Android Central

Sometimes holiday deals are best ignored — we've got your guide to get the most bang for your buck

It's that time of year. Everywhere you look, you'll see incredible deals on "official" tablets that run "Google Android," often times starting at well under $100. Huge retail discount sales — whether real or imagined — during the holiday season are part of American culture. But we're here to help you not get burned by falling into the trap of buying a craplet.

Android is free. People can debate about that issue all they like, but the fact that we see Android installed on pieces of hardware from companies we've never heard of for sale at the local gas station pretty much proves the point that anyone can use Android in any way they like. Free software is a wonderful thing, and we're glad that anyone can build it and use it.

That doesn't mean we think you should buy just any cheap tablet, though. Money doesn't grow on trees, right?

We've got your guide to the best low-cost tablets we'd be willing to spend our own hard-earned cash on.

Android Central

Take it from all of us here at Android Central. These ultra-cheap tablets can be a nightmare

When you buy one of these super-discount tablets, you're usually dealing with something that has no access to Google Play. Even though Android is free Google wants things to meet certain standards before the manufacturers can include their non-free apps and services. Some may have other application stores installed, some will just leave you high and dry when looking for new apps.

As often as not you're looking at pretty sub-standard hardware specifications. This means you're not going to enjoy using the thing to play games, watch videos or surf the web. Google is trying to work on this by building Android for lower spec devices, but none of these tablets you will see at your local pharmacy will be running KitKat, so they aren't taking advantage of it. You're not going to be happy with the way that $49.99 tablet plays Angry Birds — if it even can.

We've tried to talk you out of buying one of those no-name tablets (we really think you'll be unhappy with that purchase), but what should you buy? The great news is that there are options that are affordable, supported by their manufacturer, have all the Google services you need, and will deliver an experience that makes you, or the person you're buying it for, happy. Our "A list" of budget tablets:

We're certain that some of these super-cheap tablets would turn out to be a good buy. But we're even more certain that the majority of them won't, and the experience they leave behind makes you feel like you've wasted your money. Let people like us waste our money and sort through the good and the bad.


Reader comments

Beware the super-cheap Android tablets on Black Friday


THANK YOU for telling it the way it is, Jerry. Everyone, please listen to this guy.

Posted via Android Central App

I wonder why Google never released an updated Nexus 10 this year?
I'm getting a 32GB Nexus 7 2K13, based on what Android Central & Jerry have said.

No joke, I bought a $20 Android tablet (from Hong Kong) and thankfully they accidentally sent me two, cause the first one exploded.

Managed to salvage a couple of 8gb microSD cards at least.

Posted from my shiny kinda red Q10

It was actually really dull. The charger sparked and started smoking, and when I opened up the tablet (after determining that it also did not work) it was full of scorch marks. =/

Posted from my shiny kinda red Q10

Maybe it was sent to you by IMF headquarters, and you missed the important top secret message right before it self destructed.

I get tired of this old statement that phones/tablets are "investments". Investments ideally go up in value, not down. My house is an investment, my 401K is an investment. My phone/tablet are not. Tablets are luxury toys. But I do agree that if you're spending money you should spend it on something worthwhile.

I agree and I don't. No, it's not an investment in terms of it gaining monetary value as time passes.

But, you are investing your money on a tool/toy that you expect to add value to your life. You want to make sure you put that money towards something that will last and continue to add value to your life for quite a while before needing to replace it. You're also investing time into setting it up, learning to use it, maintaining it, etc. in hopes that you'll see a return on a well functioning device and ecosystem that continues to serve you well. In those regards, I believe it's an investment.

You touched on an important point there, IMO: the table does not have a monetary return on investment, but we do expect them to in some way enrich our lives. I use my tablet daily and, while I could perform the same tasks on my phone, it's much easier and more pleasant to perform those tasks on a 10" screen.

If you buy a good tablet, and you are the type of person to actually use it, then there is an appreciable "value" to the purchase even if it's not monetary.

house is not an investment. you pay insurance, tax, mis costs to maintain it (negative cash flow)
the capital gains from a house "investment" is risky

401k is not an investment
they are filled of useless "mutual fund managers" that suck up all your money by "fees"
you take all the risk (in case of bad choice in portfolio) and they get all the returns (up to 80% returns)

the 401k over the past 10 years does no better than the S+P which is an absolute joke
Why pay premium "401k" when you can have the same returns if you do it yourself and get even more because you are not paying over rated fees?

pains me that so many people are uneducated on this subject..
you think the government will feed you when you retire?
better dust off those old food stamps...

A tablet is not an investment. There is no appreciation, dividends or any interest earned on tablets. It's just a stupid gadget you buy to waste some time and replace within a year.

My computer is broken so my only access to the internet and writing documents/PowerPoint's for work is my tablet. Yep, its totally a "stupid gadget".

