The best Apple and Android tablets at prices that won’t break the bank
If you think you need to shell out big bucks to enjoy a fantastic tablet experience, think again. These days, you actually have more low-cost options than you may think, with the best budget tablets offering few compromises when it comes to spec, design and branding. Even Apple has affordable alternatives to its expensive flagship iPad Pro models.
While they miss out on some flagship features, the best-value tablets are still perfectly capable of streaming hours of video via Netflix, music on Spotify or audiobooks through Audible. They’re well equipped to handle video calls, catch up on your email and even tackle creative art projects. These budget-friendly options can be great for kids, too.
Our team of experts has thoroughly tested every tablet on this list, judging them on display quality, battery life, performance and more. Below you’ll find our brief buyer’s guide to help get you up to speed on some of the key features to look out for, followed by our pick of the best budget tablets on the market today.
Best-value tablet: At a glance
- Best-value iOS tablet: Apple iPad (2021)
- Best-value Android tablet: Xiaomi Pad 5
- Best overall Amazon tablet: Amazon Fire Max 11
- Best-value for £100: Amazon Fire HD 8 (2022)
- Best for premium design: Apple iPad mini (2021)
- Best on a strict budget: All-new Amazon Fire 7 (2022)
- Best-value tablet under £200: Nokia T21
READ NEXT: The best Android tablets to buy
How to choose the best budget tablet for you
How little can you get away with spending?
There’s quite a lot of variety within this category of devices but, to generalise, budget tablets can cost anywhere between £50 and £500. Anything above £500 is wading into mid-range/premium territory and anything below £50 you should avoid at all costs.
Tablets under or around £100 have their place – they can be serviceable for light browsing and streaming and can be a decent option for kids – but we’d ideally advise you to stretch your budget as far as you possibly can. Spending £320 on the cheapest iPad, for instance, will make the world of difference versus a sub-£200 Android machine.
What do I need the tablet to do?
When shopping for any tablet the first thing to consider is how you plan to use it. For example, if you intend to get stuck into some creative drawing, you won’t want a device with a small, low-resolution display. However, the screen size and resolution won’t be quite as important if you’re primarily interested in listening to audiobooks.
Display quality, battery life, accessory compatibility, available apps and overall performance will vary between models so be sure to think about how you will be using your tablet on a day-to-day basis.
How much storage do I need?
Tablet storage is measured in gigabytes (GB). More storage means more space for photos, videos, audiobooks and apps, but greater storage capacity comes at a cost. 16GB is generally the lowest you’ll encounter and this will just about cover you for surfing the web, keeping on top of your emails and streaming online content. Photos, videos and apps will eat up space quickly, though, and so if you want to save a lot to your device you’ll want something with 32GB of storage at the very least.
It’s worth bearing in mind that a device’s operating system and default apps will also take up some space so the usable storage will be some way below the advertised total.
What other devices and services do you have?
It’s often overlooked but when buying a new tablet you should consider what other devices or subscription services you already have. If you own an iPhone, for example, it may be best to go with an iPad as your account data will easily transfer between the two devices and you will likely already know how to navigate the system and download iOS apps. You’ll also be able to share some apps you’ve bought between your phone and the tablet.
Conversely, Android users may find more familiarity with Android-based tablets, while Amazon’s Fire OS – with its seamless Prime Video, Audible and Amazon shopping integration – may offer added convenience for keen Prime users.
What about accessories?
The tablet accessories you’re most likely to come across are covers, keyboards and styluses. These accessories are likely to cost you extra and compatibility will vary from device to device. It’s therefore important that you consider which, if any, accessories you’re likely to need before you purchase the tablet.
This is especially true if you plan on purchasing official accessories, such as the first-generation Apple Pencil (£89), or Amazon’s official fabric case for the Fire HD 10 (£40). Third-party accessories are available for some tablet models, which can save you a little cash, but we’d still recommend sticking with known brands.
Can you live with ads?
It’s worth being aware that Amazon’s tablets keep the cost lower by displaying personalised adverts on the lock screen. Once you’re past this, there’s no other extra advertising to worry about, but you can remove the ads by paying an extra £10.
How does Expert Reviews test tablets?
All of the tablets we review get put through a range of tests. To test the quality of a tablet’s display we use a colourimeter and DisplayCAL software to determine the screen’s colour accuracy, contrast and maximum brightness. For processor performance, we use the GFXBench and Geekbench 5 applications, both of which can be downloaded from the Apple App Store and Google Play for free.
To test battery performance, we dial in each tablet’s display brightness to 170cd/m² and then loop a 20-hour video using the VLC app. Once the tablet’s battery has fully drained, we power it back up and take note of how many minutes of playback it was able to get through.
Finally, we test the tablet’s cameras under a range of different lighting conditions, including putting it through its paces in video conferencing scenarios.
