The Best Cheap Android Tablets – November 2018
In some ways, tablets feel like they’ve been a product in our lives for far longer than they actually have been. Though the idea of a tablet-shaped computer dates back to episodes of Star Trek and, in reality, can even be traced to the 90s with products like the Apple Newton, the true idea of what we consider a “modern” tablet began with the launch of the original iPad back in January 2010. Now, nearly eight years later, we can say that the tablet truly is here to stay. Though the idea of a tablet-style computer is still relatively new to the market, we’ve already seen dozens of variations on the basic idea. In addition to the fifteen iPad models that have been sold since the launch of the device, we’ve seen convertible laptop-style tablets, tablets that can dock into a keyboard, tablets that use phones to power their large displays, and even tablets that are meant to replace your laptop entirely.
It didn’t take long following the launch of the original iPad to see Android competitors begin to line up. Google was woefully unprepared for the market ready for an iPad-like device, taking nearly a full year to finally develop and launch a product that could properly compete with Apple’s new hot item. Though devices like the Galaxy Tab released before 2010 could end, Google urged customers to wait for the full release of Android 3.0, a version of Android that would be entirely focused on tablet-sized devices. The Motorola Xoom was the first tablet released with Android Honeycomb, placed on sale in February 2011, but it wasn’t quite the sales boom that Motorola and Google were probably expecting.
That wouldn’t arrive until the launch of the Nexus 7 in 2012, a 7″ tablet co-developed by Asus and Google. Running Android 4.1 Jelly Bean at launch, the device was a fairly large success mostly due to its price point. It wasn’t groundbreaking in terms of hardware or design, but at just $199, almost anyone could afford to pick up the Nexus 7 to have around the house. When Google and Asus followed up a year later with a refined second-generation device, it was even more successful.
And although Google has moved away from the budget market, the Android tablet market certainly hasn’t. The mass adoption of tablets as third devices has slowed over the past two or three years, as phones grew larger and newer tablets began to make only minor incremental changes between generations, but if there’s one place where the target audience for tablets still exist, it’s in the budget area. Just like phones, cheap tablets have been getting better and better over the past two or three years. Devices that used to be considered “good for the price” are now simply “good,” with higher-resolution displays, faster processors, and more memory than ever before. The sub-$200 market has become overloaded with Android options, and it can be pretty difficult to determine which devices are good for the money and which aren’t.
Which brings us to this guide of the best cheap Android tablets on the market in 2018. Whether you’re looking for a gift idea for Christmas, something to keep your kids occupied in the back of a long car ride, or just something to keep around the house, we have you covered with the best sub-$200 tablets money can buy today. Let’s take a look.
When it comes to cheap Android tablets, no one is doing better, or offering more bang for your buck, than Amazon. As the manufacturers of three different models of Android-based devices—all three of which have placed on this list, by the way—one could even argue that Amazon is keeping the Android tablet market afloat with their variations on budget tablets. Though Amazon’s tablets technically run Fire OS, a customized version of Android Lollipop (and with the newest update, Android Nougat) made to offer users a more Amazon-based experience, they’re still the best cheap tablets on the market today, offering an unparalleled match of affordability, features, and usability. The middle-tier product, the Fire HD 8, is our pick of the bunch because it combines a great display, solid performance, and most importantly, can be picked up for as low as $79.99 on Amazon today. Forget about the Nexus 7 of yore—take a look at what makes the Fire HD 8 our top pick for Android tablets today.
Let’s start with the hardware. None of the Fire tablets have particularly fantastic hardware, an unsurprising fact when you consider the price of these devices. These are budget tablets, and there’s only so much you can expect when spending under $100 to pick up an 8-inch tablet. The 2017 Fire HD 8 comes in four different colors: black, red, blue, and yellow. In our eyes, the black and blue models look the best, though if you’re into brighter colors, the red and yellow will appeal to you. The front of the device is coated in glass, while the colored backs are made up of a plastic material that feels a little cheap in the hand. That said, considering the price of the device, it actually feels surprisingly solid in the hand, with little-to-no flex in the chassis of the device.
Of course, the main point of purchasing a tablet is for its display, and the Fire HD 8 has a pretty good one. At 1280×800, it doesn’t come close to competing with Apple’s iPad, but resolution aside, the display has solid viewing angles (as expected for an IPS display) and colors look good. We’ve seen numerous tablets under $100 where the screen is near-unusable, so despite the Fire HD 8 not being technically impressive when looking at the screen, it’s certainly no slouch in this category either. While it may not be up to the standards of “Retina Displays” or other high-res devices out there, it looks good enough for the cost. Outside of the display, you also have matching 2MP front and rear-facing camera—neither of which you’ll want to use on this device for anything outside some quick video calls—and dual stereo speakers for watching videos or listening to music. The speakers are another bright spot of this device, making it a solid media consumption gadget.
