The 10 best tablets you can buy: From the iPad Air to Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1

It's tough to believe the tablet market has exploded as quickly as it has since the first iPad debuted almost four years ago. After all, smartphones, tablets, and laptops all fulfil similar needs, and the feature sets of these devices don't vary wildly. Often it comes down to whether you want to check Facebook, email your pals, or watch House of Cards on a 5in, 7in or a 13in screen.

At the same time, here we are four years later, and there still aren't really many tablets that will truly replace both a laptop and a smartphone. A tablet is basically an extra thing to buy and carry. You probably don't need a tablet, but that doesn't mean you don't want one.

And if you know you want a tablet, you probably also have some idea whether you want an iPad, an Android, or a Windows model. (Bear in mind, however, that this list focuses mostly on lower cost media consumption tablets)

There are some other important factors to consider as well. Do you need a tablet that offers hundreds of thousands of apps? Do you want a slate that you can easily hold with a single hand, or one with a larger 10in screen? Do you need memory card slots for additional storage? How about 4G cellular connectivity so you can use your tablet to get online anywhere? You get the idea.

If you're unsure which tablet to get, we present this list of the 10 best tablets currently on the market. The list comprises Android, Apple, and Microsoft models – and since one tablet size doesn't fit all, we picked five large-screen (8.9in to 11in) and five small-screen (7in to 8in) winners to come up with our top 10.

So without further ado, let’s look at those top tablets – we’ve reviewed all of them, of course, and provided a link through to the review should you want to read up more on any particular model.

Large-screen (8.9in to 11in) tablets

Apple iPad Air (£399) 

The iPad Air is Apple's attempt to make the tablet disappear. The result is an unusually slim, well-built platform for the best array of apps in the business. Read the full review.

Asus Transformer Book T100 (£330)

For not much more than £300, the Asus Transformer Book T100 is a fully functional Windows 8.1 hybrid tablet, and the natural successor to the netbook ideal. It avoids all the compatibility issues that plague tablets running mobile operating systems like iOS, Android, or Windows RT. Read the full review.

Dell Venue 11 Pro (£439)

With all-day battery life, a 1080p IPS screen, Windows 8.1 Pro, and flexible mobile and desktop docking systems, the Dell Venue 11 Pro slate tablet means business. And it's priced well under £500. Read the full review.

Amazon Kindle Fire HDX 8.9 (£329)

The Kindle Fire HDX 8.9 is the simplest-to-use high quality large-screen tablet, with built-in on-demand tech support. And it's the best choice for handling your Amazon content, naturally. Read the full review.

Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 2014 Edition (£449)

The refreshed Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 picks up exactly where the previous model left off, making key upgrades to the display and internals while improving its core stylus and multitasking features – although it's still not perfect. Read the full review.

Small-screen (7in to 8in) tablets

Google Nexus 7 (£200)

Google's Nexus 7 continues to set the bar for small-screen tablets with a perfect balance between price and performance. Read the full review.

Apple iPad mini with Retina Display (£319)

The new iPad mini has a super-sharp Retina Display and packs all of the power of the iPad Air into a more portable package. Read the full review.

Amazon Kindle Fire HDX 7 (£199)

Amazon's 7in Kindle Fire HDX is the most user-friendly high quality small-screen tablet you can buy, and that ease of use doesn't come at the cost of performance. Read the full review.

Asus MeMO Pad HD7 (£129)

The Asus MeMO Pad HD7 is one of the most affordable tablets on the market, and it offers solid features and performance for the price. Read the full review.

Dell Venue 8 Pro (£249)

Dell’s Venue 8 Pro is the first device to make a convincing case as a small-screen Windows tablet. It’s small, light and easy to lug around, but also speedy and practical enough to be worth using. With the right apps and tools the Venue 8 Pro could make a great – and affordable – device for work and/or play. Read the full review.