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Best cheap tablets in SA 2021

Included in this guide:

Best cheap tablets
(Image credit: Apple; Amazon; Lenovo)

While Apple dominates the tablet category, the selection of budget tablets is rather more limited. This guide to the best cheap tablets is not extensive , but you can be sure that all the options we have included are great – as well as being great value.

And while options are limited in number, they’re not overly limited in size, brand or operating system. So there should be something here to suit. And to help you find the very best cheap tablet for you, we’ve not only listed the top options (from best to worst), but also included a brief guide to each, complete with specs, pros, cons, and a link to our full review.

So take a look, and if nothing catches your eye, consider our guide to the best tablets, best iPad or best Android tablets. The selections in these lists will typically be pricier, other than where there’s overlap, but they’ll all be the best of their respective categories.

Best cheap tablets at a glance:

  1. Apple iPad 9.7 (2018)
  2. Apple iPad Mini (5th gen)
  3. Samsung Galaxy Tab A 10.5
  4. Samsung Galaxy Tab A 8
  5. Huawei MediaPad T3 10
  6. Huawei MediaPad T3 7 3G
  7. Huawei MatePad T8  
  8. Amazon Fire 7 (2019)

Apple iPad (2018)

(Image credit: Apple)

1. Apple iPad 9.7 (2018)

The best cheap tablet you can buy right now

Specifications
Weight: 469g
Dimensions: 240 x 169.5 x 7.5mm
OS: iOS 13
Screen size: 9.7-inch
Resolution: 1536 x 2048
CPU: Apple A10 Fusion
Storage: 32GB/128GB
Battery: 8827mAh
Rear camera: 8MP
Front camera: 1.2MP
Reasons to buy
+Good screen quality+Powerful for the price
Reasons to avoid
-Apple Pencil costs extra-Design unchanged

The iPad 9.7 (2018) is the best cheap tablet you can buy right now.

It may not be the newest entry-level iPad on the market (that's the iPad 10.2) but the iPad 9.7 2018 still has an awful lot going for it - not to mention a lower price tag, which makes it a candidate for this list, while the newer model isn’t quite.

You get a 9.7-inch display, making it marginally smaller than its successor for better or worse, plus plenty of power under the hood for your apps and games, and it's been updated to Apple's newest software - iPadOS 13 - ensuring it's right up to date with the latest features and security patches.

The iPad 9.7 also supports the Apple Pencil for all your sketching needs, and has a high-quality display. And while it’s no longer the newest basic iPad, being an Apple device it’s still likely to be supported with updates for years to come.

Read the full review: iPad 9.7 (2018)

Apple iPad Mini

(Image credit: Apple)

2. Apple iPad Mini (2019)

Good value, if not exactly cheap

Specifications
Weight: 300g
Dimensions: 203 x 135 x 6mm
OS: iPad OS 14
Screen size: 7.9-inch
Resolution: 2048 x 1536
Storage: 64/256GB
Rear camera: 8MP
Front camera: None
Reasons to buy
+Build quality+Processing power+Vibrant screen
Reasons to avoid
-Somewhat dated design-Value, but not cheap

Tablets are the category in which Apple holds the biggest lead over its rivals. If high mobility is your priority, or if you're indulging the preteen Einstein in your household, then the 8-inch iPad Mini is the most compact tablet from the runaway market leader.

Priced higher than the bigger 10-inch iPad you'll end up paying a premium for this portability but you are still getting the class-leading processing power from Apple's A12 Bionic chip, and Retina screen quality into the deal. On top of that, you can expect this pint-size tablet to easily outlast all Android rivals thanks to both the legendary build quality and its handy lead in its underlying tech. Apple Pencil support is also a nice touch in this latest Mini.