Posted via Android Central App

Yes because no one ever made money using a tablet

So where is the competition for the Note 3? Oh right there isn't any...

I think you missed the Asus Memo Pad HD7 - this is certainly equal or better than the Hisense Hero 7 @ $129.

ive used both. you're simply wrong. the hisense demolishes that asus in both features, performance, and yes, even build quality.

My dad bought a cheapy Nextbook, I think it was, last year for $100 on HSN. I tried to hint to him that it would be junk but he was lured by the price and bought it anyway. Well it was junk and now he needs something reliable. That $100 was wasted and could have been applied to a quality device. Buy crap, get crap.

Posted via Android Central App on my white Nexus 4 with StraightTalk

Hildebrand this one corporate article. Shameful really. Not detailed and not true in most cases. Samsung Google and LG just love you. Also noticed one you didn't give a price on. Of course it was the one with the lowestnprice if someone checked. Sorry but there are great tablets out there for 80 dollars or less but I suspect you didn't take any time to look

I thought you were rubbing it on your junk and throwing it away? Or was that a corporate sham as well?

So where is the competition for the Note 3? Oh right there isn't any...

Gawd I wish I could post a pic on here... had a funny one from VGCats of Gabe Newell rolling in money looking like a shaved Jerry Hildebrand...

I challenge you to find a cheap off brand tablet that is CONSISTENTLY reliable, performs adequately, and has some semblance of support.

Posted via Android Central App

But I'm sure if he mentioned a cheap tablet, you would call him out for getting paid or whatever by that company. Actually, you know what, Jerry should stop talking about Android, since I'm sure Google is paying him to mention it.

And I guess you'd say the iMore writers are Apple shills for writing about their products? And likewise with the CB and WPC writers?

Really! Never would of guessed! That old saying of "You get what you pay for" is true!?

Posted via Android Central App

All good points, Jerry, but I have to say, a cheap Android tablet is great for one specific market: children. I own a first-gen Nexus 7, and my daughter has been begging me for a tablet for Christmas. So I picked up a cheap, $59 yellow Zeepad 7 tablet with Google Play access for her for the holiday. I've been slowly setting it up so she'll have her own access to apps and stuff with Google Play credits. It has an awful low-res screen and poor battery life, but I think she'll love it nonetheless.

And if I'm wrong...well, I'll come back here and eat crow.

The problem is that it's still a total crapshoot. You might be lucky and get a device that is adequate for your kid's use, but you might also get stuck with a big heavy slow poorly responsive glitchy device that will frustrate both your child and you (since you'll be the family's IT support). And you'll still be out $60 or so. But I hope your Zeepad works ok.

What happened to the HP 7inch with the Tegra 4 processor, I thought one was coming out this month?

This wasn't up a couple days ago but is up now HP Slate7 Extreme. Wouldn't let me post the link but it was in the HP Shop.

But I'm guess the $199 price tag is too high to fit in here.

I can't believe people will go so cheap on something like this, that they anticipate being used pretty much every day. And then they wanna whine that the no-name tablet they paid $50 for at Walgreen's isn't as nice as their friend's Nexus 7.

^^^ This ^^^

I have talked to so many people who tell me "Android sucks" because they bought a low-end phone off craigslist for $50 and blame Android that it doesn't "perform" as well as a $900 iPhone.

Its fair enough to write an article but perhaps more detail and a better compiled list.

Posted via Android Central App

A more detailed list? Because I'd say those are the only small Android tablets (not counting the Kindle Fire as an Android device) that are good deals (even though I'd say even the G Pad isn't exactly a bargain, being $120 more than the N7 but only offering an extra inch of screen space).

Seems like Nexus7 seems to be favourite or best tablet? Yes?

Posted via Android Central App on BlackBerry Z30

Each of my kids are getting a $60 RCA 7" tablet for Christmas. It's cheap, but also sports a somewhat decent processor and a gig of RAM. It's not like they're going to be playing Vice City on them anyway, so I think it'll be fine for them.

I, of course, went with the 2013 N7 for myself.

I did something like this just to see how much use I would get out of one. No big investment so no loss if it just sat on the shelf.

Ended up buying an n7 because I found a tablet indispensable. One f the kids has the junk one for an e-reader and light games. Waiting on the n10, I like the larger screen

So where is the competition for the Note 3? Oh right there isn't any...

I picked up a Sero 7 Pro right after the price dropped earlier this year. I put a 32GB SD card in it, and I quite like it. I downloaded a couple of the off-line Open Street Map apps to try out. For under $150, I have both a tablet and a GPS.

Is it the least expensive tablet out there? No, but it does everything I need a tablet to do for now.

