The Best Cheap Tablets of 2017

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Top Tablet Bargains

Some tablets are pro-level, laptop replacements, while others do humbler duty. Inexpensive tablets make great video players for kids, ebook readers, alarm clocks, and can even work as digital signage. (Check out 12 things you can replace with a $38 tablet for more ideas.) You don't need to spend $300 or more to get a simple slate that fulfills those functions, there are plenty of good options in the $100 range, and some for even less.

What to Look For

There are a lot of cheap tablets out there. You'll find them stacked up behind the counter at CVS and Walgreens, or sold under dozens of different names on Amazon. We can't recommend most of them: they tend to be slow, unreliable, have dim screens, and run old versions of Android that are full of security flaws. If you decide to go into the wilds of no-name tablets, try to find something running at least Android 6.0 Marshmallow. Don't accept anything running less than Android 5.1, as versions below that are subject to long-ago-patched bugs and vulnerabilities.

When you're shopping, keep an eye on screen resolution. An 8-inch, 1,280-by-800 display will let you comfortably watch 720p HD video and read magazines, which won't be nearly as enjoyable on a 1,024-by-600 screen. 1280 by 800 pixels across 8 inches works out to 189 pixels per inch, which is the minimum you should look for if you want to experience a reasonably sharp picture and text. The Amazon Fire 7, which has a 1,024-by-600 screen, is an exception, but it's also smaller at 7 inches.

At $100 or less, there are a few inexpensive new 10-inch tablets, but their screens generally have such low pixel density that they look fuzzy and difficult to read.

Also pay close attention to storage specs. As Android often has trouble moving apps to microSD memory cards, we recommend 16GB of storage rather than 8GB. This will let you install more apps and take more pictures and video. Of ocourse, a microSD card slot certainly can't hurt, especially if you want to download movies to watch on long trips.

If possible, look for 1.5GB of RAM or more. This will help you launch and run apps more smoothly, particularly if you have anything else running in the background. Battery life is another factor to keep in mind, though you can always extend the life of your tablet on the go with one of our favorite backup battery packs. We highlight all of these specs in the chart above.

Always Go Amazon?

The best inexpensive tablets we've tested come from Amazon, and they're subsidized by Amazon ads on the lock screens and lots of promotions for Amazon content in their user interfaces. They're relatively reliable, they get security updates, and they have good customer support, which sets them apart from their sub-$100 kin. Our current Editors' Choice is the Amazon Fire HD 8, which clocks in at $79.99. It has the storage (16GB) and screen specs (1,280 by 800) we recommend.

Amazon's tablets are not only the best cheap options out there, they're also the best kids' tablets we've tested. They have a simplified interface, strong parental controls, and FreeTime Unlimited, which is basically a giant bucket of content for kids. A "parent dashboard" lets you keep track of what your children are doing and restrict their screen time. You can put multiple user profiles on the tablets as well. Other Android tablets let you set up restricted kids' profiles, and Apple's tablets have parental controls, but they aren't as comprehensive as the controls and content options that come on Amazon slates.

The one caveat with Amazon's tablets is that they use Amazon's app store, which doesn't quite have all the apps that are in the official Google Play store. If you want complete Google Play coverage, with unrestricted access to the 100 best Android apps, you may need to give up some specs such as RAM, storage, or dual-band Wi-Fi on a non-Amazon tablet. In that case, stick with a reliable name like Acer, Asus, and Lenovo, which are the current "big three" for low-end tablets in the US.

If all of these choices feel underwhelming, take a look at our picks for the best Android tablets, which include some good selections around the $300 mark.

Don't Want Android?

If you want a quality Apple or Windows tablet under $200, you're going to have to dip into the used market. In that case, we suggest you first go to the manufacturers' own certified refurbished sales on its site, or to third-party sellers like Gazelle, Glyde, and Swappa, which buy used products and actually test them before reselling them.

