It’s easy to be lured in by the iPad and Asus Eee Pad Transformer Prime, but there are a plethora of decent Android tablets that cost 50 percent less than an iPad. Not everyone needs a shiny 9.7-inch screen, dual-core processor, or sturdy aluminum case.
Affordable Android tablets are a smart choice for budget conscious shoppers. Affordable tablets can perform most of the same tasks high end tablets can, but without the extra frill. Now, is that “extra frill” really worth spending another $200 to $300? Well, that part is up to you.
Manage Your Expectations
When considering an affordable tablet, it’s best to set your expectations relatively low, especially if you’re comparing it to an iPad. Here’s what you need to know about affordable tablets:
Affordable tablets thrive on plastic… and lots of it. You won’t find any Kevlar, metal, or other fancy material.
Most use a lower quality TFT capacitive screen that isn’t as bright or crisp compared to mainstream tablets.
Cheap tablets contain very little onboard storage and some can’t be expanded with a memory card.
Mainstream Android tablets have 1 GB of RAM, whereas cheap Android tablets will likely only have 256 MB or 512 MB.
Battery life will be solid, but not anywhere near the iPad’s 10-hour battery life. You should be able to get at least five hours on Wi-Fi.
Additionally, most affordable tablets run a previous generation of Google Android, which was designed for phones, not tablets. Given most affordable tablets use 7-inch screens, this isn’t as big of a deal as it is for 10-inch tablets. However, since Android 2.3 apps are optimized for a 3-4-inch screen, they may appear “stretched” on your device. It’s likely not a deal-breaker, but something to keep in mind.
But… They Get the Job Done!
These aren’t necessarily bad things – you’re saving loads of cash on features you probably would never use to begin with. Affordable tablets perform the same basic tasks, such as reading emails, surfing the web, connecting on Facebook, and watching YouTube clips.
However, affordable tablets are not ideal for hard-core gamers, as these apps require a more powerful graphics card and processor. The same applies to Netflix addicts – while most of these tablets can stream Netflix, you won’t get the same screen quality that you would with a premium tablet.
Affordable tablets are best used as companion devices. They can’t “replace” your smartphone or laptop, but rather bridge the gap. Cheap tablets make great road companions and serve as hybrid eReaders, since you can download the Amazon Kindle or Barnes & Noble Nook apps from the Android market.
Top Ten Affordable Android Tablets
Here are ten Android tablets that won’t break the bank, brought to you by comparison shopping website, Nextag:
Coby Kyros 7-Inch Android 2.3 Tablet
Browse the web and check emails without leaving your bed with the Coby Kyros 7-Inch Android Tablet. For less than $150, watch high definition videos in 1080p or play the latest version of Angry Birds from the AppsLib Marketplace.
According to reviews, the tablet is quite responsive for the price, thanks to its 1 GHz processor. Surprisingly, the device manages to pack a front-facing camera, which is ideal for Skyping with friends. Additionally, the Kyros 7 is the ideal size for a color eBook reader, weighing only 14-ounces.
Overall, the Kyros 7 has the same design as Amazon’s Kindle Fire, with more features and a camera to boot. However, it won’t work with Android Market, so users are limited to Coby’s proprietary store.
Le Pan TC 970 9.7-Inch Android Tablet
Doesn’t Le Pan sound like a fancy French restaurant? With the Le Pan TC-970, you get a full 10-inch display for less than the price of a Kindle Fire. The device weighs as much as the original iPad, but unlike the iPad, it supports Adobe Flash 10.2.
The Le Pan runs surprisingly smooth, albeit a bit choppy at times when watching Flash content. Onboard storage is limited, but the Le Pan supports microSD cards up to 32 GB. The manufacturer claims users will get six hours of battery life while playing 720p HD video over Wi-Fi, but your mileage will vary.
Unfortunately, the tablet runs an older version of Android 2.2, which looks “bloated” on the large screen. On the plus side, it does have a 2-megapixel front facing camera for video chatting. But wait… there’s more! The Le Pan has a GPS chip, transforming the device into a supersized Garmin – or TomTom – whichever you prefer.
Creative ZiiO 8 GB 7-Inch Android 2.1 Tablet
The Creative ZiiO 7-Inch Android Tablet is an affordable media consumption device. It’s clearly designed for listening to music, watching movies, and playing light video games. The tablet features an HDMI out port, so you can play movies from your device on your big screen TV. Plus, it has Wireless Bluetooth with X-Fi technology to stream lossless audio to compatible sound systems.
Despite the media-friendly design, the ZiiO runs a really old version of Android 2.1 and has a lackluster 480 x 800 pixel screen. Text doesn’t appear as “crisp” as it does on the Kindle Fire, because it has a higher resolution.
Screen aside, the ZiiO is responsive and runs surprisingly fast, thanks to Creative’s proprietary single-core ZMS-08 processor. It comes with 8 GB of onboard storage and can be expanded up to 32 GB. A front-facing camera, stereo speaker, and accelerometer take the ZiiO to the “next level” without bumping up the price.
ViewSonic gTablet with 10″ Multi-Touch LCD Screen
Looking for a fully-functional 10-inch tablet that costs half as much as an iPad? Despite running Android 2.2, the ViewSonic gTablet is snappy and loaded with storage. For a low-end tablet, the device runs a primo dual-core ARM Cortex A9 processor and has 16 GB of memory. Plus, the gTablet has a slew of ports, including a full-sized USB connector.
The gTablet is one of the few low-end tabs that effectively runs 3D games and plays 1080p true HD videos. The GeForce GPU renders 3D graphics quickly and smoothly without the lag you find on other similarly priced tablets. Plus, the 10-inch screen is perfect for watching full-length movies or reading full-sized webpages.
