The best rugged tablets of 2024: Expert reviewed | ZDNET

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The best rugged tablets of 2024: Expert reviewed | ZDNET

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While you may not automatically think of durability when shopping for the best tablets, rugged tablets are great for handling the general wear and tear that comes with daily use as well as any accidents that may happen along the way. 

Choosing the best tablet can be tricky. Yes, the top picks include the Apple iPad and iPad Pro, but we also love the Samsung Galaxy Tab S8 Ultra, Microsoft Surface Go 3, and others.

Many ruggedized tablets are tested against MIL-STD-810 standards (U.S. military standards) for resisting moisture, dirt and debris, extreme temperatures, and drops and shocks. This means you can rest assured that the delicate components inside your new tablet will be protected against damage, corrosion, and electrical shorts from water infiltration. 

I've rounded up the best rugged tablets that can be used anywhere from an outdoor work site to your kid's bedroom (because we know tablets need to be durable when it comes to kids). Or, in case you just need a tablet to withstand frequent travel or drops. All these tablets below are made out of durable and shock-proof material with military standards in mind. 

Acer Enduro T1 tech specs: Screen size: 8 inches | Storage: 64GB eMMC | RAM: 4GB | Graphics: Mali-G72 MP3 integrated graphics | Resolution: 1280 x 800 | Battery life: 9 hours | Operating system: Android | Connectivity: USB-C, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, microSD, NFC 

The Acer Enduro T1 is an almost perfect option if you're looking for a rugged tablet. The 8-inch screen size makes it small enough to slip into a backpack or work bag while the battery gives you up to 9 hours of use on a full charge. And if you forgot to charge your tablet overnight, you can take advantage of the quick charge feature which gives you about 50% battery in 42 minutes. 

The screen is treated with an anti-reflection coating to reduce glare and improve viewing angles, and it is also made from Corning Gorilla Glass to resist cracking, warping, and chipping. The Acer Enduro T1 is tested against MIL-STD-810G standards and is resistant to drops from up to 4 feet high as well as moisture, dirt, shocks, and extreme temperatures. 

Along with Bluetooth and Wi-Fi, you can set up NFC connectivity so that the tablet can only be accessed by scanning employee or student IDs to prevent misuse or theft of data. It also features two customizable keys that you can set up to access your most important programs more quickly.

Amazon Fire HD 8 Kids Pro (12th generation) tech specs: Screen size: 8 inches | Storage: 32GB or 64GB | RAM: 2GB | Graphics: Hexa-core processor | Resolution: 1280 x 800 | Battery life: 13 hours | Operating system: Amazon FireOS | Connectivity: USB-C (2.0), Wi-Fi 6, microSD, 3.5mm AUX, Bluetooth

If you need a tablet that can handle daily use by younger children both at home and at school, the Amazon Fire HD 8 Kids is a great option. This all-new 2022 model comes with a durable bumper case to protect the tablet from knocks, shocks, and drops while also making it easier for little hands to hold onto. The case also has an integrated stand that's great for watching videos for class, attending virtual classes, and using educational apps. 

The screen is made of strengthened aluminosilicate glass making it harder to scratch or crack. Plus, this tablet comes with a two-year worry-free guarantee so if it breaks, you can return it and get a replacement tablet free of charge. 

Also: The best Amazon tablets: It's all about playing with Fire

The Amazon Fire HD 8 Kids comes with 32GB of internal storage, but you can expand that up to 1TB with a microSD card, giving your child plenty of space for pictures, videos, and documents. The battery gives you up to 13 hours of use on a full charge, so your child won't have to worry about remembering their charging cable as they head to school. 

Integrated parental controls let you set screen time limits, block certain apps from being downloaded, and monitor your child's profile to make sure they're not misusing the tablet when they should be doing homework or be asleep. 

Samsung Galaxy Tab Active 2 tech specs: Screen size: 8 inches | Storage: 16GB | RAM: 3GB | Graphics: Not specified | Resolution: 1280 x 800 | Battery life: 11 hours | Operating system: Android | Connectivity: USB 2.0, microSD, 3.5mm AUX, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi 

For anyone who likes to use a stylus with their tablet, but doesn't want to worry about compatibility issues when buying one separately, the Samsung Galaxy Tab Active 2 is a great rugged tablet that comes packaged with an S Pen stylus. It works with the 8-inch screen to let you handwrite notes, navigate apps, and browse the web. 

