Best value tablet 2022: Budget slates from Apple, Amazon and more

Jason Murdock Ben Johnston
19 Jul 2022

The best Apple and Android tablets at prices that won’t break the bank

If you think you need to shell out big bucks to enjoy a fantastic tablet experience, think again. In 2022, you actually have more low-cost options than you may think, with the best budget tablets offering few compromises when it comes to spec, design and branding. Even Apple has affordable alternatives to its expensive flagship iPad Pro models.

While they miss out on some flagship features, the best-value tablets are still perfectly capable of streaming hours of video via Netflix, music on Spotify or audiobooks through Audible. They’re well equipped to handle video calls, catch up on your email and even tackle creative art projects. These budget-friendly options can be great for kids, too.

Our team of experts has thoroughly tested every tablet on this list, judging them on display quality, battery life, performance and more. Below you’ll find our brief buyer’s guide to help get you up to speed on some of the key features to look out for, followed by our pick of the best budget tablets on the market today.

Best value tablet: At a glance

READ NEXT: The best Android tablets to buy

How to choose the best budget tablet for you

How little can you get away with spending?

There’s quite a lot of variety within this category of devices but, to generalise, budget tablets can cost anywhere between £50 and £500. Anything above £500 is wading into mid-range/premium territory and anything below £50 you should avoid at all costs.

Tablets under or around £100 have their place – they can be serviceable for light browsing and streaming and can be a decent option for kids - but we’d ideally advise you to stretch your budget as far as you possibly can. Spending £320 on the cheapest iPad, for instance, will make the world of difference versus a sub-£200 Android machine.

What do I need the tablet to do?

When shopping for any tablet the first thing to consider is how you plan to use it. For example, if you intend to get stuck into some creative drawing, you won’t want a device with a small, low-resolution display. However, the screen size and resolution won’t be quite as important if you’re primarily interested in listening to audiobooks.

Display quality, battery life, accessory compatibility, available apps and overall performance will vary between models so be sure to think about how you will be using your tablet on a day-to-day basis.

How much storage do I need?

Tablet storage is measured in gigabytes (GB). More storage means more space for photos, videos, audiobooks and apps, but greater storage capacity comes at a cost. 16GB is generally the lowest you’ll encounter and this will just about cover you for surfing the web, keeping on top of your emails and streaming online content. Photos, videos and apps will eat up space quickly, though, and so if you want to save a lot to your device you’ll want something with 32GB of storage at the very least.

It’s worth bearing in mind that a device’s operating system and default apps will also take up some space so the usable storage will be some way below the advertised total.

What other devices and services do you have?

It’s often overlooked but when buying a new tablet you should consider what other devices or subscription services you already have. If you own an iPhone, for example, it may be best to go with an iPad as your account data will easily transfer between the two devices and you will likely already know how to navigate the system and download iOS apps. You’ll also be able to share some apps you’ve bought between your phone and the tablet.

Conversely, Android users may find more familiarity with Android-based tablets, while Amazon’s Fire OS – with its seamless Prime Video, Audible and Amazon shopping integration – may offer added convenience for keen Prime users.

What about accessories?

The tablet accessories you’re most likely to come across are covers, keyboards and styluses. These accessories are likely to cost you extra and compatibility will vary from device to device. It’s therefore important that you consider which, if any, accessories you’re likely to need before you purchase the tablet.

This is especially true if you plan on purchasing official accessories, such as the first-generation Apple Pencil (£89), or Amazon’s official fabric case for the Fire HD 10 (£40). Third-party accessories are available for some tablet models, which can save you a little cash, but we’d still recommend sticking with known brands.

Can you live with ads?

It’s worth being aware that Amazon’s tablets keep the cost lower by displaying personalised adverts on the lock screen. Once you’re past this, there’s no other extra advertising to worry about, but you can remove the ads by paying an extra £10.

How does Expert Reviews test tablets?

All of the tablets we review get put through a range of tests. To test the quality of a tablet’s display we use a colourimeter and DisplayCAL software to determine the screen’s colour accuracy, contrast and maximum brightness. For processor performance, we use the GFXBench and Geekbench 5 applications, both of which can be downloaded from the Apple App Store and Google Play for free.

To test battery performance, we dial in each tablet’s display brightness to 170cd/m² and then loop a 20-hour video using the VLC app. Once the tablet’s battery has fully drained, we power it back up and take note of how many minutes of playback it was able to get through.

