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Best Android tablets: From budget options for kids and students to slick, capable designs

Whether used for reading, browsing, watching videos or taking notes, these tablets don’t disappoint

David Phelan,Lucy Anna Gray
Monday 31 July 2023 11:52 BST
<p>We considered user experience, sound and picture quality, price and more during testing </p>

We considered user experience, sound and picture quality, price and more during testing

If you’re not a tech pro, the tablet market can be a difficult one to navigate. Perhaps you don’t know your Pixels from your Galaxys, leaving you at a loss when selecting a new product.

When shopping around, it is important to find a tablet that fits your specific needs, be that a child-friendly device, one that is good for typing, one with an excellent camera, or something else entirely. Gaming, reading, writing, editing, browsing – the list goes on when it comes to tablet uses.

Even if you’re looking for an all-rounder, it’s good to consider what functions are most important to you, to ensure you don’t end up paying more than you need to by picking a model with extra functions you won’t use.

With all this in mind, we tested some of the best android tablets available in the US market, to help you pick which one is right for you.

How we tested

We began at the very start – how clear and simple the tablet is to unbox and set up. Android tablets do not necessarily have the same uniformity as Apple devices, so we looked at how easy it was to navigate and get used to the model.

Of course, a key aspect to any tablet is screen quality – we analyzed how clear and detailed pictures were, as well as examining the user experience when watching videos, and whether it was a suitable device for reading, note-taking and so on. We also considered sound, sturdiness, weight, and overall durability.

Top of many people’s list will be cost. At the forefront of our reviewing was the question: do the capabilities of the item align fairly with the price tag?

The best Android tablets for 2023 are:

  • Best Android tablet overall – OnePlus pad: $479.99, Oneplus.com
  • Best budget Android tablet – TCL tab 8 LE: $168 or $7 a month, Amazon.co.uk
  • Best value Android tablet – Nokia T21: $229.99, Nokia.com
  • Best Android table for young kids – Alcatel joy tab kids 2: $168 or $7 a month, T-mobile.com

OnePlus pad: $479.99, Oneplus.com

Best: Overall

Rating: 4/5

We were hugely excited to test OnePlus’s first tablet – the OnePlus pad – and it did not disappoint. It is slim, slick, capable and feels luxurious. The first tablet to sport a 7:5 ratio screen, the OnePlus Pad comes with the Dimensity 9000 chipset and a high refresh rate of 144Hz display. It equips Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos, making this an ideal tablet for high-quality video viewing. The camera is cleverly placed in the center, so no more pictures and videos dodgily aligned to the side. Unsurprisingly, this tablet comes with both rear (13 megapixels) and front-facing (8MP) cameras.

At $479, although by no means cheap, this is a lower price tag than many similar offerings. The screen quality is high, the user experience is seamless, and the battery life is stunning (9,510mAh). The sound quality and storage (memory/storage 8GB/128GB) are two areas that could be improved in the next edition, but they are still decent.

The optional additional magnetic keyboard and stylus are functional, easy to set up and pleasant to use.

For reading, browsing, watching videos, editing, writing/note-taking, this is an ideal tablet. For gaming and software usage that requires more storage, this is perhaps not the most suitable option.

Buy now

TCL tab 10S: $99.99, Walmart.com

Best: Basic tablet

Rating: 3.5/5

For its useability and price tag, the TCL tab 10S is our favorite lower-cost tablet out of those we tested, particularly for note-taking, browsing and video calls. At 10.1in, with a FHD NXTVISION display, the seeming simplicity of the 10S makes it user friendly, meaning you can unbox it and get going straight away. The model has dedicated parental controls and specialized eye-care modes. It feels sturdy, safe, and simple to use, however, it does not have the advanced features of more-expensive tablets. One other thing to note about the 10S is the battery life (8000mAh battery) – we are three weeks into using it and it has only been charged once. If you want to surf the web, watch videos (at a decent, but not noteworthy quality), take notes, and other relatively simple tasks, this affordable tablet is a strong contender. For more-complex activities, such as serious gaming, editing or higher-end photography and filming, this is not the tablet to go for. Both rear and front-facing cameras (8MP and 5MP, respectively) are perfectly serviceable, but not at a professional photography standard.

The 10S is currently on sale at Walmart for $99.99, and at TCL for $140.

Buy now

TCL tab 8 LE: $168 or $7 a month, T-mobile.com

Best: Budget tablet

Rating: 3/5

A more compact version of the 10S, this tablet won’t be setting the world alight with its tech capabilities, but it is reliable, slimline, user-friendly and suitable for those looking to keep costs down. It is comfortable to use with decent sound and visuals but, like its big sibling the 10S, not a suitable tablet for more-advanced activities. The 8 LE also has both rear and front-facing cameras.

Durable and sturdy, but fairly lightweight, we enjoyed this Android tablet most for reading, particularly given its eye-comfort mode. The 8 LE has up to 32GB of internal memory, supporting up to 10.5 hours of video with 4080mAh battery, which is good for this price. However, it can be slightly slow to load.