As for specs, the tablet comes with either 16GB or 32GB of storage, along with a microSD card slot for expandable storage that makes it easy to turn that entry-level storage slot into 64GB, or more, for that matter. Amazon isn’t clear about which processor is powering the device, though we do know it’s a Mediatek quad-core processor with a clock speed of 1.3GHz overall. This is actually a bit slower than the processor in the older 2015 model, though you shouldn’t notice too much of a difference in day to day use. It’s not the speediest processor on the planet, but it should do well for streaming Netflix or Amazon Prime, or for browsing the web. The best “spec” on the Amazon Fire HD 8 is probably its battery life. Rated with a 12-hour battery life (though an unspecified capacity battery) with a mix of browsing the web, reading, watching video and listening to music, it’s one of the longer-lived devices we’ve seen on a budget tablet.
So for $80, you’re getting some decent hardware, albeit with some imperfections included in the device. What we really need to talk about is the software on the Fire HD 8, because it’s somewhat of a mixed bag depending on what you’re expecting. Up top, we mentioned this device is running Fire OS, a fork off of Android that uses Google’s open-source software as the building blocks to Amazon’s own operating system. Fire OS has improved a lot since it was first released, and the newest release is even based on Android 7.0 Nougat (though as of writing, that update has yet to ship out to existing devices). Despite running a heavily-skinned version of Android without proper support for the Google Play Store and Google’s full suite of applications (Amazon uses their own Amazon Appstore to download software onto the device), we still consider the tablet an Android device.
With about ten minutes and a few easy steps, you can easily sideload the Google Play Store and Google Play Services onto your device. You can even use a third-party launcher like Nova to give the entire device a distinctly-Android feel, if you wish. There’s a ton of modding and customization that can be done with these devices, but even without it, the Amazon Appstore has most of the software you could expect on a tablet—Google apps and YouTube notwithstanding.
There are two software tweaks we need to mention about the Fire HD 8, however. The first is the included Alexa integration, which works nearly identical to how Google Assistant operates on modern Android devices. By pressing and holding the home key on your tablet, you activate your Alexa assistant, which you can then use to ask questions, inquiries, and anything else you’d expect from a modern virtual assistant tool. The second software tweak actually has some impact on the price, depending on how you feel about advertisements. That $79.99 price point is only met when you’re buying the device with ads included from Amazon on the lock screen. Most consumers seem to feel fine about the ads; in fact, they often provide solid deals for Amazon Prime members that they wouldn’t otherwise know about. Still, if you’re hoping to remove the ads on your lock screen, it’ll be an additional $15 surcharge. The good news is that you can upgrade to the ad-free version at any time, which means if you’re on the fence about buying the “Special Offers” version of the Fire HD 8, there’s no harm in simply removing the ads at a later date inside the settings menu.
Really, what else is there to say about the Fire HD 8? It’s a solid, Android-based tablet that you can pick up for as low as $80 with “Special Offers,” or for $16 per month for five months on a payment plan included through Amazon on your own personal payment method. It’s one of the easiest ways to gain access to a quality 8″ tablet, complete with dual stereo speakers and a good display that’s perfect for browsing the web, watching a movie, or reading a book. If you’re a regular Amazon customer, you’ll likely find the device to be perfect for consuming the media that Amazon Prime includes with your membership, including instantly-streaming films, television shows, books, music, and more. It’s the perfect companion device for anyone looking for a cheap tablet, and it’s our recommendation for most users on the market today.
- IPS display with good viewing angles
- Solid performance
- Great speakers
- Cameras are terrible
- Display could be sharper
- Plastic, toy-like build
There was a point earlier this year where it seemed the time for the Fire HD 10 had come and gone. Though Amazon still offered the original Fire HD 10 in its store, the hardware hadn’t been updated since 2015. That model had a 10″ 1280×800 resolution display, the same pixel density offered on the Fire HD 8 stretched to two inches larger, making for a fuzzy, low-res appearance when viewing text on the display. Not only that, but the price of the 2015 model—$229—hadn’t seen a price drop, and was mostly ignored during Amazon’s own sales of their tablet devices. Even on the homepage for Amazon’s Fire tablets, the device seemed to be ignored, sometimes left off the list of available devices entirely. It seemed that Amazon had seen the popularity of their Fire 7 and Fire HD 8 devices and had chosen to stick with them, rather than selling consumers an overpriced, underpowered device.
