Holiday buying guide: 10 tablets under $500

Looking to get a tablet for a family member or friend this year? Here are 10 great tablets that are all less than $500 -- and some even under $100.

SLIDEFEATURED PRODUCTS
  • Amazon Kindle Fire Tablet

    MSRP $49.99
    View
    on Amazon
  • All-New Fire HD 8 Tablet, 8" HD Display, Wi-Fi, 16 GB -...

    MSRP $89.99
    View
    on Amazon
  • Lenovo TAB2 A10 ZA000001US 10.1-Inch 16GB Wi-Fi Tablet...

    $198.75 MSRP $199.99
    View
    on Amazon
  • Samsung Galaxy Tab A 8-Inch Tablet (Wi-Fi)(16 GB, Smoky...

    $167.99 MSRP $199.99
    View
    on Amazon
  • Fire HD 10 Tablet, 10.1" HD Display, Wi-Fi, 16 GB -...

    MSRP $229.99
    View
    on Amazon
  • Generic Company Place Holder Asus Transformer Book...

    MSRP $299.00
    View
    on Amazon
  • ASUS Transformer Book Chi 12.5-Inch T300CHI-F1-DB Slim...

    $426.00 MSRP $699.00
    View
    on Amazon
  • Apple iPad Mini 4 MK6L2LL/A 7.9-Inch, 16GB, Wi-Fi, iOS 9,...

    $329.00 MSRP $399.00
    View
    on Amazon
  • Apple iPad Air 2 MH0W2LL/A 9.7-Inch 16GB HDD Tablet, Gold

    $355.00 MSRP $499.00
    View
    on Amazon
  • Microsoft Surface 3 Tablet (10.8-Inch, 64 GB, Intel Atom,...

    $299.95 MSRP $499.00
    View
    on Amazon
tablet buying guide

10 tablets that cover the price spectrum

Tablets have boomed in popularity in recent years, with devices that run the gamut in performance, size and price. You can pick from entertainment devices best-suited for causal browsing, basic apps and entertainment to full-fledged PCs ready to replace your notebook. You'll also quickly find they can cost anywhere from $50 to well over $1,000.

But you don't have to break the bank to get yourself, or your loved ones, a new tablet this holiday season. Here are 10 budget friendly tablets that you can get for under $500, and some on the list are even under $100.

1 fire 7 inch
  • Amazon Kindle Fire Tablet

    MSRP $49.99
    View
    on Amazon

Fire 7-inch - $50

Amazon's Fire tablets are the perfect device for anyone interested in casual streaming and apps. They aren't workhorse tablets, so you won't want to hook up a keyboard and spend the day working from one, but the Fire tablets offer more than enough performance for entertainment and causal use. And at just $50 per tablet on Amazon, the Fire 7-inch is a great option for kids or anyone who doesn't want to worry about protecting a large investment. It's small size and low price make it a great tablet to throw in your bag without worrying much about it.

Key Specs:
  • Fire OS (custom Android)
  • MediaTek Quad-Core processor
  • 8GB of storage (expandable up to 200GB)
  • 1GB of RAM
  • 7-inch display
  • 7-hour battery life
2 fire hd 8
  • All-New Fire HD 8 Tablet, 8" HD Display, Wi-Fi, 16 GB...

    MSRP $89.99
    View
    on Amazon

Fire HD 8 - $90

The Fire HD 8 is similar to the Fire 7, but with an extra inch of display screen, a longer battery life and slightly more RAM and base storage. Its larger screen size makes it a little more comfortable to browse websites and stream content than its smaller counterpart. It still comes in under $100, you can currently find it for just $90 on Amazon, but for the extra $40, you will get a little more performance and time between charges.

Key Specs:
  • Fire OS (custom Android)
  • Quad-Core processor
  • 16GB of storage (expandable up to 200GB)
  • 1.5GB of RAM
  • 8-inch display
  • 12-hour battery life
3 lenovo tab 2
  • Lenovo TAB2 A10 ZA000001US 10.1-Inch 16GB Wi-Fi Tablet...

