Not long ago, if you wanted a tablet for $200 or less you would have to settle for something cheap and not that great. Barnes & Noble broke the mold with the Nook Color, which eventually led to a slew of really great, but inexpensive, tablets. Most of the tablets in this price range sport 7-8 inch displays and aren’t the most powerful devices, but will still satisfy most users.
Most of the tablets on this list are $200 or less, none of them are more than $350.
If you’ve got a bit of extra cash spend, check out our continually updated list of the Best Tablets to find our favorite slates in every price range.
We admit that we were surprised by how much we liked the Arc considering that Kobo’s products usually leave us with an “almost, but not quite” feeling. Not this time. The $200 Arc hits all of the good notes: solid, lightweight design, good display, speedy performance, and access to the Google Play Store. We’re fans of the Arc’s UI skin, Tapestries, which will appeal to people who like the concept behind Pinterest. There are a few drawbacks: no Bluetooth, no microSD slot, and it will likely not update to new versions of Android very quickly.
Read our full review of the Kobo Arc.
The Mini is on the upper end of “cheap” pricing for a small tablet at $330, though it’s a significant discount over the full-sized iPad. Is it worth the extra $100+ over the nearest competition? It is if you love iOS but find the iPad too big. The Mini is just as great as its big brother in a lighter, more compact frame and is compatible with over 300,000 apps. However, many consumers balk at the fact that the 7.9-inch display only has a 1024 x 768 pixel resolution and not a super high ‘Retina’ pixel count. And it is noticeable. We look forward to Apple adding this feature. Like the larger iPads, the Mini has no microSD card slot. For many, these are acceptable trade-offs and neither drawback ruins the experience.
Read our full review of the iPad Mini
Kindle Fire HD
Amazon followed in Barnes & Noble’s footsteps and has created cheap Android tablets with paired-down features in order to hit a low price point. But when the company created the second-generation Kindle Fire, the Kindle Fire HD, it upped the quality of the hardware and offered a few extra features such as a front-facing camera and Bluetooth connectivity. Though improved, the Kindle Fire HD still isn’t the greatest cheap tablet you can buy. If you’re deeply tied to Amazon content it’s a great way to tie it all together. Just be aware that you won’t have access to the full catalog of Android apps and you’ll have to deal with a lot of ads at the base $200 price.
At a year old, most tablets would start to look long in the tooth compared to the competition. The Nexus 7 retains it’s status as the leading $200 Android tablet because it’s a pure Google device, so it’s going to keep getting the latest software updates until the hardware can’t support them anymore. We have a feeling that the quad-core Nvidia Tegra 3 chip inside will continue to offer great performance for another couple years. The design is a little plain and doesn’t feel premium, but the 1280 x 800 pixel IPS display definitely does. We’re disappointed in the lack of microSD slot and rear camera, though these omissions are somewhat acceptable at this price.
Read our full review of the Nexus 7
As the pioneer of $200 tablets, it’s no surprise that Barnes & Noble is continually able to create devices that balance design, features, and value while serving their main audience: people who love e-books. The Nook HD isn’t a full-fledged tablet but comes very close. On the hardware side, it features a comfortable and attractive design, beautiful high-resolution display, and speedy performance. The custom user interface is both good-looking and easy to navigate, and we also like the profiles and parental controls built-in. As always, the reading experience for books, magazines, kids books, and comics is top-notch. Now that the Nook has access to all the apps in the Google Play Store, it’s one of the best Android tablet deals available.
Keep an eye out
There are several great cheap but not cheaply made tablets on the horizon. The Archos 80 Titanium is finally available and after our first taste at CES we’re looking forward to getting it in for review. Samsung recently announced the specs for the Galaxy Tab 3 8.0, a paired-down version of the Galaxy Note 8.0, which we like a lot but doesn’t quite qualify as cheap. Also out soon is the Acer Iconia A1, a tablet aimed right at the iPad Mini as it sports the same size and resolution screen and similar design.