Just when I thought I was done with Android tablets for good, I ended up stumbling upon what could be one of the best cheap tablets in an unlikely place.
While I’ve used and loved Android tablets in the past, last year, I decided to pick up a Lenovo Chromebook Duet instead as I figured years of ChromeOS updates directly from Google would be a whole lot better than Android updates that are often few and far between. However, even with the right stylus, I still find myself using the Chromebook Duet as a 2-in-1 laptop instead of the way I originally intended — as a tablet.
Every few years I get the itch to use Android on a device with a larger screen. However, these days, it often feels the best Android tablets like the Pixel Tablet often cost as much as a mini PC or even a decent laptop. I find it hard to justify spending several hundred dollars on a device that I may actually not end up using as much as I’d like.
When it comes to budget Android tablets, Amazon’s Fire tablets are the best bang for your buck for most people. However, as an Android purist, I could never come to terms with the company’s FireOS. Sure, you can sideload the Google Play Store and use a launcher to get closer to a stock Android experience but even then, I’d still be reminded that my Amazon tablet was running FireOS every time I opened the settings app.
While the Fire Max 11 has gotten a lot of hype online, so too has another similarly specced tablet from a company I never thought I’d buy a tablet from — Walmart. Onn is Walmart’s house brand for electronics and while I’ve never tried one of their tablets before, I’ve heard a lot of great things about the onn 4K Google TV streaming box.
When reviews of the onn 11 Tablet Pro started showing up in my YouTube feed, I thought I’d give this $159 budget tablet a try. I’ve spent the past week using it and while there’s a lot to like for the price, my experience hasn’t been without its issues.
A budget tablet with a premium feel
Right off the bat, it’s clear why onn decided to give its new 11-inch tablet the ‘Pro’ moniker. Unlike other budget Android tablets made primarily from plastic, the onn 11 Tablet Pro features a metal chassis that has a smooth finish on the sides and a matte finish on the back. Not only does this give it a more premium look but it also makes the device easier to hold without a case.
Besides its metal chassis, the onn 11 Tablet Pro is quite thin at just .30 inches and the power button and volume rocker also have a nice feel to them. There are holes for the tablet’s stereo speakers on either side along with a USB-C port and even a headphone jack at the bottom.
There’s only one configuration of the onn 11 Tablet Pro and it sports an 11-inch LCD screen with a resolution of 1200 x 2000, a 2.2 GHz Octa-core processor, 4 GB of RAM, 126 GB of storage space, a 5 MP front camera and a 8 MP rear camera. According to onn, the device can get up to 16 hours of battery life and while we haven’t tested this tablet properly yet, I’ve used it on and off for several days at a time before having to recharge it.
If 128 GB of internal storage wasn’t enough, there’s also a microSD card slot right above the front camera. In addition to a USB-C cable and a wall charger, onn includes an ejector pin in the box and I had no trouble at all adding a 128 GB microSD card and formatting it on the device.
For less than $200 after taxes, I honestly didn’t expect to be so impressed with the design and build quality of the onn 11 Tablet Pro and the microSD card slot and headphone jack just sweetened the deal. However, it was onn’s stock Android experience that initially drew me to this tablet and I’m happy to report that it didn’t disappoint either.
A pure Android experience
What I really like about the onn 11 Tablet Pro is the included software or should I say the lack thereof. While you have most of Google’s first-party apps preloaded on the device, there’s only one app pre-installed from onn and as you might have guessed, it’s the Walmart app. Fortunately though, it can easily be uninstalled, leaving you with essentially stock Android.
As this tablet is designed with media consumption in mind there are a few apps and features centered around this. The first is Google’s Kids Space app which is great if you want to let your child use the onn 11 Tablet Pro, though I don’t personally plan on doing this. Likewise, YouTube Kids lets your child watch videos on the device with parental controls. Besides these two apps, you also have Google’s Entertainment Space that showcases videos, games, books and music you might like available when swiping left on the home screen. I personally prefer having Google Discover there instead which is why I ended up installing an Android launcher instead.
The lack of bloatware is one of the best things about the onn 11 Tablet Pro and with 128 GB of internal storage, you have plenty of room for apps, games and downloaded videos. If this isn’t enough though, you also have the option to add a microSD card like I did.
Android 13 runs quite well on the device even with a less powerful MT8781 MediaTek processor and when it comes to general web browsing and light work tasks, the onn 11 Tablet Pro felt quite snappy despite its budget price.
Not without its issues
I have to admit that the onn 11 Tablet Pro I’m currently using is actually my third device as there were some serious issues with the other two. However, returning my first two tablets and replacing them was a straightforward process and onn’s customer support did get back to me when I first reached out to them about the issues I experienced.
After taking my initial unboxing photos, I booted up my first onn 11 Tablet Pro and worked my way through the setup process. During this time, there was an additional 45 MB update that needed to be downloaded and installed and I think this is what led to the issues I encountered the first time around. I wasn’t the only one who went through this either as in this Reddit post, other onn 11 Tablet Pro users reported experiencing similar issues.
You see, after installing this software update, I kept getting dm-verity issues that said the device was corrupt and couldn’t be started each time I rebooted the tablet. While I thought a factory reboot would fix the issue, it persisted after completely wiping and going through the setup process multiple times.
As it turns out, this initial software update was to blame and while setting up my second onn 11 Tablet Pro, I did so offline so that the update wouldn’t be installed. While this fixed that issue, I noticed that my second tablet had a stuck pixel and decided to return it as well.
My third onn 11 Tablet Pro arrived at the beginning of this week and so far, I haven’t had any corruption or display issues though I set it up offline just to be sure. I have noticed that the stock launcher occasionally crashes after waking up the device after long periods of being idle (this could be because I’ve been using Nova Launcher instead though) but as I was writing this, another software update arrived that’s designed to address the corruption issues I initially experienced.
A new standard for onn tablets
Although I haven’t had a chance to go hands-on with onn’s new, smaller 10.4-inch Pro tablet, overall I’ve been quite pleased with the onn 11 Tablet Pro. I wanted an Android tablet to read the news, browse the web and do light work tasks on a bigger screen and when it comes to all of this, the onn 11 Tablet Pro delivers.
It appears the initial software issues I experienced have now been fixed but there are a few other caveats worth mentioning. The onn 11 Tablet Pro ships with Wi-Fi 5 instead of Wi-Fi 6 or even Wi-Fi 6E. This means you can still use the faster 5 GHz band when connecting to one of the best Wi-Fi routers, but you won’t see blazing fast speeds. At the same time, the onn 11 Tablet Pro has Widevine Level 3 instead of Level 1 which means that you won’t be able to watch 4k content on the best streaming services. This isn’t a deal breaker for me personally but it is worth pointing out for those who plan on using the onn 11 Tablet Pro primarily as a device for binge watching TV shows in bed.
If you’ve had your eye on the Fire Max 11 and don’t want to wait for the next Amazon Prime Day for it to fall back to a more affordable $150 or perhaps, like me, you can’t stand FireOS, the onn 11 Tablet Pro is a budget tablet worth considering. The bigger 11-inch screen and the more premium build quality help set it apart from onn’s previous Android tablets while the fact that you can easily return it to Walmart if you have any issues is another huge plus. I think I’ll be hanging on to my own onn 11 Tablet Pro instead of returning it as there’s quite a lot of bang for your buck at this price.