Best cheap tablet 2017
|Best cheap tablet||Price||Key specifications|
|Amazon Fire||£49||Fire OS 5 (custom Android UI), 1.3GHz quad-core CPU, 1GB RAM, 8GB storage, 7in 1024x600 display, 2980mAh|
|Amazon Fire HD 8||£89||Fire OS (custom Android UI), 1.3GHz quad-core CPU, 1.5B RAM, 16/32GB storage, 8in 1280x800 display. 4750mAh|
|Chuwi Hi10 Pro||£128||Custom Android UI, Windows 10 Home, 1.44GHz Intel Atom X5 CPU, 4B RAM, 64GB storage, 10.1in 1920x1200 display|
You don't have to spend hundreds on a new iPad to have a decent tablet. Many budget tablets are well worth a look, especially for casual use and kida. Here we round up the best cheap tablets in the UK 2017. Also see: Best new tablets coming in 2017.
Best cheap tablet 2017: Buyer's guide
A couple of years ago, a good budget tablet cost about £120. It had the words “Tesco” and “Hudl” on the box and you could get one for half that price if you had enough Tesco Clubcard vouchers. Clearly the Hudl didn’t make enough money, so Tesco made a swift exit from the tablet business.
In 2017, the new budget king is Amazon. The 7in Amazon Fire costs £49.99, and it has been on sale for £35 a few times. Those are crazy prices for a tablet, let alone one that has a decent screen, a microSD slot for adding more storage, and an easy-to-use operating system.
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 an Android tablet. This isn’t a problem for a lot of people, but the fact that Google apps are conspicuous by its absence is a deal-breaker for others. You can find out more about the pros and cons in our Amazon Fire review below.
Also see: Best Tablet Deals
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.
Quad-core CPUs and “high definition” screens might sound great, but what counts is how they perform in the real world. That’s where our reviews come in, as we run benchmarks to assess performance and battery life, and test a screen’s brightness, viewing angles and colours: none of which you can do by looking at an ebay listing or Argos catalogue.
However, it does help to know what to look for when narrowing down your search.
First, decide on screen size. Do you want a portable tablet with a 7in screen, or do you want something larger (and trade off portability)? 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 carry it around 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 we’ve seen few IPS-screened tablets that we didn’t like.
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 250 pixels per inch.
You won't get much storage in a budget tablet, but that's fine if your chosen model has a Micro-SD 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 £49 Fire 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.
As we’ve said, pretty much every budget tablet around today runs Google’s Android operating system. This isn’t a bad thing though, as it’s very easy to use and just as good as Apple's iOS found on iPads.
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.
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.
You'll see reviews of some 'older' tablets here. They may be over a year old, but you can now pick them up for less than their original price, making some a better deal. Just make sure you don't pay an inflated price - we've put the original RRPs as a guide.
1. Amazon Fire
- Reviewed on: 23 November 16
- RRP: £49.99 inc VAT. US$49.99
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 September 16
- RRP: from £89.99. from US$89.99
The Amazon Fire HD 8 ticks a lot of the right boxes. It’s affordable, well built and plays back video to an exceptionally high standard. But we’ll say it again – you need Amazon Prime to fully enjoy it. It’s not that it is a complete necessity, but the prominence in the operating system of Amazon’s own apps and services means without a Prime membership it’s a frustrating user experience. This caveat aside, it’s an incredibly priced media consumption tablet that exemplifies Amazon’s place in the low-end market – this over makes it an attractive, interestingly unique option.
Read our Amazon Fire HD 8 review.
- Reviewed on: 3 October 16
- RRP: £128.53. 166.59
The Chuwi Hi10 Pro is an excellent value Windows 10 laptop-tablet hybrid with the addition of Android (albeit old Android) and a pleasing build for the money. We take issue with its fingerprint-prone screen and tinny, poorly placed speakers, but in all other respects this is a very decent device for the money. It’s not a fast device, and we wouldn’t recommend it to gamers, but it’s fast enough for most daily Windows tasks.
Read our Chuwi Hi10 Pro 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: 14 October 16
- RRP: £172.69. 219.89
Chuwi's tablets are not the fastest Windows machines you can buy, but they make excellent portable computers if you're on a budget. With its Quad-HD screen and fast USB-C charging, the HiBook Pro is a very good cheap option. We recommend you also buy the optional keyboard that turns this Windows/Android tablet into a laptop.
Read our Chuwi HiBook Pro review.
6. Chuwi HiBook
- Reviewed on: 13 May 16
- RRP: £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.
- Reviewed on: 26 August 15
- RRP: £79.99 inc VAT
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 Android tablet? Unlike Amazon's you get the whole suite of Google Apps including the Play Store.
Read our Asus ZenPad C 7.0 review.
8. Chuwi Hi12
- Reviewed on: 26 April 16
- RRP: £194.71 plus import duty from China
At under £200 the Chuwi Hi12 is a fantastic Windows 10 tablet with a large, high-resolution screen and capable – if not fast – performance. Battery life is excellent and the design is mostly good, but if you plump for the optional keyboard consider yourself warned about the trackpad.
Read our Chuwi Hi12 review.
- Reviewed on: 8 July 16
- RRP: £199.97
The Asus ZenPad 10 is far too slow and has too basic a spec for us to heartily recommend it to all users. Power users should stay well away, but Android beginners may find this tablet can meet all their needs at an affordable price. We like the AudioDock keyboard, though it isn’t infallible, while sound is good and the screen offers a large space for enjoying media.
Read our Asus ZenPad 10 ZD300C review.