Your buying guide for the best budget tablets in 2018
Amazon is the current king of cheap tablets. The Amazon Fire 7 costs £49.99, and has - for the insanely low price - a decent screen plus Alexa, a microSD slot for adding more storage, and an easy-to-use operating system.
We think the Fire HD 8 is better though, as for not much more it has a bigger, better screen and more features.
It would be easy to say you’re a fool for buying a different tablet, but the Fire has one sticking point: it's not a standard Android tablet and doesn't have any Google apps on it. Y
With tablets you really need to be careful buying cheap, generic devices with names you've never heard of. These can suffer from poor screens, low performance and short battery life - always look for reviews before you buy, and if you can't find any then we'd avoid the purchase.
If you want a cheap tablet you'll be looking for either an Android tablet or Windows device, unless you're prepared to go secondhand - Apple's cheapest iPad (the iPad 9.7) starts at £319, while the iPad mini costs £419 new.
If your'e looking for a cheap tablet for a child then check out our dedicated best kids tablets chart.
What screen size do I need?
First, decide on screen size. Do you want a portable tablet with a 7in screen, or do you want something larger? We can’t tell you what’s best for you, but in general, a 7- or 8in screen is best if you’ll take the tablet everywhere (you can also get smaller sizes), while a 9-10in screen is good if you only need to travel with it occasionally.
Look for an IPS screen, as this technology is almost a guarantee that it will have good colours and viewing angles. It doesn’t say too much about brightness and contrast, but almost all the IPS screens we’ve seen are good.
Resolution isn’t as important as you might think. Pixel density is a better guide: you need fewer pixels on a smaller screen and vice versa. Look for at least 220 pixels per inch.
How much storage do I need?
You won't get much storage in a budget tablet, but that's fine if your chosen model has a microSD slot for adding more. Amazon's old tablets don't, which is one big black mark against them. However, the new range does, which is why we rate the them so highly.
Consider 16GB a minimum: 8GB without a microSD card is just too restrictive because half (or more) of this is normally taken up by the operating system and pre-installed apps which you might not be able to delete.
Most tablet cameras (let alone budget models) are relatively poor compared to the best smartphones. Don't expect great quality photos or videos from any budget tablet, but if this is important to you always check reviews to see which tablet has the least worst cameras.
Don't pay any attention to GHz numbers or even RAM too much. It's easy to be fooled into believing a tablet will - or won't - perform well based on numbers alone. Read our reviews to find out how each tablet performs in the real world.
If you do decide that a Fire tablet isn’t for you, the alternative is an Android tablet. iPads don’t fall into the budget category, so you’ll only find those in our best tablets roundup.
Android is a great operating system, but it doesn’t follow that all cheap Android tablets are great. There are plenty of no-name brands out there, but as with most tech, you can’t buy one based on specifications alone.
The operating system determines not just which apps are pre-installed, but also which you can download and use. The Google Play store has a massive selection and it’s rare to find an app that’s only on iPad and not available to Android users. But it does happen, particularly with apps for gadgets and smart home accessories.
It's rare to find an Android tablet that doesn't have the Google Play store these days - with the notable exception of Amazon's - but do check as it's a pain if you buy something and find out it's not approved by Google and you can't access Google's apps.
If you're unsure whether a tablet is the right device, read our laptop vs tablet buyer's guide.
- Reviewed on: 20 November 2018
If you don't need Google apps on your tablet then this is the best cheap tablet going. It's worth the extra spend over the Fire 7 for the larger, better screen.
And now you can use Alexa hands free, or pair the Fire HD 8 with the clever Show Mode dock to get an affordable smart display for home use. If you want to watch video on Prime and Netflix and not much else then this tablet is a no-brainer.
Read our Amazon Fire HD 8 2018 review.
- Reviewed on: 16 November 2018
The Fire 7 is a very minor update to the 2015 7in Fire tablet. It’s a shame that the processor and cameras haven’t been upgraded, but the low price makes it hard to complain.
It remains great value and a great way to use Amazon’s services including video and music – as well as Alexa. The absence of all things Google will be a deal-breaker for some, but it’s an excellent choice for kids or undemanding adults.
