Ever since smartphones entered the market as a viable daily driver for basic computing needs, the question of how large a touchscreen could be while staying portable enough to take along has been reflexively answered with tablets.
Tablets are designed for those who need a book-sized window into the cyber world but with the same computing functionality that one would find in a smartphone. The one catch that tablets typically suffer from, however, is the lack of an innate cellular connection, and it’s less that they don’t support it — most, in fact, do — as much as the fact that exorbitant premiums are usually charged on their service.
In this way, tablets as a whole are clearly intended to be used as Wi-Fi devices. The thinking seems to be that because they’re so much closer to desktop computing devices, they’re more likely to be used to fill highly data-consuming demands.
Regardless, tablets have always represented a misunderstood market that seems to fill an awkward niche between laptops and smartphones: e-book reading, the Android desktop experience and full-view gaming have been three of the reasons that people opt for them. While it’s possible to opt for a pico projector for the big-screen experience on a smartphone, this also lacks the expertly handled portability that tablets bring.
It’s worth noting that while tablets generally have comparable hardware compared to their smartphone brethren, their reliance on Wi-Fi, inability to fit in most pockets and inferior camera suite mean they can’t fill all the roles that smartphones can so well. With that said, let’s dive into the specifications behind each 7-inch tablet — the most portable kind — and determine which ones fill what roles best.
Best 7-inch Tablet Comparison Table
|Product||LG G Pad V400|
|ASUS Nexus 7||Samsung Galaxy Tab A 7″||Samsung Galaxy Tab E Lite Kids 7″||Apple iPad Mini 4||ASUS Zenpad 7″||Amazon Fire 7||Amazon Fire 7 Kids Edition||LeapFrog Epic||Lenovo TAB3 Essential|
|Resolution||1280 x 800||1920x1200 (323 ppi)||1280 x 800||1024 X 600||2048 x 1536||1024 x 600||1024 x 600 (171 ppi)||1024 x 600 (171 ppi)||1024x600||1024 x 600|
|CPU||Quad Core: 1.2GHz||Quad Core: 1.5GHz||Quad Core: 1300 GHz||Quad Core: 1.3GHz||Dual Core 1.5 GHz Typhoon with Quad-Core Graphics||Quad-Core: 1.2GHz||Quad-Core 1.3 GHz||Quad-Core: 1.3 GHz||Quad Core: 1.3GHz||Quad Core: 1.3GHz|
|RAM||1 GB||2 GB||1.5 GB||1 GB||2 GB||1 GB||1 GB||1 GB||1 GB||1 GB|
|Storage||8 GB||32 GB||8 GB||8 GB||16 GB; 64 GB; 128 GB||16G||8 GB or 16 GB||16 GB||16 GB||8 GB|
|Battery Life (Max)||N/A||9 hours||10 hours||8 hours||10 hours||8 hours||8 hours||8 hours||6 hours||8 hours|
|Operating System||Android Lollipop 5.0||Android 4.3||Android™ 5.1 Lollipop||Android 4.4 KitKat||Apple iOS 9||Android Lollipop 5.0||Fire OS (Android based)||Fire OS (Android based)||Android 4.4||Android 5.1 Lollipop|
Best 7-inch Tablet in Category
ASUS Nexus 7 2B32 — Best Android 7-Inch Tablet
Well, what more is there to say: This 7-incher wins not one but two entries in the Best in Category section here. For those who are looking for the cream of the crop, this is the second best tablet out of the selection that you’ll find on the comparison table, bringing a razor-sharp 1080p+ panel and a solid 32GB of flash storage to hold all your apps with ease. You’re also looking at 2GB of RAM, the highest of all the tablets on the list besides the Apple iPad Mini 4.
ASUS Nexus 7 2B32 — Best 7-Inch Tablet for Gaming
Winning a second entry on the list, ASUS’ rectangular slab keeps with every commandment of a gaming slate – well, compared to other offerings on the comparison table at least. Gaming platforms need more RAM, processing power and screen resolution to be what they are, and this tablet does all of it better than every tablet here except possibly the Apple iPad Mini 4.
Admittedly, it was a tough decision here, but the gaming customization of Android devices gave a slight lead on ASUS’ offering. In addition, the 32GB of inbuilt storage is important for gaming since most demanding titles will eat up hundreds if not thousands of megabytes in storage. Another important metric to look at is the Adreno 320: an outdated but still formidable GPU to this day.
