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While you can't expect anything too fancy from low-cost tablets, the best tablets under $100 can deliver surprising usability to go along with their affordability. They're perfect as gifts, starter gadgets for kids, and everyday portable media devices. (They also tend to be Amazon products, since the online giant can sell their hardware at rock-bottom prices with the expectation that you'll spend more on their content.)
If you have a bigger budget to work with, you may consider shelling out a bit more to invest in more powerful hardware--you'll feel the difference in performance with more intensive app use and gaming. But as you'll see from our picks of top budget tablets, you don't have to spend a fortune to get a solid, enjoyable tablet experience.
Amazon's store app is a bit bare compared to Google Play
UI is subsidized by Amazon content
Amazon’s Fire HD 8 is a real budget champion. Thanks to Amazon’s subsidized pricing, this is an affordable tablet with an eight-inch display offering an HD resolution of 1280x800. If you enjoy streaming TV shows and movies from services like Netflix, Hulu, HBO Now, or Amazon’s own Prime Video, this device is up to the task. The dual-stereo speakers with support for Dolby Atmos make the experience even better, and, like other Amazon tablets, this one can be used hands-free with the Alexa voice assistant.
The Fire HD 8 comes with either 16GB or 32GB of internal storage that you can expand by up to 1TB with a microSD card, giving you plenty of room for TV shows, movies, and games. With a 2.0 GHz quad-core processor and 2GB of RAM on the updated 2020 model, its internals are respectable for the price, if not more focused on entertainment than productivity or performance. It also now uses a modern USB-C port for charging (with a battery that gets about 12 hours of use), and there's a pricier "Plus" version that includes 3GB of RAM, supports wireless charging, and comes with a faster wired charging adapter.
"If you’re looking to read an ebook on your commute or stream some YouTube videos before bed, it’s a nice alternative to your smartphone screen." — Jordan Oloman, Product Tester
Expandable storage via MicroSD card
Hands free Alexa Support
Sub-HD screen quality
No Google Apps
Amazon has the affordable tablet market fully cornered. Because Amazon can make money on the content accessed on its tablets, it has the incentive to subsidize some of the cost of the tablets. The result is capable yet affordable tablets that are purpose-built for all your favorite content like books, movies, and TV shows. The Fire 7 tablet is an incredibly affordable model that really offers a lot for the price.
The Fire 7 runs on Amazon’s Fire OS and is powered by a 1.3GHz quad-core processor with 1GB of RAM. It comes with 16GB or 32GB of internal storage, and you can affordably expand that up to 512GB with a microSD card. The seven-inch display has a resolution of 1024x600, which isn’t incredibly sharp but will do the job for video watching. A front-facing and a rear-facing camera are included, giving you options for taking photos and having video chats. There is also built-in support for Amazon’s Alexa smart assistant so you can control your media or ask questions hands-free. The battery life is a solid seven hours.
Simple, straightforward interface
Rugged case with built-in kickstand
Battery life is lackluster
If you're looking to buy a tablet for a child, you’ve got some very good reasons to look for a cheaper model. After all, accidents do happen, and it’s much better when they happen to devices that didn’t cost several hundred dollars. Luckily, Amazon’s Fire 7 Kids Edition tablet is available at an affordable price and built with accidents in mind.
The Fire 7 Kids Edition offers the same seven-inch, 1024x600-pixel display found in the standard Fire 7. Similarly, it has a quad-core processor with 1GB of RAM, 16GB of storage that can be expanded with a microSD card, and a seven hour battery life. But this model is also equipped with a serious “Kid-Proof Case” and backed by a two-year warranty where Amazon will send you a new device if yours breaks for any reason. The tablet comes with a year-long subscription to Amazon FreeTime Unlimited as well, which offers tons of content for children ages 3 through 12 including books, movies, TV shows, and educational apps. Parental controls provide another level of protection and content screening.
"With all the games and media that come with FreeTime, our 5-year-old never runs out of ways to entertain herself, and we don't have to worry about her breaking the tablet." — Anton Galang, Product Tester
Speakers could be better
If you like reading and want a device that can replace your heavy books with a single, slim device, an e-reader is a great tablet to own. Amazon's Kindles have become the most well-known brand of e-reader, and this baseline model is a great option for under $100. It has a six-inch display with 167 pixels per inch, giving you smooth lines in images and text — that’s definitely something you want for a device you’ll read on a lot. The screen is glare-free, and the latest version adds an adjustable front light so you can comfortably read in any lighting conditions. In terms of content, if you have a Prime membership, you’ll get access to loads of free reading material.
An e-reader is largely different from other tablets. The screen is black and white (like a book), and it doesn't allow you to freely browse the internet or access media streaming apps like an Amazon Fire tablet does. It truly makes reading the focus. But, because of the pared-down features, the battery tends to last for weeks or even months rather than hours or days. You get some great features for reading, too, with the ability to look up words in the text, add notes without ruining a page, and even rent digital library books.
