of Amazon Kids+. Plus, it has a rugged case with cheerful colors, fun patterns on the back, and a built-in handle/kickstand that makes it easier to carry and more stable on tables. 

It's definitely an "entry-level device suited for younger kids," but Amazon made some significant improvements over the last model, including a RAM boost to 2GB, speedier USB-C charging, and a slightly lighter design, so its ruggedness doesn't work against it for smaller kids' hands. 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 10-hour battery life, the Fire 7 Kids has passcode-protected parental controls with which parents can set time limits, educational goals, and curfews and manage content for up to four kid profiles. So it's just as safe with its software and your kid's safety as it is with the hardware.

Vanquisher Ultra Rugged Android Tablet Lifestyle

(Image credit: Amazon)

Vanquisher Ultra Rugged Android Tablet

Best rugged Samsung alternative tablet

Reasons to buy

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Viable Samsung alternative
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Great for warehouse work, scanning barcodes

Reasons to avoid

-
Outdated operating system
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Big and heavy
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Not a lot of storage

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.

Samsung Galaxy Tab Active 4 Pro press image

(Image credit: Samsung)

Samsung Galaxy Tab Active 4 Pro

Future best 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

Reasons to avoid

-
Heavy, bulky design
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Not as fall-proof as Active 3

Samsung announced (opens in new tab) the Galaxy Tab Active 4 Pro this summer, planning to launch it in Europe in September and the rest of the world by end of 2022. We have yet to test the device, so we can't say for certain how it'll compare to the older Active devices. But based on the spec sheet and Samsung's description of the device, it'll be similar to what we've seen in the past, only with newer hardware.

The Galaxy Tab Active 4 Pro will have a 6nm 8-core CPU with 4-6GB RAM, 10.1-inch 1920 x 1200 display, 13MP camera with 8MP selfie cam, replaceable 7,600mAh battery, and a hefty 674g weight. It has MIL-STD-810H and IP68 protection with 1.2m anti-shock protection — less than the 1.5m drop resistance on the lighter Active 3 tablet — and Gorilla Glass 5 protection for the display. The tablet has a wide range of connectivity options: Sub-6 5G or LTE with a SIM card, Bluetooth 5.2, NFC, and GPS. 

The Galaxy Tab Active 3 and Active Pro top our list of rugged tablets for now, despite their advanced age, because Samsung supports its products so well. But you should know that the Galaxy Tab Active 4 Pro will be an option soon, in case you'd rather have a device that launches with Android 12 and should receive support up to Android 15 three years from now.

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 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. 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 7 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.