You may have noticed that apart from the occasional iPad, Samsung Galaxy Tab, or Microsoft Surface, not many tablets get launched and not very often either.
Even the above are increasingly being hybridized with keyboard accessories so they’re as much a laptop as they are a tablet.
Apple’s probably still the biggest cheerleader of the tablet form factor with its iPad series, and even there the main player now is the iPad Pro, aimed at business and intended as a hybrid device.
Repeated industry analysis shows that year-on-year, tablet sales are dropping off. Even Apple’s iPad isn’t immune to this creeping indifference consumers appear to have to new tablet models.
The reason? Well, the general consensus seems to be that consumers just don’t approach tablets the same way that they approach phones. A sizeable chunk of the consumer base appears happy to justify a new phone every year or two, especially via contracts and the like. Tablets, however, are viewed as a bigger, longer-lived purchase, rather like buying a PC, laptop, console, TV, or media player.
Consumers just don’t want to be picking up a new model with phone levels of regularity; the kind of regularity facilitated by an annual product refresh, instead, they wait for several generations before updating a by-then very aged slate. This willingness to buy phones in this way means the annual refresh model of smartphone development yields relatively healthy sales figures year after year, but it just isn’t the same with tablets.
Although the tablet market has slowed, don’t be mistaken in thinking it’s dropped off entirely. It’s just in the process of adapting to this different model. It’s also waiting in the wings somewhat as we know firms such as Samsung are working on hybridising the tablet and phone form factors via flexible OLED displays and the transforming designs they allow.
In the meantime, OEMs are still making new tablet tech, so there’s always something new to choose from. But, since the emergence of the original Nexus 7, there’s been a lot of interest in the more affordable sector of the Android tablet market.
Not everyone wants to spend big bucks on a tablet, but might still be after a decent Android experience on a bigger display for chillaxing on the couch. So without further ado, let’s take a look at some of our favourite Android slates you can pick up for not too much cash.
OK, so this one isn’t officially available any more, but it is still officially supported software wise. You’re going to have to pick one up via a third party retailer, or even ebay. In some cases you can find brand new sealed in the box units being sold for about £300, but otherwise it’s going to be used and/or refurbished units, the latter of which are often in excellent condition and we haven’t seen any retailing above £270 at most, more often much cheaper than this, around the £160-£200 mark – putting it neatly inside our budget for this article.
What you get for your money is a superbly optimised combination of hardware and up-to-date Google Android software – stock, of course – inside a really high-end bodyshell. This is a great device which will last you years.
The Nexus 9 is pretty hard to track down these days, but you can still find new and used units for great prices on Ebay.
Amazon Fire 7
Amazon Fire tablets are a bit more proprietary than other Android slates, as they hook directly into Amazon’s content ecosystem rather than running raw, unadulterated Android via the Google Play content platform. Regardless, this hasn’t stopped thousands of people from buying and enjoying the Fire series for its potent combination of relatively low price, competitive specs, and high-end finish.
The Fire 7 features a 7in IPS LCD display, a quad-core processor, and supports microSD card expansion. It also packs a hefty battery cell for plenty of runtime on the go. If you, like many people these days, are signed-up to Amazon Prime’s video and other multimedia services this might just be the perfect tablet.
Latest Amazon Fire 7 deals
Nvidia Shield Tablet K1
The Shield Tablet K1 is an absolute beast, and a very affordable beast at that. This tablet packs Nvidia’s highly capable Tegra K1 quad-core processor with plenty of clout for gaming and other demanding tasks. It has an 8in LCD display, microSD support, and a massive battery. Plus it comes with Android Marshmallow, with Nvidia being pretty keen on keeping the software updated going forward and a good track record of prompt updates on its legacy devices. Best of all, the RRP is a mere £169.99, making this one of the most wallet friendly bang-for-buck ratio slates on the list.
Latest Nvidia Shield Tablet K1 deals
XiaoMi Mi Pad 2
XiaoMi has really managed to make a name for itself in the mobile market in recent years with the sheer number of devices it produces for every bracket, niche, and preference on the market. Its stable includes a wide range of tablets, but amongst them the Mi Pad 2 stands out as hitting that magic combo of premium design, Android software, and affordability.
The bodywork is all metal with a bit of Apple iPad style to it, though it packs an 8in IPS LCD display with a 1536 x 2018 pixel resolution (326ppi); also a similar resolution to the iPad Mini. It also has the brand new Type-C USB port for reversible connectors, an Intel Atom X5-Z8500 processor, 2GB RAM, a 6190mAh battery, and options for either 16GB or 64GB of onboard storage.
The base model can be had for as little as £144.
GearBest is the best place to pick up Xiaomi products if you’re in the UK or US.
Asus ZenPad S 8.0
The Asus Zenpad S 8.0 is similar in many respects to the above XiaoMi Mi Pad 2, with a premium exterior and powered by an Intel Atom processor. It has a metal surround together with an aluminium rear panel, which is finished with a kind of leather-feel runner strip along the bottom edge. It’s essentially following the same tablet design language we’ve seen from Asus for a few years now – but there’s nothing wrong with that at all as it’s really quite sharp visually and reassuringly solid and premium in the hand.
The price tag is £199.99, a little higher than the XiaoMi, but for that you get a QHD resolution 8in IPS LCD display panel and it also has Type-C USB, microSD support, and 32GB of onboard storage. The hardware includes an Intel Atom Z3560 64-bit quad-core processor, 2GB RAM, and an IMG PowerVR Series 6 G6430 GPU offering decent performance on Android.
Latest Asus Zenpad S 8.0 deals