What's the best Android tablet?
|Best Android tablet||Price||Key specifications|
|Samsung Galaxy Tab S2 8.0||£319||Android 5.0 Lollipop, Exynos 5433, 3GB RAM, 32/64GB storage, 8in 2048x1536 display, 4000mAh|
|Google Pixel C||£399||Android 6.0 Marshmallow, Nvidia Tegra X1, 3GB RAM, 32/64GB storage, 10.2in 2560x1800 display, 9243mAh|
|Huawei MediaPad M3||£299||Android Marshmallow 6.0, Kirin 950 CPU, 4GB RAM, 32/64GB storage, 8.4in 2560x1600 display, 5100mAh|
What is the best Android tablet? Right now, it's hard to beat the Samsung Galaxy Tab S2 and Google Pixel C but there are plenty of alternatives, especially if cost is your main consideration. Android tablets range from around £50 to £500, vary in size and quality, but some are exceptionally good value indeed and are typically the best iPad alternatives. These are the best Android tablets available to buy in the UK in 2017. Also see: Best new tablets coming in 2017 and Best tablets of 2017.
Also see: Best Tablet Deals
Android tablet buyer's guide
What is Android?
Android tablets are much like iPads. The main difference is the software they run: Google Android. This has its own app store – Google Play – instead of Apple’s App Store, but in it you’ll find a similarly broad selection of apps. Most apps are available for both iPads and Android tablets, but there are a few occasions you’ll find apps and games are only available for the iPad, and even then, they usually appear on Android later. Take a look at 2017's best cheap tablets too.
Android itself is quite similar to iOS, which is the name of the iPad’s software. The latest version is Android 7.0 Nougat but many tablets still come wit Android 6 Marshmallow, or even Android 5 Lollipop, and that’s perfectly fine.
Amazon Fires are a little different as they run on Android, but it's Amazon's heavily customised and locked down version. They make good kids’ tablets, so if you're after a tablet for a child, check out our Best tablets for kids roundup.
Size and weight
As with iPads, the first thing to consider (apart from your budget) is screen size. This ranges from around 7- to 11in, although there are a couple of larger Android tablets with 13in screens. For most people, an 8- or 9in tablet represents the best compromised between usability and portability, although some 10in tablets can be quite thin and light. What you can’t escape is the footprint associated with a bigger screen, so it’s worth making sure your chosen tablet will fit in your favourite bag.
With bigger screens comes more weight. Aim for a maximum of around 450g, as anything heavier can be uncomfortable to hold for long periods, such as watching a film. But if you’ll use the tablet propped up on your lap or on a desk for most of the time, weight isn’t an issue.
Storage and expansion
One of the secondary considerations is storage. Many, but not all, Android tablets have a microSD slot so you can add more storage when you need it. If you’re going for a tablet with no slot, make sure you buy the biggest capacity you can afford, as videos and some apps can use up an awful lot of storage. And don’t forget that the big number on the box – 16GB, say – is the total amount. The usable amount, i.e. the amount which is empty and available for you to use, can be quite a lot less than that headline figure.
If you’re planning to buy a microSD card for your tablet, first check if the tablet manufacturer has any minimum requirements, such as a particular minimum ‘Class’. It’s best to go for Class 10 or higher to ensure good performance; slower microSD cards might make your tablet feel slow when accessing apps or videos.
Also, check that the tablet allows you to install apps on the SD card, as not all do, but occasionally it’s the app itself which restricts you to internal storage only.
Ideally, you should aim for 16GB of internal storage as a minimum, but more is obviously better.
Few tablets these days use poor-quality screens, but some do. Look for an IPS or AMOLED screen and avoid anything with a ‘TN’ screen as these have poor viewing angles.
In terms of resolution, the higher the better, but the more important number is pixel density. Aim for 250 pixels per inch or higher, as this will mean sharp-looking image that’s not jagged or blocky.
Most Android tablets have Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, and some have NFC as well. NFC may come in handy, but it’s by no means essential. What’s more useful for most people is a video output so you can connect your tablet to your TV (usually via HDMI). However, you can use an Android tablet with a Google Chromecast for watching catch-up TV, YouTube and other internet video services.
Some Android tablets and TVs support Miracast which lets you beam what’s on your tablet’s screen to your TV with no wires, but the Chromecast is a decent alternative for only £35 if your TV doesn’t have this support.
Some tablets have GPS, which makes them useful for navigation, but not all do, so check before you buy. Another thing to watch for is a SIM slot. This is useful if you want to get online when you’re travelling or out of Wi-Fi range. However, you’ll usually pay more for a 3G or 4G tablet, and you will need a dedicated SIM card with a data-only plan. It’s better to tether your tablet to your smartphone if your phone’s 3G or 4G provider allows this. For more see How to use an Android phone as a Wi-Fi hotspot.
Performance, battery life and cameras
Don’t worry unduly about a tablet’s processor or RAM, but if you want to know if a particular model is great for gaming or too slow for web browsing, then read our reviews which include benchmark results: you can’t rely on specifications such as processor speed, or the number of cores to guarantee a good turn of speed.
We also test battery life, so you’ll find how long each tablet lasts between charges in our reviews. The best tablets last around 10 hours or more, while the worst only 4-5 hours. This can make a big difference when choosing between otherwise similar tablets, so it’s worth checking this out before buying.
The same applies to cameras, and as with performance, you shouldn’t judge by the number of megapixels. Instead, check out our test photos in each review to see whether you’re happy with the quality on offer. Few Android tablets have great cameras, and quite a few have awful ones, so if photos, videos and Skype are important, don’t buy before you’ve read the reviews.
