A Windows tablet is the ultimate mobile device for work and home. It can do everything a notebook does, but with more flexibility. You can operate it in tablet mode using the touchscreen with your finger or a stylus, and with the included or purchased keyboard accessory, it becomes a full-fledged laptop.
As a 2-in-1 device, it is more advantageous than a convertible notebook because you only need to carry as much hardware as you currently need. The tablet is ideal for quick mobile use, such as in meetings or when you want to show something to your colleague in the next room.
At home, the tablet is unbeatably convenient, even with an attached keyboard. Most Windows tablets are lighter than a notebook. With the touchscreen stylus, you can take handwritten notes that can be converted into digital text and further edited. It can also be used for drawing and creating plans.
When switching from a Windows notebook, you only need to adjust to the operation. The operating system remains the same, along with familiar software, seamless multitasking, and easy file exchange with other Windows devices.
In a business setting, you can use your usual programs, and a Windows tablet does not change anything in terms of device administration in the company.
A Windows tablet usually has fewer interfaces than a notebook, but in most cases, it has standard ports for peripherals. Current models mainly use Type-C with Thunderbolt 4, which, when paired with a compatible monitor or docking station, makes it an optimal desktop device.
However, when it comes to Windows tablets, you have a smaller selection of devices and manufacturers compared to notebooks. Microsoft has monopolized the market with its Surface devices, offering models in all price ranges with the Surface Pro and Surface Go series. Nevertheless, it is still worth comparing with other providers. The competition is often cheaper, better equipped, or offers products for application areas that Microsoft does not cover. And these are the outstanding Windows tablets in the test:
Winner: Microsoft Surface Pro 9
- Improved computing power and longer battery life with Intel CPU from Alder Lake generation.
- More color options available, including Sapphire Blue and Forest Green.
- Solidly constructed aluminum chassis with adjustable stand.
- Excellent display quality with 3:2 aspect ratio and 120 Hz refresh rate.
- Type-C ports with Thunderbolt 4 can’t be used for charging.
- No audio jack, card reader, or fingerprint sensor.
- Accessories like attachable keyboard and stylus are sold separately.
The Surface Pro sets the benchmark for Windows tablets, and this remains true for the Pro 9 as well. Thanks to an Intel CPU from the Alder Lake generation, it offers improved computing power and longer battery life in office use compared to its predecessor. Additionally, Microsoft adds more color options to the game: The model with Windows 11 Home is now available in Sapphire Blue or Forest Green, in addition to the familiar Platinum Silver and Graphite Gray variants.
Furthermore, the Surface Pro 9 brings together the acclaimed advantages of the series. The aluminum chassis is solidly constructed, and thanks to the built-in infinitely adjustable stand, you can place the tablet upright on the desk. The display quality with a 3:2 aspect ratio and 120 Hz refresh rate is excellent.
The two Type-C ports with Thunderbolt 4 can only be used for connecting external devices because you still charge the Pro 9 via the proprietary Connect port. On the other hand, Microsoft has omitted an audio jack and a card reader. The tablet does not come with a fingerprint sensor for biometric authentication; you can only get that in the corresponding keyboard. This remains the biggest argument against the Surface Pro 9 because the tablet is not cheap, and Microsoft also charges extra for accessories such as the attachable keyboard and touchscreen stylus.
Price-Performance Winner: Microsoft Surface Go 3
- Sturdy housing, built-in stand, and decent display quality.
- Lightweight design at 540 grams with a 10.5-inch display.
- Fanless operation for quiet use.
- Lower computing power and battery life compared to higher-end models.
- Not recommended as the primary productivity device.
The most affordable Surface model is recommended if you are looking for a Windows tablet at a low price without compromising on quality features such as a sturdy housing, built-in stand, and decent display quality.
Therefore, it makes sense as an alternative to notebooks for school and studies, especially because it weighs only 540 grams due to the 10.5-inch display. Furthermore, the tablet does not disturb the user or the environment as it operates fanlessly.
Overall, the Go 3 is a few steps below the Pro 9 in all aspects. This is advantageous in terms of price, although you still have to pay extra for the attachable keyboard and stylus if you need them for the entry-level Microsoft tablet. However, you have to make significant compromises in terms of computing power and battery life. It is acceptable for occasional work use, but it is not recommended as the primary productivity device.
