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5 Mar 2021

Cheap tablets on test: we pit the Amazon Fire against the Lenovo Tab

We investigate whether Amazon is the king of cheap tablets or if rival Lenovo can take on the retail giant - and whether any sub-£200 tablet is worth buying
Man using tabler

With prices ranging from just £49.99 for the Fire 7 to a maximum of £159.99 for the Fire HD 10, Amazon has the cheap end of the tablets market well covered. But before you default to a Fire, it's worth checking if you could get more bang for your buck with a rival such as Lenovo.

No cheap tablet will have the powerful processors or high-end bells and whistles to match premium rivals from the likes of Apple, Microsoft and Samsung.

But our tests go beyond the specs to check the things that matter regardless of how much you spend - such as screen quality, ease of use and battery life - and we've found some surprisingly impressive tablets for less than £200.

We've just put Lenovo's latest budget tablets to the test in our lab. Below, we've compared two of the models with their closest rivals from Amazon.

Want to see what Apple, Samsung and other leading tablet brands have to offer? See all our tablet reviews in one place.

Sub-£100 tablets:Amazon Fire 7 vsLenovo Tab M7

It's pretty amazing that you can get yourself a handheld computer for less than £50.

Even when you consider the inevitable limitations that come with a budget tablet, such as a slight lack of speed and low-resolution screens, they can offer a seriously affordable way to access the web for the whole family.

The Amazon Fire 7 and Lenovo Tab M7 are two of the cheapest tablets we've reviewed; neither will set you back more than £70, and only budget brand Alba rivals them on price.

Amazon Fire 7Lenovo Tab M7
What it looks like

Amazon Fire 7 tablet

Lenovo Tab M7

Screen resolution (pixels)1,024 x 6001,024 x 600
Size (H x W x D)192 x 114 x 9.7mm176.5 x 102.5 x 9.4mm
Number of processor cores44

Amazon Fire 7 selling points

The Amazon Fire 7 (launched in late 2019) is the clear winner on price. Already cheap at £49.99, if you're not in a rush you could get it even cheaper; we've seen it on sale for £35 several times a year. That's a dinky handheld for the price of a takeaway for two.

It also has some tricks up it's sleeve that don't show up in a straight spec comparison. The most notable is that it will respond to 'Alexa' voice assistant commands, just like an Amazon Echo - voice commands work either when the screen is on, or when the screen is off and the tablet is plugged in.

Lenovo Tab M7 selling points

The Lenovo Tab M7 comes in at just £20 more than the Amazon Fire, and has some attractive features that could make it a better choice, depending on your priorities.

  • It's significantly smaller and lighter than the Amazon model. While its screen is the same size as the Fire 7, its slim screen borders mean there's little wasted space and weight.
  • Like other Lenovo tablets, it has access to the fully-fledged Google Play Store, which has a wider selection of apps than the Amazon App Store.
  • Its 32GB of storage is double that of the Fire - though neither are particularly generous. Both tablets have micro-SD card slots to expand the storage, however.

Overall, neither tablet wows in terms of specifications, but if you just need a tablet to do the basics, then basic specifications may be perfectly adequate.

See if either tablet would meet your needs in our Amazon Fire 7 review and Lenovo Tab M7 review.

Tablets under £200 - Lenovo Tab M8 FHD and Amazon Fire HD 8 Plus

Eight-inch tablets offer an excellent mix of screen size and portability. They're big enough to read text at a reasonable font size but they aren't so big that they'll become a faff to carry around in a bag.

They're also ideal for any commute where you're not guaranteed a seat, and need one spare hand to hold on for sudden starts and stops.

Amazon Fire 8 HD PlusLenovo Tab M8 FHD
What it looks like

Amazon Fire HD 8 Plus

Lenovo Tab M8 FHD

Screen resolution (pixels)1,280 x 8001,920 x 1,080
Size (H x W x D)202 x 137 x 9.7mm198 x 122.5 x 9.9mm
Processor cores48

The two eight-inch choices here sit in different price brackets and offer a slightly different set of perks.

Amazon Fire 8 HD Plus selling points

As with the sub-£100 pairing above, this Amazon tablet beats Lenovo on price.

It has wireless charging built in, and a USB-C port instead of the more fiddly micro USB found on the Lenovo Tab M8 FHD. Plus, it's fully integrated with Amazon's various shopping services as well as Kindle and Amazon Prime Video.

It can also be propped up on a charging stand and used like an Amazon Echo smart speaker, letting you issue voice commands for playing video, turning down smart lights or changing the soundtrack of your evening.

Lenovo Tab M8 FHD selling points

If you're willing to up your budget by £50, the Lenovo is lighter and physically a fair bit smaller than the Amazon Fire, making it the better choice for taking out and about.

It also has a Full HD screen versus the Fire's HD-Ready affair, which means text and images should appear sharper and clearer. And the processor on board has eight cores instead of four, so it should be faster in everyday tasks.

See how both fared in our Amazon Fire HD 8 Plus review and Lenovo Tab M8 FHD review. We've also reviewed the £89.99 Amazon Fire HD 8, which lacks wireless charging and has less memory.

Three things to consider when buying a cheap tablet

people looking at baby monitor app on their tablet

There are plenty of cheap tablets to choose from - if none of the ones we've picked out above are quite right, check our guide to the best cheap tablets for more suggestions - but you should be aware of a few things before you take the plunge. If none of these are dealbreakers, go right ahead and buy one.

1. Tablet speed - what will you do on your tablet?

Cheap tablets come with cheap processors that aren't as capable as more expensive models. That means apps and webpages will take several seconds to load and may occasionally suffer from a bit of lag.

None of this is necessarily bad, especially if you're just using the tablet to browse the web or shop online rather than for work or more demanding tasks, but if you have a high-end smartphone you will certainly notice the difference in speed.

2. Tablet build quality - who's going to be using your tablet?

Cheap tablets are, for the most part, made from plastic, meaning they're more likely to succumb to drops and scrapes.

If you're planning to give a tablet to a child - and really this applies to expensive metal models as well - buy a tight-fitting case that's made for the tablet you've bought.

3. Tablet screen and sound - what are you going to read and watch?

Depending on what you're using your tablet for, screen and sound quality could be where a budget model lets you down. Very cheap tablets have low-resolution screens that, while entirely readable, might not allow you to fit much text onto the screen at once, and force you to use a larger font size.

The speakers, meanwhile, will often be lacking any kind of depth. While most cheap tablets are fine for catching up on speech-heavy TV, they won't do justice to sound-effect-laden movies or music.

That said, they all come with headphone jacks so you can plug in a pair of good-quality headphones if you want to pump up the volume.

Have more than £200 to spend but still want a bargain? Check out this month's best tablet deals.