Your buyer's guide for the best Android tablets in 2018
iPads may get the attention of most tablet owners, but there are plenty of Android options out there.
Android tablets vary in size and quality, but some are exceptionally good value and are typically the best iPad alternatives. In the chart below we rank the best Android tablets available to buy in the UK in 2018.
There are also new tablets launching in 2018 which we haven't yet reviewed, and if you don't specifically need an Android tablet, be sure to check out our list of the best tablets for any operating system, including the latest iPads and Windows tablets.
Android tablets are much like iPads. The main difference is the software they run: Google Android. This has its own app store, but most apps are available for both iPads and Android tablets. 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 can be set up quite similarly to iOS, the iPad’s software. The latest version is Android 8.0 Oreo, but Android is a fragmented operating system, and it's quite likely even brand new tablets will be on older software like 7.0 Nougat or 6.0 Marshmallow.
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?
The first thing to consider (apart from budget) is screen size. This ranges from around 7- to 13in, although for most people an 8- or 9in tablet represents the best compromise between usability and portability.
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. 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 better for downloading media.
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 after Android itself is installed, can be quite a lot less than that headline figure.
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 300 pixels per inch or higher, as this will mean a 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 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. 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.
Performance, battery life and cameras
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 good performance.
We also test battery life, so you’ll find how long each tablet lasts between charges. The best tablets last around 10 hours or more, while the worst only manage 4-5 hours.
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: 9 April 2018
The Tab S4 might be the newer model, but we feel the Tab S3 is actually a better buy. It's still available and now yours for a much cheaper price.
Samsung's newer device might have bigger screen and built-in DeX software with the aim of replacing your laptop, but that won't be the case for most users. Largely, the tablet is still similar with much the same design and features like quad speakers.
If you're looking for a high-end Android tablet, then the Tab S3 is still our pick of the bunch.
Read our Samsung Galaxy Tab S3 review.
- Reviewed on: 23 November 2018
Although the Tab S4 is the same price as its predecessor, there's not a huge amount that's new here. And it's a shame not to find the latest processor.
A larger 10.5in screen rivals the smaller iPad Pro and Samsung's DeX software is built-in to provide PC-like functionality. Samsung's aim is to replace your laptop but that's only doable if your usage is pretty basic.
This is no doubt one of the best Android tablets around but will be overkill for many, both in price and features. Unless you're completely anti-Apple, the iPad 9.7 for 2018 is a comparative bargain at £319.
Read our Samsung Galaxy Tab S4 review.
- Reviewed on: 20 November 2018
If you don't need Google apps on your tablet then this is the best cheap tablet going. It's worth the extra spend over the Fire 7 for the larger, better screen.
And now you can use Alexa hands free, or pair the Fire HD 8 with the clever Show Mode dock to get an affordable smart display for home use. If you want to watch video on Prime and Netflix and not much else then this tablet is a no-brainer.
Read our Amazon Fire HD 8 2018 review.
- Reviewed on: 20 November 2018
The HD 10 is more powerful than ever, has a decent Full HD screen and a good amount of storage for the money. Hands-free Alexa is nice addition, too.
If you can live with the slightly limited selection of apps compared to an Android tablet, it’s a good deal.
Read our Amazon Fire HD 10 (2017) review.
- Reviewed on: 4 April 2018
As was our verdict on the MediaPad M3: the M5 is an above-average tablet which is a good alternative to Samsung’s Galaxy Tab range and the iPad mini. The iPad mini is is less of a great deal these days. It costs a lot because you can only get it with 128GB of storage.
If your budget is more like £300/US$300, it's a struggle to recommend the MediaPad M5 when the 2018 iPad 9.7 has a headphone socket, support for the Apple Pencil and - well - it's an iPad running iOS.
Read our Huawei MediaPad M5 8.4 review.
- Reviewed on: 5 October 2018
If we're talking hardware alone then Xiaomi's Mi Pad 4 is arguably one of the best Android tablets you can find under £200, especially in this compact form factor.
This 8in tablet has a full-HD display with some decent hardware onboard, including the Snapdragon 660 processor, up to 4GB of RAM and up to 64GB of storage. Xiaomi has also added microSD support, and there's an LTE version of this tablet.
Design changes result in a more manageable device for use in one hand, and improved audio with the speakers now sitting on the tablet's bottom edge.
We're surprised to see GPS missed out of the spec, and the Mi Pad 4 also neglects NFC, and while it's mostly an improvement over the previous generation the screen size and resolution and battery capacity has been reduced.
If this were a 'Global' version of the Mi Pad 4 we'd be sold, but as it is running Chinese MIUI it stands to offer a potentially confusing experience for novice users. Navigation and menus will be unfamiliar, and if you want to use Google services you'll first need to install Google Play from the Mi App Store.
Read our Xiaomi Mi Pad 4 review.
- Reviewed on: 13 April 2016
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: 16 November 2018
The Fire 7 is a very minor update to the 2015 7in Fire tablet. It’s a shame that the processor and cameras haven’t been upgraded, but the low price makes it hard to complain.
It remains great value and a great way to use Amazon’s services including video and music – as well as Alexa. The absence of all things Google will be a deal-breaker for some, but it’s an excellent choice for kids or undemanding adults.
Read our Amazon Fire 7 review.
- Reviewed on: 19 May 2017
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: 9 August 2018
If you're looking for a durable tablet to take hiking or on other outdoor activities then the Galaxy Tab Active2 is a good choice. It's one of the most rugged devices we've tested.
Although you get GPS, 4G LTE and other features, the core specs like the screen and storage are a let down at this price.
If you're thinking about getting this for your kids, you can spend a lot less on something still durable like the Amazon Fire HD 10 Kids Edition.
Read our Samsung Galaxy Tab Active2 review.