Apple iPad Mini 4 — Best 7-Inch Tablet with 4G
It doesn’t take an Apple fan to appreciate the music-mixing, media-processing and general processing power that comes with the fruit company’s excellent lineup of 4G-compatible computer slates. The iPad Mini – not even the full-size version – jams a jaw-dropping 128GB of storage with a 1440p+ Retina Display for a pixel density that the naked eye can barely discern.
With Bluetooth 4.2 and a fairly recent iOS 9 on board, you aren’t running the most recent piece of portable tech on the market, but it’s a formidable offering nonetheless. Also, don’t forget the camera here: At 8MP on the backside and 1.2MP on the front, the snappers definitely aren’t cut for professional photography but certainly outstrip the competition on the comparison table above.
Samsung Galaxy Tab A 7” — Best Samsung 7-Inch Tablet
Samsung is unquestionably the most popular Android manufacturer in both the smartphone and tablet market, and their Galaxy Tab A series is renown as a comfortably affordable but reasonably powerful offering.
Although you’re only seeing a whole 8GB for installing apps, you do have the option to install a microSD card to make up the difference in media storage, and packing 1.5GB of RAM to boot is a welcome turn from the aging 1GB that other tablets in its price range tend to stick by. This is especially important since tablets, being larger than their phone counterparts, are more capable and likely to be used as multitasking devices.
ASUS Zenpad 7” — Best 7-Inch Tablet Under $200
For those who need a relatively inexpensive tablet that still boasts reasonable specs, ASUS has a solution that brings decent storage, RAM and processing power to 7 inches of entry-level resolution and an outdated but still functional Android 5.0 Lollipop operating system under the hood.
However, 16GB of inbuilt storage is plenty for the installation of your favorite apps, and you always have a microSD slot to add more if needed.
LG G Pad V400 — Best Cheap 7-Inch Tablet
It’s possible that you’re looking to pay bottom dollar for a tablet that doesn’t sweat the small stuff. LG, a quality manufacturer that’s known for its forays into innovation, has a functional rig to slide into your back pocket for the long road trips.
Packing a conservative 1GB of RAM with a twig-thin 8GB of flash storage, you’re getting something that works but isn’t exactly a beast.
One of the reasons this entry won the Best Cheap Tablet category was thanks to its Qualcomm-sized helping of processing power that by no means wipes the floor with the iPad Mini 4 or ASUS Nexus 7 but certainly beats the MediaTek offering those other manufacturers used in their 7-inch slates.
This might not be a terribly important distinction to make, but it does help make up for the once-more lacking 1GB of RAM. On the upside, packing Android 5.0 Lollipop should help keep the performance smooth and all 4,000mAh of juice along with the upper range of the battery life spectrum.
Perhaps the only drawback that reviews have noted is an issue with the IR blaster not working with third-party apps, forcing you to stick with LG’s inbuilt one that supports a limited number of TV brands.
To be honest, in 2018, the specifications on this slate are far from great. We have phones — basically mini-tablets — that easily pack three times the RAM and substantially more processing power, screen quality and the whole nine for a comparable asking price.
However, that’s just the reality of phones versus tablets no matter where you go, and it’s certainly not exclusive to ASUS’ 7-incher here.
Still, this is the best 7-inch tablet for Android on the list. This tablet won two Best in Category spots back-to-back, and there are swell reasons for that.
On the other hand, this is a 2013 release, which makes more sense when you think about it. Still, ASUS should have pushed updates to this beauty, and for its time, it was a swell little tablet, especially at a mere 7 inches.
It can’t said that the Galaxy Tab A is good simply because it’s Samsung; the manufacturer has been known to churn out duds on occasion.
Still, this isn’t a bad helping of computing power for the price, and with a solid 1,280×800 resolution and 1.5GB of RAM to hold your favorite apps within reach of the quad-core CPU, the display is reasonably crisp while the multitasking capabilities should be breezy compared to other offerings on the list here.
In addition, Android 5.1 Lollipop makes this 7-inch slate hum along with Material Design and enhanced battery savings to keep the lights on all day.
Still, you at least have microSD to pick up the slack for general media storage. However, that’s marred somewhat by Samsung’s notorious bloatware, which in turn slows down this device — an unfortunate result despite the tuned-up hardware.
Another kid-friendly offering arrives, courtesy of Samsung, and it’s not a bad offering at all.
One gigabyte of RAM is acceptable for the price since this is, after all, a kid’s tablet. With only 8GB of storage on board, there won’t be much app-installing available to the user, but kids aren’t expected to make much use of the space for this reason. In addition, packing a 600p panel limits the quality of downloaded media, so there isn’t much to do with additional space regardless.
On the plus side, the ruggedized edges keep it safe from the usual horseplay that you’d expect in the hands of a growing little fellow.