Best Android tablets: reader poll
You'll notice below that some of the tablets in our list aren't particularly new. However, that doesn't mean they're not good or that you shouldn't buy them: they are still on sale and are great purchases. Because prices fluctuate, be sure not to pay more than the RRP of a tablet. Prices often go up when stock is low.
- Reviewed on: 13 April 16
- RRP: £319
This is a tablet well worth considering if you've been thinking about buying the iPad mini 4, as it can contend and sometimes outshine Apple's mini tablet when it comes to design and power. It's almost unbelievably thin and light and that screen is a joy to use.
Read our Samsung Galaxy Tab S2 8 review.
- Reviewed on: 20 January 16
- RRP: £399 inc VAT ($500) for 32GB; £479 inc VAT ($600) for 64GB
As a standalone tablet, the Pixel C is superb. It’s better than the HTC-made Nexus 9 which was great but not exceptional. Which the 'C' most certainly is. Storage is a bit limited, but if you can live with 32GB it’s good value at £399. Paying an extra £119 for the keyboard is something we can’t see many buyers doing. If typing is a priority, you’d be better off spending your £518 on a decent ultraportable laptop as Android Marshmallow – good as it is – isn’t nearly as versatile as Windows. And while the keyboard is well designed, you’ll still prefer a full-size laptop keyboard. If you need to run Windows apps, the consider the Surface 3 which is slightly cheaper - even with the optional keyboard - but remember that there are even cheaper options such as the Asus Transformer T100HA.
Read our Google Pixel C review.
- Reviewed on: 2 September 16
- RRP: £299 inc VAT (32GB)
In a stagnated market, the Huawei MediaPad M3 initially feels a little underwhelming. After extended use though, we reckon it’s a cut above the mid-range, but then again at this price you are paying for it. It’s a good alternative to an iPad if you want an Android tablet that’s bigger than an iPad mini but smaller than an iPad Air 2. But, who is specifically looking for that? The MediaPad is excellent and we recommend it, but it lacks a certain ‘wow’ factor that's largely down to the high number of existing Android tablets. The MediaPad 3 is a cut above, but you should also consider Samsung’s Galaxy Tab series for a similarly excellent Android tablet experience.
Read our Huawei MediaPad M3 review.
- Reviewed on: 27 August 14
- RRP: £319 inc VAT
The Samsung Galaxy Tab S 8.4 is one of the best Android tablets we've ever reviewed. In terms of hardware it's the best you can buy right now and has a superbly thin and light design. There's very little to dislike here aside from some elements of the TouchWiz software and the higher price compared to Android rivals (the iPad mini 2 is the obvious alternative if you're not set on Android). If you would rather save money and aren't so bothered about top-notch spec and additional features like the fingerprint scanner and IR blaster, check out the Nexus 7 and LG G Pad 8.3.
Read our Samsung Galaxy Tab S 8.4 review.
- Reviewed on: 2 December 14
- RRP: £269 inc VAT
It's great to see Sony finally make a smaller tablet and the 8in form factor is proving to be increasingly popular. The Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact is super thin and light and is waterproof to boot. Hardware is decent but not mind-blowing and while rivals like the Galaxy Tab S offer a bit more gadgetry, Sony offers High-Res audio and a killer feature for gamers in the form of PS4 Remote Play. It's a great effort from Sony if you're looking for a high-end 8in tablet.
Read our Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact review.
6. Amazon Fire
- Reviewed on: 23 November 16
- RRP: £49.99 inc VAT
It's certainly not perfect, and the lack of Google apps will still put some people off, but the Fire is excellent value at under £50. The latest Fire OS is so Android-like that it's easy to use, and the Fire for Kids app makes it possible to limit what you kids can do and how long they can use the tablet. For some people it's well worth paying double for the Kids Edition version as you get the bumper case and the great warranty. There are some sore points: the poor cameras, the sluggish performance at times, and the long charging time. But at this price it's hard to complain. And you certainly won't find a better tablet for the same money.
Read our Amazon Fire review.
- Reviewed on: 28 July 15
- RRP: £499 inc VAT
The Sony Xperia Z4 Tablet is a seriously impressive device and easily one of the best tablets we've ever tested. The design is astonishingly thin and light and the waterproofing with only the need for one cover is a bonus. This topped with excellent hardware, performance and software means we can barely fault it. However, the fact Sony bundles it with the Bluetooth keyboard with no option to buy it alone means that it's more expensive than rivals. We feel it's a 9/10 products but we've no choice but to mark the value score lower.
Read our Sony Xperia Z4 Tablet review.
- Reviewed on: 26 January 16
- RRP: £144 inc VAT
Whether Xiaomi intended to or not, the Mi Pad 2 is an Android tablet disguised as an iPad mini. This may disgust you or be exactly what you're looking for. Either way, we can't deny that this is a well-made, stylish tablet with decent specs for the price. You're best off getting the 64GB model and if the iOS style user interface is a turn-off, remember that Android is highly customisable.
Read our Xiaomi Mi Pad 2 review.
- Reviewed on: 1 August 14
- RRP: £399 inc VAT
The Samsung Galaxy Tab S 10.5 is one of the firm's best ever tablets with a thin and light design, although there is still too much plastic. Hardware is decent, namely that impressive display and great battery life making this a consumption machine. It's got pretty much everything you could want on a tablet, and it is priced competitively against its key rivals earning it a recommended award.
Read our Samsung Galaxy Tab S 10.5 review.
10. Chuwi HiBook
- Reviewed on: 13 May 16
- RRP: £143.42 inc. VAT
At £143.42 it's difficult to find fault in a 10in tablet that can handle most tasks and offers both Android and Windows operating systems. We strongly recommend you purchase the optional keyboard for the extra functionality it affords, including two full-size USB ports, but even without it the Chuwi HiBook is a very decent budget tablet, with acceptable performance and a decent screen.
Read our Chuwi HiBook review.