High Product: Amazon Fire HD 10 | $150 | Amazon
While most people will spend hundreds—thousands, even—to bag the most amazing smartphones on offer, those same folks will scoff at the best tablets, some of which start hundreds of dollars cheaper. It’s understandable, though, considering the smartphone has become the primary device both home and away for many. But for how capable those pocket-sized devices are, you simply can’t substitute anything for a bigger display.
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.
Amazon Fire HD 10 | $150 | Amazon
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.
Samsung Galaxy Tab A 8 | $118 | Amazon
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. 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. The silver model is as cheap as $118 right now.
Amazon Fire 7 | $50 | Amazon
Starting at just $50 with offers, 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.
Amazon Fire HD 8 | $90 | Amazon
Just $40 more than the Fire 7, the Amazon Fire HD 8 brings an even tighter design with a slightly bigger and sharper screen, this one passing the 720p marker by a bit. Amazon seems to have struck the perfect balance between performance and battery life here, with 12 hours being the time to beat. The 2GHz processor inside provides a somewhat snappy in-app experience, and paired with Mali G52 graphics, it handles moderately demanding titles like PUBG Mobile and Call of Duty Mobile with relative ease.
Coupled with features like Game Mode, which makes all your notifications sit in the waiting lobby while you rack up high scores, the Fire HD 8 is clearly the gamer’s pick in Amazon’s family. Although you’re missing out on Google Play (there are ways around this, I’ve heard), Amazon has hundreds of thousands of them in its store, and the surfeit of its selection will surprise you.
Add another $20 to your price tag, and you could leap to the HD Eight Plus as a substitute. It has largely related internals, however with wi-fi charging and quick charging, a speedier processor, and extra RAM added to the combination.
Lenovo Tab M10 Plus FHD (2nd Gen) | $150 | Amazon
While many other non-Samsungs have perished in the tablet game, Lenovo has been consistent in its line of flat slabs, and at $150, 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.
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