"The Kindle boasts a good range of brightness settings with its four built-in LED lights, though it won’t match the 12-LED brightness of the Kindle Oasis." — Rebecca Isaacs, Product Tester
Pure Android OS with Google Play Store
Solid build quality
Poor camera quality
Amazon's Fire tablets may technically run on Android, but the company's heavily customized version cuts out a lot of the benefits of the Google operating system. For those in the market for a more "pure" Android tablet experience, Lenovo's Tab M7 offers it for a low price tag comparable to the Amazon Fire 7's. The Tab M7 runs on the mobile-friendly "Go" edition of Android 9 Pie, which helps it perform smoothly even without high-end hardware. Lenovo didn't customize the interface or bog the system down with any pre-installed third-party apps. Most importantly, you get full access to the Google Play Store and its massive collection of apps and games.
The Android Go OS works well for the Tab M7 and its role as a basic, no-frills media consumption device. The seven-inch 1024x600-pixel screen keeps the tablet very portable while looking nice for movies and shows. It feels quite well-built, surprisingly so for the price. But trying to multitask, run intensive apps, or play graphics-heavy games is taxing for its low-end 1.30GHz processor and 1GB RAM. The speakers and cameras (front- and rear-facing, both 2MP) also leave a lot to be desired, but you'll probably use other devices for those purposes anyway.
Expandable storage via microSD
Most budget tablets come with smaller screens than you might want from your tablet, measuring eight inches or smaller. But then there's the 10-inch MatrixPad Z4 from Vankyo. Hovering right around the $100 mark, it offers a solid value for a roomy 1280x800 IPS display that's bright and clear from just about any viewing angle. It runs on native Android 9.0 Pie as the operating system, bloatware-free, with access to Google Assistant and the full Google Play Store. So download away—when your apps and other media start to fill up the 32GB of internal storage, there's a microSD card slot to expand it by up to 128GB.
The tradeoff, though, is that performance can get sluggish on its low-quality 1.5GHz quad-core chip and 2GB RAM. It works well enough for basic tasks but struggles if you try to push it much more than that. You also get an 8MP main camera, which is better than what most other tablets pack at the price range, but you can find better options for digital photography. If you're mostly looking to watch movies, read e-books, and check e-mails, though, the MatrixPad Z4 lets you do it with a big screen and a small budget.
If you can look past the less than stellar Amazon library of apps, the Fire HD 8 is an excellent choice for an affordable tablet that falls well below the $100 mark. However, if you're willing to stretch your budget a little further, the Huawei Mediapad T3 brings genuine android functionality without the distraction of Amazon ads.
To test the best tablets under a certain price range, our expert reviewers and testers use a variety of methods. Firstly, we look at design, weight, and portability, to see how easy a tablet is to tote around. We also evaluate the screen size and resolution with a view to streaming video, looking at images, and browsing web pages. Audio and connectivity play an important part in determining multimedia quality.
For objective performance measures, we use common tests like PCMark, Geekbench, and 3DMark, and also try to download some demanding games to see if it can handle To test battery life, we stream video at maximum brightness to measure runtime, along with general usage over the course of a day. Finally, we look at the value proposition and competition, to see how the tablet stacks up against rivals in a similar price range. All of the tablets we test are purchased by us; none of the review units are provided by a manufacturer.
Alice Newcome-Beill has been the associate commerce editor for Lifewire since December 2019. Her work has appeared on PCMag, PC Gamer, and GamesRadar. In her spare time, she enjoys building computers, emulating old software in DOSBox, and cycling.
Jordan Oloman is a Lifewire writer and reviewer with degrees in Media and Journalism as well as History and Archaeology. He has contributed to several tech and gaming publications, including testing out a variety of tablets for Lifewire.
Rebecca Isaacs writes about consumer tech for Lifewire while also traveling the world and working in higher education. As part of her product testing contributions, she has put most of Amazon's Kindle e-reader selection through their paces and found the base model to be a strong budget option.
Anton Galang is a Lifewire writer and reviewer who began writing about tech for PC Magazine more than 10 years ago. He is all about budget tablets, especially when it comes to keeping kids occupied.
Screen Size - The average tablet is around 10 inches, measured diagonally, but they can be as small as 8 inches and run up to 13.5. The screen size is really a personal preference, but for productivity purposes, it’s often the bigger the better. If you’re merely streaming a show or reading a book, a smaller screen should suffice.
Performance - You'll want to pay attention to the RAM and CPU that your tablet uses if you're planning on using it for heavy gaming or demanding apps. But these specs typically demand a higher price tag.
Storage - Some tablets allow for additional storage via a MicroSD card, allowing you to store up to 512GB worth of files, photos, and apps. If you're planning on storing a ton of media on your tablet, this is something worth looking into.