Here at Android Authority, we tend to put a lot of focus on the high-profile releases of the year. Invariably, most of these tend to be premium devices — the best on offer at any moment. However, just because something is objectively “the best,” it doesn’t always mean it’s the most utilitarian. A Galaxy Note 20 Ultra might be one of the best phones you can buy, but that doesn’t mean it’s the best phone for your pre-teen child.
With that in mind, I want to bring some attention to an oft-overlooked segment of the tech world: cheap Android tablets.
The tablet market, in general, has fallen out of favor over the past five years or so, at least in the Android world. While Apple’s various iPad lines are still doing quite well, only a handful of OEMs make Android tablets at all. Even then, most of the marketing focus is on the high-end iPad Pro competitors.
However, as with the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra, a Galaxy Tab S7 Plus isn’t always the best tool for the job. In fact, I’d argue that most folks should skip the high-end tablets and go straight for the budget models. Here’s why.
Cheap Android tablets: The workhorses
In my house, one of the screens I touch the most is what I call my kitchen tablet. It’s a Samsung Galaxy Tab A7 that sits on a stand on my kitchen counter. I use it for accessing recipes in my OneDrive storage, watching how-to videos on YouTube, browsing the web looking for new recipes, and simple actions such as measurement conversions.
Because it’s a lower-end device — its MSRP is only $230 and I paid much less than that during a Black Friday sale — I don’t need to care much about it. If it gets splattered with melted butter, it’s not a big deal. If I grab it with my hands covered in flour, I don’t need to worry about immediately cleaning it off. And, if I accidentally drop it on the floor, some cosmetic damage won’t devastate me.
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Despite its price tag and how poorly I treat it, the tablet does everything it needs to do. Web searches are fast and the LCD display is fine for my needs. Even the battery lasts for over a week (depending on how busy I am in the kitchen, of course). If it does run low on juice, it doesn’t take too long to top it up with the 15W USB-C charger either.
My 'kitchen tablet' is integral to my life and gets used every day.
The cameras are bad, yes, but who cares? I’m not using it to take any pictures. The Snapdragon 662 chipset isn’t powerful enough for high-end gaming, but I don’t need that, either. Its lack of an NFC chip and low RAM and internal storage also don’t matter. It does what it does and that’s it.
As I said, I use this cheap Android tablet nearly every day. I own plenty of devices that cost much, much more than $230 that I barely ever use. It is pretty remarkable when you think about it.
The kitchen isn’t the only useful spot
I use my tablet for kitchen duties because that’s where it makes the most sense for me. However, you might be the kind of person who orders take out every evening and doesn’t know a spatula from a ramekin. That’s fine, but there’s probably an area where a cheap Android tablet would be useful for you.
If you’re often in the garage, a “garage tablet” might be a good investment. You could use it for YouTube how-to videos just as I do in the kitchen. You could also use it for finding manuals and schematics or even quickly ordering replacement parts for whatever you’re working on.
Maybe you have a studio where you get creative with arts and crafts. A tablet in there would be great for finding some inspiration online with Pinterest. You wouldn’t need to worry about getting glue or paint on it either. Do you have a room where you work out? You could have a tablet in there for fitness instructions or simply use it as a huge stopwatch. Musicians, designers, model builders, tinkerers, PC builders — any activity where your hands get dirty or things get chaotic could benefit from a dedicated cheap Android tablet at the ready.
The point is that spending $300 or more on a tablet sometimes is completely unnecessary. In fact, sometimes getting the “best” is actually worse than going as cheap as possible. And with things being as they are, there are a whole lot of discounts out there.
Yesterday’s flagship is today’s budget model
The Galaxy Tab A7 has been terrific for my needs. However, it’s far from your only choice. Not only are there many different budget tablets from Samsung, LG, Amazon, and others, but there’s also a huge used market for tablets.
Additionally, you can find some great discounts on newer flagships with cosmetic issues. A 2019 Galaxy Tab S6 with a cracked back panel would go for cheap. If you’re just going to use it in your garage anyway, who cares if it’s not in tip-top shape? Likewise for cosmetically damaged iPads.
Don’t forget about Amazon tablets, either. With those, you don’t want to go too low-end or you’re going to face performance issues. However, a brand new Fire HD 10 will likely meet your needs and only set you back about $150. Of course, removing the ads and getting the fast charger will raise that price by quite a bit, but what you do there depends on your budget.
The key takeaway is that a cheap Android tablet might not be the sexiest piece of tech you own, but it could end up being one of the most useful. Sometimes value trumps specs.