Your buyer's guide for the best Android tablets in 2017
Android tablets range from around £50 to £500 (some cost even more). They vary in size and quality, but some are exceptionally good value indeed and are typically the best iPad alternatives. In the chart below we rank the best Android tablets available to buy in the UK in 2017.
Unlike a few years ago when there were lots to of models to choose between from the big brands, these days new models are few and far between. Tablet sales have slumped recently, partly because those who wanted one have already bought a tablet, and there isn't the same desire to upgrade quickly as there is for phones.
Android tablets are much like iPads. The main difference is the software they run: Google Android. This has its own app store – Google Play – instead of Apple’s App Store, but in it you’ll find a similarly broad selection of apps. Most apps are available for both iPads and Android tablets, but there are a few occasions you’ll find apps and games are only available for the iPad, and even then, they usually appear on Android soon after.
Android itself is quite similar to iOS, which is the name of the iPad’s software. The latest version is Android 7.0 Nougat but many tablets still come wit Android 6 Marshmallow, or even Android 5 Lollipop, and that’s perfectly fine.
Amazon Fires are a little different as they run on Android, but it's Amazon's heavily customised and locked down version. They make good kids’ tablets, so if you're after a tablet for a child, check out our list of the Best tablets for kids.
What size tablet should I buy?
As with iPads, the first thing to consider (apart from your budget) is screen size. This ranges from around 7- to 11in, although there are a couple of larger Android tablets with 13in screens. For most people, an 8- or 9in tablet represents the best compromised between usability and portability, although 10in tablets can be thin and light. What you can’t escape is the footprint associated with a bigger screen, so it’s worth making sure your chosen tablet will fit in your favourite bag.
With bigger screens comes more weight. Aim for a maximum of around 450g, as anything heavier can be uncomfortable to hold for long periods, such as watching a film. And if you like to keep your tablet in a case, this will add more weight. But if you’ll use the tablet propped up on your lap or on a desk for most of the time, weight isn’t an issue.
How much storage do I need?
Ideally, you should aim for 16GB of internal storage as a minimum, but more is obviously better. Many, but not all, Android tablets have a microSD slot so you can add more storage when you need it. If you’re going for a tablet with no slot, make sure you buy the biggest capacity you can afford, as videos and some apps can use up an awful lot of storage. And don’t forget that the big number on the box – 16GB, say – is the total amount. The usable amount, i.e. the amount which is empty and available for you to use, can be quite a lot less than that headline figure.
Also, check that the tablet allows you to install apps on the SD card, as not all do, but occasionally it’s the app itself which restricts you to internal storage only.
What about the screen?
Few tablets these days have poor-quality screens, but some do. Look for an IPS or AMOLED screen and avoid anything with a ‘TN’ screen as these have poor viewing angles.
In terms of resolution, higher is better, but the more important number is pixel density. Aim for 250 pixels per inch or higher, as this will mean sharp-looking image that’s not jagged or blocky.
What features do I need?
Most Android tablets have Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, and some have NFC as well. NFC may come in handy, but it’s by no means essential. What’s more useful for most people is a video output so you can connect your tablet to your TV (usually via HDMI). However, you can use an Android tablet with a Google Chromecast for watching catch-up TV, YouTube and other internet video services.
Some tablets have GPS, which makes them useful for navigation, but not all do, so check before you buy. Another thing to watch for is a SIM slot. This is useful if you want to get online when you’re travelling or out of Wi-Fi range. However, you’ll usually pay more for a 3G or 4G tablet, and you will need a dedicated SIM card with a data-only plan. It’s better to tether your tablet to your smartphone if your phone’s 3G or 4G provider allows this. For more see How to use an Android phone as a Wi-Fi hotspot.
Performance, battery life and cameras
Don’t worry unduly about a tablet’s processor or RAM, but if you want to know if a particular model is great for gaming or too slow for web browsing, then read our reviews which include benchmark results: you can’t rely on specifications such as processor speed, or the number of cores to guarantee a good turn of speed.
We also test battery life, so you’ll find how long each tablet lasts between charges in our reviews. The best tablets last around 10 hours or more, while the worst only 4-5 hours. This can make a big difference when choosing between otherwise similar tablets, so it’s worth checking this out before buying.
The same applies to cameras, and as with performance, you shouldn’t judge by the number of megapixels. Instead, check out our test photos in each review to see whether you’re happy with the quality on offer. Few Android tablets have great cameras, and quite a few have awful ones, so if photos, videos and Skype are important, don’t buy before you’ve read the reviews.
