This Christmas people up and down the UK people will be getting tablets - with retailers reporting that a tablet is selling every second in Britain.
Just two years ago the choice would have been Apple or Apple, however 2012 has been a watershed in the tablet market, and there are plenty of great tablets for under £200 - and not all of them have the Apple logo on the back. Budget doesn’t necessarily mean poor quality any more. Here’s our pick of top five best budget tablets.
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1: Google Nexus 7
The Google Nexus 7 is made by Asus, it’s a well designed-tablet with some great specs - and unlike Kindle, it has a forward-facing camera for Skype. The 7-inch screen is excellent for movies and the quad-core processor ensures it’s exceptionally quick, ably handling 3D games.Google Play Store now has a great selection of music, apps, books and videos.
Running the latest of Android Jelly Bean, as a flagship Nexus device you can buy the Nexus 7 safe in the knowledge it is guaranteed at least two more significant software updates from Google, adding new features.
Considering the feature set here, starting at £159 for the 16GB version, the Nexus 7 is great value, although it’s worth noting the Nexus 7 has a front (rather than rear-facing) camera, so isn’t a great choice for shooting movies and there’s no way of expanding the memory so choose between 16GB, 32GB and 64GB versions.
Reasonably priced, powerful, with a great app selection and the latest version of Android’s operating system, the Google Nexus 7 is the best budget tablet
2: Apple iPad Mini
The Apple iPad Mini is the smallest and cheapest iPad has ever produced. Weighing just 308g, it’s less than half the weight of the big screen iPad, so as well as being used with one hand, it’s infinitely more portable too.
The LED-backlit 7.9-inch screen is good rather than being amazing. Unfortunately it’s not a Retina display, so text isn’t quite as sharp as the big iPad, but it’s a great size for browsing the web comfortably or watching movies. The dual-core processor can able handle graphically intensive games and you get access to the Apple App Store, which has over 275,000 apps.
There’s a respectable 5-megapixel camera for movies and photos too, as well as a front-facing camera for video calls, but like the Nexus 7, there’s no removable memory, just 16, 32 and 64GB versions.
With prices starting at £269 for the 16GB WiFi only version or £369 for the 3G/4G version, the iPad Mini is a lot more expensive than the other tablets here. In fact you can get a refurbished iPad 2 with a 9.7-inch screen for £259.
Overall, the iPad Mini is a great all-rounder, if you want a tablet that is portable, easy to use, great for movies, games and snapping the odd photo, this is the device for you.
[Related: Get the best deals on tablets here]
3: Amazon Kindle Fire HD
The Amazon Kindle Fire HD is Amazon’s attempt to take some of the tablet market.
Despite being Android based, you don’t get access to the Google Play Store, instead the Amazon Store is pre-installed. App selection can’t match Android and Apple's rivals, with tens rather than hundreds of thousands, but there is a wide selection of movies, songs, TV shows and of course E-books from Amazon. If you’ve used Amazon’s previous Kindles you’ll find the reading experience disappointing - it isn’t as good as an E-Ink display.
Movies look fantastic on the 7-inch screen though, which is bright and vibrant with excellent colours and there’s a HDMI mini port for outputting to a HD TV, although with just one front-facing primarily for making Skype calls, you won’t outputting your own movies.
The Kindle Fire starts at £159 for the 16GB version, rising to £199 for the 32GB version - a reasonable price considering the hardware on offer. You can pay £10 more for a version without adverts too.
Overall, the Amazon Kindle Fire HD lacks the versatility of the Nexus 7 or iPad Mini, but is a good choice if you want a tablet for consuming content - and don’t mind buying that content from Amazon.
4: BlackBerry Playbook
RIM’s BlackBerry Playbook is a little older than than the other tablets here, but it’s a very capable and usable tablet, with specifications matching newer devices.
Based around RIM’s QNX operating system (the godfather to forthcoming mobile operating system BB10) it’s a different to Android and iOS, with features that are cards you flick off the great 7-inch screen to close, but still very usable.
The dual-core processor is excellent for gaming and there’s a decent selection of games available, although the quantity doesn’t match the Nexus 7 or iPad Mini.
The Playbook the only tablet to support true multi-tasking so you can swap between applications such as music or YouTube playback and they’ll continue running in the background.
There’s also a 5-megapixel camera and HDMI port for connecting it to TV to play back movies.
If you like browsing the internet, downloading and watching movies and listening to music, the Playbook is worth considering. You can currently snap up the 64GB version for just £129 from PC World - £300 cheaper than the 64GB iPad Mini. If you’re not bothered too much about apps, that’s a lot of storage.
5: Hannspree HANNSpad
The Hannspree HANNSpad is the cheapest tablet here. Running Google’s Android operating system, specifically Android 4.0 or Ice Cream Sandwich, you can download apps, play games, listen to music.
The 7-inch screen isn’t as sharp, nor is it as quick as the other tablets here, so it’s not the best choice for movies and games, while internal memory is just 512MB, so you’ll need to factor in cost of a memory card.
But these are minor complaints and what do you expect for £90? Overall the Hannspree HANNSpad is a solid choice if you’re looking for a tablet to check your email or watch YouTube from the comfort of your sofa - but there tablets with better multimedia offerings.