The best-value tablets to buy in 2023
1. Apple iPad 10.2in (2021): Best-value iOS tablet
Price when reviewed: From £318 | Check price at Amazon
If it’s overall value you’re after, look no further than the 2021 Apple iPad (9th gen). Even though there’s a newer model, the improvements are incremental at best, leaving the 2021 iPad as Apple’s best-value option. The slate feels great to hold, has more than enough power for general use and runs iPadOS, a feature-rich and easy-to-use tablet operating system.
It’s our go-to recommendation for anyone buying their first tablet or for those who want a high-quality yet still affordable slate. The Apple A13 chip keeps performance smooth, the 12MP front camera provides crisp and clear imagery for video calls, while Apple’s Centre Stage tech keeps your face centred in the frame during video calls.
The display is nice and bright, too, with a neat piece of tech called True Tone that reduces eye strain by matching the white point of the display to the ambient lighting in the space you’re using it in. Plus, there’s native stylus support via the first-generation Apple Pencil, making it the perfect starter tablet for budding digital artists.
The iOS App Store is another huge bonus. The marketplace is easy to use, with a selection of nearly two million apps and games, from Netflix and YouTube to GarageBand. And if you have an Apple iPhone and Apple Watch already, your data and accounts will pair seamlessly, making this an easy choice for anyone already in the Apple ecosystem.
This basic model may not have the performance and modern design of an iPad Pro but, when it comes to value for money, Apple’s iPad (9th gen) is the one to beat.
Read our full Apple iPad (2021) review for more details
Key specs – Processor: A13 Bionic; Display: 10.2in, 2,160 x 1,620; Storage: 64GB/256GB; Size: 250 x 174 x 7.5mm; Weight: 487g; Operating system: iPadOS
2. Xiaomi Pad 5: Best-value Android tablet
Price when reviewed: £295 | Check price at Amazon
Offering a sleek, modern design and impressive performance, the Xiaomi Pad 5 is the best-value Android tablet around. In fact, it packs some features that you won’t find on pricer devices, including a fantastically smooth 120Hz refresh rate display.
For under £400, you get a lot. The screen is bright, vivid and responsive and, at 11in across the diagonal, it offers plenty of real estate for surfing the web or streaming online content. Xiaomi’s EMUI software (based on Android 11 at launch) isn’t bloated with unnecessary apps, and we found it to be simple to navigate and customise, making it great for beginners.
With a Snapdragon 860 chipset inside, the Xiaomi Pad 5 provides exceptional performance for the price, meaning you can browse the internet, run apps, play games and watch movies without worrying about lag or stuttering.
While Android-based tablets don’t quite command the same huge library of tablet-optimised apps as those running iPadOS, there’s ultimately little to complain about with the Xiaomi Pad 5. If you’re shopping for a value tablet and you prefer the Android ecosystem, then this is an easy recommendation.
Read our full Xiaomi Pad 5 review for more details
Key specs – Processor: Snapdragon 860; Display: 11in, 2,560 x 1,600; Storage: 128GB/256GB; Size: 55 x 166 x 6.8mm; Weight: 511g; Operating system: MIUI (based on Android 11 at launch)
3. Amazon Fire Max 11: Best Amazon tablet
Price when reviewed: £250 | Check price at Amazon
Amazon’s Fire tablets have a reputation for looking chunky and outdated, but the Fire Max 11 really goes against the grain, dropping the thick plastic in favour of a sleek, aluminium frame. The 11in display has a 2,000 x 1,200 resolution and gets impressively bright for an Amazon tablet, making the Fire Max 11 a great choice for streaming. You’ll be able to enjoy hours of video, too, as the Fire Max 11 has the best battery of any Fire tablet to date, lasting for nearly 20 hours in our standard test.
While the tablet does have optional peripherals that convert it into a laptop replacement, the restrictive FireOS software blocks apps like Google Drive and Chrome, so anyone looking to go down this route should avoid Fire tablets altogether. Still, if you’re just looking for an affordable device for streaming and basic games, the Fire Max 11 is Amazon’s best yet.
Read our full Amazon Fire Max 11 review
Key specs – Processor: Octa-core 2.2GHz MediaTek MT8188J; Screen: 11in, 2,000 x 1,200; Storage: 64 or 128GB; Size: 259 x 163 x 7.5mm; Weight: 490g; Operating system: Fire OS 8
4. Amazon Fire HD 8 (2022): Best-value £100 tablet
Price when reviewed: £100 | Check price at AmazonUnsurprisingly, the 2022 refresh of Amazon’s affordable Fire HD 8 steps nicely into the slot of the best-value option around the £100 mark, replacing the 2020 version. Coming with a £10 price increase, the Fire HD 8 (2022) justifies the extra cost with a new Hexa-core processor, delivering a decent performance leap over the previous version. Battery life also sees a solid bump, lasting for over 19 hours in our standard video rundown test.
