The best cheap tablets of 2016

On a budget? Here's a tablet with your name on it

The best cheap tablet in 2016 makes computing on-the-go much easier than with your puny phone, and keeps the price well below the more expensive options.

Now, it's easier than ever to get a deal that won't leave you wishing for something more, or a loan. The hard cut-off for this buying guide is $300, but if you look hard enough, you'll find that many of these tablets run for under $200.

You can find big names here, too. Samsung, Amazon, Lenovo and even Apple have affordable options with flavors that come in Android 6.0 Marshmallow and iOS 10.

If you didn't find what you were looking for, let us know in the comments.

iPad Mini 2

1. iPad mini 2

An iPad for those on a budget

Weight: 331g | Dimensions: 200 x 134.7 x 7.5mm | OS: iOS 9 | Screen size: 7.9-inch | Resolution: 2048 x 1536 | CPU: 1.3GHz dual-core | RAM: 1GB | Storage: 16/32GB | microSD slot: No | Battery: 10 hours | Rear camera: 5MP | Front camera: 1.2MP

Amazing screen
Brilliant design
Similar-spec rivals are cheaper
Low storage capacity

This list is dominated by Android tablet options, but there's only one iOS 10 device affordable enough for this list: the iPad mini 2.

The "mini" line of iPads takes the best components introduced in previous iPads and shrinks them down. In the case of the iPad mini 2, it's built with the power found inside of the iPad Air and iPhone 5S.

It isn't the most affordable tablet option here, but if you cling to Apple's ecosystem, this is a fine entry point. For your money, the more recent iPad mini 3 and iPad mini 4 doesn't provide enough of an argument, other than Touch ID, to warrant the step-up in cost.

Read the full review: iPad mini 2

Amazon Fire

2. Amazon Fire HD 8 (2016)

Not perfect by any stretch, but the best you can get for the price

Weight: 341g | Dimensions: 214 x 128 x 9.2mm | OS: Fire OS | Screen size: 8-inch | Resolution: 1,280 x 800 | CPU: Quad-core 1.3GHz | RAM: 1.5GB | Storage: 16GB | microSD slot: Yes | Battery: up to 12 hours | Rear camera: 2MP | Front camera: VGA

Sturdy design for the price
Fantastically cheap
Screen lacks sharpness
Dreadful cameras

The Amazon Fire HD 8 (2016) is the best tablet you can get at the price. That alone secures it a recommendation.

This is not a technological upgrade over the last Fire HD 8, but it takes the last version's most important bits and lowers the price significantly by degrading a few of the less important parts.

If you're a true gadget lover, you might want to consider spending a bit more on something with a better screen and more flexible software. However, if you're happy to fit yourself into the Amazon system and can put up with the budget parts, this is an excellent buy. 

Read the full review: Amazon Fire HD 8 (2016)

Nvidia Shield Tablet K1

3. Nvidia Shield Tablet K1

This tablet stands a chance to win over gamers

Weight: 356g | Dimensions: 221 x 126 x 9.2mm | OS: Android 6.0 Marshmallow | Screen size: 8 inches | Resolution: 1,920 x 1,200 | CPU: Quad-core Nvidia Tegra K1 | RAM: 2GB | Storage: 16GB | microSD slot: Yes | Battery: N/A | Rear camera: 5MP | Front camera: 5MP

Understated design
Incredible value
Doesn't include charger
Accessories become costly

Nvidia's tablet is, in many ways, not like other tablets. It's made by a manufacturer who deals almost exclusively in computer graphics, it can run Android 6.0 Marshmallow, and it can play full-fledged PC titles. Oh, and it's actually pretty affordable.

The Shield Tablet K1 offers a zippy Android experience with tons of graphical prowess (go figure.) What's better, the design is super slick and, again, the GeForce Now software integration is the stand-out feature, allowing you can play games from your Nvidia-stocked PC.

