The Best Cheap Android Tablets – September 2019
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 a full 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.
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 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 2019. 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.
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
The original Fire HD 10 was a bit of a disappointment. At $229, it was one of the more expensive products on this list, but with a low-resolution display and a weak processor, it was impossible to recommend for anyone looking for a cheaper option. So when Amazon finally revived the Fire HD 10 in 2017, it was a breath of fresh air. The 2017 model bumped up the display resolution to 1920×1200, perfect for watching movies or streaming the latest Netflix original. An improved processor, double the RAM and storage of the original model, and a bigger battery were also welcome upgrades, and the price dropped to just $149, making it the best 10″ tablet you can grab for under $200.
There’s still plenty of issues with the Fire HD 10. As you can probably guess, it runs FireOS, built on top of Android, which means you won’t find the Play Store or Google apps installed on the device. It’s easy enough to install Google apps on a Fire HD 10, but if you’re buying this tablet for your parents or anyone who might have issues sideloading apps, you’ll want to do it for them before gifting the tablet. The build of the device is still plastic, and the low-resolution cameras on the front and back of the device ruin any hope of placing a quality video call. Still, at $149, it’s tough to complain too much about the Fire HD 10. It’s due for an update, though, so hopefully we’ll learn more about the future of the Fire tablet lineup at Amazon’s September 25th event.
- Bright 1080p IPS display
- Great speakers
- Solid performance
- Cameras are still terrible
- Plastic, toy-like build
- Size can be difficult to manage
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.
- Big, bright screen
- Play Store support
- Headphone jack
- No AMOLED display
- Low-end processor
- Speaker placement
Replacing the Lenovo Tab 4 on our list, the Lenovo Smart Tab M10 is a modest upgrade to Lenovo’s budget Android tablet that includes a big new feature: a full speaker dock that allows you to turn the Smart Tab into a Nest Home-esque device. The tablet portion of the M10 is similar to Lenovo’s older tablet of the same name, with a few spec bumps. It now runs on a Snapdragon 450—a decidedly budget processor, but one that should get the basics done with few issues. 3GB of RAM is about as low as we like memory to get in 2019, but at the $199 price (as of writing), it’s an understandable amount. The 10.1″ 1080p LCD display is perfectly fine, competent enough for watching movies on Netflix, and while the cameras are nothing to write home about, they really aren’t the focus of this device.
Instead, you should draw your attention to the speaker dock included 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 Alexa built in, the M10 also works as an Echo-like device, allowing you to control your smart lights, check the weather, and anything else Alexa allows you to do. Unfortunately, the M10’s biggest flaw is its software: it took nearly a year for the device to get an Android 9.0 update, and with Android 10 now out on Pixel and OnePlus devices, it’s unclear when (or if) Lenovo will get around to updating their low-range tablet. Still, 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.
- Speaker dock
- 3GB of RAM
- Big, bright display
- Software support
- Weak processor
- Plastic build
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.
- It's only $50!
- It performs pretty well for the price
- Poor speaker and terrible cameras
- Low-res display