As with the previous model, the biggest weakness here is that the 8in display is quite mediocre by modern standards. The 1,280 x 800 resolution will serve you well enough for basic games or streaming, especially for kids’ content, but content purists will want to look elsewhere (and pay much more).
If your budget can stretch a little further, you could also consider the Fire HD 8 Plus (2022), which adds an extra 1GB of RAM, wireless charging support and a slightly upgraded 5MP rear camera for £20 more. You don’t get the same value for money, but if you really want wireless charging on a budget, it’s still your best bet.
Read our full Amazon Fire HD 8 (2022) review for more details
Key specs – Processor: MediaTek MT8169A; Display: 8in, 1,280 x 800; Storage: 32GB/64GB (user expandable); Size: 202 x 137 x 9.6 mm; Weight: 337g; Operating system: Fire OS 8
5. Apple iPad mini (2021): Best for premium design
Price when reviewed: From £530 | Check price at Amazon
The iPad mini is the priciest model in our roundup, but if your budget can stretch to it, Apple’s compact tablet still represents excellent value.
Apple’s smallest slate received some well-deserved upgrades in 2021, including a design overhaul that saw its screen size bumped from 7.9in up to 8.3in, the removal of the old physical Home button and a slimming down of its black display bezels. There’s no Face ID camera as there is with expensive iPad Pro models, but you do get a fingerprint scanner built into the power button on the edge.
As you may expect, given its extra cost, the iPad mini’s specifications outpace pretty much every other slate on this list. The Apple A15 Bionic processor (the same as in the iPhone 13) ensures snappy performance throughout, the display is beautifully crisp and clear, and the cellular model even supports 5G for ultra-fast downloads.
Additionally, the charging port has been updated to the faster and more modern USB-C, and official add-ons such as a keyboard case cover and the 2nd gen Apple Pencil stylus turn it into a mobile powerhouse capable of taking anything in its stride.
Like all Apple tablets, its best aspect is arguably its operating system and App Store. iPadOS makes using the device a joy, whether you’re at home or on the go, letting you open multiple apps at once, make quick notes and translate conversations in real time.
If you’re on a particularly strict budget then you may wish to look elsewhere, but for those in the market for a powerful, compact tablet that’s enjoyable to use, the iPad mini is well worth considering.
Read our full Apple iPad mini (2021) review for more details
Key specs – Processor: A15 Bionic; Display: 8.3in, 2,266 x 1,488; Storage: 64GB/256GB; Size: 195 x 135 x 6mm; Weight: 293g; Operating system: iPadOS 15
6. All-new Amazon Fire 7 (2022): Best for the budget-conscious
Price when reviewed: From £65 | Check price at Amazon
While all of the entries on this list offer fantastic value for money, none can compete with the sheer affordability of Amazon’s latest entry-level tablet, the All-new Fire 7 (2022). This refresh brought with it improved battery life, now extending beyond 10 hours, a faster processor that more than doubled the scores of its predecessor and expanded microSD support up to 1TB.
Not everything is good news, though: the display is the same uninspired 7in panel that we’ve seen before, and the accessibility issues surrounding Amazon’s FireOS are still present here. However, for a mere £10 price bump, the All-new Fire 7 (2022) offers a decent level of improvement over the previous model. If you’ve got a hard and fast budget and want to see the true meaning of value for money, this insanely affordable tablet will fit the bill nicely.
Read our full All-new Amazon Fire 7 (2022) review for more details
Key specs – Processor: Quad-core 2GHz MediaTek MT8168; Display: 7in, 1,024 x 600; Storage: 16GB/32GB (user expandable); Size: 118 x 181 x 9.67mm; Weight: 282g; Operating System: FireOS 8
7. Nokia T21: Best-value tablet under £200
Price: £180 | Check price at Amazon
Proof that you don’t need to compromise on build quality with a tablet under £200, the Nokia T21 uses a sleek all-aluminium chassis, which certainly feels durable enough to survive the odd accidental drop. It’s also 18% slimmer than the Amazon Fire HD 10, at 7.5mm, and it’s rated IP52 for dust and splash resistance.
While the build is nice, the real star of the show here is the large 10.4in 2K display. The T20 had this display too, though DRM restrictions hamstrung its ability to display HD content above a measly 480p resolution. However, this has thankfully been rectified with the T21, and colours are more vibrant too, so HD content looks better than ever.
Despite using a new Unisoc Tiger T612 chipset, the Nokia T21 performs mostly the same as its predecessor. It’s a shame that processing power hasn’t received the same level of improvement as the rest of the package, but it’s not enough of a problem to keep this tablet from offering incredible value for its sub-£200 price tag.
Read our full Nokia T21 review for more details
Key specs – Processor: Octa-core Unisoc T612; Display: 10.4in, 2,000 x 1,200; Storage: 64GB; Size: 248 x 157 x 7.5mm; Weight: 466g; Operating system: Android 12