Samsung Galaxy Tab A 10.5 (2018)

(Image credit: Samsung)

3. Samsung Galaxy Tab A 10.5 (2018)

Samsung's best budget tablet

Specifications
Weight: 529g
Dimensions: 260 x 161.1 x 8mm
OS: Android 8.1
Screen size: 10.5-inch
Resolution: 1200 x 1920
CPU: Snapdragon 450
Storage: 32GB
Battery: 7300mAh
Rear camera: 8MP
Front camera: 5MP
Reasons to buy
+Has a headphone jack+Long battery life
Reasons to avoid
-Design a little bulky-Can be sluggish

The Samsung Galaxy Tab A 10.5 is the South Korean firm's answer to Apple's best cheap tablet, which you've seen above.

If you're looking for an Android iPad rival on a budget, this is the slate you should consider. With Google's Android operating system providing plenty of flexibility, coupled with a large HD display, the Tab A 10.5 is great for movies and web browsing.

It also benefits from long battery life, so you can indulge in a movie marathon. It’s not the most powerful slate around and its size makes it slightly less portable than some, but for media and basic app use around the house it’s a strong choice.

Read the full review: Samsung Galaxy Tab A 10.5 (2018)

Samsung Galaxy Tab A 8.0”

(Image credit: Samsung)

4. Samsung Galaxy Tab A 8

Decent size for preteen e-learning

Specifications
Weight: 345g
Dimensions: 210 x 124 x 8mm
OS: Android 9
Screen size: 8-inch
Resolution: 1280 x 800
Storage: 32GB
Battery: 5100mAh
Rear camera: 8MP
Front camera: 2MP
Memory card slot: Yes
Reasons to buy
+Solid battery life+Thin and light in hand
Reasons to avoid
-Limited built-in storage

This scaled down version of Samsung's midrange Tab A 10.5-inch tablet offers all the same virtues of its bigger sibling, like the tough but trim design, but at a lower price. The screen, while not rivalling Samsung's top phones for crispness, is still very good and smart power management on the 5100mAh battery means you can expect more than a full day of continuous use.

The 8-inch screen size and light 345g weight makes it optimal for a pre-teen trying to cope with online learning, and having a bit of fun with games and videos on the side. We also like the wifi support for both 2.4 and 5GHz bands, and the option of a 4G SIM card slot means it can work at home, at school and even in the car.

Huawei MediaPad T3

Huawei MediaPad T3 (Image credit: Huawei)

5. Huawei MediaPad T3 10

Basic, but reliable

Specifications
Weight: 460g
Dimensions: 230 x 160 x 8mm
OS: Android 9
Screen size: 9.6-inch
Resolution: 1280 x 800
Storage: 16/32GB
Battery: 4800mAh
Rear camera: 8MP
Front camera: 2MP
Memory card slot: Yes
Reasons to buy
+Empty List
Reasons to avoid
-Empty List

Huawei's answer to Samsung's mid-range A-series tablets is the MediaPad T range, and this is the most affordable of 10-incher in that range. That means you should expect some compromises, but the trade-offs are not outright dealbreakers. For example, the pixel density of the screen is very low at  157 PPI, so its not the sharpest but it is still HD and the lower spec screen ends up saving you a lot of battery power. 

Unlike some entry level tablets this one has GPS and dual band wifi, so it's a good travel companion, whether in the car or in your carry-on luggage, and the aluminium back panel definitely gives it a more pleasant in-hand feel. 

Huawei MediPad T3 7

Huawei MediPad T3 7 (Image credit: Huawei)

6. Huawei MediaPad T3 7 3G

Pocket-sized reader

Specifications
Weight: 265g
Dimensions: 103 x 187 x 9mm
OS: Android 9
Screen size: 7-inch
Resolution: 1024 x 600
Storage: 16GB
Battery: 4100mAh
Rear camera: 2MP
Front camera: None
Memory card slot: Yes
Reasons to buy
+Highly portable
Reasons to avoid
-Underwhelming screen

