When it comes to playing games, not all tablets are created equal. That’s especially true when you’re playing games full of high-res graphics and fast action, such as Modern Combat 4—a lot more demanding than, say, Candy Crush. If you’re a gaming fan and want to be able to play all the latest offerings on your tablet, you’ll need a device that can keep up.
So we recently began testing performance on tablets, and identified several with enough punch in the processor to handle games that require a lot of power.
Here are some of the best tablets for gaming that cost $500 or less. All scored an excellent in performance.
- Samsung Galaxy Tab Pro 8.4, $400
- Apple iPad Mini with Retina display, $400
- Google Nexus 7 (2nd gen), $230
- Samsung Galaxy Tab Pro 10.1, $500
- Apple iPad Air, $500
- Amazon Kindle Fire HDX 8.9, $380 (Amazon has its own app store and may have fewer games than those with access to the full Google Play store.)
We found other tablets with excellent performance as well. Take a look at our Ratings for more.
Testing games on tablets
To get an idea of how much difference performance makes, I tried a few games on a Samsung Galaxy Tab Pro 10.1, which had excellent performance, and compared the same games on the HP Slate 10 HD, whose performance score was only fair.
I started with Smash Hit, a game that has you “flying” quickly through various rooms smashing glass shapes. It looked great on the Samsung tablet, but when I tried to download it on the HP tablet, I was told the device wasn’t compatible, probably because of the processor.
Next up was Beach Buggy Blitz, where—you guessed it—you race a buggy down a beach picking up coins and special powers. I was able to play without glitches on both devices. But the HP tablet didn’t pick up certain graphical elements, such as the drops of water that splashed across the Samsung tablet when I drove my buggy over bridges.
Find more tablets that are primed for gaming in our buying guide and Ratings.
Finally, I took Modern Combat 4 for a spin on both tablets. It’s a battlefield game with lots of action. It worked on both, but I found it harder to shoot accurately on the HP. It also dropped some graphical elements, such as the flying sparks I saw on the start screen when playing on the Samsung tablet.
There can be a number of reasons for inconsistencies such as these from tablet to tablet. In some cases, a tablet may be using an older version of the Android operating system. But the processor was probably the cause of the problems I encountered. The game apps dropped the water splashes and sparks because the HP wasn’t powerful enough to draw those graphics quickly. And it was harder to shoot while playing Modern Combat with the HP because the processor was slow to react to my swipes and taps.
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