Amazon is the current king of cheap tablets. With its Fire and Fire HD slates costing between around £50 and £150 – sometimes even less, when offers are running – and their appeal doesn't stop there.
Improved displays across the range, Alexa voice assistant support, microSD expandability and an easy-to-use operating system in Fire OS all help each and every Fire tablet serve as an instant recommendation.
It would be easy to say you’re a fool for buying anything different, but the Fire range has one sticking point: they're not standard Android tablets and don't support Google apps natively.
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, lacklustre performance and underwhelming battery life; always look at reviews before you buy, and if you can't find any then we'd avoid the purchase altogether.
If you want a cheap tablet, you'll be looking for either an Android tablet or Windows device (everything in this lineup comes in at under £250), unless you're prepared to go secondhand, with regards to Apple's iPads.
If you're looking for a cheap tablet for a child, then check out our dedicated best kids tablets chart.
Amazon Fire HD 10 (2021) - Most versatile
- Pros: Stylish design | Good performance | Nice screen
- Cons: Limited apps | Slow charging | Basic cameras
Amazon refreshed its 10in Fire tablet once again for 2021, and while, as ever, there's a model that's tailor-made for kids, there's also a bundle that places a focus on productivity; which includes a Bluetooth keyboard and year's subscription to Microsoft Office 365.
Even without the extras, the HD 10 is still a great budget entertainment slate, also boasting better performance and better cameras to boot. It also features always-on Alexa support, so you can fire off queries, even when the HD 10's display is off.
You have the option of a Plus model with wireless charging and it does better than expected as a productivity machine, but in every case, the tablet's low price tag versus more conventional Android-based competition comes with the caveat that FireOS doesn't support Google Play Store apps natively, so you won't necessarily find all the experiences you're looking for with this slate (i.e. check before you buy).
Read our full Amazon Fire HD 10 (2021) review
Amazon Fire HD 10 Kids Pro (2021) - Best for kids
- Pros: Stylish & lightweight | Good warranty | Well-designed case
- Cons: No Alexa in kids profiles | Lacks Prime Video content | Overpriced
Both a big tablet for kids and a tablet ideal for bigger kids, this is the first time Amazon has taken one of its child-centric slates 'Pro'.
The HD 10 Kids Pro runs on the same underlying hardware as its general-purpose alter ego but comes with a protective case, one year’s access to Kids+ (which includes entertainment, apps, books etc.) and a two-year warranty that includes a no-questions-asked replacement if your little ones manage to decommission the slate the first time around.
The included case is a little more grown-up looking than the conventional Kids bumper, as is the UI that shows up on-screen. The user experience is closer to that of stock FireOS but makes for easy activity monitoring and leaves out access to certain age-gated content or apps (like Netflix), which have to be approved by a parent before being installed.
It's a shame the kid-friendly version of Alexa isn't supported – even though the tablet itself does facilitate such functionality – and certain kid-suitable Prime movies just don't make an appearance without reason.
Read our full Amazon Fire HD 10 Kids Pro review
Amazon Fire HD 8 Plus (2020) - Well-rounded
- Pros: Compact form-factor | Hands-free Alexa | Improved battery life
- Cons: Entry-level performance | Limited selection of apps
Amazon refreshed its 8in Fire tablet in 2020, with more memory and wireless charging, which in turn enables Amazon Echo Show mode; so you can summon Alexa and check the weather with your voice.
While performance isn't markedly different from the previous Fire HD 8, this model will last longer and we'd say the addition of the wireless charging dock is wholly worthwhile, if you're considering picking one of these slates up.
Read our full Amazon Fire HD 8 (10th gen) review
Amazon Fire 7 (2019) - Most portable
- Pros: Nice selection of colourways | Solid selfie camera | Usable base storage now
- Cons: Underpowered | Lacklustre, low resolution display
The Amazon Fire 7 may not offer much in the way of improvements over its predecessor – save for a few new colourways – but it's an undeniable bargain all the same.
Highlights include more storage space and a superior selfie camera than before, which might not seem like much, but considering the other sorts of tablets you can expect to pick up at this price point/size, there's little else out there that comes close to consideration.
Read our full Amazon Fire 7 (2019) review
Samsung Galaxy Tab A 10.1 (2019) - Great value
- Pros: Aluminium body | Nice screen | Good battery life
- Cons: Ageing hardware | Underwhelming performance
A great Galaxy Tab offering for those on a budget, 2019's Tab A 10.1 boasts a surprisingly premium design, a nice screen and impressive battery life at a competitive price point.
It lacks raw power when it comes to gaming and the hardware is getting on a bit, but affordable Google Play-capable slates are still hard to come by; meaning this is still a viable buy if you can get it with a discount.
Read our full Samsung Galaxy Tab A 10.1 (2019) review
Your buying guide for the best budget tablets
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 7in or 8in screen is best if you’re likely to take the tablet around with you (you can also get smaller sizes), while a 9in to 10in screen is good if you only need to travel with it occasionally or it's destined to live at home.
Look for an IPS screen (or better yet, an OLED screen), as this technology is almost guaranteed to offer superior colours and viewing angles versus a basic TN display. It doesn’t say too much about brightness and contrast, but almost all the IPS screens we’ve seen should be good enough for most users' needs.
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 (often abbreviated to 'dpi') to keep things looking crisp.
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 expandability. Amazon's old tablets don't, which is one big black mark against them. However, the newer entries, which is why we rate them so highly.
Consider 16GB a minimum for internal space; 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 your average smartphone. Don't expect great quality photos or videos from any budget slate, but if this is important to you, always check reviews to see which tablet has the least-worst cameras.
While higher numbers are usually better, don't pay GHz numbers or even RAM too much mind. 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 handles in the real world.
If you do decide that a Fire tablet isn’t for you, the most like-minded alternative is an Android tablet. iPads don’t fall into the budget category, so you’ll only find those in our best tablet 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.
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 Fire OS tabs – but do check, as it's a pain if you buy one and then find out it's not approved by Google and you can't access Google's apps.