Tablets make great gifts, but they often carry a high price tag. Still, if you know what you're doing, there are ways to save money and get what you want.
Android tablets are generally less expensive than their Windows counterparts, for example, because Windows uses higher-powered processors. You can also cut costs by choosing a Wi-Fi only tablet, and skipping the broadband charges. Sign up for a cloud service, and you can save money by choosing a 16- to 32GB model instead of one with more storage capacity. And unless you are sure you need the extra screen real estate, buy a smaller tablet: It should cost less, and will certainly be more portable.
Adhering to that advice, we found five tablets under $300 that did great in our Ratings. (All are Wi-Fi-only models.)
Apple iPad Mini 2 (16GB, iOS), $270. If you’re on a tight budget, you might think an Apple iPad is out of reach. But it’s not—this older version of the iPad doesn’t have fingerprint recognition like the latest ones do, but it’s still an excellent performer. With a 324-pixel-per-inch Retina display, everything looks crisp and sharp. It’s easy to see in bright daylight, and the colors are accurately reproduced. And of course you get access to Apple’s great app market.
Lenovo Yoga Tablet 2 10 (16GB, Android), $240. Deals can also be found on larger tablets. This one from Lenovo is a 10.1-inch Android model (there’s also a 32GB Windows-based Yoga starting at about $300), with battery life that’s among the longest we’ve seen in the tablets we tested—more than 14 hours. It did equally well in all of our other tests. There’s an 8-megapixel camera that’s higher resolution than most. And the tablet has a kickstand in back so you can stand it upright.
Lenovo Yoga Tablet 2 8 (16GB, Android), $120. The excellent display on this Lenovo tablet is one of the brightest we’ve seen, and it’s great for reading in sunlight. It’s also got long battery life, uses the same type of kickstand as the larger model, and is a speedy performer. Also like the larger version, this Yoga has an 8-megapixel camera that's higher resolution than what you’ll find on most tablets.
Asus ZenPad S 8.0 Z580C-B1 (32GB, Android), $200. This tablet has a very high-resolution display in comparison to many other Android models. Its 329 pixels per inch result in crisp graphics and text. And we really appreciated the accuracy of the color reproduction. You get 32GB of storage with this machine, double the base configuration of most others. Battery life isn’t super-long, but we still measured more than nine hours in our tests. If you’re planning to view a lot of photos on your tablet, you’ll appreciate the more-square aspect ratio.
Acer Iconia One 8 B1-810-11TV (16GB, Android), $130. If you’re looking to add a little color to your life, or at least to your tablet, Acer offers its Iconia One 8 in a variety of hues. Beyond that, this 8-inch tablet proved a very good performer, with nine hours of battery life and a great-looking display.
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