Samsung and Apple are without a doubt the two biggest players in the premium tablet space. In fact, they're more or less the only premium tablet makers around. The Galaxy Tab S7 tops our list as the best Android tablet for consumers of all kinds, and the iPad has always stood strong as the baseline for all other tablets. Whether you have a preference for Android or iOS, or you just want the best tablet experience you can get regardless of the platform it runs, there's a lot to love about both devices.
Samsung Galaxy Tab S7 vs. Apple iPad Air (2020): The iPad isn't the only good option these days
Both tablets offer outstanding hardware with incredibly thin and lightweight metal designs. The iPad Air is nearly identical to this year's iPad Pro, and even features the newer, more powerful A14 Bionic processor. With this iPad Air, Apple reintroduced its Touch ID fingerprint sensor, integrated into the power button on the top of the tablet, which sits on the left when using the iPad in horizontal orientation.
The Galaxy Tab S7 looks similar in design to other Galaxy Tabs, though featured on the back is a prominent marking for magnetically attaching and charging the S Pen when not in use. Like the iPad, the Tab S7 features a capacitive fingerprint sensor integrated into the power button, along with slim bezels surrounding the display and USB-C charging. Both tablets are a comfortable size at roughly 11 inches, and feature best-in-class displays — though notably, only the Tab S7 has a 120Hz refresh rate.
The Tab S7 also doubles the iPad Air's storage, both baseline and upgraded, albeit at a slightly higher starting price. Both tablets support excellent keyboard accessories, though each goes about it in different ways. Samsung's keyboard for the Galaxy Tab S7 comes in two parts: a rear cover with a fully articulating kickstand and the keyboard itself. For the iPad Air, Apple offers the Magic Keyboard, which suspends the iPad above the keys, or the more traditional Smart Keyboard Folio.
|Category||Galaxy Tab S7||iPad Air (2020)|
|Operating System||Android 10||iOS 14|
|Display||11 inches, 2560x1600 (274 ppi) resolution, IPS LCD||10.9 inches, 2360x1640 (264 ppi) resolution, Liquid Retina IPS LCD|
|Processor||Qualcomm Snapdragon 865+||Apple A14 Bionic|
|Cameras||13MP wide + 5MP ultrawide + 8MP front||12MP wide + 7MP front|
|Security||Capacitive fingerprint sensor||Capacitive fingerprint sensor|
|Dimensions||253.8 x 165.3 x 6.3mm, 498g||247.6 x 178.5 x 6.1mm, 458g|
|Colors||Mystic Bronze, Mystic Silver, Mystic Black||Space Gray, Silver, Rose Gold, Green, Sky Blue|
With similarly excellent hardware, the biggest difference between these two tablets is the software they run on. The Galaxy Tab S7 runs on Android 10 with Samsung's One UI 2.5, with tight integration for both Google's and Samsung's various services. One of the things that makes Samsung's tablets special is support for DeX, allowing you to connect the Tab S7 to a display, along with a keyboard and mouse, and experience a full-fledged desktop interface — even wirelessly with supported TVs.
The iPad's biggest advantage remains its diverse app selection.
You can also launch DeX on the Tab S7 itself to enter into a laptop-like software interface, complete with windowed apps and desktop-class web browsing. This helps offset one of Android's inherent issues on tablets, a comparatively small library of apps optimized for the larger screen space. This is one of iPad OS's biggest advantages. Whether you need Photoshop, a video editor, or an audio workstation, the iPad Air has considerably more creation-focused apps available to it.
Of course, this doesn't mean that the Tab S7 is barren; there are plenty of apps to choose from for more general tasks, many of which take advantage of the S Pen, and you can even use Xbox Game Pass Ultimate to stream Xbox games remotely on the stunning display. But particularly if you're after content creation software, the iPad Air has more to offer.
If, however, your tablet app needs are met with the Play Store's selection, the Tab S7 is an incredibly compelling device with phenomenal hardware and more customizable software. DeX is an extremely powerful tool, and the S Pen is just as capable as the Apple Pencil. Both tablets are among the best options on the market, and you'll be well-served with either one — for the most part, you can simply buy based on your software preferences, rather than any huge shortcomings on either device.
Samsung Galaxy Tab S7
DeX makes for an incredibly versatile device
The Galaxy Tab S7, along with the pricier Tab S7+, is the best Android tablet money can buy. The included S Pen can sense thousands of levels of pressure, and Samsung's DeX interface allows you to enter a laptop mode or cast wirelessly to a display at the touch of a button.
Outdoing the Pro
Apple iPad Air (2020)
An entry point to the walled garden
With a wide selection of apps, there's not much the iPad Air can't do. Its storage options aren't terribly impressive, and you'll need to buy the Apple Pencil separately, but iPad OS is more customizable than ever before, and the software support is unmatched.
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