    $198.75 MSRP $199.99
    View
    on Amazon

Lenovo Tab 2 - $150

Lenovo's tablets don't get as much coverage as its notebooks or hybrid devices, but the Lenovo Tab 2 is an inexpensive Android tablet housing a 1.5GHz ARM Cortex A53 Quad-Core processor, 2GB of RAM and boasting a 10-inch Full HD IPS display. With 10-hours of battery life, it will certainly get you -- or your kids -- through your holiday travels to visit family or from your morning to evening commute. One of the most noted features of this tablet you'll see in customer reviews is that it doesn't have bloatware -- something you'll find a lot of on other similar devices, like those from Samsung. The Lenovo Tab 2 is currently selling for $150 on Amazon, making it the perfect budget-friendly gift for family, friends, or yourself.

Key specs:
  • Android operating system
  • ARM Cortex A53 Quad-Core Processor
  • 16GB storage
  • 2GB RAM
  • 10-hour battery life
  • 10-inch FHD IPS LCD Display

[ Related story: Hybrid tablets will continue to grow in popularity ]

4 samsung galaxy tab a
  • Samsung Galaxy Tab A 8-Inch Tablet (Wi-Fi)(16 GB,...

    $167.99 MSRP $199.99
    View
    on Amazon

Samsung Galaxy Tab A - $169

Samsung's 8-inch Galaxy Tab A tablet houses a Samsung Quad Core Processor, 16 GB of storage that is expandable through a microSD card, 1.5GB of RAM and an 8-inch display. While it's not a workhorse tablet, or one that can replace your laptop, it's a great choice for anyone interested in using a few apps, browsing the web and streaming content on a portable device. It also has "kid's mode" and a multi-user mode, making it a great family-focused tablet at the budget-friendly price of $169 on Amazon.

Key Specs:
  • Android operating system
  • Samsung Quad Core Processor
  • 16GB storage (expandable up to 128GB)
  • 1.5GB RAM
  • 12-hour battery life
  • 8-inch display
5 fire hd 10
  • Fire HD 10 Tablet, 10.1" HD Display, Wi-Fi, 16 GB -...

    MSRP $229.99
    View
    on Amazon

Fire HD 10 - $230

For the media junkie in your family, the Fire HD 10 is another low-budget tablet, but its slightly larger display makes it feel more like an iPad. It's the perfect tablet for your closest YouTube-fanatic or your family member who loves to binge watch Netflix on the go. At this size, the display offers a better viewing experience for media, even though internally, it's not much different from the Fire 7 or 8. With the bigger display does come a drop in battery life, but 8 hours should still be enough for the average user. And at $230 on Amazon, it's still one of the cheaper tablets on this list that can offer endless entertainment value for the recipient.

Key Specs:
  • Fire OS (custom Android)
  • MediaTek Quad-Core processor
  • 16GB of storage (expandable up to 200GB)
  • 1GB of RAM
  • 10.1-inch HD display
  • 8-hour battery life
6 asus transformer book t100
  • Generic Company Place Holder Asus Transformer Book...

    MSRP $299.00
    View
    on Amazon

Asus Transformer Book T100 - $279

If you're in the market for a budget-friendly tablet that can easily transition from work to play, take a look at the Asus Transformer Book T100. It's a Windows 10 device that features a 10.1-inch display, a Cherry Trail Quad-Core processor, 4GB of RAM and 64GB of expandable storage. The device also comes with a keyboard that acts as a docking station, giving you the experience of a typical clamshell notebook. The device boasts a 12-hour battery life, which is great for anyone who needs to get by on a single charge, such as a student or anyone travelling long distances on a regular basis. You can currently find the Transformer Book T100 -- keyboard included -- for $269 on Amazon.