Well, what can we say? It’s Apple, and while they certainly fill a niche that’s not for everyone, their soft- and hardware combinations are excellent for specific purposes although general-purpose use isn’t shabby at all on this device.
The downsides start where refurbished models begin as the iPad Mini 4 has longevity issues in regards to the screen and battery. Reviews report that the screen suffers burn-in, which is interesting seeing as it uses IPS and not LED technology, and the battery quickly drops out of the race in a matter of months. The issue here is that due to the high price, customers naturally want to stick by refurbished versions, and when the device itself tends to burn out quickly, that results in quite a few dead-on-arrival scenarios.
It’s true that this tablet brings a measly 1,024×600 display that, at 7 inches, is fuzzier than a startled kitten, but that didn’t stop it from winning the Best 7-inch Tablet Under $200 category.
What really did it was the quad-core Intel Atom on board with the eight hours of charge time — that’s a fresh bump in horsepower for a reasonable runtime figure. This comes alongside the 16GB of inbuilt storage and 1GB of LPDDR3 RAM, and while neither metric is very spacious on the whole, they suit the price tag. Of course, there’s always the microSD slot if you need more room.
ASUS is also known for making really nice offerings from time to time, and this tablet is said to feel nice and respond quite well during performance. There’s very little bloatware and the multitasking is handled smoothly, a feat that other tablets on this list can’t claim.
On the flip side, some reviews have the exact opposite to say about the Zenpad: unusably slow, poor multitasking, mediocre battery life. It’s hard to say what the next experience will yield, but everything accounted, it’s easier to believe that this device performs ahead of other budget 7-inchers.
If reading e-books is down your alley, this solution from Amazon is on fire.
Of note, the specialized support for Alexa gives this tablet a competitive edge over its brethren here when it comes to AI commands in addition to its book-like functionality with Amazon’s inbuilt optimization for Kindle and a bookstore to complement it on top.
While you also get a standard 1.3GHz quad-core CPU, microSD support and a 3.5mm headphone jack, there are comments to be made on the general performance of the system. While it should be rightly argued that this is a bookworm’s tablet, the 8-hour battery life is on the shorter end of the spectrum for a device that fills this purpose despite the lightweight sub-HD display resolution.
To be honest, this probably should have shipped with an e-ink display to go all the way on that front, but those are sold separately, so one might suppose that Amazon was aiming for a bold do-it-all device here. Price accounted, it’s acceptable.
Amazon’s at it again, now with a kid-proof version of their bookworm-friendly slate. While pricier than the vanilla offering, it’s certainly more durable, and surprisingly enough, the hardware is overall better too.
Make no mistake: It looks like a toy and probably sounds like it should be one, but this is a full-featured tablet through and through.
With the other hardware offerings being less relevant, the focus is really on the kid-friendly software: The pre-installed FreeTime Unlimited provides access to over 15,000 apps, games and more from PBS Kids, Disney, and Nickelodeon. The first year is free, but the subscription price following that is pocket change — basically an unnoticeable factor on your budget.
There’s no sense in beating around, on or directly into the bush here: It’s a kid’s tablet, and the specs speak to that effect.
It’s hard to not appreciate the emphasis on specs where they’re needed, however, and keeping the resolution to an entry-level 1,024×600 was a smart move to save on the price.
On the plus side, the ruggedized bumper is removable, and for the low cost, 16GB of space is surprisingly good. You also get microSD expansion to store your kid’s favorite movies, and there are front- and back-facing cameras to let them zoom-zoom around the house while pretending to be an airplane.
Even if you live in a house where Wi-Fi is a constant commodity, there’s a rebellious nerve that’s pinched by this requirement, and it only gets worse for situations where internet isn’t constantly streamed to the device. These situations are more understandable considering this is, in fact, a kid’s device that probably doesn’t need that resource as often.
At quite the affordable price tag, Lenovo gives you the TAB3 Essential: a mere 1,024×600 but with a standard 1GB of RAM and quad-core CPU to boot.
This is by no means a powerhouse, but it’s not meant to be. Now, looking at the manufacturer notes will entail that the 600p display makes everything “closer, clearer and sharper” while the 0.3MP gives you “perfect shareable selfies”, but to put it straight to you, these are poor specs on the whole. What makes them acceptable here is the asking price, so we’ll sweep the performance under the rug in honor of that.
Best 7-inch Tablet Buyer’s Guide
CPU: This is the central processing unit, and it’s responsible for converting your inputs into output data. CPUs usually have 4-8 cores — quad-core or octa-core — and run anywhere from 1.2GHz on the low end to over 2GHz on the high end. The number of cores determines how many “brains” are processing information while GHz measures the speed at which they process. More CPU cores and a higher GHz metric generally indicate faster processing speeds.
