Featured Product: Amazon Fire HD 8 | $90 | 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 really is no better value in the big slate game than the Amazon Fire HD 10. Coming in at just $150 and available on a monthly payment plan for select shoppers, Amazon’s managed to pack solid hardware into a sleek frame. It begins with the 10.1" display, the 1080p resolution of which only exposes individual pixels when your eyes are nearly touching the screen, but at normal people distances, it’s plenty sharp for reading, movies, and shows.
Powering the Android-based Fire OS—with thousands of popular apps and games available in its store—is a 2GHz octa-core Mediatek chipset and 2GB of RAM. Having used one, I can tell you that this combo is well-equipped to handle all available tasks with above-average efficiency. You’ll get a pair of sensors for video calls and other shenanigans if you’re into using television sets as digital cameras, you monster.
Amazon advertises 10-hour battery life, which is right at the industry standard, and USB-C charging gets you juiced quickly. There’s also Dolby Atmos sound coming out of those dual speakers, but take it from me, you’ll want to sync with an Atmos soundbar or speakers for the best results.
The Amazon Fire HD 10 doesn’t blow the world away with bells and whistles, but considering all you’re getting for the money, it’s a bright budget champion. The 32GB model costs $150 if you opt for special offers, which puts content ads on your lock screen while the device isn’t in use. I’ve bought several Amazon devices on special offers. The ads are not at all obtrusive, and you can pay to remove them whenever you want. If you go this route, the 64GB model also sneaks under our self-imposed bar at $190.
Best Apple-Like Tablet: Samsung Galaxy Tab A 8.0
Samsung makes some of the best Android smartphones around, and it does much the same with tablets too. It’s not just the fancy stuff, either. The affordable Galaxy Tab A 8.0 is kept compact thanks to thin borders and is well-suited as a reading device.
The modest Qualcomm Snapdragon 429 chip with 2GB RAM means this tablet is better suited for consuming content rather than creating it, but you’ll still be able to play less-intensive games. And unlike Amazon’s tablets, you get access to Google’s robust Play Store, which has a better selection of apps and games and sees more frequent app updates too.
Best Budget Tablet: Amazon Fire 7
If you have modest needs and can keep your expectations in check, the Amazon Fire 7 might be the wildest deal in tablets. Available for a mere $50 with special offers (ads) on the lock screen, it’s by far the most affordable brand-name tablet you’ll find. It has the same Fire OS experience as Amazon’s other tablets, albeit on a smaller, less-crisp 7" screen.
This quad-core 1.3GHz processor with 1GB RAM is no speed demon, but it’s just fine for browsing the web, streaming media, and reading ebooks. Less-demanding games might be fine, too, but could be hit-or-miss. And seven hours of battery life is pretty solid for such a cheap tablet. For the price, you might expected the Fire 7 to be terrible... but it’s not. It’s fine. And it is cheap.
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. Also, as of this writing, you can save 25% off when you buy two Fire Kids Edition tablets at once. Load up the family ahead of future travels.
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.
Best Premium Design (Runner-Up): Lenovo Smart Tab M8
If you like the look of Lenovo’s Tab M10 Plus tablet above but want something smaller and/or cheaper, then consider the Lenovo Smart Tab M8. Available for $99 at Walmart as of this writing, the Android-powered Smart Tab M8 has much more modest specs but still looks like a fancier tablet than it really is.
One Amazon customer called it the “best inexpensive Android tablet I’ve ever used,” enthusing:
“Wow, Lenovo! You are killing it in the low end product line-up these days. [...] The Tab M8 continues the pattern of offering a great low-end price for very good value. I have been buying, returning, or reselling the spectrum of tablets for a long time in search of one that checks every box I want in a tablet: Inexpensive, reasonably high-quality build, acceptable performance and features.”
This story was originally published by Quentyn Kennemer in October 2020 and updated by Andrew Hayward with new information on 04/15/2021.