If you’re looking for a screen that’s larger than your smartphone’s but smaller than the one on your laptop, there’s no better option than a tablet.
Sure, your iPhone 6 Plus might have a huge screen for a phone, but when it comes to watching movies and playing games, nothing beats a tablet.
But getting a tablet doesn’t have to break your budget. In fact, there are a number of wallet-friendly slates available for $300 or less that can do almost anything their more expensive counterparts can.
Apple iPad mini 2: The cheapest Apple tab you can buy
So you want an iPad with a high-resolution display, but you don’t want to drop a ton of cash for it? Then the $299 iPad mini 2 is the tablet to get.
Not only does it sport a 7.9-inch “Retina” display (that’s Apple PR speak for a supersharp screen), it also packs the same processor as the more expensive iPad mini 3 and last year’s iPad Air, which means your apps and games will run buttery smooth.
The only thing you don’t get is the built-in Touch ID fingerprint reader found in the mini 3 and Air. That means you’ll spend more time typing in your passcode to unlock the screen and download apps — totally worth it for the money you save.
Sure, the $299 model comes with only 16 GB of storage — enough to hold about three to four HD movies or about 3,100 songs — and the 32 GB version will run you another $50. But if you want an iOS-powered tablet on a budget, you can’t do better than the iPad mini 2.
Nvidia Shield: Gaming on the go
If you’re seeking a budget-friendly tablet that can play some of the best games around, Nvidia’s Shield is exactly what you’re looking for. For $300, you get an 8-inch, Android-powered tablet with a crisp, high-resolution screen and a processor powerful enough to handle the best Android games.
What’s more, Nvidia’s Grid cloud gaming service lets you wirelessly stream and play some of the top PC games right on the Shield. And while the $300 model holds only 16 GB of apps and data, it does have a microSD card slot for 128 GB of expandable storage.
Amazon Kindle Fire HDX: Great for families
If you’re a parent who wants to buy a tablet for the family, cast your eyes toward Amazon’s Kindle Fire HDX. The $180 HDX offers a clear, 7-inch screen and a powerful quad-core processor for games and apps.
Mom and dad will love the HDX’s excellent parental controls, which can limit how long your kids can use the tablet, the apps they can use, and more.
The $180 base model comes with 16 GB of storage, though you can get 32 GB for $200 or 64 GB for $220. Amazon also offers unlimited cloud storage for Amazon content.
The downside is that the tablet runs Amazon’s own version of Google’s Android operating system, which means it may not be able to run all of the same apps a standard Android tablet can. You’ll also have to fork over an extra $35 if you don’t want to look at Amazon ads on the tablet’s screensaver.
ASUS MeMO Pad 7: Low-cost and ad-free
If you simply want a cheap tablet that runs all your Android apps — without the annoying screensaver ads — then the $180 ASUS MeMO Pad 7 ME572 is the way to go. Starting at $180, the MeMO Pad comes with a gorgeous 7-inch, high-resolution display and speedy quad-core processor, which means apps will run without a hiccup.
Like most of the tablets on this list, the MeMO Pad 7 comes with just 16 GB of storage, but a microSD card slot lets you tack on an additional 64 GB.
Amazon Fire HD 6: Cheapskate’s delight
Don’t care what kind of tablet you get as long as it’s cheap? Amazon’s Fire HD 6 might be your best bet. With a starting price of $100, the Fire HD 6 sports a 6-inch display that, while not as sharp as its pricier competitors’ screens, is still clear enough for movies and websites.
Inside, the Fire HD 6 has a quad-core processor and a skimpy 8 GB of storage. A 16 GB version of the tablet is available for $120; like its fancier cousin, the Fire HDX, the Fire HD 6 also gets unlimited storage space for Amazon content.
Unfortunately, also like the Fire HDX, you’ll have to shell out extra money to avoid seeing ads on the tablet’s screensaver. Still, it’s a heck of a deal.