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iPad vs Samsung tablets: which should you buy?

iPads vs Samsung tablets logo on coloured background
(Image credit: Future)

The question of iPads vs Samsung tablets is relevant no matter what level you’re buying at. Whether you’re a beginner looking for something cheap and accessible, or you’re a pro creative who needs a super-powered tablet to work on every day, or you’re somewhere in between, there are plenty of iPads and Samsung tablets to tempt you.

When you buy an iPad or a Samsung Galaxy tablet, you’re buying into one of two operating systems – Apple’s iOS or Google’s Android. As we’ll see, each has its advantages and drawbacks, so it’s worth thinking about what’s most important to you 

Samsung and Apple have both been making tablets for quite some time, so there’s a lot of choice out there. If you want to get a thorough grounding in the all the iPads on offer, then our iPad generations article provides a useful primer, and we also have a handy guide to the best Android tablets, which features plenty of Samsung models. 

So let’s get started. First, we’ll look at the top-end tablets each maker has to offer…

iPads vs Samsung tablets: high-end tablets

If you’re a creative professional – say an illustrator, animator, photographer, video editor or whatever else – then a top-end tablet can be a hugely useful tool. The top end of Apple’s iPad offering is dominated by the iPad Pro and iPad Air ranges. Both have been recently upgraded to use Apple’s in-house M1 processing chips, which provide super-fast performance.

However, Samsung has hit back in 2022 with the introduction of its Galaxy Tab S8 range. The new flagship series of tablet, it comprises the following: the Galaxy Tab S8, the Galaxy Tab S8+, and the Galaxy Tab S8 Ultra. 

Apple iPad Pro 12.9 2021 vs Samsung Galaxy Tab S8 Ultra 

Apple iPad 12.9 and Samsung Galaxy Tab S8 Ultra side by side on white background

The iPad Pro 12.9 (left) and the Galaxy Tab S8 Ultra (right) (Image credit: Future)

These are the top-of-the-line tablets from each firm, and each has a lot going for it. The Apple iPad Pro 12.9 2021 boasts the M1 chip, which delivers super-fast operation. You can read our full iPad Pro 12.9 review to see more on this fantastic tablet. However, Samsung has quite clearly devised its Galaxy Tab S8 Ultra to compete with the iPad Pros, and as such, it has a lot going for it. 

First, the S8 Ultra boasts an incredible 14.6-inch AMOLED display, which gives you considerably more real estate than the 12.9-inch screen on the iPad Pro. Second, it’s been priced to undercut the Apple offering (which starts at $1099), starting at $899.99 for the 128GB version.

The iPadOS remains a smoother operating experience – you can be sure when you boot up an app it’ll work correctly, and this is by no means a guarantee in the wild frontiers of Android. It’s also generally better optimised for tablets, as Android remains less polished on tablets than it is on phones. 

Overall, the iPad Pro 12.9 2021 is the better tablet experience. But if you want more and better screen real estate for less money, then the Samsung Galaxy Tab S8 Ultra merits serious consideration.

We could directly compare more tablet models from the two firms – put the Samsung Galaxy Tab S8+ (from $899.99) vs the Apple iPad Pro 11-inch 2021 (from $799), or the Samsung Galaxy Tab S8 (from $699.99) vs the iPad Air 2022 (from $599). However, you’re going to end up at pretty much the same conclusion every time: the Apple tablet provides a smoother, faster and more polished experience, while the Samsung tablet gives you more freedom and customisability. 

So instead, let’s look at a few key features of both tablets to get a broader idea of the differences at play here.

iPad vs Samsung tablets: storage options

Generally, the cheapest version of each tablet will be the one with the least storage. However, while it may appear from the boxes that the cheapest Galaxy Tab S8+ and iPad Pro 11-inch both offer 128GB storage, that isn’t actually true – because the Galaxy Tab S8+, like most Samsung tablets, has a microSD card slot. 

The iPad’s stubborn lack of an SD slot has been a sore point with enthusiasts for some time – while you can of course use cloud storage, it isn't the same as having a solid local storage option. The cheapest iPad Air 2022 is priced at $599, which may seem pretty reasonable, but this is for a paltry 64GB with no easy way to expand the storage. Most creatives will fill that up very, very quickly. Check out our guide to the best memory cards to get an idea of the tools you can use to expand your storage.

Apple Pencil vs Samsung S-Pen

The Apple Pencil, Apple Pencil 2 and Samsung S-Pen in its various versions are all some of the best tablet styluses you can use. For professional creative work on a tablet, a good stylus is a must, and these styluses all offer pressure sensitivity, tilt sensitivity, palm rejection and minimal latency. The drawing experience is, in both cases, superb. 

Samsung S-Pen side by side with Apple Pencil 2 on white background

The sleek black S-Pen and the clean white lines of the Pencil 2. (Image credit: Future)

However, the S-Pen does have one solid advantage – it’s bundled in. Buy a Samsung Galaxy tablet that has pen support, and it will come with the S-Pen in the box. Meanwhile, Apple users who want a stylus will have to add on an extra $100 or so to the cost of their tablet, which was likely already not-inconsiderable.

Google Play vs App Store

Apple’s App Store is, yet again, a highly polished experience. There are loads of apps to choose from, and in many cases they are specifically optimised for tablet use, meaning they’ll look great on an iPad screen of any kind.

Google Play and AppStore logos on white background

It's not always guaranteed an app will have both of these logos. (Image credit: Future)

On Google Play, the standards and supervision for what gets on there are much lower. This can make the store more exciting and interesting to explore, but it also has its downsides. It’s hard to be sure exactly what you’re getting with some Android apps until you download them, and the increased complication of making apps work across the many Android devices has caused some developers simply not to bother making their apps work for Android, and to stick on the simpler iOS App Store.

iPads vs Samsung tablets: which should you choose?

iPad Air 2022 side by side with Samsung Galaxy Tab S8+ on white background

The iPad Air 2022 edition is a tempting tablet... but so is the Samsung Galaxy tab S8+ (Image credit: Future)

If you’re a pro creative who needs the best, then we’d say get one of the best iPads. Smooth in operation and unbelievably fast, the iPad Pro and iPad Air ranges have been given a new lease of life thanks to the M1 chips, and they’re up there with laptops in terms of computing power.

However, if you want something with more freedom, more customisability, or just more functionality for the money, then we’d recommend looking at a Samsung Galaxy tablet. With competitive price tags and styluses included, they offer serious value, and users at practically all levels should give them due consideration.

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Jon is a freelance writer and journalist who covers photography, art, technology, and the intersection of all three. When he's not scouting out news on the latest gadgets, he likes to play around with film cameras that were manufactured before he was born. To that end, he never goes anywhere without his Olympus XA2, loaded with a fresh roll of Kodak (Gold 200 is the best, since you asked). Jon is a regular contributor to Creative Bloq, and has also written for in Digital Camera World, Black + White Photography Magazine, Photomonitor, Outdoor Photography, Shortlist and probably a few others he's forgetting.