Amazon is the current king of cheap tablets. With its Fire and Fire HD slates costing between around £50 and £150 - sometimes even less when offers are running - and their appeal doesn't stop there.
Improved displays across the range, Alexa voice assistant support, microSD expandability and an easy-to-use operating system in Fire OS all help each and every Fire tablet serve as an instant recommendation.
It would be easy to say you’re a fool for buying anything different, but the Fire range has one sticking point: they're not standard Android tablets and don't support Google apps natively.
With tablets, you really need to be careful buying cheap, generic devices with names you've never heard of. These can suffer from poor screens, lacklustre performance and underwhelming battery life - always look at reviews before you buy, and if you can't find any then we'd avoid the purchase altogether.
If you want a cheap tablet you'll be looking for either an Android tablet or Windows device (everything in this lineup comes in at under £250), unless you're prepared to go secondhand with regards to Apple's iPads.
If you're looking for a cheap tablet for a child, then check out our dedicated best kids tablets chart.
1. Amazon Fire HD 8 Plus (2020) - Best overall
Amazon refreshed its 8in Fire tablet for 2020, with more memory and wireless charging, which in turn enables Amazon Echo Show mode; so you can summon Alexa and check the weather with your voice.
While performance isn't markedly different from the previous Fire HD 8, this model will last longer and we'd say the addition of the wireless charging dock is wholly worthwhile if you're considering picking one of these slates up.
Read our full Amazon Fire HD 8 (10th gen) review
2. Amazon Fire HD 10 (2019) - Best for entertainment
Amazon's latest 10in tab is still one of the best value slates at this screen size, provided you're comfortable with everything that Amazon's own app store has to offer, compared to the Google Play Store.
The updated white model - complete with white bezel - would be our pick and while we wouldn't describe performance as blisteringly fast, it's an unquestionable step up from the previous 10in Fire.
There's also a Kids Edition that costs a little more but comes with a few extras including a hardy child-resistant case that, paired with this Fire's expansive display - makes for a smart buy if you're looking for a tablet that can entertain and educate little ones.
Read our full Amazon Fire HD 10 (2019) review
3. Amazon Fire 7 (2019) - Most portable
The Amazon Fire 7 may not offer much in the way of improvements over its predecessor - save for a few new colourways - but it's an undeniable bargain all the same.
Highlights include more storage space and a superior selfie camera, which might not seem like much, but considering the other sorts of tablets you can expect to pick up at this price point, there's little else out there that comes close to consideration.
Read our full Amazon Fire 7 (2019) review
4. Samsung Galaxy Tab A 10.1 (2019) - Great value
One of the best Galaxy Tab offerings for those on a budget, 2019's Tab A 10.1 boasts a surprisingly premium design, a nice screen and extensive battery life at an impressively competitive price point.
It lacks raw power when it comes to gaming but overall, there's nothing else we'd recommend that's as capable at this price point.
Read our full Samsung Galaxy Tab A 10.1 (2019) review
Your buying guide for the best budget tablets
What screen size do I need?
First, decide on screen size. Do you want a portable tablet with a 7in screen, or do you want something larger? We can’t tell you what’s best for you, but in general, a 7in or 8in screen is best if you’re likely to take the tablet around with you (you can also get smaller sizes), while a 9in to 10in screen is good if you only need to travel with it occasionally or it's destined to live at home.
Look for an IPS screen (or better yet an OLED screen), as this technology is almost guaranteed to offer superior colours and viewing angles versus a basic TN display. It doesn’t say too much about brightness and contrast, but almost all the IPS screens we’ve seen should be good enough for most users' needs.
Resolution isn’t as important as you might think. Pixel density is a better guide: you need fewer pixels on a smaller screen and vice versa. Look for at least 220 pixels per inch (often abbreviated to 'dpi') to keep things looking crisp.
How much storage do I need?
You won't get much storage in a budget tablet but that's fine if your chosen model has a microSD slot for expandability. Amazon's old tablets don't, which is one big black mark against them. However, the new range does, which is why we rate them so highly.
Consider 16GB a minimum for internal space; 8GB without a microSD card is just too restrictive because half (or more) of this is normally taken up by the operating system and pre-installed apps, which you might not be able to delete.
Most tablet cameras (let alone budget models) are relatively poor compared to your average smartphones. Don't expect great quality photos or videos from any budget tablet, but if this is important to you always check reviews to see which tablet has the least-worst cameras.
While higher numbers are usually better, don't pay GHz numbers or even RAM too much mind. It's easy to be fooled into believing a tablet will - or won't - perform well based on numbers alone. Read our reviews to find out how each tablet performs in the real world.
If you do decide that a Fire tablet isn’t for you, the most like-minded alternative is an Android tablet. iPads don’t fall into the budget category, so you’ll only find those in our best tablet roundup.
Android is a great operating system, but it doesn’t follow that all cheap Android tablets are great. There are plenty of no-name brands out there, but as with most tech, you can’t buy one based on specifications alone.
The operating system determines not just which apps are pre-installed, but also which you can download and use. The Google Play store has a massive selection and it’s rare to find an app that’s only on iPad and not available to Android users. But it does happen, particularly with apps for gadgets and smart home accessories.
It's rare to find an Android tablet that doesn't have the Google Play store these days - with the notable exception of Amazon's - but do check, as it's a pain if you buy one and then find out it's not approved by Google and you can't access Google's apps.