Although we haven’t gone through an entire “upgrade cycle” since July 2014, when we first rounded up your top ultra-affordable Android tablet options, the seven-name list from ten months ago feels dated enough.
It’s time we revisited and revised it therefore, expanding the “magnificent seven” to a “grandiose ten”, as the market greatly diversified and grew in size bolstered by a free fall of premium, extravagantly priced models, iPads included.
As “traditional” PCs, particularly laptops and mini-laptops, slowly but steadily recover their mainstream charm, the demand for not-very-compact, bulky yet unproductive 10-inch+ slates dwindles. Meanwhile, 7 and 8 inchers need crystal-clear distinguishing features and functions to survive. Namely, extreme affordability and respectable bang for buck.
Without further ado, we give you the world’s best sub-$150 Android tablets widely available stateside today, ordered by their current Amazon price tags:
- Fire HD 7 – $139 with special offers and 8 GB storage
- Acer Iconia One 8 B1-810 – $135
- Asus MeMo Pad 7 ME176CX – $125
- LG G Pad 7.0 – $122 LTE unlocked; $135 international Wi-Fi-only; $100 and up at AT&T
- Dell Venue 8 – $119
- Dell Venue 7 – $119
- Lenovo Tab 2 A7-30 – $99.99
- Amazon Fire HD 6 – $99
- Toshiba Excite Go – $87
- Asus MeMo Pad 7 ME170CX – $80
One of the newest entries in this competitive niche, the 800p 7-inch Fire isn’t exactly dirt-cheap. Not if you want to “locally” hoard a few movies and a couple of gigs of music, with the 16 GB non-microSD-supporting configuration starting at $159.
Another major flaw is Amazon’s awkward Android fork, devoid of all Google services and apps. On the plus side, you get a surprisingly fast quad-core processor clocked at up to 1.5 GHz and decent 8-hour battery.
Larger than most of our low-cost contenders, at 8 inches, the Iconia One 8 is hardly a looker, but it’s reasonably slim and light, weighing 12 ounces while measuring 0.33 inches in depth. 16 GB internal storage is really the best you can hope for so close to a Benjamin, and the 5 MP rear-facing camera should produce above-average stills.
Of course, KitKat runs the software show, and a Lollipop update is but a distant dream. Also, the quad-core 1.33 GHz Intel Atom Z3735G doesn’t quite qualify as a powerhouse. Even by mid-range standards.
Our first returning title challenger from last year lost some of its pizazz lately, sticking to the age-old KitKat guns when so many rookies retaliate with Lollipop bombs. At the end of the day however, the HD 7 incher doesn’t show its advanced age, perhaps needing an additional $25 or so trim to clear up remaining stocks once and for all.
Can you imagine, scoring a 16 GB tab with quad-core Intel Atom inside, 1 GB RAM and 8-hour juice in exchange for a measly Benjamin?
Did anybody say Lollipop? Ah, yes, the smallest G Pad to date delivers Android 5.0 goodies, at least “internationally”, whereas the US AT&T-usable cellular version is so inexpensive, you’ll forget it’s still on 4.4.
Other fortes? Well, the 1,280 x 800 pix res panel is sharp albeit it’s beginning to feel like a given, and the quad-core 1.2 GHz Snapdragon 400 chip should easily outpace previous-generation Atoms.
Once upon a time up for grabs at $200, the “newest version” of Dell’s entry-level Venue 8 (read sans 3D camera gimmicks) takes the cake with a vibrant 1,920 x 1,200 display. It’s as simple as this – if you’re looking for the cheapest on-the-go Netflix streamer, look no more.
Otherwise, the aging 8 incher is not without its share of weak points: a humble dual-core Intel Atom Z3480 SoC, Android 4.4, humdrum design.
Why in the world would a sane person pay the same amount of cash on a 7-inch HD Dell Venue as the Full HD 8 incher? It boggles the mind, which is why we’re ready to bet the Venue 7 will soon drop to $100. Maybe less. You just wait and see.
Aw yeah, now we’re talking. Welcome to the sweet, sweet land of sub-$100 Android gear. No contractual obligations, no strings attached. Just a bunch of compromises and sacrifices. For instance, flash memory here caps off at 8 gigs, so besides the pre-loaded Android 4.4 OS, you almost can’t store a thing sans bringing in a microSD card.
At least you’re allowed to add external space in the mix, and the “enhanced” Dolby audio system is certainly a nice surprise. So is the impending Lollipop makeover, respectable quad-core 1.3 GHz MediaTek CPU and 8-hour battery life. Too bad we can’t say the same about the cringe worthy 1,024 x 600 pix res screen.
Closed ecosystem, tiny footprint, no microSD, mono speaker, crappy dual cameras, chunky profile. Why bother then with the world’s only non-voice-call-enabled 6 incher? For one thing, you get a crisp 252 ppi display. Then there’s that 1.5 GHz quad-core processor also found inside the Fire HD 7. Autonomy is fairly impressive too, all things considered, at “8 hours of mixed use.”
Finally, unlimited cloud storage for Amazon content is clearly nothing to sneeze at.
Well, hello there, our old, remarkably unpretentious friend! It’s good to see you around a whole year after your formal introduction. Cheaper than ever before, no less. If only you’d make the jump to Lollipop already, and somehow improve your shoddy screen resolution.
On the bright side, quad-core Intel Atom power remains a key selling point at a fraction of the price of a Nexus 9 keyboard. Just the keyboard, you understand?
Don’t ever die on us, sweet KitKat-based, 16 GB storage-packing prince. Yes, you’re decrepit in more ways than one, and deeply flawed, what with your 1,024 x 600 WSVGA panel, dual-core 1.2 GHz Intel chipset, 2 MP rear camera, VGA front shooter and 6-hour or so pacemaker.
But you’re cheaper than a first-gen Moto E, yet can accommodate a good dozen of semi-high-quality movies for when there’s no room for the 15-inch notebook in our travel knapsack. Europe, here we come!