Attractive Price: Microsoft Surface Go 2
- Affordability with options for 128 GB storage.
- Good build quality and display for browsing and movies.
- Limited computing power for demanding tasks.
The predecessor Surface Go 2 is even more affordable. Prices now start at just over 300 euros, and the LTE variant costs around 600 euros. However, it is essential to opt for a model with 128 GB storage because it uses an NVMe flash drive, while the tablets with 64 GB use a slower eMMC card, further reducing the already moderate performance of the Go 2. You can create more space using a microSD card that can be inserted into the card reader hidden behind the stand.
However, the budget-friendly Surface does not compromise on build quality and display quality. Therefore, it is a good choice for those primarily looking for a Windows tablet for browsing and watching movies. However, for work purposes, you should only expect basic office tasks from the Go 2.
Outstanding Speed: Asus ROG Flow Z13
- Powerful gaming-oriented hardware with 14-core CPU and Nvidia RTX 3050 Ti.
- Detachable keyboard and SSD replacement capability.
- Distinctive design and outstanding graphics performance.
- Not suitable for demanding photo and video editing.
The Asus tablet is completely out of the ordinary. Instead of focusing on office work, it is all about gaming and fun. The 13.4-inch tablet is actually a disguised gaming notebook with a powerful 14-core CPU and Nvidia’s RTX 3050 Ti. While there are similarities to the Surface, the Z13 has a foldable stand on the back of the housing, and it includes a detachable keyboard with touchpad, unlike Microsoft, which sells them separately. Additionally, you can replace the SSD just like with the current Surface models.
However, the distinctive design, pre-installed tuning tool, outstanding computing power, and superior graphics performance set it apart from all other tablets. If your main focus is photo and video editing, and you occasionally play games, but you desire a more compact design and more flexible operation than a multimedia notebook, the Fow Z13 is the way to go.
Best Features: Dell Latitude 7320 Detachable
- Comprehensive features including LTE modem, fingerprint sensor, smart card reader, and NFC.
- Good attachable keyboard and stylus included.
- Generous battery life, foldable stand, and high display quality.
- Slightly outdated CPU, lower display resolution.
The Dell Latitude 7320 better meets the requirements of large companies with its comprehensive features compared to the Surface Pro. It can be equipped with an LTE modem, has a fingerprint sensor, a smart card reader, and NFC for contactless login using a smart card.
Another advantage for business customers is the 36-month warranty. Beneficial for every user: The Dell tablet includes a very good attachable keyboard and a stylus.
The Dell tablet also easily fulfills other requirements for a versatile productivity device. The battery life is generous, it has a foldable stand in the housing, and despite the slightly outdated Tiger Lake CPU, the computing power is still satisfactory.
Furthermore, the display in a 3:2 aspect ratio offers top-level image quality with high brightness of over 400 cd/m², strong contrast, and wide color gamut coverage. The only drawback is the lower resolution of 1920 x 1200 compared to other premium tablets.
Best Display: Dell XPS 13 2-in-1 (9315)
- Outstanding display quality at a more affordable price.
- Fanless design for quiet operation.
- Keyboard included in the package.
- Lack of housing stand, less flexible compared to Surface Pro.
If you are looking for a tablet with an outstanding display for working with photos and videos, you usually have to spend a lot of money because good image quality comes at a price. Not so with the XPS tablet: Its display is as good as the one in the Surface Pro 9, and in some measurements, it even outperforms it. Additionally, the Dell 2-in-1 is cheaper because the keyboard is included in the package.
In most other tests, the two competitors are usually on par. The advantage of the XPS lies in its fanless design, which allows it to operate quietly with almost no compromises in computing power. The downside of the Dell tablet is the lack of a housing stand, which makes it less flexible to use compared to the Surface Pro. While you can fold the keyboard cover into a stand for the notebook mode, it only offers three adjustable angles, not continuous ones.
FAQ: Windows Tablets
Is the computing power of Windows tablets suitable for productive use?
Windows tablets use the same hardware and software as business notebooks. Therefore, the computing power is comparable and sufficient for most business tasks. In practice, it mainly depends on how effective the cooling system in the tablet is to ensure that the processor can run at high clock rates even under prolonged load. This issue is also present in many ultrabooks.
