Now that everyone has a smartphone, the market is starting to slow down. Demand has moved on to the next big thing and right now that’s tablets. Wearable tech, like smart watches, might be on the horizon, but today we’re buying tablets and the choice is growing at an impressive rate. Apple drove demand with the iPad range, but now that we have Android, and even Windows 8, on the scene, there’s a much greater variety and many more affordable options.
If you’re shopping for a tablet today and you have a tight budget what should you look at? That’s exactly the quandary we’re going to explore, as we take a look at five of the best budget tablets right now.
The truth is that Apple doesn’t really do budget. If you absolutely must have an iPad and you aren’t willing to brave the second-hand or refurbished market, then your best bet is the iPad mini. If you go for the Wi-Fi only 16GB version then you’ll be looking at spending £269. The hardware is not earth-shattering, and the 7.9-inch display has come in for a lot of criticism because of the sub-Retina 1024×768 pixel resolution. However, you will enjoy access to the Apple ecosystem and that includes more tablet-optimized apps and games than the competition. You’ll also like the lightweight, portability and the classic Apple design.
Google is certainly more committed to the budget end of the market. The ASUS-manufactured Nexus 7 has helped to boost the Android tablet market and you can snag the Wi-Fi only 16GB version for just £159. Despite the low price, the hardware is impressive. The 7-inch display has a 1280×800 pixel resolution, there’s an Nvidia Tegra 3 quad-core processor inside, and you’ll find a few extras, like NFC and GPS, are supported. For the money, it’s very hard to find anything that can compare to the Nexus 7 in terms of raw power and functionality.
Acer Iconia B1
Perhaps your budget won’t stretch to the Nexus 7; in that case this £100 tablet from Acer might tempt you. It has a 7-inch display, a 1.2 GHz dual-core processor, and it runs Android Jelly Bean. The 1024×600 pixel resolution is nothing to write home about, and it looks cheap and chunky, but then it is cheap. You have to accept some compromises at this price and the big disappointment is definitely the display. Surprisingly it does have GPS support and the overall performance for gaming or streaming video is pretty solid.
Ainol Novo 7 Venus Tablet
If you’re willing to take a risk in order to get the cheapest deal possible then you might consider this Chinese tablet, which looks as though it has been modeled on the Nexus 7. You can pick up one of these for around £85 and it has a quad-core processor, a 7-inch 1280×800 pixel resolution display, and runs Android Jelly Bean. It also has a 2-megapixel rear camera, HDMI out, and a microSD card slot, but it lacks Bluetooth and GPS. We would advise caution because build quality could be questionable at that price; some buyers report a positive experience while others have run into trouble.
Archos 80 Titanium
Would you prefer a budget tablet that looks like the iPad mini? The Archos 80 Titanium is actually an Android Jelly Bean device, but it has an 8-inch display with a 1024×768 pixel resolution. There’s also a 1.6 GHz dual core processor, a basic 2-megapixel rear-facing camera, a microSD card slot to expand on the 8GB storage, and HDMI out, but you won’t find GPS or Bluetooth. If you shop around then you’ll see that the Archos 80 Titanium available for under £150.
What about Windows 8?
There are rumours about a Surface mini and Microsoft has reportedly approved cheaper tablet designs, but right now there really aren’t any Windows 8 tablets that you could describe as budget devices. One of the cheapest currently available is the Acer Iconia W510 and it will cost you around £500. We would advise that you watch this space because we expect to see some proper budget Windows 8 tablets soon.
Honourable mentions for budget tablets
A number of budget tablets have been announced, but not yet hit the market. You can also get some older tablets at rock-bottom prices. Amazon’s Kindle range is cheap, but it does try to lock you into an ecosystem, and the cheapest prices are subsidized by adverts on your tablet. Polaroid announced the Android M7 tablet a while back and it should come in at around the £100 mark. You’ll also find some bargain prices if you opt for old tablets, like the BlackBerry Playbook, or older models from manufacturers like Samsung or Sony.
The budget tablet to beat right now is still the Nexus 7 from Google and, with rumours that the price might drop further in the near future, that’s liable to be the case for some time yet.