Eight-inch tablets are becoming more and more rare, as phone screens are increasing in size and larger-screen tablets become cheaper to manufacture. The Alcatel Joy Tab 2 is an 8-inch LTE Tablet that works on the MetroPCS and T-Mobile data networks, allowing you to use the tablet on a mobile data plan when you’re away from home.

How does this cheap LTE Tab perform compared to other budget tablets? I tested the Joy Tab 2 to find out, looking carefully at its design, performance, connectivity, display, camera, sound, battery, and software.

The Joy Tab 2 is comfortable in the hand, so you can type an email, update your social media status, write a report, watch videos, or search the web. It measures 8.24 inches tall and 4.93 inches wide, so you can reach the entire 8-inch screen comfortably and naturally without having to stretch your fingers too far.

Since it's larger than a plus-sized cell phone but smaller than a larger 10-inch tablet, it's portable, yet the on-screen text and touch keyboard are much larger than what you'd get on a cell phone.

The Joy Tab 2 is lightweight and thin, measuring only about a third of an inch in thickness and weighing less than 11 ounces. It has a plastic-like backing that's designed to look like metal, but it still feels durable without a metal backing. It also has Asahi glass for added screen durability, which is supposed to provide scratch protection and added strength.

To test the screen durability, I scratched the screen with my fingernails and I also placed it in a backpack with books and keys and traveled around for the day. The glass screen remained free from scratches or damage.

The Joy Tab 2 has a 2 GHz quad core processor, which is not bad for a budget tab. But, I was more impressed to see the tablet boasts 3GB of RAM. The Amazon Fire HD 8 has only 2GB of RAM, although the Plus version does feature 3GB like the Joy Tab. The Joy Tab comes with 32GB of on-board memory, but you can expand the storage by up to 256GB.

To test performance, I ran a few benchmark tests. The Joy Tab 2 scored a 4826 on PC Benchmark for Android, performing better in photo editing, web browsing, and writing, and more poorly in video editing and data manipulation. On Geekbench 5, it earned a mediocre single-core score of 144 and a multi-core score of 510.

The Joy Tab 2 certainly isn’t a productivity workhorse by any means, but it can handle several tasks at once, and it will have no problem jumping from multiple windows as you watch a video, surf several web pages, check emails, and play app games. Speaking of games, I ran a few tests on GFXBENCH, and the Joy Tab 2 didn’t impress. On Car Chase, it ran at 237.4 frames per second, and it ran the higher-tier Aztec Ruins at only 192.9 frames per second. This put the Joy Tab 2 right below the Samsung Galaxy Note 5.

The Tab 2 works on T-Mobile’s 4G data network or on MetroPCS’s 4G network, which is now called “MetroPCS by T-Mobile.” I tested the Joy Tab 2 attached to the MetroPCS by T-Mobile network. The tablet comes locked by the carrier, so you can’t just pop in a prepaid SIM card from a kit, open an account, and start using the device on any LTE network.

Since this tablet runs on a MetroPCS data-only plan, you can’t buy it aftermarket and use it as your only device on your plan. You’d need to establish a phone plan with MetroPCS, and then add a separate data plan for the tablet.

I found this out the hard way after spending two hours on the phone with a MetroPCS representative. If you already have carrier service through MetroPCS, adding the tablet is a breeze. The lower-level data plan costs about $15 a month (may vary depending on location). You can also purchase the Joy Tab 2 directly from the T-Mobile or MetroPCS sites and avoid any hassle. 

You can use the device on Wi-Fi as well, as it has dual-band connectivity on the 2.4 and 5 Ghz bands. The Wi-Fi adapter is reliable, and the speeds are comparable with other devices in my home. I get around 165 to 175 Mbps on the 5 Ghz band. When on the MetroPCS LTE network, the tablet still has serviceable speeds. I live in the Research Triangle area in North Carolina, and I typically get around 30 Mbps (download). In busier areas or when there’s a lot of network congestion, the speed may reduce to around 12 to 15 Mbps. You can share your mobile data connection via hotspot or via USB.

The Joy Tab 2 has Bluetooth 5.0, and it pairs easily with headphones, keyboards, and other Bluetooth devices. For calls, it has Google Duo. There’s also a texting application, but it doesn’t have a phone dialer application like you’d see on your smartphone.

The 1280 x 800 display isn’t the best out there, but it’s more than good enough for reading a book, playing small app games, or clearly viewing images and videos. 