However, Windows tablets are not suitable for demanding photo and video editing or gaming as they almost always work with the integrated graphics unit of the processor.
What are the differences between expensive and cheap Windows tablets?
Similar to notebooks, expensive tablets priced at 1000 euros and above offer higher computing power, higher resolution displays with better image quality, and more comprehensive features. In the price range below 800 euros, you can find tablets with limited performance and less storage space. However, they are sufficient for browsing and basic office tasks, making them ideal secondary devices for on-the-go use. They are also suitable for users on a tight budget, such as students.
Since the range of Windows tablets is significantly narrower than that of notebooks, there are very few mid-range models that offer a useful compromise of decent performance, good features, and an affordable price. When buying a Windows tablet, you have to choose between expensive premium models and affordable entry-level models.
What software runs on Windows tablets?
Most Windows tablets run Windows Home or Pro, offering the same software selection as a PC or notebook with Windows. Some inexpensive tablets, such as the Surface Go models from Microsoft, have the S version of Windows installed, which only allows you to use programs from the Microsoft Store. However, you can disable the S mode, and the operating system will then become a regular Windows Home. However, you cannot switch back to S mode.
Microsoft offers a tablet series called Surface Pro X, which runs on Windows ARM. It uses processors with the ARM architecture, which is also used by smartphones, Android tablets, as well as iOS and Mac devices. They work more efficiently than the combination of Windows and x86/x64 CPUs, resulting in a significantly longer battery life in most cases.
However, unlike Android, iOS, and Mac OS, there are only a few native programs for Windows ARM that take advantage of its architecture. While you can also install standard Windows software on a Windows ARM tablet, the operating system runs it in an emulator, which makes it slower and typically requires more processing power, reducing battery life.
Do you need a keyboard and stylus for a Windows tablet?
Every tablet manufacturer offers suitable keyboards for their tablets, which can usually be docked to the bottom of the tablet chassis using a Pogo Pin connector. Whether you need an attachable keyboard depends on the main intended use: If you primarily operate the device using the touchscreen and only type short texts, the on-screen keyboard is sufficient.
However, if you want to use the tablet as a 2-in-1 device in notebook mode, you will need a keyboard. Good tablet keyboards, such as those for the Surface Pro and Dell Latitude 7320, closely resemble a regular notebook keyboard in terms of operation and typing experience and are suitable for productive use. However, the tablet-keyboard combination should be placed on a desk as the thin keyboards tend to flex unpleasantly during typing. Additionally, the device can wobble on an uneven surface, such as on your lap.
Windows Tablets: How We Test
The following criteria are taken into account in the evaluation of a Windows tablet: mobility, display, speed, features, ergonomics.
This category includes the weight and battery life of the tablet. We measure battery life in two ways: First, we conduct a WLAN test where the tablet has to load and display various websites at 30-second intervals. The runtime is measured from switching to battery mode until the tablet enters sleep mode. The display brightness is set to 200 cd/m².
The second battery test involves playing a Full HD video in a continuous loop at maximum brightness.
For the display, we measure luminance, contrast, coverage of the sRGB, Adobe RGB, and DCI-P3 color spaces, as well as color accuracy. We use the Spyder 5 colorimeter from Datacolor with the corresponding software. In addition, the display size and resolution are considered in the form of pixel density.
We determine the performance of tablets using several benchmarks. The speed when loading web pages and working with web apps is measured using browser tests such as Jetstream, Browsermark, and WebXprt. For system performance, we use Crossmark from Bapco, a cross-platform test that assesses the tablet’s performance with office and multimedia software, as well as the speed of the SSD when opening programs. We determine the 3D performance using the “Wild Life” test from 3D Mark.
In evaluating the features, we consider the size of the storage and memory, as well as the number and quality of ports. A Windows tablet earns extra points in this rating if a keyboard and/or stylus for the touchscreen are included in the package.
In this category, we assess how the Windows tablet performs under load. We use the stress test from 3DMark, measuring the fan noise in dB(A) and the heat on the bottom of the housing during the test.
For both tests, we set the power mode to “Balanced” or an equivalent manufacturer mode.