When it comes to screens, bigger isn’t always better. Obviously, if you’re looking for one of the best small tablets, the size should be the first thing you consider — but after that, just like with any other device purchase, you should consider the operating system, the storage capacity, and the extra features. All of these tablets are less than 8.7 inches in size, but range widely in terms of functionality and budget to suit most needs.
Like most other devices with screens, tablets are measured diagonally across the device, from the top corner to the opposite bottom corner. Some brands sell tablets larger than 12 inches, but most fall somewhere between 9 and 11 inches. For that reason, these options are less than 8.7 inches in size, so they're some of the most portable tablets on the market.
Next, consider the operating system (or OS). Like most popular phones, tablets usually run on either Android- or Apple-based operating systems; the most common exception is Amazon Fire tablets, which run on the Fire OS. They’re all relatively similar in the way they operate, but some buyers prefer to stick with the same operating system for all of their devices to minimize the learning curve and to keep data transfers simple. Keep in mind that not all apps or programs are available on all operating systems, so be sure to check the availability of your favorites before you proceed.
After that, take a look at the tablet’s capabilities in terms of RAM and storage. RAM (or random access memory) is short-term data that helps your tablet run tasks as you need them; this impacts how fast the tablet works, especially when you’ve got multiple programs going at once. Storage capacity is how much data your tablet can store long-term when it comes to apps, books, and music. Both are measured in gigabytes (GB), and the higher the numbers, the more powerful your tablet.
Finally, figure out which extra features will make your life easier and more enjoyable. Do you want a great camera? A long battery life? How about cellular connectivity so you can stay connected even when there’s no Wi-Fi? These tablets offer just what you need for work or entertainment — and they’re all 8.7 inches or smaller.
1. An Android tablet that’s a great value
If you’re looking for generous storage, a quality display, a fast processor, a long battery life that reviewers report lasts between 7 and 12 hours, and a durable exterior, all for a great price, opt for the Lenovo Tab M8. (There’s a reason it’s earned a 4.5-star overall rating after more than 5,000 reviewers have weighed in.) This 8-inch tablet costs significantly less than many similar models, but it’s still well-suited for work, games, and watching movies. It also has clear front and rear cameras, true eye-care protection technology to minimize blue light exposure, and both Wi-Fi and Bluetooth capabilities to keep you connected. Note that it doesn’t have the potential for cellular connectivity.
- Screen size: 8 inches
- OS: Android 9 Pie
- Storage capacity: 32GB (also available in 16GB)
- RAM: 2GB
One reviewer wrote: “Absolutely love it! This tablet is amazing. Crisp and clear display. It's fast enough to handle my games. No lagging. The best part about it is the battery life. Literally lasts the whole day. Best value for your money.”
2. The best budget tablet
The Fire 7 tablet is extremely affordable, which helps explain why it has more than 200,000 ratings. With its 7-inch display, it’s also the smallest tablet on this list. Still, its features include a 7-hour battery life, front- and rear-facing cameras, and hands-free Alexa access for voice control. It runs on the Fire OS, which supports apps for watching movies, video chatting, checking emails, listening to music, and gaming — though keep in mind that you won’t be able to run most popular Android or Apple apps; just the Fire OS equivalents. You can also get this tablet in four colors, two storage capacities, and with or without lock-screen ads, though none of them offer cellular. (The feature one is the cheapest version and comes with lock-screen ads.)
- Screen size: 7 inches
- OS: Fire OS
- Storage capacity: 16GB (also available in 32GB)
- RAM: 1GB
One reviewer wrote: “It's small, lightweight and very user friendly. It is a very affordable yet so versatile tablet which you can use for emails, browsing, youtube, listening to music or even reading books. I don't want to spend a fortune on a tab that will be used for such daily tasks and might not get used as often.”
3. The best Apple iPad Mini
The 2021 Apple iPad Mini is one of the most powerful versions yet. Despite its liquid retina display (with True Tone and wide color), it lasts up to 10 hours on a single charge. It also has wide front and back cameras, but it really sets itself apart from competitors with its stereo speakers and speedy 4 GB of RAM. Since it works with the Apple Pencil, it’s also great for artists and designers, plus it’s thin and lightweight for portability. If you’re willing to spend a little more, you can get cellular connectivity as well as Wi-Fi.
- Screen size: 8.3 inches
- OS: iOS
- Storage capacity: 64GB (also available in 256GB)
- RAM: 4GB
One reviewer wrote: “Amazing update. [...] I was worried it would be too small when I traded in my 10.2 inch but I was quickly proven wrong, the screen is just right for me, and it gets the same 10 hour battery life which is amazing, it truly is all day.”
4. The best refurbished Apple iPad
Apple devices are notoriously expensive, but if you opt for a renewed tablet (which has been “inspected, tested, and cleaned by Amazon-qualified suppliers”) you can save a lot of money. This renewed Apple iPad Mini 4 has a 7.9-inch retina display and 128 GB of memory. Along with a charger and a battery that functions at 80% of its original power, it also comes with a 90-day supplier-backed warranty should it not function as intended. You can get it with or without cellular, and the feature one has it.
- Screen size: 7.9 inches
- OS: iOS
- Storage capacity: 128GB (also available in 16GB, 32GB, and 64GB)
- RAM: 2GB
One reviewer wrote: “I’m a pilot and I really needed the iPad mini 4 with the cellular and GPS enabled capabilities in the 7.9” size but I didn’t want to spend over $500 for a new one. [...] I can say I am very happy with my purchase. I’m a picky person and I could not find a single blemish on the device. It looked brand new. [...] In conclusion, I can say these guys sell a solid refurbished product. If you have any doubts, I would say go for it. The money you save is worth it.”
5. The best cheap tablet for entertainment
Samsung sells some of the biggest and most powerful tablets on the market, and while the Samsung Tab A7 Lite is one of their smallest (at 8.7 inches), it’s definitely not lacking in power. It has 3GB of RAM for fast, lag-free gaming and watching. Plus, its impressive stunning display and metal frame are ideal for entertainment on the go. Last but definitely not least, according to reviewers, the 5,100mAh results in a “long battery life” (over six hours of non-stop use), especially for such a “reasonable price.”
- Screen size: 8.7 inches
- OS: Android 11
- Storage capacity: 32GB
- RAM: 3GB
One reviewer wrote: “Nice screen resolution. Originally purchased it to watch movies on the airplane and to download music tabs. Picture quality and battery life is excellent.”