Which Tablet Is The Best For Gaming?

Matt Smith 21-08-2012

gaming tabletMobile gaming is kind of a big deal. Most games available for tablets aren’t as long as the best titles for handheld consoles, but some are just as deep in both story and mechanics. As for selection, well, there’s just no way Nintendo or Sony can compete with the iOS and Android app stores.


Even some hardcore gamers are now turning to tablets as an alternative to handheld consoles. Which begs the question – if you care about gaming, what tablet is the best? Is there a major difference between the competitors, or are they all about the same?

Understand The SoC

gaming tablet

The hardware in a tablet is generally not user serviceable, but manufacturers usually draw from a similar pool of options. Companies like Nvidia, Qualcomm and Texas Instruments are major players in the tablet space. All of them offer system-on-a-chip (SoC) solutions that are ready for to be inserted into a tablet.

You’ll want to pay close attention to the SoC because it is, for the most part, what determines performance. The SoC includes not only the CPU but also the GPU.

There’s no easy way to tell how quick a SoC will be relative to its peers. There’s a fair bit of difference in per-clock performance between competitors. You also have to consider single, dual or quad core, which is further complicated by the fact that not all apps can handle multiple cores well.


Still, there is some good news. A SoC will perform roughly the same in all tablets that have it, so if you read a review of a tablet that uses a Snotstomper XL400, you can feel confident that another tablet using the same chip will have similar performance. Differences can occur due to custom power profiles, manufacturer over/under-clocking and other factors, but the variance is usually 10 percent or less.

What About RAM?

RAM is important in computers, so some buyers will assume it’s also vital in tablets. I’ve so far not run across any tablet that had trouble running an app due to RAM. Developers seem to be very conservative about its use. Also, because tablets always use solid state storage, there’s not much penalty for having to draw data from long-term memory.

Gaming On Android

best tablet for gaming

The big name in Android gaming is Nvidia. The company has committed to mobile platforms with its Tegra mobile chips. They’re quick and are supported by Nvidia, which has always had good relations with developers. Many Tegra powered tablets ship with an Nvidia sponsored game store that only features apps developed with Tegra in mind.


Another name that’s commonly found inside Android tablets is OMAP, a SoC made by Texas Instruments (yes, the same TI famous for its calculators). This solution is used in many Samsung tablets and the current Kindle Fire. It’s adequately fast, but not nearly as quick as Tegra 3.

Qualcomm has some very good SoC options with fast GPUs, but for they don’t seem to pop up in Android tablets. If you see a Qualcomm powered tablet I suggest you check out a review of its performance, but you’ll probably end up buying one of the many Tegra 3 tablets instead.

Gaming On iOS

best tablet for gaming

If you want to game on an iOS tablet you’re obviously going to end up with an iPad. Your may, however, have trouble choosing between the iPad 2 and the iPad 3.


Apple effectively doubled the performance of its A5 SoC for the iPad 3 by doubling the number of GPU cores. However, much of this performance game is eaten up by the Retina display. Rendering more pixels increases the load on the GPU, and Retina has a heck of a lot of pixels.

The Retina display itself is the iPad 3’s best argument. It displays games with incredible detail and also offers better color reproduction than the panel on the iPad 2.

Still, the iPad 2 is a fine pick if your budget is limited. It will run any game currently on the app store without issue.

The Three Best Choices

Now that I’ve provided an overview, let’s get down to the specifics – the three best gaming tablets on the market today.


Apple iPad 3 aka The New iPad

best tablet for gaming

The iOS environment is a great boon to the tablet gamer. Game usually come out for iOS first, and Android later. Games also tend to run better on the iPad because the developers only have to code for a few devices with extremely similar hardware.

With that said, don’t discount the hardware. The display on the iPad 3 is amazing. It’s crisp, offers excellent color reproduction and features deep black levels. This is enhanced by the A5X, which features the most powerful GPU on any tablet sold today.

Sony Tablet S

best gaming tablet

Like some other Sony devices, the Tablet S is Playstation Certified. This means it will be able to run Playstation Mobile games, giving gamers another source of high-quality titles. You’ll be able to play games like WipEout and DYAD, among many others. You can even play them by pairing the tablet with a wireless PS3 controller.

The tablet also features a “TruBlack” display. It provides excellent black levels, which results in good image quality.

The main downside is the use of the older Tegra 2 SoC. This hampers performance in theory, though the tablet should be able to handle modern Android titles.

Google Nexus 7

gaming tablet

It’s hard to beat the value presented by the Nexus 7 To Buy Or Not To Buy? - 8 Google Nexus 7 Review Videos The Nexus 7 is Google's first foray into the tablet market. There have already been a host of tablets that have utilized Android as their operating system of choice, but this one is made by... Read More . For $200 you can have a tablet with the same Tegra 3 SoC found in other larger, more expensive tablets. It provides the same performance at a much lower price.