Read our Amazon Fire 7 review.
- Reviewed on: 20 November 2018
The HD 10 is more powerful than ever, has a decent Full HD screen and a good amount of storage for the money. Hands-free Alexa is nice addition, too.
If you can live with the slightly limited selection of apps compared to an Android tablet, it’s a good deal.
Read our Amazon Fire HD 10 (2017) review.
- Reviewed on: 5 October 2018
If we're talking hardware alone then Xiaomi's Mi Pad 4 is arguably one of the best Android tablets you can find under £200, especially in this compact form factor.
This 8in tablet has a full-HD display with some decent hardware onboard, including the Snapdragon 660 processor, up to 4GB of RAM and up to 64GB of storage. Xiaomi has also added microSD support, and there's an LTE version of this tablet.
Design changes result in a more manageable device for use in one hand, and improved audio with the speakers now sitting on the tablet's bottom edge.
We're surprised to see GPS missed out of the spec, and the Mi Pad 4 also neglects NFC, and while it's mostly an improvement over the previous generation the screen size and resolution and battery capacity has been reduced.
If this were a 'Global' version of the Mi Pad 4 we'd be sold, but as it is running Chinese MIUI it stands to offer a potentially confusing experience for novice users. Navigation and menus will be unfamiliar, and if you want to use Google services you'll first need to install Google Play from the Mi App Store.
Read our Xiaomi Mi Pad 4 review.
- Reviewed on: 8 September 2017
The Tab3 8 Plus’s strong point is the quality it offers when it comes to entertainment features. The large- and high-resolution display, coupled with its performance in video playback and gaming, make it highly enjoyable and a strong contender to any budget tablets available. However, the Tab3 8 Plus’s poor results when it comes to internet use make it clear it should not be used as a professional tool.
We would highly recommend this device for entertainment purposes. Thanks to its greatly developed parental mode, it is suitable for the whole family. Its design is clear and smooth, it is easy for a child to hold and for a parent to carry, and it comes at a fairly affordable price.
Read our Lenovo Tab3 8 Plus review.
- Reviewed on: 25 April 2018
The SurBook Mini is not the best Windows 2-in-1 you'll find, and in fact is only a 2-in-1 if you're prepared to pay the extra cash for the keyboard. But for the small amount of money you pay, it is a nicely designed and usable budget Windows tablet, provided you don't try to throw too much at it at once and keep a PD charger to hand.
Read our Chuwi SurBook Mini review.
7. Chuwi Hi13
- Reviewed on: 27 April 2018
It's usefully large with a fantastic screen, and it allows you to get your hands on a cheap Windows tablet (potentially 2-in-1 laptop) at an excellent price. But the Chuwi Hi13 is underpowered and heavy, a burden for your bag. The keyboard (sold separately) also makes us want to cry.
Read our Chuwi Hi13 review.
- Reviewed on: 29 November 2018
We'd be lying if we said Chuwi had not cut some corners in this budget Android tablet, and it's by no means a premium design. But in return for not a lot of money it also has a lot to offer, including 4G connectivity and a large 2K screen on which to watch movies, play games and get things done. Timely operating system updates are a concern, but the Chuwi Hi9 Air remains a functional and good-value tablet under £150.
Read our Chuwi Hi9 Air review.
- Reviewed on: 1 September 2017
They say you get what you pay for, and that is very often the truth. There is some evident cost-cutting in this Cube iPlay 10 tablet, but in comparison to the Amazon tablets that top our budget tablets chart it has a larger, high-resolution screen, more storage as standard and, most importantly, full support for Google services. Performance is largely the same, which is capable enough for casual tasks.
Read our Cube iPlay 10 review.
10. Onda V10 Pro
- Reviewed on: 9 April 2018
The Onda V10 Pro is not a fast performer, but for a budget tablet that retails for under £150 it has some real draws for entertainment use, including a large, high-resolution screen. If your needs are not great, you could save yourself several hundred pounds on a top-end tablet and easily get by with the V10 Pro.
Read our Onda V10 Pro review.