The tablet has been tested against MIL-STD-810G standards for resisting moisture, dirt, temperature changes, and drops so it's ready to handle anything your work or school day has in store. The S Pen is also IP68 certified to resist water so sweaty hands, rain, and spills won't ruin your stylus. 

Review: Samsung Galaxy Tab Active2 review: Rugged Android tablet built for business in the field

An integrated fingerprint scanner protects your work and personal data with biometric log-ins rather than passwords that can be guessed or cracked. The Galaxy Tab Active 2 is also equipped with military-grade security software that you can customize to add even more protection to your personal data when connected to unsecured public Wi-Fi networks at school, work, or off-site meetings with clients. 

It comes with 16GB of storage that can be expanded up to 256GB with a microSD card, and the battery gives you up to 11 hours of use on a full charge so you can work and learn all day before you need to plug in. 

Samsung Galaxy Tab Active Pro tech specs: Screen size: 10.1 inches | Storage: 64GB | RAM: 4GB | Graphics: Not specified | Resolution: 1920 x 1200 | Battery life: 15 hours | Operating system: Android | Connectivity: Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, 3.5mm AUX, GPS, microSD, LTE (on certain models) 

Between commutes, after school activities, and late night work emails, you need a tablet that is not only tough but that also has a battery that can last all day. The Samsung Galaxy Tab Active Pro gives you up to 15 hours of use on a full charge, which means you won't have to worry about remembering your charging cable or where the nearest wall outlet is when you head out the door in the morning for work or school. 

The 10.1-inch screen provides you with plenty of visibility for virtual classes and meetings, educational videos, and productivity apps while Wi-Fi and LTE connectivity options let you access email, cloud storage, and the internet even if a hotspot isn't available. 

Review: Samsung Galaxy Tab Active Pro review: Rugged, affordable tablet built for work in the field

With 64GB of internal storage, you'll have plenty of space for images, documents, and apps for work or school, while the military-grade security software prevents unauthorized access to your files and personal data. 

The Galaxy Tab Active Pro is MIL-STD-810G compliant and IP68 certified to resist moisture, dirt, extreme temperatures, drops, and shocks. 

Dell Latitude 7220 Rugged Extreme Tablet tech specs: Screen size: 11.6 inches | Storage: 256GB SSD | RAM: 16GB | Graphics: Intel® Core™ i5-8365U | Resolution: 1920 x 1200 | Battery life: N/A | Operating system: Windows 10 Pro or Windows 11 Pro | Connectivity: Bluetooth, Wi-Fi 6

Dell built this tablet to be rugged, and it's evident in the 11.6-inch outdoor-readable, glove-capable touchscreen with gorilla glass and rugged design. It's rated IP65 for maximum protection against dust, dirt, and water ingress. In addition, it is drop-tested to withstand a 4-foot drop, and temperature tested from 145 degrees to -20 degrees Fahrenheit. 

But its bright screen is what really makes this rugged tablet stand out on our list. Its 1920 x 1080 resolution screen is viewable in direct sunlight at 1000 nits of brightness, making it the perfect tablet for use out in the field or on factory floors.

Also: Dell Latitude 7220 Rugged Extreme Tablet, hands-on: Fully equipped for harsh environments

Dell also includes FirstNet Ready in the Latitude 7220, meaning first responders and public safety organizations can get priority access to fast, reliable, and high-capacity LTE networks. 

Other great tablet features include a 5 MP RGB + IR FHD webcam and an 8 MP rear camera, Wi-Fi 6, and Windows 10 or Windows 11 operating systems. 

Our top pick for the best rugged tablet is the Acer Enduro T1. It features a compact and lightweight design that is perfect for on-the-go students and professionals. Plus, it packs a 9-hour battery life, integrated NFC reader, and MIL-STD-810G compliance for dirt, moisture, temperature, and shock resistance.

Amazon Fire HD 8 Kids Pro

Samsung Galaxy Tab Active Pro

Dell Latitude 7220 Rugged Extreme Tablet

Start by asking yourself which operating system you want or need. You basically have two choices: Android or Windows 10. Based on that answer, you've narrowed down the selection process quite a bit. From there, look at the finer details of each tablet. Can you customize the build? What kind of accessories are available? What do you need the tablet to do? 

