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The best rugged tablets of 2024: Expert tested and reviewed

The best rugged tablets of 2024: Expert tested and reviewed
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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. 

Also: The best tablets you can buy

Many ruggedized tablets are tested against MIL-STD-810 standards (US 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. 

What is the best rugged tablet right now?

My full-time job as a naval architect is rather unique, and offers me the opportunity to get out into shipyards filled with sand, dirt, oil, and more elements that can destroy typical tablets like an iPad. After testing and exploring the functions, features, and performance of rugged tablets, the Samsung Galaxy Tab Active5 is my pick for the best rugged tablet overall right now. Read on for the other rugged tablets I’d recommend considering. 

The best rugged tablets of 2024

Pros

  • Field-friendly 8-inch display
  • IP68 and MIL-STD 810H durability
  • IP68 compliant S Pen
  • Promise of four Android OS upgrades

Cons

  • 128GB internal storage is only option

This rugged tablet is designed with the needs of frontline and field workers in mind, featuring a replaceable battery, 5G connectivity, defense-grade security and additional tools to help workers across industries stay connected, digitize workflows, and boost productivity and efficiency on the job. 

It’s a successor to the Tab Active3 with upgrades across the board. The Tab Active5 is powered by a Samsung Exynos processor with options for a WiFi-only model or dual eSIM model to provide communications where and when you need. The S Pen is also IP68 compliant so you can mark up drawings, take notes, and more while out in the field with the tablet by your side.

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

It launches with Android 14 and Samsung promises four major Android OS upgrades, ensuring that this rugged tablet will serve you faithfully for years to come. It is also priced at less than $600 so it is easy to recommend this for all of your tablet needs outside the office.

Samsung Galaxy Tab Active5 tech specs: Screen size: 8 inches | Storage: 128GB with microSD card slot | RAM: 6GB | Processor: Samsung Exynos 1380 | Resolution: 1920 x 1200 | Battery life: 8 hours | Operating system: Android 14 | Connectivity: USB-C, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 5.3, microSD, NFC and LTE (optional) 

Pros

  • Compact
  • Great battery life
  • Quick-charging
  • MIL-STD-810G compliant
  • NFC reader

Cons

  • No stylus included
  • No Wi-Fi 6 support

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.

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 

Pros

  • Two-year worry-free guarantee
  • Parental controls
  • Included bumper case
  • Up to 30% faster than previous gen

Cons

  • Low RAM may not be great for some media streaming
  • Screen quality not as great

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 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. 

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

Pros

  • Military-grade security and durability
  • Excellent battery life
  • Big screen for video and apps
  • LTE options available

Cons

  • Older version of Android

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 Active4 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. 

With 64GB or 128GB of internal storage and the ability to insert a microSD storage card, 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 Active4 Pro is MIL-STD-810G compliant and IP68 certified to resist moisture, dirt, extreme temperatures, drops, and shocks. 

Samsung Galaxy Tab Active4 Pro tech specs: Screen size:10.1 inches | Storage: 64GB or 128GB | RAM: 4GB or 6GB | Processor: Qualcomm SM7325 | Resolution: 1920 x 1200 | Battery life: 15 hours | Operating system: Android 12 | Connectivity: Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, 3.5mm AUX, GPS, microSD, LTE (on certain models) 

Pros

  • 1000 nits of brightness
  • FirstNet Ready
  • Drop-tested and IP65
  • Compatible with Windows 11

Cons

  • Expensive
  • Relatively bulky and heavy

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. 

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

Our top pick for the best rugged tablet is the Samsung Galaxy Tab Active5. It features a compact and lightweight design that is perfect for on-the-go students and professionals. Plus, it packs an S Pen with IP68 rating, cellular option, the latest wireless technologies, and MIL-STD-810G compliance for dirt, moisture, temperature, and shock resistance.

Best rugged tablet

Price

Display size

Storage

Samsung Galaxy Tab Active5

$550

8 inches

64GB or 128GB

Acer Enduro T1

$259

8 inches

64GB eMMC

Amazon Fire HD 8 Kids Pro

$150

8 inches

Up to 1TB

Samsung Galaxy Tab Active4 Pro

$709

10.1 inches

64GB or 128GB

Dell Latitude 7220 Rugged Extreme Tablet

$1,100

11.6 inches

256GB SSD

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? 

Choose this rugged tablet…

If you need…

Samsung Galaxy Tab Active5

A tough and rugged tablet that isn’t too big for field work and yet provides the ability to use the S Pen to capture notes and markups outside of the office. Samsung’s latest is the preferred workhorse for many and you can depend on four years of upgrades.

Acer Enduro T1

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.

Samsung Galaxy Tab Active4 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. 

Dell 7220 Rugged Extreme Tablet

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.

If you’re interested in buying a rugged tablet, you should consider the following:

  • Pen or no pen?: In many cases, having the ability to use a stylus to easily mark up drawings or photos, take notes, and navigate the user interface with gloves on is an important element of using the rugged tablet in the field. If you decide that a stylus is essential, then that will help you narrow down your choice of rugged tablet.
  • Size and weight: The environment you will be working in and the type of work you plan to do with the tablet may help you decide how large the tablet can be for remaining productive. While a large display tablet may be great for viewing large drawings, it may also be cumbersome if you are using it while crawling into small spaces. Check out the size and weight of the tablets as you see which works best for you.
  • Price: Rugged tablets are generally more expensive than a standard tablet with no protection from the elements. However, the price can vary quite a bit so pick a range that works for you as you start to eliminate those tablets that are priced higher than you are willing to pay.
  • Specifications: The processor, RAM, and storage capabilities will help define the performance experience of your selected tablet. If you plan to use the rugged tablet with just one or two apps running then you may not be as concerned about the amount of RAM available. Many of these tablets support microSD expansion cards too so the amount of internal storage is then not as important as the amount of available RAM.

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.

  • Field test: Since these tablets are designed to perform while outside of the office, we used these tablets in shipyards, forests, and in other outside environments with sand, dirt, rain, and other elements in the vicinity of the tablets.
  • Gloves on: In some situations, these rugged tablets are used by people who have to wear gloves for work. Some of the tablets have a stylus to help you navigate the tablet and write content. Other tablets have modes that support wearing gloves while interacting with the display of the tablet. 
  • Performance: These tablets are not intended for advanced gaming and pushing the limits of modern mobile technology. Thus, they often have a rugged build that passes various durability certifications, but usually have mid-tier processors, limited RAM, other specifications found in mid-range devices. We load up several applications to test marking up PDFs, viewing drawings, capturing handwritten and audio notes, and other apps common to field use. The camera is also tested for capturing images that are used in condition found reports.

Also: The best stylus pens

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.

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