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My search for the best cheap Android tablet is over

The 12.9-inch iPad Pro is overkill for most of us. But this Blackview Tab 18, with an octa-core processor, 12GB of RAM, and a huge battery, could be just the thing.
Written by Adrian Kingsley-Hughes, Contributing Writer
Blackview Tab 18

Blackview Tab 18

Adrian Kingsley-Hughes/ZDNET

ZDNET's key takeaways

  • The Blackview Tab 18 Android tablet is currently available for only $219.
  • This great 12-inch Android tablet has it all -- big display, powerful processor, lots of RAM, and plenty of power to handle everything that the average user needs.
  • I just wish the screen could be a little brighter for use in direct sunshine.

I love my iPad Pro, but Apple's 12.9-inch behemoth is not cheap. Folks looking for a cheaper but comparably sized alternative have to turn to Android.

Also: I challenge you to find a more rugged Android tablet than this

Unfortunately, I've found most large form-factor Android tablets to be bulky and cumbersome. So, it's refreshing to find something at last that's sleek, pleasantly designed, and a pleasure to hold -- even for extended periods.

The Blackview Tab 18 ticks all these boxes and more.

View at S.click.aliexpress

Blackview Tab 18 tech specs

  • Display: 12-inch 2.4K, FHD+ IPS, 1200 x 2000 resolution, 86.6% screen-to-body ratio
  • CPU: Octa-core MediaTek Helio G99
  • RAM: 12GB LPDDR4X (12GB RAM expansion)
  • ROM: 256GB UFS2.1
  • Max microSD/TF Card Capacity: Up to 1TB
  • OS: DokeOS_P 4.0 (based on Android 13)
  • Card Slot: Dual hybrid card slots; 1 x SIM +1 TF or 2 x SIM
  • Cameras: 8-megapixel Samsung front camera, 16-megapixel SK Hynix rear camera
  • Battery: 8800mAh supporting 33W fast charge
  • Speaker: Quad Harman Kardon surround sound speakers
  • Color: Turquoise Green, Glacier Blue, Space Grey
  • Dimension: 277.6 x 173.2 x 7.9mm
  • Weight: 632g (1.4 lb)

Here's the first thing I noticed about this tablet: How thin and light it feels in the hand.

At 0.3-inch/7.9mm thin and weighing 1.4lb/632g, this device is a bit thicker and slightly lighter than the 12.9-inch iPad Pro, but for a budget Android tablet, it's a breath of fresh air to not be holding a tablet that feels like it's made of concrete.

Also: These are the best Android tablets you can buy

Sure, I'd have this tablet in a case to protect it from accidents due to carelessness and gravity, making it just as bulky as my iPad Pro, but it's nice to see a thin-and-light Android tablet.

The Tab 18 is comfortable to hold for extended periods

The Tab 18 is comfortable to hold for extended periods.

Adrian Kingsley-Hughes/ZDNET

It's also a beautiful tablet, sleek and smooth, with the glass and metal flowing into each other to create something that's both stunning to look at and practical to use. The Space Grey finish on my Tab 18 was flawless, and did a good job of resisting scratches, wear, and even fingerprints.

Speaking of fingerprints, the Tab 18 features both a fingerprint reader and face recognition biometrics, giving you options for ease of logging into the tablet.

Also: My favorite USB-C accessory of all time scored a magnetic upgrade

The 12-inch display is also a breath of fresh air. It's big enough to get real work done. It's sharp enough to make extended reading or video viewing sessions comfortable. And it's bright enough to be viewable under a broad range of conditions. The touch is nice and responsive, leading to a very natural feel. The TÜV-certified low-blue-light rating is a nice touch for those who are concerned that these wavelengths are disturbing their sleep patterns.

The display is big enough to get real work done on the Tab 18

The display is big enough to get real work done.

Adrian Kingsley-Hughes/ZDNET

And then there are those quad Harman Kardon surround sound speakers, which create an immersive soundscape, taking you out of the world around you and dropping you into whatever game or movie -- or business meeting -- you're listening to. I'm no audiophile -- I grew up on poor quality blown-out speakers and headphones with that sweaty sponge -- but to my ears the sound output from this tablet was fantastic no matter whether I was watching Netflix, playing a game, listening to my burgeoning backlog of audiobooks from Audible, or on a voice call.

Also: This is the first app I install on every new Mac

The 8,000mAh battery is good for approximately 10 hours of web browsing and general tasks like email and editing documents, with gaming and watching videos shaving an hour or so off of this runtime, which is not bad at all. This is truly great real-world runtime from a budget 12-inch tablet.

Combining the big battery with the 33W fast charging capability that can take the battery from zero to 50% in about an hour, I didn't find myself suffering from battery anxiety at all. I've seen much worse performance from hardware that's much pricier than this.

Thin and light

Thin and light

Adrian Kingsley-Hughes/ZDNET

As for thermal management, I'd fully expected this tablet to get warm and toasty under heavy load, and while it did get warm when the going got tough, the thermal conductivity system that Blackview has built into this system, featuring over 18.6 square inches/12,000mm of heat dissipation area, resulted in a cool user experience during which I never saw the tablet exceed 104°F/40°C.

There's nothing more disquieting than trying to use a tablet that slowly goes from warm to warmer to "yikes, is this thing going to burn me?" I pushed the Tab 18 as hard as I could for extended periods, and at no point did it get to a point where I felt that it was getting hot.

Also: This $69 Android tablet is a sign you should stop overpaying for fancier ones

If you leave your expectations of a blow-your-hair-back, top-level performing tablet at the door, then you're not going to be disappointed with the Blackview. The octa-core processor and 12 gigabytes of built-in RAM offer a slick user experience. 

The Tab 18 can't keep up with high-end hardware, but it's more than enough for most users

The Tab 18 can't keep up with high-end hardware, but it's more than enough for most users.

Adrian Kingsley-Hughes/ZDNET

The cameras on this unit are acceptable at best, good compared to even the best cameras from a few years ago but falling short of all the computational wizardry that higher-end devices perform on photos. At the extreme ends of photography -- low light or full-sun daylight – the cameras struggle. But for normal captures in normal conditions, they're perfect for those wanting to trawl for likes on social media, and also for capturing photos for reports and other work or school-related activities.

Tab 18 camera array

Tab 18 camera array

Adrian Kingsley-Hughes/ZDNET

Again, remember the price here. $219. Not that long ago you couldn't have dreamt of a 12-inch tablet for anything close to this price. Now you're getting such a tablet with a powerful processor, loads of RAM, bags of storage, and decent cameras for $60 more than Apple charges for a 3-meter Thunderbolt 4 cable

ZDNET's buying advice

The Blackview Tab 18 is a great tablet, ideal for work, school, or if you want a tablet for the living room or workshop. I've put this device through its paces and I have no complaints. The price makes this an unmissable deal as long as you're willing to forgo an Apple or Samsung logo emblazoned on the back. Ultimately, if you want more power and performance -- power and performance that most users never really utilize -- then you will have to dig deeper and pay more. If you want a tablet and not an ego booster, the Tab 18 is well worth a look.

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