Featured Product: Amazon Fire HD 10 | $150 | Amazon
Smartphones routinely command several hundreds of dollars these days, even tipping into four figures, but you don’t have to spend quite as much for a capable tablet. True, Apple’s iPads still range up beyond the $1,000 mark on the high end, but Android-powered alternatives can be yours for much less.
Whether reading, browsing, gaming, or catching up on shows during a midnight flight, you’ll get along much better with a tablet to amplify your viewing pleasure, and you don’t have to reduce yourself to a ramen diet to buy one. You can buy a usable Android tablet as cheap as $50, in fact!
If you’re not willing to run more than $200 worth of charges on your credit card, we’ve rounded up some of the best Android tablets you can buy for your money according to expert and user reviews, plus tons of personal experience from yours truly.
Best All-Around Tablet: Amazon Fire HD 10
There’s no better big bargain tablet than Amazon’s Fire HD 10, which recently received some upgraded specs and design tweaks. You might be shocked at what you get for $150 here: a crisp 10.1” screen at Full HD/1080p resolution, now 10% brighter than the last version, plus a 12-hour battery, a durable build, and support for microSD cards up to 1TB in size.
The trade-off, naturally, is that the Fire HD 10 is no speed demon. While it has enough power for everyday tasks like media streaming, reading ebooks, browsing the web, and video calls, it’s not going to handle games as smoothly as an iPad would. But given the price differential, this is a more-than-solid portable screen for consuming content. The $150 base model comes with 32GB of internal storage and ads on the lock screen, which you can pay a fee to remove later if you can’t tolerate ‘em. The 64GB version is $190.
And if you want a tablet that you can work on, or at least more easily type out emails and messages on, then check out Amazon’s productivity bundle. It’ll net you the 32GB tablet, a specially-designed keyboard cover case and a full year of Microsoft’s Office 365 software suite for just $220—a $50 savings over buying them all separately.
Best Apple-Like Tablet: Samsung Galaxy Tab A 8.0
When it comes to Android tablets, Samsung consistently ranks near atop the pile, and that’s no less true in the under-$200 range. The Galaxy Tab A 8.0's smaller size is helped even further by thin borders, perhaps not quite as thin as the ones on the 10" model, however. The US model, the one you’ll presumably consider buying, has a quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 400-series chipset and 2GB of RAM for computing tasks.
With its smaller display and just .78g of weight overall, the Galaxy Tab A 8.0 is much better suited as a reading device than anything. It’s also a nice size for gaming, but you’ll struggle to play heavily demanding games with the modest chipset. And the minimal design definitely seems closest to Apple’s familiar iPad in this bunch, albeit with a narrower screen aspect ratio.
Your major benefit here over one of the Amazon tablets is access to Google Play, the list of apps and games in which towers the competition. Google Play apps are generally updated first, too, though most Amazon Appstore updates don’t lag too far behind.
Best Budget Tablet: Amazon Fire 7
Starting at just $50 with special offers (ads) on the lock screen, anyone can budget for the Amazon Fire 7. You’ll be afforded a full Fire OS experience despite the price, albeit not quite as zippy and sharp as some of its bigger, more expensive brethren. It’s notably weaker under the hood with a 1.3GHz quad-core processor and 1GB of RAM, but that doesn’t doom you from a multimedia standpoint. If you’re just reading, browsing, and watching movies, this just might be all you need. It’ll even run some less demanding games, but let’s manage our expectations here.
Considering the price, the Amazon Fire 7 can serve a meaningful life strictly as a kids’ tablet, especially with strong parental controls. You’ll get a respectable seven hours out of the battery despite not even having to push a 720p resolution to the 7" display, but that’s mostly due to the small physical footprint.
Considering the price, the Amazon Fire 7 can serve a meaningful life strictly as a kids’ tablet, especially with strong parental controls and FreeTime, a Netflix-style subscription service with thousands of apps, games, books, and videos. The price tag prepares you to behold something cheap in your hands, but it’s more of a “solid” in my experience, and I’m a fan of the various muted hues you can choose from, including Twilight Blue, Plum (red), and Sage (green). There’s also black if you don’t feel so daring.
Best Sub-$100 Tablet: Amazon Fire HD 8
On the other hand, if you don’t mind spending a bit more money, you’ll get a much better experience with the Amazon Fire HD 8. The screen gains an inch, but more importantly it picks up some added crispness too. At $90, the Fire HD 8 delivers better performance and significantly better battery life too, and it can even handle 3D games like PUBG Mobile and Call of Duty Mobile.
Amazon’s app store isn’t quite as robust as Google’s Play Store, which is MIA here, but there’s still plenty worth exploring. Drop another $20 on top of that and get an even better experience with the Fire HD 8 Plus, which packs more speed and RAM, fast wired charging, and wireless charging. Even so, it’s just $110 with special offers on the lock screen.
Best Tablet for Kids: Amazon Fire HD Kids Edition
You could hand any tablet to your little ones, but are you really comfortable handing a pristine, unprotected, screen-centric device to them? We don’t recommend it, at least not for the younger ones. Instead, get them something that’s designed exactly for their capabilities.
Amazon’s Fire HD Kids Edition tablet represent a fantastic bargain for parents, providing a solid experience at a reasonable price while also providing peace of mind. Not only do these tablets come installed within a rubber case that’ll tolerate all kinds of drops and dings, but it also has a two-year worry-free guarantee. No matter how it breaks, they’ll swap it out. Easy peasy.
You also get a year of free access to Amazon Kids+, a subscription service with kid-friendly content like games, TV shows, books, podcasts, and more. The basic tablet comes in 7" and 8" models, while a new-for-2021 10" revision has more power and a streamlined design. There’s also a new Fire HD 10 Kids Pro version at the same price, but it’s aimed for older, school-age kids.
Best Premium Design: Lenovo Tab M10 Plus FHD (2nd Gen)
While many other non-Samsungs have perished in the tablet game, Lenovo has been consistent in its line of flat slabs, and at $149, the Lenovo Tab M10 Plus continues those traditions. You’re getting a full Android 9 Pie experience and a 10" 1080p display. With a bevy of positive reviews to its name, the Lenovo Tab M10 Plus wins hearts with its sleek metal backplate. We’re used to overwhelming plastic in this price category, so if that’s something you loathe, this is the tablet to buy.
But more than that, you’re getting a workhorse in the octa-core MediaTek Helio chipset, which comes clocked at 2.3GHz and sits alongside 2GB of RAM for this 32GB model. You’ll get a pair of decent rear- and front-facing cameras at 8MP and 5MP respectively, including IR for face unlock. And if your little ones are planning to use it, Lenovo has one of the better kids’ modes on avail, beaten only by Amazon.
This story was originally published by Quentyn Kennemer in October 2020 and updated by Andrew Hayward with new information on 07/28/2021.