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Best budget tablets 2016: Buying guide
When buying a budget tablet there are a few things that you need to consider.
The first thing that you need to get your head around is that for less than £100 you’re not going to get a tablet that is going to compete with the iPad in terms of specs and performance.
You'll see reviews of some 'older' tablets here. They may be 18 months old, but you can now pick them up for less than their original price, making some a better deal.
However, few can compete with the Hudl 2 and - thanks to a new 2015 range - Amazon's budget tablets. This is because the hardware is subsidised, or because Tesco and Amazon have such buying power that they can sell higher-spec hardware cheaper than the smaller brands.
(Unfortunately, Tesco has now discontinued its Hudl 2. While you can still buy it from places such as eBay, note that you may pay well over the £99 RRP.)
With this in mind, you should buy a budget tablet with the best specs on offer. The key areas you should be concentrating on are: storage, screen size, pixel density, processor power, battery life, and size and weight.
Screen size is a personal preference, neither smaller nor bigger is better. Bigger means an easier-to-see screen and (usually) longer battery life, while smaller means a tablet that's more portable: it's smaller and lighter.
The screen itself should be an IPS panel (you won't find AMOLED on a budget tablet) and as high resolution as possible. Anything less than 1280x720 on a 7in display (or larger) isn't ideal as you can see the pixels.
You won't get much storage for under £100, but that's fine if your chosen tablet has a microSD slot for adding storage. Amazon's (old) tablets don't, which is one big black mark against them. The new range finally has expandable storage.
Consider 16GB a minimum: 8GB without a microSD card is just too restrictive because half (or more) of this can be taken up by the operating system and pre-installed apps which you might not be able to remove.
Most tablet cameras (let alone budget models) are relatively poor compared to the best smartphones. Don't expect great quality photos or videos from anything under £150.
Don't pay any attention to GHz numbers or even RAM. 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.
The last thing that you should know is that pretty much every budget tablet around today comes with Google’s Android operating system. This isn’t a bad thing though, as it’s very easy to use and is pretty much as good as Apple's iOS these days.
It's rare to find out without the Google Play store these days, 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.
Amazon's tablets run a custom version of Android with no Google apps whatsoever. That means no YouTube app, no Gmail, no maps and no Google Play store. You get Amazon's equivalents for most things, but you'll have to get a 'fake' YouTube app or use the Silk browser and go to the YouTube website.
That's not to say Amazon tablets are bad. The HD 6 is a great choice for kids, and older versions can be picked up refurbished fairly cheaply compared to their high original prices. The problem - for Amazon - is that it offers its Kindle reader app on Android and you're no worse off shopping on Amazon on an Android tablet, leaving very few reasons to buy a Fire tablet over the Hudl 2. All these are reasons why the Hudl 2 tops our budget tablet chart. And if you have some Tesco Clubcard vouchers, they're worth double face value when used to buy a Hudl 2: a real bonus.
With that said, the new £49 Amazon Fire is half the price of a Hudl 2, so if you can live without Google, it's a good deal.
Best budget tablets of 2016 UK
- Reviewed on: 23 July 15
- RRP: £150 inc VAT
This isn't a bad attempt at a budget tablet with decent build and almost stock Android. If you want 4G data on the go for simple tasks then the Vodafone Tab Prime 6 isn't a bad choice with the PAYG option. However, if you're not going to make use of the 4G then you're much better off going for a tablet like the Tesco Hudl 2 which is cheaper and offers much better specs. It's the screen which is the biggest let down here.
Read our Vodafone Tab Prime 6 review.
- Reviewed on: 12 March 15
- RRP: £179 inc VAT
There's little to get excited about with the Acer Iconia Tab 10 but that's fine with a very affordable price tag of £179. It's plain in appearance and quite heavy but apart from a few too many pre-loaded apps, the tablet offers good performance and decent storage plus a handy microHDMI port. Overall it's a good choice if you're looking to spend under £200 on a large Android tablet.
Read our Acer Icona Tab 10 A3-A20 review.
- Reviewed on: 27 January 15
- RRP: £169.99
Asus's Memo Pad 8 tablet is stylish, well-built and plenty powerful enough for most users looking to play casual games, browse the web and carry out basic productivity tasks. It is well-worth considering at £120 (you'll find it for that price on Amazon) if display and camera quality aren't top of your priority list.
If you want to save a bit of extra cash and aren't worried about loosing an inch off the display, we'd recommend opting for the smaller but very similarly specced Asus Memo Pad 7, which you'll find for under £100 if you shop around.
Read our Asus Memo Pad 8 review.
- Reviewed on: 3 July 14
- RRP: £120
For just £120, we're really impressed with the Asus Memo Pad 7. In addition to a good-looking design and sturdy build, it also boasts hardware that rivals tablets with much higher price tags. A higher-resolution screen and front-facing speakers would add even more appeal, but if you're looking for a budget tablet and have been considering the Tesco Hudl, Kindle Fire HD or even the Nexus 7, it's worth investigating the Asus Memo Pad 7, too.
Read our Asus Memo Pad 7 (ME176CX) review.
- Reviewed on: 26 August 15
- Buy for 79.99
The Asus ZenPad C 7.0 is a fine tool for carrying in your bag wherever you go and using to check emails and social media and browse the web. Beyond that its functionality is limited, but what more can you expect from an £80 tablet? If you can stretch to the £99 Hudl 2 you will find a noticeable jump in performance, but the Asus is the more portable of the two.
Read our Asus ZenPad C 7.0 review.
5. LG G Pad 8.3
- Reviewed on: 13 February 14
- RRP: £199 inc VAT
The G Pad 8.3 is undoubtedly LG's best tablet to date and at £199 it's a bit of a steal. A nice selection of hardware and software make this a great choice for a small tablet. However, occasionally laggy performance means the Nexus 7 might be a better choice.
Read our LG G Pad 8.3 review.
- Reviewed on: 17 October 14
- RRP: £79 inc VAT (8GB); £99 inc VAT (16GB)
It isn't perfect, but the HD 6 is really good value. Performance is well above the level you'd expect at this price, as is the quality of the screen. Some might find the 6in screen too small, though, so it's worth trying to track one down before buying.
Read our Amazon Fire HD 6 review.
- Reviewed on: 22 July 14
- RRP: £199 (32 GB)/£239 (1 32GB)
The 2013 flavour of the Nexus 7 is no longer available from Google. But shop around and you can find it in various online stores, at a great low price. Arguably the Hudl 2 offers a similar blend of value and quality, and may even be a bit faster. But you are unlikely to notice, and although the Nexus 7 is still lacking a microSD card slot, for many people will be the best 7in tablet around. It may even be the best value tablet there is.
Read our Nexus 7 (2013) review.
2. Tesco Hudl 2
- Reviewed on: 26 October 15
- RRP: £99 inc VAT
One of the best budget Android tablets to date, Tesco has done the unthinkable and stopped selling its Hudl 2. It's still a great deal where available, but be warned that many people are selling it at almost double its £99 price at Tesco - just because they can. If you can find one, and even with the complaints about charging and cracked screens, we can still recommend the Hudl 2. Tesco will continue to support its tablet, and the great screen, decent processor and microSD card slot make this an excellent tablet.
Read our Tesco Hudl 2 review.
1. Amazon Fire
- Reviewed on: 10 February 16
- RRP: £49 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. 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.