In 2017, the LTE Android 7.x tablet market is very constrained with no currently manufactured tablets that meet the following criteria
- unlocked LTE + GSM (AT&T, T-Mobile, etc.)
- Android ≥ 7.1 and/or LineageOS ≥ 14
- cost ~ $200
I additionally look for
- microSD slots to expand storage cheaply
Note: I don’t recommend the ~ $100 tablets in general due to poor display resolution and slow CPUs.
Fall 2017 tablet recommendations
Starting at $200 are the Lenovo Miix 310 and Dell Inspiron Windows 10 tablets. In refurbished Windows 10 tablets, you can find $250 Surface 3’s. Or new Asus Transformer Windows 10 tablets in the $300-400 range. Next are the Surface Pro tablets (don’t forget to get one with a keyboard!)
How to get the best prices on electronics
Typically look at last year’s models (new, and especially refurbished) to get them at about half the price of this year’s models. That’s the approach I use in general for consumer electronics and computers.
For refurbished electronics, I figure the “bathtub curve” of early failure has already been worked out. I have had almost 100% success with buying minor and major electronics refurbished. I use them until they’re falling apart. This is one way the average person can avoid becoming trapped in debt.
Android 7 Tablet benchmarks
I only list tablets in the $200 range that support Android 7 / LineageOS 14 (and the Nook for reference). Click on the tablet name to see benchmarks.
|Tablet||display size [inches]||resolution [pixels]||RAM [GB]||SSD [GB]|
|Nvidia Shield K1||8||1920 x 1200||2||16|
|Asus Zenpad S 8.0||8||2048 x 1536||2||32|
Nvidia Shield Tablet K1 Android 7 Nougat, $200
Note: As of August 2017, the Nvidia Shield Tablet K1 (and LTE version) is said on the Internet forums to be discontinued. This is a very sad development, as the Nvidia Shield Tablet LTE also has Android 7 and was one of the best deals in tablets from its July 2014 debut through 2017.
The Nvidia Shield Tablet K1 and LTE versions are on Android 7 Nougat with reasonably up to date security patches. Lineage OS 14.1 is available for Nvidia Shield Tablet. The CPU and GPU are more than powerful enough for the games I have tried on the Nvidia Shield Tablet. The dual-window capability of Android 7 Nougat is a killer feature, especially suited to the large tablet screen. Watch YouTube while answering email, browsing the web, or just about any other dual-window combination on Android 7 Nougat.
When used in the home/home office intermittently, the battery lasts a few days between recharges. If 6-hour idle auto power-off is used, a few weeks of battery life are typical.
Wifi performance is excellent on 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz, no issues with crashing or overheating.
The 8 inch, 1920x1200 pixel display is vibrant and adapts well to ambient lighting. I especially like the very wide range (very very dim to very bright) available–it’s great for not disturbing a significant other at night-time, yet bright enough for the car.
The Nvidia Shield Tablet camera provides RAW output as well as the standard JPG. This allows the end user to use GIMP, Photoshop, or other premium photo editing for powerful image control.
Lineage OS on Asus Zenpad S 8 tablet
The Zenpad currently comes with Android 6, and Lineage OS 14.1 (based on Android 7) is currently available for the Zenpad.
The Zenpad S 8 has a rather weak CPU and GPU. The benchmark performance falls far short (worse) than the Nvidia Shield K1 Tablet. Thus, I would strongly recommend the Nvidia Shield Tablet K1 over the Zenpad, unless Lineage OS is an overriding concern.
BN Nook HD+ no longer recommended
With the recent changeover from CyanogenMod to Lineage OS, BN Nook HD+ is not yet covered. Since the last CyanogenMod Ovation update was from August 2016, despite the security enhancements of CyanogenMod, there is increased risk of the Nook being hacked. This has led me to discontinue recommending the Nook HD+ for a second tablet, kids tablet or travel tablet. Although the Nook is on the LineageOS supported list, this means they may eventually support it. Unofficial builds of CM12 for Nook are on the XDA forums, but are no longer updated.
BN Nook HD+ CPU is too slow for modern video apps
Another reason I’ve left the Nook HD+ behind is that while the CPU was fast enough to handle streaming TV at SD (HD experienced dropouts due to CPU load), and YouTube in HD, the growing popularity of streaming YouTube Live and Periscope are beyond the Nook HD+ CPU capability. YouTube Live viewing on the Nook HD+ drops out every several seconds. Periscope viewing experiences even more severe dropouts.