Your buyer’s guide for the best Android tablets in 2020
iPads may get the attention of most tablet owners, but there are plenty of Android options out there.
Android tablets vary in size and quality, but some are exceptionally good value and are typically the best iPad alternatives. In the chart below we rank the best Android tablets available to buy in the UK in 2020.
If you don’t specifically need an Android tablet, be sure to check out our list of the best tablets for any operating system, including the latest iPads and Windows tablets.
Android tablets are much like iPads. The main difference is the software they run: Google Android. This has its own app store, but most apps are available for both iPads and Android tablets. There are a few occasions you’ll find apps and games are only available for the iPad, and even then, they usually appear on Android soon after.
Android can be set up quite similarly to iOS, the iPad’s software. The latest version is Android 8.0 Oreo, but Android is a fragmented operating system, and it’s quite likely even brand new tablets will be on older software like 7.0 Nougat or 6.0 Marshmallow.
Amazon Fires are a little different, as they run on Android, but it’s Amazon’s heavily customised and locked down version. They make good kids’ tablets, so if you’re after a tablet for a child, check out our list of the best tablets for kids.
What size tablet should I buy?
The first thing to consider (apart from budget) is screen size. This ranges from around 7- to 13in, although for most people an 8- or 9in tablet represents the best compromise between usability and portability.
With bigger screens comes more weight. Aim for a maximum of around 450g, as anything heavier can be uncomfortable to hold for long periods, such as watching a film. But if you’ll use the tablet propped up on your lap or on a desk for most of the time, weight isn’t an issue.
How much storage do I need?
Ideally, you should aim for 32GB of internal storage as a minimum, but more is better for downloading media.
Many, but not all, Android tablets have a microSD slot so you can add more storage when you need it. If you’re going for a tablet with no slot, make sure you buy the biggest capacity you can afford, as videos and some apps can use up an awful lot of storage.
And don’t forget that the big number on the box – 32GB, say – is the total amount. The usable amount, i.e. the amount which is empty and available for you to use after Android itself is installed, can be quite a lot less than that headline figure.
What about the screen?
Few tablets these days have poor-quality screens, but some do. Look for an IPS or AMOLED screen and avoid anything with a ‘TN’ screen as these have poor viewing angles.
In terms of resolution, higher is better, but the more important number is pixel density. Aim for 300 pixels per inch or higher, as this will mean a sharp-looking image that’s not jagged or blocky.
What features do I need?
Most Android tablets have Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, and some have NFC as well. NFC may come in handy, but it’s by no means essential.
What’s more useful is a video output so you can connect your tablet to your TV (usually via HDMI). However, you can use an Android tablet with a Google Chromecast for watching catch-up TV, YouTube and other internet video services.
Some tablets have GPS, which makes them useful for navigation, but not all do. Another thing to watch for is a SIM slot. This is useful if you want to get online when you’re travelling or out of Wi-Fi range.
However, you’ll usually pay more for a 3G or 4G tablet, and you will need a dedicated SIM card with a data-only plan. It’s better to tether your tablet to your smartphone if your phone’s 3G or 4G provider allows this.
Performance, battery life and cameras
If you want to know if a particular model is great for gaming or too slow for web browsing, then read our reviews, which include benchmark results – you can’t rely on specifications such as processor speed or the number of cores to guarantee good performance.
We also test battery life, so you’ll find how long each tablet lasts between charges. The best tablets last around 10 hours or more, while the worst only manage 4-5 hours.
The same applies to cameras, and as with performance, you shouldn’t judge by the number of megapixels. Instead, check out our test photos in each review to see whether you’re happy with the quality on offer. Few Android tablets have great cameras, and quite a few have awful ones, so if photos, videos, and Skype are important, don’t buy before you’ve read the reviews.
Best Android Tablets 2020
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1. Samsung Galaxy Tab S5e
We think the Galaxy Tab S5e is the best Android tablet you can get right now. Samsung has brought the excellent screen and quad-speaker system from the Tab S4 and put them in a thinner and lighter design, complete with a more desirable metal build.
If you don’t care about Android or iOS, then the iPad (2018) is a slightly better value buy.
Furthermore, it’s more affordable and the jump to 6GB of RAM and 128GB of storage isn’t much. The Tab S4 being old does mean it’s had a few price drops but it’s only worth spending the extra if you really need the extra power of its beefier processor.
The Tab S5e is limited a little by the Snapdragon 670 but it’s designed and pitched as an entertainment tablet rather than a laptop replacement -despite the inclusion of DeX – and it does this very well.
Many users will find the lack of a headphone jack disappointing but there’s a dongle in the box and you also have the option to use USB-C or wireless headphones.
Read our full Samsung Galaxy Tab S5e review
2. Samsung Galaxy Tab S6 Lite
The Galaxy Tab S6 Lite is definitely more of a basic productivity and entertainment slate, rather than a laptop replacement, but that means its talents lie in its featherweight design, its affordability and as a brilliant tool for note-taking.
That said, it’s not the only contender in the mid-range tablet space with Samsung’s own Galaxy Tab S5e still trumping the S6 Lite in a few key areas, albeit at a greater cost overall.
Read our full Samsung Galaxy Tab S6 Lite review
3. Amazon Fire HD 8 (8th gen)
If you don’t need Google apps on your tablet then this is the best cheap tablet going. It’s worth the extra spend over the Fire 7 for the larger, better screen, unless you’re buying it for your kids in which case the cheaper Fire 7 will do just fine.
