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Amazon's Fire tablets are popular for one, simple reason: they're really, really cheap. But what happens when you make a slightly-less-cheap Fire tablet? That's the question Amazon sought to answer with the Fire HD 8 Plus, a very-slightly-better version of the new Amazon Fire HD 8 last month, which was already a decent upgrade from previous Fire tablets in both hardware and software.
With the HD 8 Plus, Amazon attempts to bring some quality of life improvements like more RAM and wireless charging—a rarity in any tablet—to the table. Combined with the wireless charging stand that essentially turns the HD 8 Plus into a detachable Echo Show, Amazon has what to date is probably the best version of a combination tablet smart display (even if it's not amazing as either).
Samsung is the only manufacturer interested in producing high-end Android tablets, but last year, the company added a slightly cheaper option to its Tab S lineup. The Galaxy Tab S5e retained the high-quality AMOLED screen and thin design of Samsung's highest-end models, but lacked the Tab S4's stylus support (and still cost over $400). This time around, Samsung is trying something different with the Galaxy Tab S6 Lite.
Despite its faults, the new Galaxy Tab S6 Lite might be the strongest iPad competitor Samsung has ever produced. The hardware won't blow you away, and it doesn't have all the features of the more expensive Tab S6, but it's a full-fledged tablet with an included S Pen stylus for $350 — only $20 more than the cheapest iPad, not including the $100 Apple Pencil.
I think it's fair to say that Amazon's lineup of Fire tablets don't have the best reputation, particularly in the tech community. Fire tablets have historically paired bottom-of-the-barrel hardware with outdated versions of Android, and Amazon's extensive changes to the operating system aren't widely loved. The tablets also don't ship with the Google Play Store, though that at least is a quick fix.
Amazon has been selling the same Fire HD 8 since 2018, but the company finally released a new model last month. It brings most of the improvements from last year's Fire HD 10 to the 8-inch lineup, including USB Type-C and faster performance, and I think it's a pretty great buy for $90.
Walmart released two tablets under its 'Onn' tech brand last year, the Onn 8 and Onn 10. We reviewed the smaller model, and for $65, it wasn't a bad device at all. Unlike Amazon's Fire tablets, which use a heavily-modified build of Android with only Amazon's own app store, the Onn 8 shipped with the Play Store and clean Android 9 Pie.
This year, Walmart is going for a slightly higher-end experience with its new Onn 8 Pro and Onn 10 Pro tablets. The prices have gone up a bit ($99 and $129, respectively), but in exchange, the models now offer slightly better hardware, Android 10, and USB Type-C connectivity.
Amazon has mastered the art of selling cheap Android tablets. The company shipped roughly 11.9 million tablets in 2018, passed only by Apple, Samsung, and Huawei. The combination of decent performance, Alexa integration, and low prices have made the success of the Fire lineup difficult to copy.
Walmart is already competing with Amazon on severalfronts, so it only makes sense that the company would try to make tablets too. The Walmart "Onn" comes in two sizes, 8 inches and 10 inches, intended to compete with the Fire HD 8 and Fire HD 10, respectively. I bought the $65 8-inch model for review, and while it won't break any speed records, it undercuts the Fire HD 8 and has a better software experience to boot.
The Pixel Slate is, in a word, flawed. It’s not a very good laptop; the official keyboard case is nigh-unusable on anything but a completely flat surface, far too bulky for most airline trays, and the folding fabric kickstand can make balancing it a precarious affair. Nor is it an especially good tablet, with Chrome OS’s full-touch experience making it feel more like an unfinished software science experiment than a real first generation product.
Buggy Bluetooth, strange screen tearing, and frustrating tablet web browsing take what has already been a disappointing experience and make it downright frustrating. How can a product so closely related to Google’s wonderful Pixelbook - and in many real ways, superior to it - be so much worse?
If you've searched for an Android tablet in recent years, especially one in the premium segment, you've probably noticed that there are precious few options available. No Android manufacturer comes close to matching Apple's portfolio, and the one OEM that has dared to challenge the iPad's supremacy - Samsung - has generally done a pretty unremarkable job.
That hasn't stopped them from trying, though, and Samsung's back at it again with the Galaxy Tab S4, the latest and most expensive entry into the Tab lineup to date. Last year's Tab S3 started at $600, already a pretty eye-watering price for an Android slate, especially given the operating system's distinct lack of tablet-optimized apps (or even much in the way of a tablet interface).
There's no denying that the Android tablet market is dwindling as years pass by. What was once a flourishing segment filled with options on every end of the price and specs spectrum now essentially holds two distinct categories: the cheap Amazon Fire tablets and the more expensive Samsung / Huawei tablets. Even those companies' releases have slowed down to a point where we can only hope to see one nice new tablet every 12 to 18 months.
That's why it's important to look at the Huawei MediaPad M5 series as a unique offering. To some, it's a relic of a time that's passed, to others who still want an Android tablet like I do, it's a desirable unicorn.
The Android tablet market is a proverbial scarce wasteland these days. It has been quite some time since we saw something from Samsung or Asus, two of the last major stalwart players in this space (excluding Amazon, obviously). Tablets are not what they were in years past, though I personally still find having one useful for certain situations, despite Android leaving much to be desired in this aspect.