In September 2017, Amazon held a fairly low-key hardware event where they came around to announce several new products, including a new Echo 2 smart speaker and, surprisingly, a revamped Fire HD 10 tablet, complete with a new display, new color choices, a faster processor, and most important of all, a brand new, much lower price, now starting at just $149.99. So, is the Fire HD 10 worth your cash, or should you stick with the 8″ model we recommended above? Read on to find out.
First things first, let’s talk about the hardware of the HD 10, which, in many ways, looks and feels like a blown up Fire HD 8. Amazon has gone a long way in unifying their current lineup of tablets, which used to include more-expensive HDX models that, presumably, undersold compared to the budget offerings. Even at $150, the HD 10 is the most expensive tablet currently sold by Amazon, compared to devices from other manufacturers that can reach upwards of $600 or $700 with their starting prices. That said, much of the cost-cutting here is made in the build of the device, which is identical to the Fire HD 8. A matte plastic build isn’t the worst thing in the world, but it’s obvious that this device won’t feel nearly as premium as, say, Apple’s $329 iPad, which is made of aluminium and offers a higher screen resolution than this model. Still, the device feels fairly durable, to the point where you shouldn’t be concerned about breaking the device in general use. It is a bit disappointing, however, that Amazon got rid of the aluminum option that used to be offered with the Fire HD 10—it would go a long way in making the tablet feel more premium.
The biggest change between the 2015 and 2017 Fire HD 10 models comes in the display, which has been bumped up to a full 1920×1200 resolution. That’s a full 1080p screen displayed at a 16:10 ratio, and it looks pretty great for the price. Text looks sharper on this device than it did on the HD 8, even with the increased display size, and the size and resolution of the device make it perfect for movie playback. The 224 PPI is still lower than the 264 PPI on the 2017 iPad but this brings Amazon’s budget line closer than ever to meeting the same pixel density we’ve come to expect from Apple. This is a good display panel, similar to the one we’ve seen on the Fire HD 8, with saturated colors and good viewing angles. It’s enough to make you forget about the budget feel of the tablet itself, and it’s the reason to buy the 10″ model of Amazon’s tablet line.
Let’s quickly run through the rest of the specs. The HD 10 offers a slightly faster processor than what’s on the Fire 7 and HD 8, with a quad-core Mediatek chip clocked at 1.8GHz for the first two cores and 1.4GHz for the last two, along with 2GB of RAM. Amazon says that should offer a 30 percent increase in performance over the 2015 model. The base model ships with 32GB of storage, a nice step above what we’ve seen from the 16GB inside the Fire HD 8, and you can even pick up a 64GB model for just $40 more—though at that point, you’re beginning to leave “budget” territory to enter a much more expensive route.
The HD 10 has a microSD card slot just like its younger cousin, so we’d advocate for using that instead of paying the extra $40 for more storage if need be. The cameras are the same low-res modules offered on the smaller device, with a VGA front-facing camera and a 2MP rear-facing lens. Finally, the 10″ model also had the same dual stereo speakers found on the HD 8, tuned for Dolby Atmos, and they sound as great as ever. This really is a tablet made to consume media, not create, and those speakers go a long way in making that a fact. Overall, the hardware on the HD 10 is a mixed bag, but performance was solid enough to recommend. We do wish the device felt a little less like a toy when you’re holding it—particularly when it’s the red or blue models—but the price more than makes up for the cheapness of the material.
The software experience here is identical to the software experience of the Fire HD 8. We’re still waiting for the newer version of Fire OS to roll out to tablets, but Fire OS 5 is good enough for playing back movies or reading a book. Amazon hasn’t exactly perfected the software associated with their devices, but it’s good enough to get the job done. Much ink has been spilled over the lack of the Google Play Store, along with the entire Google suite of applications only offered through Google’s own app store, but as we wrote above, it’s incredibly easy to sideload both the Play Store and the required Google Play Services onto any of the Amazon Fire devices, making their lack of software a truly non-issue. As with the Fire HD 8, the HD 10 includes “Special Offers” on the lock screen, along with Alexa integration built into the home button. Finally, when it comes to battery life, you’re well covered here: the HD 10 is rated up to 10 hours of battery life, a small reduction from the strength of the Fire HD 8, but long battery life nonetheless.