Read the full review: Nvidia Shield Tablet K1

Samsung Galaxy Tab S

4. Samsung Galaxy Tab S

A high-res screen and speedy performance is a potent mixture

Weight: 293g | Dimensions: 212 x 125 x 6.6mm | OS: Android 6.0 marshmallow | Screen size: 8.4 inches | Resolution: 2,560 x 1,600 | CPU: 1.9GHz quad-core + 1.3GHz quad-core | RAM: 3GB | Storage: 16GB | microSD slot: Yes | Battery: 10 hours | Rear camera: 8MP | Front camera: 2.1MP

Excellent screen
Good battery life
A little behind on design
Small on-board storage

For those who are in love with Samsung's lineup of Galaxy smartphones, this is the tablet for you. The most affordable variant in the Tab S line comes with an 8.4" inch screen, but houses the same powerful specs as its 10.5" counterpart.

When it was introduced it 2014, we called it "serious competition" to Apple's iPad Air 2, and the claim still stands. The Galaxy Tab S might not have the polished aesthetic found in the Galaxy Tab S2, but being a bit outdated makes this an excellent tablet for those with less cash on hand.

Read the full review: Samsung Galaxy Tab S

Amazon Fire

5. Huawei MediaPad M3 8.0

An Android tablet with a particular focus on design

Weight: 322g | Dimensions: 215 x 124x 7.3mm | OS: Android 6.0 Marshmallow | Screen size: 8.0-inch | Resolution: 2,560 x 1,600 | CPU: Octa-core | RAM: 4GB | Storage: 32/64GB | microSD slot: Yes | Battery: up to 10 hours | Rear camera: 8MP | Front camera: 8MP

Sharp screen
Fantastic design for the price
Iffy gaming performance
Cameras aren't anything special

The Huawei MediaPad M3 is a tablet with lots of admirable qualities. High screen resolution, ultra-low weight and speakers that go loud enough to become an anti-social menace in some situations earn a big thumbs-up.

It should be known that we encountered some issues with keeping a steady framerate during intensive games. The casual games everyone gets obsessed with for weeks at a time run fine, but those with console-like graphics tend to struggle to an extent that's quite rare for a tablet of this quality.

You'll need to think carefully about whether this is going to be an issue for you before choosing the Huawei MediaPad M3 over, say, the iPad mini 2, Samsung Galaxy Tab S, or any of these other fine options. 

Read the full review: Huawei MediaPad M3 8.0

Amazon Fire HD 8

6. Amazon Fire

It's so cheap they're selling it in multi-packs

Weight: 313g | Dimensions: 191 x 115 x 10.6mm | OS: FireOS | Resolution: 1,024 x 600 | CPU: Quad-core 1.3GHz | RAM: 1GB | Storage: 8GB | microSD slot: Yes | Battery: 7 hours | Rear camera: 2MP | Front camera: VGA

Sturdy design
Amazingly cheap
Poor selection of apps
Washed-out sceen

Amazon's super-affordable Fire tablet is best suited for first-time tablet owners. It's also a perfect fit for parents looking for strong parental controls, or for those already highly invested in the wider Amazon ecosystem.

Even if you're just looking for an extra tablet to have around the space, the Fire is a relatively easy sell. 

But for the wider public, if a premium build and a fat stack of features is what you're after, you won't find it here.

Read the full review: Amazon Fire

Dell Venue 8 7000

7. Dell Venue 8 7000

Don't dismiss this ultra-thin Android tablet

Weight: 305g | Dimensions: 215 x 124 x 6mm | OS: Android 5.0.2 Lollipop | Screen size: 8 inches | Resolution: 2560 x 1600 | CPU: N/A | RAM: 2GB | Storage: 16GB | microSD slot: Yes | Battery: over 9 hours | Rear camera: 8MP | Front camera: 2MP

Ultra-thin design
Pixel-dense display
Slower than leading tablets
Only 16GB of internal storage

Betting on a gimmick is never a good idea when it comes to technology. But Dell's Venue 8 7000 claim to be the world's 'thinnest tablet' at 6mm doesn't come at the compromise of a good tablet experience.

