What is the best Android tablet? Right now, it's hard to beat the 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 2016. Also see: Best new tablets coming in 2016 and Best tablets of 2016.
Latest entry: Chuwi HiBook
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 2016'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 6 (codename Marshmallow), but many tablets still use Android 5 (Lollipop), and that’s perfectly fine.
You'll notice we haven't included Amazon Fire tablets here. That's because they're not Android tablets in the true sense. They do run a heavily customised version of Android, but they don't have any Google apps, so you can't buy apps from the Play store, nor use the official YouTube app, Google Maps, Gmail and more. A workaround is to go to the YouTube or Google Maps website, but it’s not quite the same as having the app.
Amazon Fires do make good kids’ tablets, though, 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 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
Best Android tablets you can buy in 2016
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 all good in different ways.
- Reviewed on: 23 July 15
- Buy for £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: 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.
- Reviewed on: 20 August 15
- RRP: £369 inc VAT
The Dell Venue 8 7000 is an attractive Android tablet with a super slim design, a great screen and offers smooth performance combined with good battery life. However, it's more expensive than closely matched rivals and the RealSense camera technology which is supposedly a selling point isn't worth the time of day.
Read our Dell Venue 8 7000 review.
- Reviewed on: 12 February 14
- RRP: £269.99 inc VAT
Touchwiz and fake stitching aside the Note 10.1 is a very good tablet with the added S-Pen feature for those who want it.
Read our Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 (2014) review.
13. Asus Memo Pad 8
- 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.
12. 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.
11. Chuwi HiBook
- Reviewed on: 13 May 16
- Buy for 143.42
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.
10. Nexus 7 (2013)
- 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.
- Reviewed on: 17 April 14
- RRP: From £399 inc VAT
The Xperia Z2 is a great looking and well built Android tablet. It is staggeringly thin and light for a 10in device, has a great screen, expandable storage and good performance. We like the OS and the camera. Indeed, our only issues with the Xperia Z2 Tablet is occasionally laggy web browsing, and the fact that the screen is poor under natural light. But priced in line with the iPad Air this is right at the top of the shop.
Read our Sony Xperia Z2 Tablet review.
- Reviewed on: 18 May 15
- RRP: £299 inc VAT
Previous Nexus tablets, particularly the Nexus 7, have been hard to beat for value but that's not the case for the Nexus 9. It's not a bad tablet - especially if performance is a priority - but the screen isn't perfect and neither is build quality. The Samsung Galaxy Tab S 8.4 is a better choice if you can live with a smaller screen, and don't forget the original iPad Air also costs £319 now, making it look very good value indeed.
Read our Google Nexus 9 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: 26 April 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. 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: 26 January 16
- Buy for £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: 28 July 15
- Buy for £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: 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: 13 April 16
- RRP: £319
We loved the Galaxy Tab S2 since the very first time we got our hands on it back in August, and upon further investigation and after spending more time with it we just love it even more. It's 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 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
- Buy for £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.