The forthcoming iOS 11 brings some promising new features for iPads, but it won't support any tablets older than the iPad Air or iPad mini 2. The least expensive tablet we can recommend from Apple would be a certified-used iPad mini 2, which is currently available from Gazelle starting at $189.

The least expensive new iPad is the seventh-generation model, and at $329 it's the best value we've ever seen. We wouldn't call that a cheap tablet, mind you, but there are some good reasons to invest. Most notably, with the new iPad, you'll probably be able to stay current with software updates for the next four years. If you get an older, used iPad, it's likely to get cut out of the software update cycle in a year or two.

In the Windows world, you'll also want to look at recertified used devices down at this price level. We haven't been enticed by any $200 Windows tablets lately, such as the RCA Cambio W1162 and E-Fun Nextbook Flexx 9, but we've seen the Acer Aspire Switch 10 E available used for around $160.

If your budget is a little more flexible, here's our list of the Best Windows Tablets overall, where you'll find a few top-notch under-$500 picks.

The used market is less helpful for Android tablets. You can find some good deals in the $100 to 200 zone, for instance a Samsung Galaxy Tab S 8.4 on Glyde for $193. But under $100, it's hard to find a good used Android tablet that's much better than the Amazon, Acer, or Asus options that are available new for the same price.

If budget buying feels too much like cutting corners, take a look at the best tablets we've tested overall. Just be prepared to spend a lot more than $100.

Featured Budget Tablet Reviews:

  • the-best-cheap-tablets-of-2017 photo 2

    Amazon Fire HD 8 (2017) Review

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    $79.99 MSRP
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    Bottom Line: Amazon's latest Fire HD 8 tablet is a great value for media consumption, as long as you can live without access to Google Play.

     Read Full Review
  • the-best-cheap-tablets-of-2017 photo 4

    Amazon Fire 7 (2017) Review

    $49.99 MSRP
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    Bottom Line: The Amazon Fire 7 tablet makes a good basic video player and color ebook reader, and it's very easy to use.

     Read Full Review
  • the-best-cheap-tablets-of-2017 photo 5

    Alcatel A30 Tablet Review

    $125.00 MSRP
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    Bottom Line: The Alcatel A30 for T-Mobile isn't particularly exciting, but it's a solid 8-inch Android tablet for the price, especially if you need cellular connectivity.

     Read Full Review
  • the-best-cheap-tablets-of-2017 photo 6

    AT&T Trek 2 HD Review

    $150.00 MSRP
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    Bottom Line: The Trek 2 HD is a well-priced, if unexciting, Android tablet for AT&T users who need built-in cellular connectivity.

     Read Full Review
  • the-best-cheap-tablets-of-2017 photo 7

    Acer Iconia One 7 (B1-780-K610) Review

    $79.99 MSRP
    %displayPrice% at %seller%

    Bottom Line: The Acer Iconia One 7 is a very affordable Android tablet with a nice display, but some performance issues hold it back.

     Read Full Review
  • the-best-cheap-tablets-of-2017 photo 8

    Acer Iconia One 8 (B1-850) Review

    $99.99 MSRP
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    Bottom Line: The Acer Iconia One 8 is far from perfect, but it's one of the better Android tablets you'll find for less than $100.

     Read Full Review
  • the-best-cheap-tablets-of-2017 photo 9

    Acer Iconia One 10 (B3-A30-K6YL) Review

    $129.99 MSRP
    %displayPrice% at %seller%

    Bottom Line: The Acer Iconia One 10 (B3-A30-K6YL) is a low-cost 10-inch Android tablet that makes a decent music and video player.

     Read Full Review
  • the-best-cheap-tablets-of-2017 photo 10

    Lenovo Tab3 8 Review

    $109.99 MSRP
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    Bottom Line: The Lenovo Tab3 8 is a sturdy and relatively affordable Android tablet with built-in parental controls, but it doesn't offer particularly noteworthy performance.

     Read Full Review

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