It’s not all fun and games, though. The gTablet is great for keeping track of your appointments, reading your MS Exchange emails, typing quick memos, or reading full-size PDFs. Nine hours of battery life means you have time for both business and pleasure.
Dell Streak 7 Wi-Fi Tablet
The Dell Streak 7 wasn’t a huge success at launch, which is good news for bargain hunters! It may not have won the hearts of prosumers, but the Dell Streak 7 is a decent 7-inch tablet. Despite running Android 2.2, the Streak 7 has a custom Dell UI overlay, which adds tablet-like functionality to the mobile phone operating system.
The Dell Streak 7 runs an NVidia Tegra2 processor, just like the other high-end Android tablets, but costs half the price. It features a 5-megapixel rear camera and 1.3-megapixel front-facing camera for videoconferencing. Surprisingly, the rear camera can record HD video, too. With the Swype keyboard, it’s easy to tap out tweets and Facebook status updates while playing your favorite Adobe Flash game.
If you can get past the fact that the Dell Streak 7 runs Android 2.2, you’ll be pleasantly surprised with the slew of features it has. Apps such as Kindle for Android and Netflix transform the tablet into a multimedia powerhouse. Plus, it has a built-in GPS chip, so you can navigate your way around town, without draining your phone’s battery.
Barnes and Noble Nook Color Reading Tablet
Okay, admittedly the Nook Color isn’t technically a tablet, but it has many tablet-esque features. Compared to similar inexpensive 7-inch tablets, the Nook Color has a spectacular high-resolution IPS display, with anti-glare treatment. The screen is by far the Nook Color’s biggest attribute, as it’s readable both indoors and outdoors, thanks to its laminated coating.
It’s more than just an eReader. In fact, it’s safe to say the Nook Color is a media consumption device. Read popular novels, the latest magazines, and insightful newspapers without leaving the Nook Store. Plus, the Nook Color lets you stream movies and TV shows from Netflix, as well as music from Rhapsody and Pandora.
Despite the underpowered processor for a “tablet,” the Nook Color does many tablet functions. Browse the web, read your Facebook stream, and check your email without grabbing your laptop. The Nook Color also supports Adobe Flash, so you can get your Farmville on in between chapters.
Pandigital 2GB Star 7″ Android Media Tablet
If you’re looking for a bare-bones tablet that’ss ideal for light web browsing and basic email, the Pandigital Star 7-inch Tablet is a viable option. The Star doesn’t have nearly the horsepower of other stars in the tablet industry, but it also costs 50 percent less than an Amazon Kindle Fire.
Despite running an older version of Android with 2 GB of storage, the Star offers a front-facing camera and HDMI out. This allows you to play videos from your Star tablet on your television. Because the tablet runs a low voltage 800 MHz processor and only has 256 MB of RAM, it isn’t ideal for media streaming, but adequately plays shorter 480i YouTube clips.
Despite these shortcomings, the Star tablet is a worthy competitor. It includes premium features, such as an accelerometer and orientation sensors, for under $100. Plus, it comes preinstalled with Barnes & Noble’s Nook app for Android, and it’s compatible with Android Market.
Sylvania SYTAB7MX 7″ Touch Screen Android Tablet
The Sylvania 7-Inch Tablet isn’t the fanciest slate in town, but it does feature a fast 1 GHz processor and 512 MB of RAM. The tablet isn’t the thinnest affordable Android tablet, as it weighs 1.8 pounds; however, it includes a 1400 mAh battery for up to 6 hours of uptime.
Like the other tablets, the Sylvania model runs an outdated version of Android 2.2; however, it does not officially support Android Market. It also has limited onboard storage, but users can opt for a larger microSD card up to 32 GB.
Overall, the sub-$100 tablet is perfect for writing emails, reading eBooks, and light gaming. But it isn’t suitable for streaming HD media and lacks front or rear facing cameras. The 7-inch screen only has 800 x 480 pixels, so it isn’t as clear as similar tablets like the Kindle Fire.
SKYTEX Skypad Alpha2 7-Inch Tablet
Love the Kindle Fire, but want something more in your 7-inch affordable tablet? Consider the SkyPad Alpha2 7-inch tablet, which sports a zippy 1.2 GHz Cortex A8 processor. What does that really mean, you say? This 7-inch tablet can keep up with your digital lifestyle – from browsing the web to watching full 1080p HD video.
The SkyPad includes a front-facing camera for video chatting, as the Skype app can be downloaded from the Android Market – Google’s answer to the App Store. The SkyPad is designed with multimedia in mind, as it includes a Micro HDMI port that allows you to stream video to your TV via an HDMI cable. Watch out Roku… the SkyPad’s comin’ for you!
Superpad ePad 7″ Android 2.2 Tablet
By now you may be wondering what’s the most clicked on tablet at Nextag.com? Surprisingly, the ePad 7-Inch Android Tablet is one of the top ten clicked products. Easy guess who is #1 and #2… the iPad and Kindle Fire, respectively.
Data aside, the ePad is designed with the budget shopper in mind.It’s one of the cheapest Android tablets, costing only $50. But, as I said before, you pay for what you get. There’s absolutely nothing super about the SuperPad ePad…besides its luring price.
As one would suspect for the price, the tablet runs a lackluster 800 MHz processor, and only has 256 MB of RAM. The 7-inch screen is admirable, but a far cry from the Kindle Fire’s display. Despite these shortcomings, the ePad can play 720p video and includes a front-facing camera for video chatting.
Start Shopping for Tablets!
Have we cured your tablet fever? Or are you itching for a slice of aluminum goodness after seeing all this plastic? What’s the “sweet spot” for tablets? $50? $100? $200?
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