Overall, the screen is bright and the colors are vivid, but it lacks sharpness. I noticed a very mild amount of fuzz around some larger text and images, and pixilation occurred rather quickly when zooming in on photos. The screen has a bit of glare when under overhead lighting or in sunlight, and when playing fast-paced games, particularly racing games, I noticed some minor delays. 

This is not a tablet for high-octane gaming, photography, or anything GPU-heavy. But, for a starter tablet or a backup device to take with you on the go, it can serve well. Just don’t expect the same quality you’d get from a tablet that costs three times as much.

The Joy Tab 2 advertises an enhanced speaker with a smart power amplifier for better sound. However, I found the sound quality to be one of the tablet’s weaker areas. It doesn’t have an exceptionally loud sound, and music actually sounds somewhat tinny.

It’s mid-tone heavy, and lyrics and higher-toned background instruments and drum beats come through louder than melodies. It doesn’t have an equalizer in the settings either. You can turn on only a sound booster feature or turn the sound up and down for notifications, alarms, and media. 

For videos, it works, but it’s just not very loud. It’s perfectly fine for YouTube instructionals, funny videos, stuff like that, but you wouldn’t want to watch an action movie given the poor sound.

The Tab 2 has a 5MP front camera and a 5MP rear camera. It also takes video at 12, 24, or 30 frames per second. The rear camera is decent enough for you to snap a quick photo of friends or take an image of an assignment in a pinch, while the front camera performs well for video chatting. However, this is not a device you’d want to use for hobby photography, as a cheap smartphone camera or digital camera would work much better.

The Joy Tab 2’s camera does have a few features like stop motion, filters, pano, and a flash, so a kid or teen may enjoy playing around with the camera if using this as a starter tablet.

The 4080mAh battery indicates 8.5 hours of usage time. However, most people don’t use a tablet for 8.5 hours straight, so the battery stays charged for quite a while. I found the tablet’s battery lasted for at least three days of heavy use during testing, and I used the Tab for about an hour in the morning and two additional hours in the afternoon. The Joy Tab 2 also has a USB Type-C charger, so it charges quickly. 

In settings, there’s a battery management application that indicates how much time you have left to use the tablet at your current rate, as well as a battery saver mode and battery info and data.

The Joy Tab 2 runs on Android 10, and it doesn’t come loaded with a ton of bloatware. Aside from the basic applications (think calculator, sound recorder, etc.) and Google’s pre-loaded apps, it’s pretty bare bones for the most part.

A cool perk, however, are the parental controls, which you can access right in the settings. You can quickly and easily set up a bedtime mode and monitor screen time and usage. There’s even a focus mode, where you can block certain distracting apps. If you want to take it a step further, you can set up additional parental controls via Google’s Family Link. Available as a link in settings, this lets you filter content even more thoroughly, and supervise the device with the Family Link app for parents.

The Joy Tab 2 sells on the T-Mobile site for $168. However, this tablet is often purchased as an add-on, and you can lease it for around $7 a month. Even the full price of $168 is a pretty good deal considering what it offers. LTE tablets—even budget models like the Samsung Galaxy Tab A 2020 or the LG G Pad 5—usually cost at least $250. 

Amazon’s Fire HD 8 Plus Tablet sells for $110, and the price goes up to $125 if you want it without ads. On paper, the Joy Tab 2 and Fire HD Plus have a lot of similarities. Both tabs have a quad-core 2 Ghz processor and 3GB of RAM, both have 8-inch displays with 1280 x 800 resolution, and the lower-tier Fire HD 8 Plus also comes with 32GB of storage.

However, the Joy Tab 2 has 5MP front and rear cams, while the Fire HD 8 Plus has only 2MP front and rear cameras. The Joy Tab 2 also supports 4G LTE, while the Fire Tab does not. On the other hand, the Fire Tab is superior to the Joy Tab 2 in some ways, as it has Alexa built in, sounds much better with Dolby speakers, and it has more storage expansion potential.

If you want a budget tablet and LTE connectivity is important to you, the Joy Tab 2 is not a bad choice, especially if you’re looking for a starter tablet for an older kid or pre-teen. If LTE coverage isn’t important to you, as you’re mostly going to be using the device at home, the Fire HD 8 Plus is probably the better pick. For a younger child, the Fire HD 10 Kids Edition is also worth a look.