When it comes to which Fire tablet you purchase, you’re really picking between a size and a price difference. All three have fairly similar processors, RAM allocation, and decent displays with various levels of pixel density. It can be a tough decision to make up front, especially because the larger Fire HD 10 has a downside to the size of the device. While it’s the best of the three for watching media, it can be a terrible chore to browse the web or read a book on the display, which is far longer than your typical 4:3 aspect ratio 10″ tablet. Still, if you’ve considered the 8″ model but found the size of the device a bit too small for you and you want to upgrade to something larger, the Fire HD 10 is one of our favorite all-around cheap 10″ tablets on the market, with the next-best competitor costing over twice as much (Apple’s 2017 iPad). We think most users will be happy with the Fire HD 8, but if you want a bigger, sharper display, the Fire 10 is the way to go.
- Bright 1080p IPS display
- Great speakers
- Solid performance
- Cameras are still terrible
- Plastic, toy-like build
- Size can be difficult to manage
At first glance, it seems the Asus Zenpad 8 should be our top pick. The tablet is available for less than $180 on Amazon as of writing, features a faux-leather and metal build that feels solid in the hand, includes a high-resolution display that makes text look sharp and clear, and even has a higher resolution camera for taking photos while on the go with your tablet. It even includes the full Google Play Store for downloading apps without having to sideload content onto your device. Unfortunately, a few things stand in the way of making this your dream tablet. First, though the tablet was updated to Android 6.0 Marshmallow about a year ago (manual update only), you’ll still be running two year old software on this device without any hope of an upgrade. At the very least, Amazon supports their Fire Tablets with security updates and bug fixes. Secondly, the processor is an Intel Atom quad-core chip that hasn’t aged well. Performance on this thing, combined with the heavy Asus skin running over Android and the 2GB of RAM offered here, isn’t anything to write home about.
Still, there are some benefits to picking up this tablet. The 4:3 aspect ratio makes it ideal for surfing the web or catching up on a book, and makes it easy to hold in your hand as well. The display is the sharpest on this list, with the same exact resolution as the 9.7″ iPad (2048×1536), with a promised 178 degree viewing angle that makes it easy to read the text on your display no matter where you’re sitting. Unfortunately, the display gives off a bit of a yellowish hue when the brightness is lowered to a dim state, but for a sub-$200 tablet with such a high-res display, you can’t expect perfection. If you can put up with some buggy Asus software and a middling processor, this might be the perfect tablet for browsing the web or reading a novel. Just don’t get your expectations up too high—this didn’t make our top pick for a reason.
- Sharp, high-res display
- Google Play Store support
- Yellowish hue at low-light
- Slow performance
The evolution of the original Kindle Fire tablet, the 2017 Amazon Fire 7 is the only $50 tablet on the market you should even consider purchasing. While the price of the tablet itself is really the main feature here, $49.99—or five monthly payments of just $10—gets you a pretty good tablet experience for the money. The device features the same processor as the more expensive Fire HD 8, 1GB of RAM, up to eight hours of mixed usage across the board, and an IPS display that, while relatively low-res (1024×600), is capable of displaying decent colors and solid viewing angles. Even though the tablet costs more than one sixth as much as a 2017 iPad, performance on the device is actually pretty solid. So long as you go into the Fire 7 expecting a budget experience, you’ll be please with what comes your way with the device.
Of course, we do have to nitpick some of the tablet’s weak points. As we’ve seen across the board, the actual cameras included on the device are terrible to say the least, and the build quality on the cheapest Fire is about equal to the other three devices. That single gigabyte of RAM means multitasking on this device is basically a no-go, and even keeping apps in your Recent Apps list will be a real pain when using the device. The device only has a mono speaker on the back of the device that makes watching media on the go a real pain if you don’t have headphones. There’s also the problem that comes with purchasing a 7″ tablet in 2017, since it isn’t all that much larger than some smartphones on the market today. Still, the Amazon Fire 7 is a great starter tablet, especially for something you’re looking to simply keep around the house for quick browsing or the occasional YouTube video. We think upgrading to the Fire HD8 is the better buy, especially considering the larger, higher-res display, but there is one thing the Fire 7 has that no other tablet on the market can sell you: a six pack of the devices available for only $249.
- It's only $50!
- It performs pretty well for the price
- Poor speaker and terrible cameras
- Low-res display
Samsung’s first of two entries on this list (and certainly the better of the two), the Galaxy Tab A is an 8″ tablet from the South Korean tech giant first released back in 2015. It’s difficult to recommend a product that is now two and a half years out from its original release, but Samsung has primarily focused on the high-end market with their tablets since the launch of the Tab A, but for some users, the Tab A might be worth a look depending on what you want out of your tablet. The device ships with Android Lollipop, though an update to Android 6.0 was made available some time ago. The device has one of the lowest-resolution displays on this list, with a 1280×800 resolution using a 4:3 aspect ratio similar to the iPad. The build of the device is a bit cheap, with the device made up entirely of plastic, similar to the Galaxy S5 originally released in 2014. With a Samsung-built quad-core processor and 1.5GB of storage, this thing isn’t exactly the most powerful tablet on the market.