GPU: This is the graphics processing unit, and its job is to control the display of images and video on the screen. GPUs are effectively CPUs that have been optimized to process graphics more efficiently, and nearly all tablets have both a CPU and a GPU on board. A faster GPU will render more detailed graphics at smoother frame rates.
RAM: This is random access memory. The purpose of RAM is to serve as a temporary holding bay for data that the system expects it’ll need to access on a moment’s notice, making it an important metric in multitasking operations. The CPU can interact with data that’s stored in RAM much more quickly than data that’s in storage. More RAM means faster multitasking and more apps that can stay open at once.
Storage: Storage simply provides room for holding media and app installations. More storage means you can save more data on your tablet.
SoC (Chipset): The system-on-a-chip (SoC) is the motherboard that holds the CPU, GPU, RAM and storage hardware together, allowing them to communicate and interact with one another.
Resolution: This is the number of pixels that the on-screen image is rendered with. Resolution is shown with such figures as 1,280×720 or 1,920×1080, which are abbreviated as 720p and 1080p respectively. A higher resolution is made up of more pixels and produces a sharper image, but more CPU, GPU and RAM will be needed to accommodate it.
Best 7-inch Tablet FAQ
“What Specifications Should I Look for in a Tablet?”
It depends on what purpose you’re using it for. Basic functions such as music, social media and news can be accomplished with 1GB of RAM and any Intel, Qualcomm or MediaTek chipset. More complex tasks like using Google Earth, playing 3D games, processing images and video, or performing heavy multitasking would benefit from a minimum of 2GB RAM, a Qualcomm chipset with 4-8 cores ideally running at 1.4GHz or higher, and boasting a screen resolution of at least 720p.
“I’m Used to Physical Buttons! How Does a Tablet Work?”
Some tablets will have a single button below the screen in the middle that can be pressed to take the device out of standby, landing you on what’s called a lock screen. From here, you swipe on the screen or follow security instructions to gain access to the home screen where your apps are located. Sometimes, the button won’t be physical but touch-based instead.
All Android tablets have home, back and recent keys below the screen that are used to handle universal functions while the rest of your commands are made available by tapping on-screen elements. Apple iPads just have a single, pressure-sensitive touch key below the screen that functions as the home button while the back and recent functions are handled by on-screen cues that show up depending on the app you’re in.
Additionally, both tablet types have a volume rocker on the side of the device and a power key either on the opposite side or top edge.
“How Do I Set Up My Tablet?”
It’s as simple as prying it from the box and holding down the power key, which is usually along the top or one of the side edges. If this is your first time firing it up, you’ll be prompted to sign into Apple or Google’s services depending on whether you received an iPad or an Android tablet. Following this, every subsequent boot sequence will take you to the lock screen instead.
“How Do I Charge My Tablet?”
On the bottom of nearly all tablets is a USB or Lightning port for charging. All Android tablets support the USB interface while every iPad will use Lightning. A charger should be included with the tablet whether you bought it new or used, and all you need to do is plug it into a wall and connect the tablet.
“What are Apps and How Do I Install Them?”
Apps, short for applications, are basically the same thing as programs on a desktop computer. They’re acquired from the respective app store that supports your tablet’s operating system: Play Store for all Androids and the App Store for all iPads. Apps let you customize and add functionality to your tablet, and they can occur as games, productivity assistants, alternatives to preinstalled apps and other options.
When you get right down to it, tablets aren’t for everyone. In truth, most needs are better answered with the portability of a smartphone or the raw computing power of a laptop, but tablets are able to fill the best of both worlds if configured properly. Aside from 7-inch tablets, there are versions that run up to 12 inches or more, and these are often much more powerful computing solutions with vastly more powerful CPUs and larger amounts of RAM.
In addition, there are Windows tablets that run Windows 10 and are designed to be hybrid laptop-tablets. These usually don’t come in the 7-inch variety, but they’re a great computing solution for those who want the benefits of a tablet while keeping the perks of Windows.
There are also tablets that support Wacom styluses such as Samsung’s Galaxy Note series, not to be confused with the similarly named “phablet” smartphone that performs similar functions but at a smaller size. These Wacom-powered devices are excellent solutions for digital artists.
In this way, the dwindling of tablets’ popularity isn’t actually a bad thing but rather a sign of development into something greater. Until then, tablets will happily fill the niche of e-books and general touchscreen Wi-Fi purposes at a relatively low dollar cost.