Good, affordable tablets are hard to find. With the exception of Amazon’s Fire lineup, most cheap tablets fail to impress. The Alcatel Joy Tab 2 ($119.99), however, is an exception to the rule. It’s not extraordinarily powerful, and its display isn’t noteworthy, but it’s perfectly suitable for a basic tablet. The Joy Tab 2 performs well with basic tasks such as streaming and web browsing, has excellent battery life, and connects to Metro by T-Mobile via LTE when you’re on the road. Kids mode, smooth media streaming, and crisp audio make it a great, inexpensive way to keep children entertained.
A Display for Video, Not Reading
The Joy Tab 2 is your typical plastic slate that measures 8.2 by 5.0 by 0.3 inches (HWD) and weighs 11 ounces. The front is dominated by an 8-inch display with chunky bezels all around.
Display resolution clocks in at 1,280 by 800 pixels—nearly the same as the less-expensive onn. 8-inch tablet. The Joy Tab 2 has a glass display rather than the plastic panel on the onn., making color a little more vibrant.
The screen is bright, with adequate viewing angles. Color accuracy is a little cool, and the screen is very reflective in direct sunlight. There’s also noticeable pixelation, which is not uncommon for a tablet with this display resolution but could cause eye fatigue if you primarily use it for long periods of reading ebooks.
The back of the tablet is a textured black plastic that’s easy to hold. A circular camera cutout sits in the top left corner, and there’s a silver Alcatel logo that sits centered on the top third of the backplate.
Durability is on par with other budget tablets. The Joy Tab 2 does not have an IP rating, so it’s unlikely to withstand accidental splashes or immersions without damage. The plastic back can probably survive minor drops and dings, but the glass display is less likely to come away unscathed. Your best bet, as always—and especially if a kid’s going to be using it—is to find a sturdy case.
A MediaTek MT8766B processor and 3GB of RAM power the Joy Tab 2. There’s 32GB of storage on board, of which 23GB is available out of the box. You can add 256GB more storage with a MicroSD card.
Performance is good for the price. The Joy Tab 2 is great for basic tasks—video streaming, scrolling though social media feeds, flipping through ebooks—but chokes on more difficult ones. It does well with older games such as Asphalt 8: Airborne but struggles with more hardware-intensive games. We tested the tablet with Shadow Fight 3 and encountered long load times, skipped frames, and a few unexpected shutdowns.
Benchmark performance is on par with other budget tablets. On PCMark 2.0, a suite of tests that simulate real-world tasks, the Joy Tab 2 scored 4,770. That puts it between the Fire HD 8 (4,770) and the Amazon Fire HD 10 (5,105).
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The 4,080mAh battery does well by entry-level tablet standards. In our battery drain test, which streams HD video over Wi-Fi at full brightness, the Joy Tab 2 lasted 4 hours and 18 minutes before shutting off. That beats out the onn. tablet (3 hours, 58 minutes) but is not quite as good as the Fire HD 8 (4 hours, 50 minutes). That said, more conservative use is likely to get you a few more hours of battery life.
The box includes a 10W power adapter and a USB-A–to–USB-C cable. Quick charging is missing, however, and it takes about 3 hours and 45 minutes to completely recharge the battery.
Good LTE Speeds So You Can Take It With You
In the US, the Joy Tab 2 is available to Metro by T-Mobile subscribers and uses T-Mobile’s network for internet connectivity away from Wi-Fi networks. It’s a carrier-locked tablet that supports a large number of LTE bands, including band 71, which means it should perform well throughout T-Mobile’s coverage area.
We tested the tablet in Chicago and noted consistently good speeds on Metro’s network. Download speeds averaged 46.8Mbps while upload speeds clocked in at 9.2Mbps. It’s worth noting T-Mobile deprioritizes Metro customers when the network is congested, but we didn’t encounter throttling during any of our tests.
The Joy Tab 2 supports dual-band Wi-Fi and has Bluetooth 5.0 connectivity. There’s no NFC on the tablet, but it does have an FM radio chip, which provides vital access to emergency broadcasts in the event of a network outage.
A Feast for Ears, Less So for Eyes
For a budget tablet with a single, bottom-firing speaker, the Joy Tab 2 sounds remarkably good. Peak volume comes in at an ear-piercing 106dB, but even at its highest volume, we didn’t notice any distortion. Timbre is slightly brassy, but not off-puttingly so. If you’re looking for the best audio experience, however, you’ll want to use a good pair of wired or Bluetooth headphones.
It will come as no surprise that the cameras are mediocre. The 5MP rear camera is fine for quick reference shots or document scans, but it’s not going to replace your smartphone camera. Even in good light, photos lack depth of field, and there’s noticeable fine detail loss. In low light, things absolutely fall apart and the photos are a dark, blotchy mess.
The 5MP selfie cam is fine for video calls and quick selfies in good light. You’ll notice some loss of fine detail and even a little noise in good light, but it works well enough for basic tasks. In low light, the camera performs as poorly as its rear-facing counterpart.
Lightweight Android With Kids Mode
When you power up the Joy Tab 2, you’ll find a near-stock version of Android 10 Go Edition. It’s a lightweight version of Google’s OS that’s perfect for inexpensive tablets.
Alcatel includes a preloaded Kids mode on the tablet that is actually helpful. You can set up parental controls, limit app usage time, set up rest reminders to avoid eye fatigue, and even prevent little hands from using the Joy 2 Tab while it’s charging. With a tough case, this would be a great kids’ tablet.
There are also a few Metro apps preloaded for account management and additional features, but there’s no bloatware to be found, which is a nice surprise. Many inexpensive Android tablets and smartphones come filled to the brim with useless apps.
Given its price and Metro by T-Mobile carrier lock, the Joy Tab 2 is unlikely to get an Android 11 upgrade. Alcatel tends to be good about security updates, though, and the tablet has received at least two updates since it came out.
Your Kid’s Ideal Back Seat Companion
Coming in at just over $100, the Alcatel Joy Tab 2 offers just about everything you’d want in a budget tablet. It’s great for multimedia streaming, handles basic tasks with ease, and provides unfettered access to the Google Play Store. LTE is an added bonus for travel or commutes. Those features plus Kids mode make this tablet ideal for keeping children entertained on car and train trips.
If you don’t need LTE connectivity and are an Amazon loyalist, the Fire HD 8 is a great alternative that will save you a little money. It offers comparable performance and battery life. But it will trap you in Amazon’s walled garden, and if you’d rather live free, the Alcatel Joy Tab 2 is the key to escape.