- Reviewed on: 19 April 2017
- RRP: £599, US$599
There's no doubt the Samsung Galaxy Tab S3 is the best Android tablet to be launched in years. If you're looking for a high-end device to rival the iPad Pro running Google's software then this is it. However, it's not without downsides. The price will be too high for many and doesn't include the Keyboard Cover, the software isn't the best for a tablet and that glass back isn't the best choice for multiple reasons.
Read our Samsung Galaxy Tab S3 review.
- Reviewed on: 13 April 2016
- RRP: £319
This is a tablet well worth considering if you've been thinking about buying the iPad mini 4, as it can contend and sometimes outshine Apple's mini tablet when it comes to design and power. It's almost unbelievably thin and light and that screen is a joy to use.
Read our Samsung Galaxy Tab S2 8 review.
- Reviewed on: 20 January 2016
- RRP: £399 ($500) for 32GB; £479 ($600) for 64GB, US$499
As a standalone tablet, the Pixel C is superb. It’s better than the HTC-made Nexus 9 which was great but not exceptional. Which the 'C' most certainly is. Storage is a bit limited, but if you can live with 32GB it’s good value at £399. Paying an extra £119 for the keyboard is something we can’t see many buyers doing. If typing is a priority, you’d be better off spending your £518 on a decent ultraportable laptop as Android Marshmallow – good as it is – isn’t nearly as versatile as Windows. And while the keyboard is well designed, you’ll still prefer a full-size laptop keyboard. If you need to run Windows apps, the consider the Surface 3 which is slightly cheaper - even with the optional keyboard - but remember that there are even cheaper options such as the Asus Transformer T100HA.
Read our Google Pixel C review.
- Reviewed on: 2 September 2016
- RRP: £299 (32GB)
In a stagnated market, the Huawei MediaPad M3 initially feels a little underwhelming. After extended use though, we reckon it’s a cut above the mid-range, but then again at this price you are paying for it. It’s a good alternative to an iPad if you want an Android tablet that’s bigger than an iPad mini but smaller than an iPad Air 2. But, who is specifically looking for that? The MediaPad is excellent and we recommend it, but it lacks a certain ‘wow’ factor that's largely down to the high number of existing Android tablets. The MediaPad 3 is a cut above, but you should also consider Samsung’s Galaxy Tab series for a similarly excellent Android tablet experience.
Read our Huawei MediaPad M3 review.
- Reviewed on: 19 May 2017
- RRP: £203.05
It's nice to see another new Android tablet and although the Mi Pad 3 isn't majorly different from the previous model and is more expensive, it's still a decent compact device if you don't mind importing it to the UK.
Read our Xiaomi Mi Pad 3 review.
- Reviewed on: 27 August 2014
- RRP: £319
The Samsung Galaxy Tab S 8.4 is one of the best Android tablets we've ever reviewed. In terms of hardware it's the best you can buy right now and has a superbly thin and light design. There's very little to dislike here aside from some elements of the TouchWiz software and the higher price compared to Android rivals (the iPad mini 2 is the obvious alternative if you're not set on Android). If you would rather save money and aren't so bothered about top-notch spec and additional features like the fingerprint scanner and IR blaster, check out the Nexus 7 and LG G Pad 8.3.
Read our Samsung Galaxy Tab S 8.4 review.
7. Amazon Fire
- Reviewed on: 23 November 2016
- RRP: £49.99, 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 July 2015
- RRP: £499
The Sony Xperia Z4 Tablet is a seriously impressive device and easily one of the best tablets we've ever tested. The design is astonishingly thin and light and the waterproofing with only the need for one cover is a bonus. This topped with excellent hardware, performance and software means we can barely fault it. However, the fact Sony bundles it with the Bluetooth keyboard with no option to buy it alone means that it's more expensive than rivals. We feel it's a 9/10 products but we've no choice but to mark the value score lower.
Read our Sony Xperia Z4 Tablet review.
- Reviewed on: 26 January 2016
- RRP: £144
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: 1 August 2014
- RRP: £399
The Samsung Galaxy Tab S 10.5 is one of the firm's best ever tablets with a thin and light design, although there is still too much plastic. Hardware is decent, namely that impressive display and great battery life making this a consumption machine. It's got pretty much everything you could want on a tablet, and it is priced competitively against its key rivals earning it a recommended award.
Read our Samsung Galaxy Tab S 10.5 review.