Another benefit is the display. Color reproduction and black levels are not the best, but it does offer a 216 pixels per inch, which not far off what Apple offers with its Retina display.

Some gamers may be turned off by the size. A 7” tablet is quite a bit smaller than a 10” one. This can also be a boon, however, because the tablet is lighter and easier to handle. That makes the tablet easier to use for long periods of time.


Here’s the summary checklist for buying a gaming tablet.

  • Check the performance of the SoC.
  • Consider display quality.
  • Research game selection and peripheral compatibility.
  • Look at size and weight (lighter, thinner tablets are often more comfortable).

If you remember these four points before you make your purchase you should be happy with the product. Don’t worry much about interface customizations, camera quality or even audio quality (you can always wear earplugs, and probably will if you game outside your home).

What do you think is the best tablet for gaming? Let us know in the comments.

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  1. Austen Gause
    November 26, 2012 at 10:09 pm

    i really want that sony tablet it looks awesome

  2. Yash Desai
    October 2, 2012 at 9:40 pm

    is the transformer pad prime good for gaming?

    • Chris
      January 6, 2013 at 5:43 pm

      Yes. Tegra 3 plus a good display. Not very good if you need operational gps and a strong wifi antenna though.

  3. Nikhil Gupta
    September 29, 2012 at 7:11 am

    best tablet for gaming or an type of work is apple ipad 3 with retina display...
    it have best 3d graphic gaming chip...
    word best mobile os ie ios 6...

  4. Rich Mc.
    September 8, 2012 at 5:14 pm

    I have been wondering which tablet to buy and gaming honestly was a big question mark for me. I was also suprised by the fact that ram was not a real factor compared to using a PC...... thanks

  5. Swaggrous Emeks
    September 8, 2012 at 2:19 pm

    They are all good gaming tablets but i prefer the Google nexus 7

  6. Shahzad Billimoria
    September 1, 2012 at 4:32 pm


  7. Rigoberto Garcia
    August 23, 2012 at 9:52 pm

    My grandson has been playing with Nintendo DS and 3DS versions and since I bought my iPad2, he preferred to use the latter. I am evaluating to buy a tablet for games and other activities and this article will help me make the best decision. Will evaluate between an iPad (pending the mini iPad) and Google Nexus 7

  8. Babe
    August 21, 2012 at 9:37 pm

    Nexus 7 really does the best bang for the bucks, but I don't understand why does it always become expensive when its sold to asian market, even though that Asian is the largest market in gadgets, I hope it can be bought with that official announced price in my country, it will definitely defeat all competitors here.

    • Laga Mahesa
      August 21, 2012 at 10:42 pm

      Taxes, import duties, and no subsidies.

      Most Apple hardware here in Indonesia comes with a $150-$200 markup on the RRP due to the above.

      • Tug Ricks
        August 22, 2012 at 4:34 am

        That's why my grandpa always used to tell me, "Never buy Apple products when in Indonesia."

        • Babe
          August 25, 2012 at 6:32 am

          now this makes me LOL

      • Jimmy Jones
        August 22, 2012 at 9:19 am

        Exactly. I'm an American expat living in Thailand. Most name brand electronics here are much more expensive than what you can get in the US and most of that is because of import duties. Even purchasing items over the internet, through Amazon for example, will have at least a 25% duty placed on them when shipped here. If Thai customs suspects the item will be resold, or even given away, the duty quickly goes up to 50% or more. This practice is not unique to Thailand at all.

      • Babe
        August 25, 2012 at 6:32 am

        The thing is, some asian countries especially Indonesia by far as I know considers a "Hi tech" gadget as luxury item and should be taxed as much as it could, how in the world they can do such thing.

  9. Jason Williams
    August 21, 2012 at 9:01 pm

    i am still toying with buying a tablet and this is an issue i have considered. thanks for shedding some light on all this.

  10. lance burn
    August 21, 2012 at 6:20 pm

    just today a was looking for a good system to do graphics on and painting has anyone got any ideas

    • Laga Mahesa
      August 21, 2012 at 10:41 pm

      I'd go for the Galaxy Note series, then iPad.

      The Note's stylus has unbeatable precision, but the iPad has apps up the wazoo. I use the iPad - once you get used to a decent Stylus (currently using a Wacom Bamboo stylus, waiting on the kickstarter Hand Stylus to arrive) art is quite doable, actually.

    • susendeep dutta
      August 22, 2012 at 8:07 am

      Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 tablet.

      • Babe
        August 25, 2012 at 6:34 am

        Agree with this one, more space for drawing with the stylus... nice

    • Mudkip
      December 16, 2012 at 1:26 am

      I am an android tablet owner, and i would reccomend an Ipad. There is an app for painting called "ProCreate" and it is unavaliable for android and every day i wish it was, it is literally amazing for painting. Sketchbook pro doesnt even compare