Key Specs:
  • Windows 10 operating system
  • Intel Quad-Core Cherry Trail
  • 64GB storage (expandable up to 128GB)
  • 4GB RAM
  • 10-inch IPS Display
  • 12-hour battery life

[ Related story: Hands-on with HP's tough little Elite X2: This Surface clone means business ]

7 asus transformer book chi
  • ASUS Transformer Book Chi 12.5-Inch T300CHI-F1-DB Slim...

    $426.00 MSRP $699.00
    View
    on Amazon

Asus Transformer Book Chi - $370

If you like the idea of the Transformer Book T100, but want a bit more screen space and on-board storage, look no further than the Transformer Book Chi. At 12.5-inches, you won't feel cramped when using it as a notebook, and the Intel Core M Processor with 4GB of RAM offer a snappier user-experience. If you want a device to use as a notebook more often than a tablet, the Chi is an affordable option at $377 on Amazon -- with keyboard included.

Key Specs:
  • Windows 10 operating system
  • Intel M Core Processor
  • 128GB storage (expandable up to additional 128GB)
  • 4GB of RAM
  • 12.5-inch IPS display
  • 8-hour battery life
8 ipad mini 4
  • Apple iPad Mini 4 MK6L2LL/A 7.9-Inch, 16GB, Wi-Fi, iOS...

    $329.00 MSRP $399.00
    View
    on Amazon

iPad Mini 4 $337

It's easy to get wooed by the latest iPads coming out of Apple, but the average user doesn't necessarily need a computer-level tablet like the iPad Pro. Most tablet users are looking for a device they can use to browse the web when they're away from their laptop, travelling or just hanging out at home. The iPad Mini 4 was overshadowed by the iPad Pro when it was announced in 2015, but it's actually a great budget-friendly device currently priced at $337 on Amazon. The only downside is that, as with all iOS tablets, you can't expand the storage, and 16GB of storage isn't exactly a lot of storage these days . But there's always the option of additional cloud storage, or you can pay a little more for the 64GB or 128GB models.

Key Specs:
  • Apple iOS
  • Dual-Core A8 Chip
  • 16GB (not expandable)
  • 1GB RAM
  • 7.9-inch Retina Display
  • 10-hour battery life
Apple iPad Air 2 - $350
  • Apple iPad Air 2 MH0W2LL/A 9.7-Inch 16GB HDD Tablet,...

    $355.00 MSRP $499.00
    View
    on Amazon

Apple iPad Air 2 - $344

If you aren't concerned with having the latest and greatest tech, consider purchasing the 64GB Apple iPad Air 2. You can currently purchase this device for as low as $325 with promotions at Best Buy, and for $354 on Amazon; but if previous holiday seasons are any indication, chances are that this price will drop the closer we get to the holiday season. The iPad Air 2 is great for anyone heavily invested in the Apple ecosystem, but who doesn't want to pay the hefty price tag for the iPad Pro models.

Key Specs:
  • iOS operating system
  • A8X chip with 64-bit architecture
  • 64GB of storage (not expandable)
  • 2GB of RAM
  • 9.7-inch Retina Display
  • 10-hour battery life

[ Related story: Why Patriots coach tossed Microsoft's Surface ]

10 microsoft surface 3
  • Microsoft Surface 3 Tablet (10.8-Inch, 64 GB, Intel...

    $299.95 MSRP $499.00
    View
    on Amazon

Microsoft Surface 3 - $430

The Microsoft Surface 3 is not only a tablet, but a fully functional Windows 10 device with an Intel Atom 2.4 GHz processor, 2GB of RAM and an option of 64GB or 128GB storage. The cost of the device is currently $460 on Amazon, but that doesn't include the keyboard, which you can find on Amazon for as low as $40. With the tablet and keyboard, it brings it right under the budget of $500, but it's a great option for students or road warriors who want a portable tablet that can also handle light computing tasks.

Key Specs:
  • Windows 10
  • Quad-Core Intel Atom processor
  • 64GB (expandable up to 128GB)
  • 2GB RAM
  • 10.8-inch ClearType Full HD Plus Display
  • 9-hour battery life