A well-rounded, tough Android tablet with quick charging capabilities and a NFC reader. It has a screen made of Gorilla Glass.

Amazon Fire HD 8 Kids Pro

An affordable, durable tablet specifically for children with a two-year worry-free guarantee and easy-to-use parental controls. Its screen is made of strengthened aluminosilicate glass, which makes it harder to crack.

A rugged tablet that is compact, includes a fingerprint scanner, has a great battery life, and comes with a water-resistant S Pen. It has been tested against MIL-STD-810G standards for resisting moisture, dirt, temperature changes, and drops.

Samsung Galaxy Tab Active Pro

A rugged tablet with great battery life, LTE compatibility, and military-grade security. It is MIL-STD-810G compliant and IP68 certified to resist moisture, dirt, extreme temperatures, drops, and shocks. 

A splurge-worthy rugged tablet that's super bright and IP65 rated. It is drop-tested to withstand a four-foot drop, and temperature tested from 145 degrees to -20 degrees Fahrenheit.

We picked these top rugged tablets through personal experience with tablets and reviews across the internet from users and pros alike. We looked at renowned brands, tech specs, overall durability, and more when making our final choices.

Moreover, we also wanted to include ones at different price points to satisfy different budgets. It is why the ones we chose range in price from $150 to $1,100.

Also: The best stylus pens

We also considered unique purposes, such as ones designed with kids in mind, or ones with stylus compatibility. That way, you can find the one that fits your purposes. 

A rugged tablet is a tablet that has been designed to withstand extreme conditions. Whether it's bad weather, very high or very low temperatures, or drops and shocks, the extra durable case protects the delicate internal components from damage and corrosion. 

Rugged tablets are best for mobile professionals who do a lot of field work, like construction contractors and engineers. However, they can also apply to families with smaller children, who, let's just say are more punishing with electronics. 

Yes and no. Some of the higher-end cases, like those from Otterbox, are certainly designed to protect your tablet. But there are some aspects of a rugged tablet it can't reproduce. 

For example, some of the tablets in this roundup are designed to withstand severe temperatures in addition to being tougher to break when dropped. They also offer moisture and dust resistance -- a must to protect your asset in an outdoor environment. 

If a device is advertised as being "military grade," that doesn't necessarily mean it was developed for military use, but rather rigorously tested against MIL-STD 810 standards. This testing process runs devices through extreme conditions to simulate what soldiers may encounter during deployment or combat. 

The standards compare device performance in situations where it may be violently dropped, thrown, or even exploded. They also test how devices hold up in heavy rain, high and low temperatures, coming into contact with chemicals, and resist dust and fungus infiltration. 

Most commercially available "military grade" devices are tested for drops, shocks, and water resistance.

On this list, the Acer Enduro T1, the Samsung Galaxy Tab Active Pro, and the Dell Latitude 7220 are all super durable and have features like gorilla glass. Plus, they are drop-tested and protected with impressive IP ratings. 

IP rating indicates whether the device has resistance to surface particles like dust (I) and moisture (P). It is why, when looking for a rugged tablet, you'll want to pay attention to the device's IP rating. In both instances, the higher the number, the better resistance it offers. 

Rugged tablets are on the high-end of most price points, so it can be tempting to get a regular, consumer-grade model and plunk it in a "rugged" case. And that will work... for a time. 

Cases can only do so much to protect internal components like processors and storage drives from damage that can occur from bumps, shocks, and moisture. But a tablet that has been designed by the manufacturer to handle extreme conditions is much better equipped to handle just about anything you can throw at it. 

From waterproofed and reinforced cases to hot-swappable batteries, a rugged tablet can be a great investment and valuable asset for mobile professionals who need to work in all kinds of weather.

Unless you're in the market to buy an entire fleet of rugged tablets for your business or in the military, it's not exactly easy to find a tough tablet for regular users. However, here are a few other picks that are rugged and durable tablets.

The best rugged tablets of 2024: Expert reviewed | ZDNET

5 Inch Vehicle Tablet This tablet offers military-grade performance with a 2.1-pound body for ultimate portability. It is also drop-tested, comes with port covers, and has a battery life that lasts for days.