Finally, we test the tablet’s cameras under a range of different lighting conditions, including putting it through its paces in video conferencing scenarios.

The best value tablets to buy in 2022

1. Apple iPad 10.2in (2021): Best value iOS tablet

Price: From £299 | Buy now from Amazon

If it’s overall value you’re after, look no further than the 2021 Apple iPad (9th gen). At £319, the slate feels great to hold, has more than enough power for general use and runs iPadOS, a feature-rich and easy-to-use tablet operating system.

It’s our go-to recommendation for anyone buying their first tablet or for those who want a high-quality yet still affordable slate. The Apple A13 chip keeps performance smooth, the 12MP front camera provides crisp and clear imagery for video calls, while Apple’s Centre Stage tech keeps your face centred in the frame during video calls.

The display is nice and bright, too, with a neat piece of tech called True Tone that reduces eye strain by matching the white point of the display to the ambient lighting in the space you’re using it in. Plus, there’s native stylus support via the first-generation Apple Pencil, making it the perfect starter tablet for budding digital artists.

The iOS App Store is another huge bonus. The marketplace is easy to use, with a selection of nearly two million apps and games, from Netflix and YouTube to GarageBand. And if you have an Apple iPhone and Apple Watch already, your data and accounts will pair seamlessly, making this an easy choice for anyone already in the Apple ecosystem.

This basic model may not have the performance and modern design of an iPad Pro but, when it comes to value for money, Apple’s iPad (9th gen) is the one to beat.

Read our full Apple iPad (2021) review for more details

Key specs – Processor: A13 Bionic; Display: 10.2in, 2,160 x 1,620; Storage: 64GB/256GB; Size: 250 x 174 x 7.5mm; Weight: 487g; Operating system: iPadOS

2. Xiaomi Pad 5: Best value Android tablet

Price: From £359 | Buy now from Amazon

Offering a sleek, modern design and impressive performance, the Xiaomi Pad 5 is the best-value Android tablet around. In fact, it packs some features that you won’t find on pricer devices, including a fantastically smooth 120Hz refresh rate display.

For under £400, you get a lot. The screen is bright, vivid and responsive and, at 11in across the diagonal, it offers plenty of real estate for surfing the web or streaming online content. Xiaomi’s EMUI software (based on Android 11 at launch) isn’t bloated with unnecessary apps, and we found it to be simple to navigate and customise, making it great for beginners.

With a Snapdragon 860 chipset inside, the Xiaomi Pad 5 provides exceptional performance for the price, meaning you can browse the internet, run apps, play games and watch movies without worrying about lag or stuttering.

While Android-based tablets don’t quite command the same huge library of tablet-optimised apps as those running iPadOS, there’s ultimately little to complain about with the Xiaomi Pad 5. If you’re shopping for a value tablet and you prefer the Android ecosystem, then this is an easy recommendation.

Read our full Xiaomi Pad 5 review for more details

Key specs – Processor: Snapdragon 860; Display: 11in, 2,560 x 1,600; Storage: 128GB/256GB; Size: 55 x 166 x 6.8mm; Weight: 511g; Operating system: MIUI (based on Android 11 at launch)

3. Amazon Fire HD 10: Best value Amazon tablet

Price: From £150 | Buy now from Amazon

Amazon’s Fire HD 10 tablet strikes a fantastic balance between value, features and performance. While the Fire series isn’t exactly renowned for its beauty, it is known for being reliable, durable and long-lasting in the battery department. That makes this model a fantastic all-rounder.

For £150, you get a FireOS-powered slate that has the Alexa voice assistant built in, a 1080p display that’s 10% brighter than the prior generation and, notably, user-expandable onboard storage. The Fire HD 10 supports microSD cards up to 1TB in size, opening up the potential to download and watch your favourite movies or TV shows without always needing an internet connection. This can come in pretty handy for flights, train journeys and long car rides where internet connectivity isn’t always guaranteed. Battery life is another standout feature here. In our video rundown test, it lasted a whole 19 hours before needing a recharge.

There are a couple of compromises to be aware of. FireOS isn’t quite as user-friendly as other Android builds: Google Play isn’t supported so you need to use the Amazon app store. And the base price is also a model that displays adverts on the lock screen (the ad-free model will set you back an extra £10). However, this is still a well-built and versatile slate at an attractive, affordable price.

