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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, more than a decade 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 twenty-plus 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.
Although Google has moved away from the tablet market, Android tablets continue to rule the budget space. 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 it’s still a popular tech category, especially for kids or anyone looking for a thin and light device for Netflix. 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 2020. Whether you’re looking for a gift idea, something to keep your kids occupied in the back of a long car ride, or just a tablet to keep around the house, we have you covered with the best sub-$200 tablets money can buy today. Let’s take a look.
Best Overall Cheap Tablet
When it comes to cheap Android tablets, no one is offering more bang for your buck, than Amazon. As the manufacturers of three different models of Android-based devices—all of which have placed on this list, by the way—one could even argue that Amazon is single-handedly 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 designed to offer users a curated Amazon experience, they offer unparalleled match of affordability, features, and usability. The mid-tier product, the Fire HD 8, is our top pick of the bunch because it combines a great display, solid performance, and a price under $100. If you’ve got an older tablet you’re looking to replace and you don’t mind Amazon’s software, the all-new Fire HD 8 for 2020 is a near-perfect budget tablet.
Let’s start with the hardware. Amazon has updated the Fire HD 8 nearly every year since it first arrive on the market, but this year’s model is the first time they’ve drastically changed the body of the device. Gone are the hard corners and bright colors of last year’s device. Instead, the new Fire HD 8 features a new rounded design with muted colors that helps to make it the best-looking Fire tablet to date. While it still sports large bezels around the display, the larger sides along the edges of the screen actually make it easier to hold in portrait mode. The colors also help to make it look more premium than the bright reds and blues of the 2018 model.
A few other hardware changes are apparent as well. Amazon has switched the Fire HD 8 to USB-C for charging, which means you can finally start throwing away some of your old microUSB cables. Likewise, the new Fire HD 8 supports microSD cards up to 1TB in size, up from 400GB in the old model, and a slightly larger battery gives you an extra two hours of battery life for a total of 12 hours off a charge. You’ll also find a matching set of 2MP front and rear-facing cameras—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.
Of course, the most important part of a tablet is its display, and the Fire HD 8 has a pretty good one—even if it hasn’t been updated. 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.
Amazon doubled the storage across the board this year, including 32GB of storage with the entry level model and 64GB if you upgrade your purchase. While the Fire HD 8 is still using a processor from MediaTek, they’ve stepped up in terms of performance, bumping clock speed up to 2GHz for the first time since the launch of the Fire HD line. In terms of memory, most Fire HD 8 models include 2GB of RAM, but if you can spare some extra cash, you’re better off getting the new Plus model. The only difference is an additional gigabyte of RAM for a total of 3GB, but it’s well worth the $20 upgrade price. Additional memory won’t just help your performance today, but it’ll extend the life of your tablet for years to come.
So for $90, 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 might be 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 9.0. 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. Hands-free Alexa is also included, allowing you to issue commands when your device is docked or charging across the room.
Second, that $89.99 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 you might not 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 $90 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.
Best Overall Cheap Tablet
Though the original Fire HD 10 was immensely disappointing, the last three years have seen Amazon’s largest tablet become a great value on its own. After being reinvented in 2017 with a new design and a new lower price, Amazon’s 10″ tablet was updated again late last year with new colors, a new processor, and a USB-C port, all for the same $149. The new 2019 edition of the Fire HD 10 comes in a variety of colors, including muted blues and reds that look fantastic and help make the device feel a bit more adult, despite their plastic builds. As mentioned, the aging microUSB port has finally been replaced with a USB-C port, so you can finally recycle your old cables, while the processor has been bumped up to be 30 percent faster.
While certain aspects of the HD 10 have been updated for 2019 and 2020, our two favorite pieces of Amazon’s best-selling tablet remain the same. The 1080p display still looks as sharp as ever, and at this price point, it’s truly hard to beat. Same goes for the quad speakers arranged along the sides of the device. You simply cannot outdo the speakers on this tablet for under $200—hell, even the $329 iPad lacks true stereo sound. Don’t get us wrong—this is certainly a budget tablet, and you’ll have to make do with installing Google apps manually if you need them. But for under $200, this is the perfect device for watching Netflix around the house.
If you’re looking for a budget offering without switching to Amazon’s Google-less operating system, Samsung’s Galaxy Tab A is a decent place to start. Updated for 2019, the Galaxy Tab A is the perfect bare-bones Android tablet for anyone who wants something to use around the house. With a large, 10.1″ 1080p LCD display, the Tab A is perfect for watching movies, even if the screen isn’t quite as bright or vivid as the displays on Samsung’s more expensive tablets. Powered by the Exynos 7904A processor and 2GB of RAM, this is perfect for light browsing, looking at photos, streaming Netflix or Hulu, or catching up on Facebook without having to lug around your laptop.
The basic model includes 32GB of storage that can be expanded via microSD card, and unlike Samsung’s flagship Tab S6, the Galaxy Tab A still features a 3.5mm headphone jack for use with wired headphones. Unfortunately, there’s no fingerprint sensor here, and the estimated ten hours of battery life here is fairly standard, if a bit disappointing. The biggest disappointment here, however, come down to the speakers. Like Apple’s cheaper iPads, they’ve been pushed to the side when you’re using the tablet in landscape mode, which means the sound only comes from one side of the tablet. Still, if you can afford the extra $50 price increase over the Fire HD 10 (which does offer proper stereo sound), it’s not a bad tablet to consider. If Samsung refines the Tab A next year with an improved speaker placement, they might have the best budget 10″ tablet on the market yet.
In 2019, we recommended Lenovo’s Smart Tab M10 as a unique addition to anyone’s tablet lineup, especially if you’re looking for a hybrid tablet-smart display device. Lenovo has refreshed their M10 for 2020 with the M10 Plus, and not only does it carry on the tablet-dock tradition, it’s even cheaper than ever before. Starting at $169, Lenovo’s M10 Plus uses the same MediaTek processor as the Fire HD 8, but at an improved 2.3GHz clock speed for faster browsing and app performance. The standard model includes 2GB of RAM and 32GB of storage, but if you’re willing to step up to higher tiers, you can increase your performance with 4GB of RAM and up to 128GB of storage.
For most people considering the M10 Plus, there are two things to pay attention to here. The first is the tablet’s 10.3″ 1080p display, which is slightly larger than last year’s model and features improved visuals across the board. Second, and more importantly, is the included speaker dock in the box. Powered by Dolby, these dual front-facing speakers allow you to blast your favorite movies, TV shows, podcasts, music, and more as you’re cooking, cleaning, or just hanging out before bed. With Google Assistant built-in, the M10 Plus also works as a hands-free smart speaker, allowing you to control your smart lights, check the weather, and anything else Assistant allows you to do. If you’re looking for a device built around media consumption, the included speaker dock is a must-have for your next weekend of binging The Office.
The evolution of the original Kindle Fire tablet, the 2019 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 an 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 2019, 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.
Amazon did roll out a new version of the Fire Tablet in 2019, and while the processor speed hasn’t changed, it has more memory bandwidth, as well as double the storage space for the same price. It also comes in some sharp new colors. That said, if your current Fire Tablet is running fine, there’s no major reason to upgrade to the new ones.
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