And now you can use Alexa hands free, or pair the Fire HD 8 with the clever Show Mode dock to get an affordable smart display for home use. If you want to watch video on Prime and Netflix and not much else then this tablet is a no-brainer.
Read our full Amazon Fire HD 8 (8th gen) review
4. Samsung Galaxy Tab S4
Although the Tab S4 is the same price as its predecessor, there’s not a huge amount that’s new here. And it’s a shame not to find the latest processor.
A larger 10.5in screen rivals the smaller iPad Pro and Samsung’s DeX software is built-in to provide PC-like functionality. Samsung’s aim is to replace your laptop but that’s only doable if your usage is pretty basic.
This is no doubt one of the best Android tablets around but will be overkill for many, both in price and features. Unless you’re completely anti-Apple, the iPad 9.7 for 2018 is a comparative bargain at £319.
Read our full Samsung Galaxy Tab S4 review
5. Amazon Fire HD 10 (2017)
The HD 10 is Amazon’s biggest tablet, and it’s one of the best-value 10in tablets under £200. It has a decent Full HD screen and a good amount of storage for the money. Hands-free Alexa is handy too.
If you can live with the more limited selection of apps compared to what you’ll find in the Google Play Store on an Android tablet, it’s a good deal.
Read our full Amazon Fire HD 10 (2017) review
6. Lenovo Yoga Tab 3 Plus
When an iPad costs just £20 more, you might have a hard time choosing the Tab 3 Plus instead. But if you do, you gain some advantages over Apple’s go-to tablet.
The Tab 3 Plus has a built-in stand, excellent Dolby Atmos speakers and a bigger and slightly higher resolution display. If you don’t mind the slightly odd design in portrait mode then this may be enough to sway you.
It’s one of the best tablets you can buy if you’re addicted to Netflix, and is great for reading magazines, books and surfing the web. Just don’t expect many software updates past Android Nougat.
Read our full Lenovo Yoga Tab 3 Plus review
7. Huawei MediaPad M5 8.4
As was our verdict on the MediaPad M3: the M5 is an above-average tablet which is a good alternative to Samsung’s Galaxy Tab range and the iPad mini. The iPad mini is is less of a great deal these days. It costs a lot because you can only get it with 128GB of storage.
If your budget is more like £300/US$300, it’s a struggle to recommend the MediaPad M5 when the 2018 iPad 9.7 has a headphone socket, support for the Apple Pencil and – well – it’s an iPad running iOS.
Read our full Huawei MediaPad M5 8.4 review
8. Xiaomi Mi Pad 4
If we’re talking hardware alone then Xiaomi’s Mi Pad 4 is arguably one of the best Android tablets you can find for the money, especially in this compact form factor.
This 8in tablet has a full-HD display with some decent hardware onboard, including the Snapdragon 660 processor, up to 4GB of RAM and up to 64GB of storage. Xiaomi has also added microSD support, and there’s an LTE version of this tablet.
Design changes result in a more manageable device for use in one hand, and improved audio with the speakers now sitting on the tablet’s bottom edge.
We’re surprised to see GPS missed out of the spec, and the Mi Pad 4 also neglects NFC, and while it’s mostly an improvement over the previous generation the screen size and resolution and battery capacity has been reduced.
If this were a ‘Global’ version of the Mi Pad 4 we’d be sold, but as it is running Chinese MIUI it stands to offer a potentially confusing experience for novice users. Navigation and menus will be unfamiliar, and if you want to use Google services you’ll first need to install Google Play from the Mi App Store.
Read our full Xiaomi Mi Pad 4 review
9. Samsung Galaxy Tab Active2
If you’re looking for a durable tablet to take hiking or on other outdoor activities then the Galaxy Tab Active2 is a good choice. It’s one of the most rugged devices we’ve tested.
Although you get GPS, 4G LTE and other features, the core specs like the screen and storage are a let down at this price.
If you’re thinking about getting this for your kids, you can spend a lot less on something still durable like the Amazon Fire HD 10 Kids Edition.
Read our full Samsung Galaxy Tab Active2 review
10. Lenovo Smart Tab P10 with Alexa
The Smart Tab P10 is ultimately a fairly budget tablet, with lightweight specs, old software, and a simple feature set, masked in part by slick-but-simple design that leaves it looking and feeling more premium than it really is.
The key selling point is the included speaker dock, which automatically activates a dedicated mode for Amazon Alexa, essentially turning the tablet into a makeshift Echo Show while it’s docked. Without the dock the P10 would be fairly unremarkable, so it’s really only worth buying if the idea of a tablet that doubles as an Echo Show really speaks to you.
Unfortunately Lenovo didn’t get here first. Amazon did with its Fire tablets, and with the added bonus that you can buy extra Show Mode Docks for different rooms, not to mention saving money by opting for an 8in model.
Still, it might be worth opting for the P10 if you want full access to Android and YouTube – rather than Amazon’s stripped back FireOS – or if you know you’ll make use of the dock’s built-in speaker, rather than simply connecting it up to another sound system anyway.
Read our full Lenovo Smart Tab P10 with Alexa review
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This article originally appeared on https://www.techadvisor.co.uk/test-centre/tablets/best-android-tablet-3265118/