Dell has been at the helm of some fantastic products as of late, such as the XPS 13. And the Venue 8 7000 borrows some of that brilliance with a head-turning aluminum design, a vibrant display and room-filling stereo speakers.

Read the full review: Dell Venue 8 7000

Lenovo Yoga Tablet 2

8. Lenovo Yoga Tablet 2 with Windows

No stylus required for this Windows tablet

Weight: 630g | Dimensions: 215 x 124 x 6mm | OS: Windows 8.1 (upgradable to Windows 10) | Screen size: 10 inches | Resolution: 1920 x 1200 | CPU: Intel Atom Z3745 | RAM: 2GB | Storage: 32GB | microSD slot: Yes | Battery: up to 12 hours | Rear camera: 8MP | Front camera: 1.6MP

Excellent build quality
Lengthy battery life
No video output
No USB port

Windows on a tablet might be best experienced on the Surface Pro 4, but not everyone has that type of cash. Thankfully, Lenovo's Yoga Tablet 2 offers the full Windows 10 experience in all of its glory at a bargain price.

This isn't like other tablets. And as such, you might have noticed the massive, cylindrical area hanging off its edge. It seems like such an addition would work against the rulebook of what makes a tablet gorgeous, but in doing so, it allows for big benefits you can't find elsewhere, like incredible battery life and booming sound performance.

Read the full review: Lenovo Yoga Tablet 2

Nexus 7

9. Google Nexus 7 (2013)

An oldie, but Marshmallow-packing goodie

Weight: 290g | Dimensions: 200 x 114 x 8.65mm | OS: Android 6.0 Marshmallow | Screen size: 7 inches | Resolution: 1920 x 1200 | CPU: 1.5GHz quad-core | RAM: 2GB | Storage: 16GB | microSD slot: No | Battery: 9 hours | Rear camera: 5MP | Front camera: 1.2MP

Affordably priced
Durable build
No microSD slot
Out-specced by newer tablets

While a bit outdated (and no longer sold by Google,) the Asus-made Nexus 7 is the cheapest gateway to a stock Android experience. The most recent version from 2013 might not hold a candle to the pencil-thin designs brought on by today's best tablets, but it does one thing that many of them cannot: run Android 6.0 Marshmallow.

Only the 2013 model can run the latest and greatest Android OS, so make sure you avoid the 2012 version while shopping. It's easy to tell the difference between the two: The one to buy has a rear-facing camera (the 2012 version only has a front-facing camera) and a headphone jack on the top.

Read the full review: Nexus 7

Asus ZenPad S 8 0

10. Asus ZenPad S 8.0

A high-res screen and speedy performance is a potent mixture

Weight: 350g | Dimensions: 203 x 134 x 6.6mm | OS: Android 5.0 Lollipop | Screen size: 8 inches | Resolution: 2048 x 1536 | CPU: Intel Atom Z3580 quad-core | RAM: 2/4GB | Storage: 16/32/64GB | microSD slot: Yes | Battery: 8 hours | Rear camera: 8MP | Front camera: 05MP

Low price
Superb high-res screen
A lot of pre-installed apps
Average camera

Asus' ZenPad S 8.0 is a tablet focused on value, but you wouldn't guess as much by looking at it. This 8" slate covers a lot of ground for its asking price, and even goes as far as providing a good-looking, sturdy build and handy features, like a microSD slot and 10-hour battery life.

This is an easy choice if you consume a lot of content and want to look good doing so, but don't want to completely shell out your laptop budget on a tablet.

Read the full review: Asus ZenPad S 8.0

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Cameron is the US mobile editor at TechRadar, covering the tech that's in your pocket, wrapped around your wrist, and strapped to your face. He's based in New York City.

Find him on Steam, or listen to some of his favorite tunes on Google Play Music.