Read our full Amazon Fire HD 10 review for more details

Key specs – Processor: Mediatek MT8183 Helio P60T; Display: 10.1in, 1,920 x 1,200; Storage: 32GB/64GB (user expandable); Size: 247 x 166 x 9.2mm; Weight: 465g; Operating system: Fire OS 7

4. Amazon Fire HD 8: Best value tablet under £100

Price: From £90 | Buy now from Amazon

The Amazon Fire HD 8 takes what much of what makes the Fire HD 10 great and squashes it down into a more compact, cheaper package. It has similar battery life, comes with microSD expansion, USB-C charging and the same Alexa voice support as pricier models.

The rest of the main specs are solid, with a MediaTek 8168 chipset and either 32GB or 64GB of internal storage. And although the series can’t shake the limitations of Fire OS (there’s no support for Google Play here), there are plenty of apps to choose from, including Disney+, Netflix, BBC iPlayer and Spotify, and the tablet will run most games from Amazon’s store without issues.

The tablet’s main weakness is that its display isn’t all that great. Colours look muted and the resolution of 1,280 x 800 means it looks a little fuzzy compared with the best around. Still, if you’re after a small tablet and don’t want to stretch beyond £100, the Amazon Fire HD 8 is an easy recommendation.

Read our full Amazon Fire HD 8 review for more details

Key specs – Processor: MediaTek MT8168; Display: 8in, 1,280 x 800; Storage: 32GB/64GB (user expandable); Size: 202 x 137 x 9.7 mm; Weight: 355g; Operating system: Fire OS 7

5. Apple iPad mini (2021): Best for premium design

Price: From £459 | Buy now from Amazon

With a price tag of £480, the iPad mini is the priciest model in our roundup, but if your budget can stretch to it, Apple’s compact tablet still represents excellent value.

Apple’s smallest slate received some well-deserved upgrades in 2021, including a design overhaul that saw its screen size bumped from 7.9in up to 8.3in, the removal of the old physical Home button and a slimming down of its black display bezels. There’s no Face ID camera as there is with expensive iPad Pro models, but you do get a fingerprint scanner built into the power button on the edge.

As you may expect, given its extra cost, the iPad mini’s specifications outpace pretty much every other slate on this list. The Apple A15 Bionic processor (the same as in the iPhone 13) ensures snappy performance throughout, the display is beautifully crisp and clear, and the cellular model even supports 5G for ultra-fast downloads.

Additionally, the charging port has been updated to the faster and more modern USB-C, and official add-ons such as a keyboard case cover and the 2nd gen Apple Pencil stylus turn it into a mobile powerhouse capable of taking anything in its stride.

Like all Apple tablets, its best aspect is arguably its operating system and App Store. iPadOS makes using the device a joy, whether you’re at home or on the go, letting you open multiple apps at once, make quick notes and translate conversations in real time.

If you’re on a particularly strict budget then you may wish to look elsewhere, but for those in the market for a powerful, compact tablet that’s enjoyable to use, the iPad mini is well worth considering.

Read our full Apple iPad mini (2021) review for more details

Key specs – Processor: A15 Bionic; Display: 8.3in, 2,266 x 1,488; Storage: 64GB/256GB; Size: 195 x 135 x 6mm; Weight: 293g; Operating system: iPadOS 15

6. All-new Amazon Fire 7 (2022): Best for the budget-conscious

Price: From £60 | Buy now from Amazon

While all of the entries on this list offer fantastic value for money, none can compete with the sheer affordability of Amazon’s latest entry-level tablet, the All-new Fire 7 (2022). This refresh brought with it improved battery life, now extending beyond 10 hours, a faster processor that more than doubled the scores of its predecessor and expanded microSD support up to 1TB.

Not everything is good news, though: the display is the same uninspired 7in panel that we’ve seen before, and the accessibility issues surrounding Amazon’s FireOS are still present here. However, for a mere £10 price bump, the All-new Fire 7 (2022) offers a decent level of improvement over the previous model. If you’ve got a hard and fast budget and want to see the true meaning of value for money, this insanely affordable tablet will fit the bill nicely.

Read our full All-new Amazon Fire 7 (2022) review for more details

Key specs – Processor: Quad-core 2GHz MediaTek MT8168; Display: 7in, 1,024 x 600; Storage: 16GB/32GB (user expandable); Size: 118 x 181 x 9.67mm; Weight: 282g; Operating System: FireOS 8

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