Buy now

Alcatel joy tab kids 2: $168 or $7 a month, T-mobile.com

Best: For young kids

Rating: 4/5

Looking for a child-friendly Android tablet? The Alcatel joy tab kids 2 is one to consider. We were particularly pleased with child-friendly settings being the default, and pleasantly surprised by the loading speed.

Coming with a non-toxic, light bumper case, this device is great for little ones when it comes to watching videos, playing and learning. Although it’s relatively simple, it has good audio and screen quality. The kickstand is a nice bonus, particularly for watching videos on the go. The rear and front-facing cameras are 8MP and 5MP, respectively, and the storage capabilities are decent, at 32GB of internal memory, expandable up to an additional 256GB via microSD card (sold separately). The battery life is very good and the tablet has a fast charge (5500mAh battery with OTG reverse charging capability), so you don’t have to worry about children getting upset at a dead device too often.

We predict your kids likely won’t grow out of this model soon. Unless they are looking for a gaming device as they get older (which this device is not suitable for), this should last your child for years. Plus, adults can remove the parental settings and the case, and used it as a basic but functional tablet themselves.

Buy now

Google Pixel tablet: $499, Store.google.com

Best: Google tablet

Rating: 4/5

Google’s first tablet since it gave up on the Pixel Slate back in 2018, the Pixel Tablet is a clever hybrid of a smart home display and a traditional tablet. It comes with a fabric-wrapped charging stand included. When you’re not using the tablet, pop it on the stand and it becomes a digital photo frame, smart home hub and smart speaker in one. It easily detaches from its magnetic mount and recognizes multiple users’ fingerprints, so anyone in the house can pick it up and see just their own data on the device. There’s a guest mode too, which is convenient if you’re hosting people and you’re not around.

Buy now

Microsoft surface pro 9: $883, Amazon.co.uk

Best: Windows tablet for power

Rating: 4/5

One of the clever design features of the surface tablets is a panel on the back that folds out to be a kickstand, so you can set the screen at different angles. The tablet also has an extra USB-C socket, compared with the iPad pro, which adds to the surface pro’s versatility. Plus, you can configure the RAM, which helps the tablet run faster. In terms of extras, you can add an optional type cover, for a laptop-style keyboard experience, while a surface slim pen 2 lets you write or draw on the display. These do, however, push up the cost.

Buy now

Microsoft surface go 3: $399.99, Microsoft.com

Best: Windows tablet for value

Rating: 4/5

Although this is the smallest surface model (with a display of 10.5in), it still runs a full version of Windows, so has access to a huge range of programs and apps. As with the rest of Microsoft’s range of surface tablets, you can also use it similarly to a laptop, if you add the type cover ($74.99, Microsoft.com).

If you’re considering this tablet, you should note it comes in S Mode, which means it only works with apps available in the Microsoft Store. If you want other programs, or prefer Chrome to Edge as your browser, for example, you can choose to switch out of S Mode. It’s free to do this but it is a one-way switch. Just like other surface tablets, this model has a built-in kickstand, so you can use the tablet in myriad positions.

Buy now

Samsung Galaxy tab S7 FE: $579.52, Amazon.com

Best: Android tablet

Rating: 4/5

This slick design comes with a pin-sharp LCD display and a fast processor that’s highly responsive. With its flat edges, rounded corners and a stylus that attaches to the tablet magnetically, it bears a passing resemblance to the iPad pro or iPad air. However, the Samsung S pen, which is color-matched to the tablet, is bundled in the box, unlike Apple’s optional pencil. The S pen clips to the rear of the tablet – which doesn’t seem as secure a storage place, compared with the pencil clinging to the iPad air’s side. Still, there’s an optional rear cover that protects the metal back of the tablet and holds the S pen safely.

The design is light and thin and the pastel color options look great. The FE is a more affordable version of the S7+ but, apart from the switch from OLED to LCD for the screen, few corners have been cut. Although the range of apps fully optimized for a tablet are far fewer than the iPad boasts, this tablet makes them look and perform their best.

Buy now

Nokia T21: $229.99, Nokia.com

Best: Value Android tablet

Rating: 3/5

With a matte metal back and bright, high-resolution display, the T21 looks more expensive than its modest price would suggest. Nokia’s tablet looks and feels good in the hand, and it even comes with a SIM card tray for 4G connectivity as well as a headphone jack.

The bezels around the display might be on the wider side, but the tablet still manages to look classy, thanks to the screen’s curved corners. The battery life will see you through a full day with ease but we did note that it’s not the fastest tablet around – there’s a short pause before an app or a web page opens, and this can grow annoying. But for a good-looking tablet with a SIM card slot, it’s hard to beat.

Buy now

The verdict: Android tablets

The OnePlus Pad is everything you’d want for an android tablet at that price point. It’s fast, smooth, capable, and powerful. For those looking for a cheap, simple tablet the Tab 10S covers all your basics well, and the Alcatel Joy Tab Kids 2 is the best equivalent for children.

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