Amazon is the current king of cheap tablets. The Amazon Fire 7 costs £49.99, and has - for that insanely low price - a decent screen plus Alexa, a microSD slot for adding more storage and an easy-to-use operating system.
We think the Fire HD 8 is even better value though, as for not much more it has a bigger, better screen and more features.
It would be easy to say you’re a fool for buying a different tablet, but the Fire has one sticking point: it's not a standard Android tablet and doesn't have any Google apps on it.
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 - Apple's cheapest iPad (the iPad 9.7) starts at £319, while the iPad mini costs from £399.
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 (8th gen)
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, unless you're buying it for your kids in which case the cheaper Fire 7 will do just fine.
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 full Amazon Fire HD 8 (8th gen) review
2. Amazon Fire HD 10 (2019)
Although it's quite a lot more expensive than the Fire 7 and Fire HD 8, this latest 10in tablet has a bigger, sharper screen, better battery life and also now offers USB-C and the potential for faster charging if you use a 15W adapter (not supplied).
Performance from the updated chip is a bit better, but it's still obviously a budget tablet - something that's evident from the plastic build and mediocre cameras.
For entertainment, however, it's a great device with decent speakers and a headphone jack.
Read our full Amazon Fire HD 10 (2019) review
3. Amazon Fire 7 (2019)
The latest Fire 7 has double the storage of its predecessor, a slightly better front camera and comes in three new colours. There's no noticeable improvement in performance, but it's still the best tablet you can buy for £50 / $50.
Read our full Amazon Fire 7 (2019) review
4. Samsung Galaxy Tab A 10.1 (2019)
With a lack of competition these days (no Google, Sony etc any more), the Galaxy Tab A doesn't have a particularly tough job being the best budget tablet around.
That's not to take away from the great job Samsung has done here offering a heck of a lot for not much money - including a decent screen, cameras and battery life. If you want a full size Android tablet without breaking the bank then look no further.
We have minor quibbles such as the mono speaker and it could to with more RAM and a better GPU but these are acceptable for the price. While the Amazon's Fire HD 10 might be more powerful, it can't access many of the games you can on the Tab A.
Read our full Samsung Galaxy Tab A 10.1 (2019) review
5. Chuwi Hi9 Air
We'd be lying if we said Chuwi had not cut some corners in this budget Android tablet, and it's by no means a premium design. But in return for not a lot of money it also has a lot to offer, including 4G connectivity and a large 2K screen on which to watch movies, play games and get things done. Timely operating system updates are a concern, but the Chuwi Hi9 Air remains a functional and good-value tablet under £150.
Read our full Chuwi Hi9 Air review
Your buying guide for the best budget tablets in 2020
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’ll take the tablet everywhere (you can also get smaller sizes), while a 9in to 10in screen is good if you only need to travel with it occasionally.
Look for an IPS screen, as this technology is almost a guarantee that it will have good colours and viewing angles. It doesn’t say too much about brightness and contrast, but almost all the IPS screens we’ve seen are good.
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 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 adding more. 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.
Don't pay any attention to GHz numbers or even RAM. 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 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.
If you're unsure whether a tablet is the right device, read our laptop vs tablet buyer's guide.