This is the small-screen version of Huawei's mid-range T-series, and it includes dual band wifi, GPS and a tray for a 3G SIM. It's not 4G, which is disappointing, so between the small screen and slower remote connectivity you'll want to keep the cellular service for basic and essential  tasks only. On the upside, this format is compact enoug to slip into a jeans or jacket pocket and easy enough to use for calls too.Like its bigger 10-inch sibling it has an aluminium back panel which makes it feel more robust and tactile in hand than plastic. Otherwise, its a very basic model with an average screen and limited processing power. Its light enough for very young children, and adequate for reading a bit of news or for tracking your tweetstream, but not for mainstream business. At this price, though, its almost an impulse purchase.{"data-model-name":"Huawei MediaPad T3 7 3G","data-widget-type":"price"}

This is the small-screen version of Huawei's mid-range T-series, and it includes dual band wifi, GPS and optional 3G . It's not 4G, which is disappointing, so between the small screen and slower remote connectivity you'll want to keep the cellular service for essential tasks only. On the upside, this format is compact enough to slip into a jeans or jacket pocket and easy enough to use for voice and video calls too. 

Like its bigger 10-inch sibling it has an aluminium back panel which makes it feel more robust and tactile in hand than plastic. Otherwise, its a very basic model with an average screen and limited processing power. Its light enough for very young children, and adequate for reading a bit of news or for tracking your Tweetstream, but not for mainstream business. At this price, though, its almost an impulse purchase.

Huawei MediaPad T8

Huawei MediaPad T8 (Image credit: Huawei)

7. Huawei MatePad T8

Decent hardware with serious software challenges

Specifications
Weight: 310g
Dimensions: 121 x 200 x 9mm
OS: Android 10
Screen size: 8-inch
Resolution: 1280 x 800
Storage: 16/32GB
Battery: 5100mAh
Rear camera: 5MP
Front camera: 2MP
Memory card slot: Yes
Reasons to buy
+Slim and light+Parental controls
Reasons to avoid
-No Google Play Store

This is solid offering from  Huawei with a decent size screen and some proper processing power. Its also light to hold and has a large 5100mAh battery. There is a full suite of parental controls to monitor your child's screen time, to control which apps can be used at what times and even to adjust the amount of blue light which creates eye strain and disrupts brain wave activity.

With little to fault it, this tablet would certainly have placed higher on this lost, but this is one of the new range of Huawei device which  don't have any of the standard Google services included. While there are geeky workarounds  for some of these its a dealbreaker for many if they can't run their favourite , familiar apps, or the apps specified by  their child's school.

Amazon Fire 7 (2019)

(Image credit: Amazon)

8. Amazon Fire 7 (2019)

Amazon's latest 7-inch slate is a very cheap, very basic tablet

Specifications
Weight: 286g
Dimensions: 192 x 115 x 9.6mm
OS: Fire OS
Screen size: 7-inch
Resolution: 1,024 x 600
CPU: 1.3GHz Quad-core
Storage: 16GB/32GB
Battery: up to 7 hours
Rear camera: 2MP
Front camera: VGA
Reasons to buy
+Affordable+Durable build
Reasons to avoid
-Disappointing non-HD screen-Poor battery life

Notice the lack of 'HD' in the name of the Amazon Fire 7, compared to the other Amazon slates on this list? That's because the screen quality of the tablet is, well, not HD.

That's a compromise you'll have to make if you're wanting Amazon's latest super-cheap device, as it won't grace your eyes with a stunning display or slick performance. However there is enough power under the hood to get you through basic tasks, like streaming content or shopping.

It's also great as a Kindle device, if you want your Kindle to also come with Alexa and the internet and the best books of all, movies.

Read the full review: Amazon Fire 7 (2019)

  • Got a bit extra to spend? Here are the best tablets in the world right now
James Rogerson
James is a freelance phones, tablets and wearables writer and sub-editor at TechRadar. He has a love for everything ‘smart’, from watches to lights, and can often be found arguing with AI assistants or drowning in the latest apps.