While we’ve included this tablet on our list for Samsung die-hards looking for a cheap device to pick up today, ultimately, due to the age of this device, we can’t make a recommendation here. If you’re deeply invested in picking up a Samsung tablet, and you can afford to pay a bit more cash, the Galaxy Tab A 10.1 is not only a newer, more modern device, it also has a much better display, a faster processor, and overall, will make you far happier with your purchase than picking up the Tab A 8.0.
- Samsung software
- Nice 4:3 aspect ratio
- Outdated version of Android
- Low resolution display
If we’re being honest, the Galaxy Tab E from Samsung is a bit of a tough sell. It’s not exactly high-end hardware, and the actual device itself originally shipped in 2014. While it’s still on sale—and at a pretty affordable price point—there are enough negatives here to push you towards one of the better devices on this list. Still, it’s worth taking a look at the Tab E, if only to compare it to other devices on this list. At $169, the Tab E grants you a 9.6″ display with a 1280×800 resolution and a 16:10 aspect ratio, similar to older versions of the Fire HD 10 prior to the 2017 generation of that device. Though the Tab E shipped with Android 5.1, it has been updated to Android 7.0 Nougat, making for a solid purchase even in 2017. Don’t expect to see Oreo running on this thing, however; it’s not going to happen. Samsung’s software experience here feels a bit more up to date than what we saw on the Tab A.
When it comes to specs, the Tab E is a mixed bag. An unnamed Snapdragon processor powers the device, which should compare to around the same performance we’ve seen from most of the devices on this list. With only 1.5GB of RAM, the tablet does experience some difficulty under the weight of Samsung’s user interface laid over Android, but it gets the job done for the most part. Easily the best part of this device is the battery life, which offers up to a twelve hour experience of browsing, watching movies, and listening to music. The device also feels a bit better in the hand than most of its budget counterparts, thanks to a rubber-plastic material that gives the back of the device a distinctly grippy feeling. The Fire HD 10 still represents a better value for your dollar, thanks to its 10″ 1080p display that looks far sharper than this 9.6″ panel while also offering better speakers and a lower price, but if you’re sold on buying a “proper” Android tablet without the added baggage of Amazon’s own software attached to it, this could just be the device for you.
- Upgradable to Android Nougat
- Great battery life
- Middling performance
- Low resolution display
In many ways, the Lenovo Tab 4 is like a Google-approved Amazon Fire HD 8, making it the perfect device for users who are looking for something similar to our top-rated cheap tablet without having to deal with Amazon’s own custom software and sideloading the Google Play Store onto the device. The Tab 4 has an 8″ 1280×800 IPS display, similar to the one found in the Fire HD 8. The build of the device is similarly plasticy, though in our tests, the device felt a bit more premium in the hand. With the same Dolby Atmos-approved dual stereo speakers we appreciated on the original Fire HD 8, the Tab 4 seems like a direct recreation of the original device, albeit with a couple small difference. First, this tablet is running proper Android 7.0 Nougat. Oreo’s been out for a couple months now, but we still appreciate seeing, at the very least, Android Nougat on these devices. Second, Lenovo has utilized Snapdragon processors over the MediaTek processors used by Amazon. They’re still fairly slow chips, but they should outperform their MediaTek competition.
Lenovo also offers a 10″ version of the Lenovo Tab 4, but we can’t recommend it to consumers. At $200, the tablet is set up similarly to the Fire HD 10, but since it only features a 1280×800 display instead of the 1080p panel we’ve seen on the HD 10, we can’t tell consumers to pay the extra $50 for the worse display—especially since the Fire HD 10 is also more likely to see software updates in its future. If you’re interested in the 10″ version of the Lenovo Tab 4, you should definitely pick up the Fire HD 10 and install Google Play onto the device—it only takes a few minutes of your time to do, and it’ll get you up and running with Google’s software in no time while keeping that lower price and better display. Finally, there are also “Plus” versions of both the 8 and 10 inch versions of this product; however, as of right now, both devices are priced on Amazon close to $300, and while they include better processors, displays, and even fingerprint sensors, they don’t fall into this budget category we’re covering here. Basically: the 8″ version of the Tab 4 gets our recommendation—otherwise, just stick with the Fire line of tablets.
- Android Nougat and Play Store support
- Dual stereo speakers
- Tab 4 10" more expensive than Fire HD 10
- Unknown update support