Posted from my XT1080M

I love the Nexus 7, but with the Nexus 5 (getting mine next week) being 5", I couldn't really justify spending money on a 7" tablet. So I got a Pipo M9 PRO. 4.2.2, 10.1" 1080 screen, quad core A9, Mali 400, 2GB RAM, 32+32GB storage (and a few custom ROMS), for the same price. It's no powerhouse, but does all that I ask of it and then some, and I think a decently specced 10" at that price can't be argued with

I'm disappointed this article didn't point out the Tegra Note 7. Probably one of the better Android tablets out there in my opinion.

Posted via Android Central App

I think Jerry was limiting suggestions to devices that someone on AC has actually reviewed. The Tegra Note 7 is too new, and not widely available yet.

I feel Dell's Venue 8 for $129 on Black Friday would be a wonderful addition to the list.

So what you're saying is I shouldn't get the $36 Android tablet Fry's is selling on Black Friday?

I had no idea that HiSense was actually worth looking at. It's constantly on so I thought it might be to cheap.

Posted via Android Central App

Yes, lots of decent reviews and feedback about it. Stick with the Sero Pro, which has an HD screen and 8 GB, rather than the lower end Sero LT, which has a lower res screen and only 4 GB.

The place to buy these things is at a retailer like Costco, where (as one example) they extend the manufacturer warranty an additional year, and take if for return 90 days after purchase. You CAN save money and get a good deal.....

Posted via Android Central App

I have the G Pad and it is an amazing tablet, but it doesn't exactly fit here. I did get the wife the Galaxy Tab 3 to replace her Acer A100 simply because accessories for it are plentiful. Although I've bought cheap tablets from eBay for family members (grandparents, mother-in-law, etc.) and they're perfect for them. I wouldn't dare get the wife the $39.99 tablet from Micro Center, but it has Google Play and Smart Case accessories available also.

Posted via Android Central App

Where were you 2 years ago? This article could have saved me the embarrassment of letting my wife convince the tablet deals she found on eBay were awesome finds. After 2 of those tablets failed within a couple months we agreed we wouldn't do that again. Then a few months ago she found a groupon deal. She bought it without talking to me first. It is now dead. I think she gets it now as far as these devices go. Hopefully the lesson will spill over into other areas of spending...

Between the N7 and the Note 10.1(2013), which has the better screen?? or are they both pretty high res. sharp looking?!?! I've seen cheap tablets and thats the first think I notice....crappy screen res!! No thanks...

Are there apps that actually block themselves from running on certain hardware? A friend was considering buying a $35 tablet from Newegg for the sole purpose of streaming Pandora. So long as he can get the APK and it doesn't melt it should serve that purpose, correct? Won't matter that the screen is something ridiculous like 520x280.

Got done last Xmas buying a cheap one for my son the power button broke the charger broke. But they repaired it for free! Also it can charger using my Wii u charger cable. After I got a memory manager app made a lot of difference. But the main purpose for going on his school website is good and you tube Netflix work well.

Got myself an nexus 7 2012 its brilliant

Posted via Android Central App

Amen brother Jerry! I learned my lesson on android v2.1 nook and stick to the good stuff now! Loving the Nexus7 2013 with kitkat even though it is my 10 year old sons device. I tell him I need to check it out once in a while to make sure everything is "OK" and "make sure he isn't doing any illegal surfing".

How do I convert a recording on my Galaxy Note 3 to a format which I can post on a website? from Michael

The T-Roid708A is a 7-inch tablet for under $200 that also offers extraordinary quality and exceptional value. And as a bonus, it runs the Android 4.2.2. Jelly Bean operating system!
Other features are quad core processors and 1GB RAM which offer super fast performance and reliability, and razor sharp images and high definition graphics that brings movies and games to life. As for storage, it offers 8GB and takes an external SD card slot up to 32GB.
For more info on this tablet and other quality tablets sold cheap, visit

I bought myself the T-Roid 705A - 7-inch Tablet PC with Anroid operating system for under$200 from htttp:// and I'm very impressed with it's speed Peeping joe is actuallly selling quality tablet and smartphone cheap, definitely the best cheap tablet on the market.

This article is highly inaccurate and unfair too the MANY high quality brands out there from manufactors outside the US. I can think of a few brands like E-Ceros & Venstar that are made in China that by spec, performance, durability and ease of use are better and faster than most of the "Name Brand" tablets and at at a minium just as good and they DO have google play. Just because it says made in China on the outside does not make it something too be leary of. Deceptive articles like this one should make you question the OP. Open up your tablets and look inside. Say made in China? Dont be fooled by this article. Yes there are some crap brands out there, The Sero 7 listed on here is widely known for hardware malfunctions, so do a bit of research. There is no need too pay the prices the name brands want, when you can in fact get something better , and cheaper. Cheap does not always mean crap nor does Made in China, or any other country.