Best new cheap tablet?
May 24, 2018 7:21 AM   Subscribe

Hi folks. I do electronics repair, and I'm looking for a tablet that I can use to surf the net and download schematics and such. That's probably all it will be used for--no TV, music, whatever. I'll need the ability to download to it and occasionally type. Should I get the $50 basic Amazon Fire 7, the slightly fancier Fire HD 8, or is there anything that would fit my needs better? Budget is $50-200 but cheaper is better. I have a Windows PC and use an iPhone, so I'm familiar with both.
posted by Slinga to Computers & Internet (15 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
The cheap Fires (I've had both) are fine for my needs as I lose tablets a lot, but you won't be able to run Chrome (without rooting it or whatever), and they lag horrendously. It's very frustrating for me, YMMV.
posted by ftm at 7:39 AM on May 24, 2018 [3 favorites]

I respect your budget, but in my experience with a few budget tablets and also experience with ipads, the base level newest ipad mini will last years, be quick and good for almost every application outside of crazy custom hacking/programming.
posted by bbqturtle at 7:42 AM on May 24, 2018 [2 favorites]

I have a Fire HD 8 and it's pretty easy to add Google Play and thus a launcher like Nova plus Chrome etc. which makes it feel like a fairly stock Android tablet. I got mine on sale and for the money it's astonishingly good. The battery life and screen quality particularly are far better than they have any right to be for the money.

Looking at your planned use, however, I do find the Fire a bit sluggish at rendering certain web pages and opening heavy PDFs, so depending on your patience you might want a bit more power. If you can give me an example of a web page you'd visit and a schematic you'd want to open, I'd be happy to time how long it takes on the Fire or even make a screencast so you can see what I mean.
posted by Busy Old Fool at 8:34 AM on May 24, 2018 [2 favorites]

I agree that Fire tablets are insanely slow (or at least my 7 is) when rooted/using Google apps. If you're willing to stick with what the system is built with, they're decent for the price.
posted by Political Funny Man at 8:43 AM on May 24, 2018 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Usually I'll be on and downloading fairly large PDFs--maybe 25-50+ pages. They're fairly unwieldy on my laptop.

I can go higher than $200 if necessary. What's the best option up to $400?
posted by Slinga at 9:39 AM on May 24, 2018

My wife bought a Samsung Galaxy Tab A a couple years ago and is very happy with it, price-for-performance is very good and they run just under $200.

I have a Fire 8 HD and it's OK for casual browsing and stuff but as others mentioned they're not designed for performance.
posted by AzraelBrown at 10:00 AM on May 24, 2018

A couple years ago, I found there are loads of cheap no-name tablets in the $30-100 range, all either all either Windows or Android, mostly android. I researched this, and didn't buy cheap because the one feature I couldn't get for cheap was the one I needed for my application: bluetooth.

Get yourself on aliexpress and you'll find loads. Many of them also have non-standard (well, non-tablet standard) power supplies, so you'll want to get a spare since you may never find the company again after you buy.

I've got the Tab E, and it's pretty good. It struggles with Clash Royale, but i've had no problem with video or large PDFs. Looks like both version (8" and 9.6") are under $200 these days.

As for durability, my previous tablet is still alive: Samsung Galaxy Note 2 8.0, that is, the 8" version of the Note 2. It sold really poorly. It's running old OS as it doesn't have a carrier and I'm too lazy to figure out how to update it manually, and recently I replaced the battery because it was really bad at holding a charge, but at 4+ years old and with a new battery, I could switch over t. The note line of tablets (now just phablets) was always beefier than the tab line, but I guess the market didn't want to pay more for that. I got the newer one because it was cheap and had 4G.
posted by Sunburnt at 11:05 AM on May 24, 2018

My suggestion: the Nvidia Shield gaming tablet. It's recently been discontinued but you can still find them on Amazon for about $300. They were built with graphic intensive uses in mind so should be perfect for your uses.
posted by evilDoug at 11:45 AM on May 24, 2018

Wirecutter says ipad or Asus Zen. They say the Zen is better than the Nvidia so I'd say listen to the experts.
posted by evilDoug at 12:32 PM on May 24, 2018

Usually I'll be on and downloading fairly large PDFs--maybe 25-50+ pages.

Here's a video of my Fire HD 8 using Chrome to browse hifiengine. It might be faster with another browser like Opera.

Here's a video of my Fire HD 8 viewing a few PDFs from hifiengine.

As you can see, it's a bit laggy, but I wouldn't go as far as 'insanely slow'.
posted by Busy Old Fool at 2:30 PM on May 24, 2018 [1 favorite]

I'm pretty happy with my Samsung Chromebook 3 (~$200). Views PDFs a little more slowly than a laptop, but not any worse than tablets I've used. It's not touch, but the trackpad works well, and the matte screen is a nice feature. ChromeOS even runs (some) Android apps these days.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 4:35 PM on May 24, 2018

Best answer: If you already have an iPhone, the new iPad has a much more readable screen than the Fire for $329 and it will last a lot longer. The Fire is an outstanding tablet for the price, but only in a relative sense. Refurb iPads are indistinguishable from new and come with a brand new battery so you should expect 5 years of steady use, versus only a couple for the Fire.
posted by wnissen at 5:04 PM on May 24, 2018

Best answer: Totally get an Apple refurbished iPad. I just picked up a 2017 for $239. New battery and outer case.
posted by mac-way at 5:51 PM on May 24, 2018 [2 favorites]

Have you considered just buying one when Costco has a sale? They have a liberal return policy. I've bought 2 tablets there for good prices over the last few years. Just a thought.
posted by forthright at 6:14 PM on May 24, 2018

I have a Chuwi Hi8. It cost about $100 on sale, and I waited a while for it to be delivered from China. Amazon charges a bit more to deliver it to you tomorrow, but it's still pretty cheap, considering what's in the box.

It has a standard USB-C port. Standard chargers and dongles work fine with it. I've paired a bluetooth mouse and keyboard to it, no problem.

It arrived as a dual boot windows/android system. I reformatted it to be Windows-only, and added an sd card for a little more storage. I use it primarily to run Chrome and stream DirecTV Now, Nick JR, and PBS Kids (with audio sent to a bluetooth device). It works just fine for that, and I see no reason why it wouldn't be just fine as a PDF reader.
posted by toxic at 6:37 PM on May 24, 2018

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