Should I Buy a Cheap Android Tablet or Not?

December 10, 2011
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I’m not an advocate of cheap electronics, I’m picky and I’d rather pay a bit extra and get something I know can satisfy my ever-growing demands. However, when it comes to tablets, studies say that many potential customers are looking at cheap slates, despite the iPad 2 being still the most popular tablet out there.

If you’ll take a look at the best sold such devices right now on the big webstores, like Amazon.com or BestBuy.com, you’ll see that many of the slates listed there towards the top are in fact inexpensive. But, is it really wise to buy a cheap tablet these days? Well, that’s a question I get a lot lately, and I’m going to share my view on the subject with you today.

To put it in just a couple of words, the answer is simple: it depends. But it depends on a multitude of factors.

How about a slide out keyboard?

First, you have to think about why do you need a tablet and what are you going to do with it. Do you want to read books, go online sometimes, listen to some music or watch some movies when traveling? Do you want to play games? Do you need to be always connected to the Internet? Do you need it for fun? Do you need it for work?

Then, you must consider how much value you put on aesthetics. Furthermore, ask yourself where are you going to use the tablet? At home, in bed? Or on the road? Or perhaps somewhere else?

And these are just some of the criteria you must have in mind when picking a tablet.

Now, let’s get back to those cheap tablets. It’s obvious you wont’ get an iPad or Galaxy Tab like experience from a $200 bucks slate or cheaper. There’s a reason why such tablets are that cheap; they usually come with poorer hardware, looks, build and display quality. Overall, they make for a poorer everyday experience, but as long as you’re aware of that and don’t have many expectations from such devices, you’ll actually find them satisfying.

So, what are cheap tablets good for? Well, the good ones usually come with Android 2.2 and 2.3, older ARM processors, 256 to 512 MB of memory and decent storage (2 to 16 GB, that can be extended with microSD or SD cards in most cases). This platform allows them to run basic tasks, like a browser, a chatting program, a movie and music player, an ebook reading app and such stuff. You’ll hardly be able to play HD video content, 3D games or multitask smoothly between several apps, and the slate will get sluggish quite often, but hey, that’s something you have to deal with if you want a cheap tablet.

They usually come with 7 to 8 inch displays and while they are not as responsive and don’t offer the same image quality as the screens you get on premium slates, they’re not that bad either. The battery will usually last for a couple of hours (but not 10+ like on the iPad 2) and some of the features found on more expensive slates are usually missing here (like cameras, Bluetooth, 3G, some of the sensors). As for the exterior and the case, cheap slates aren’t as fancy or as solid built as their more expensive counterparts.

There are plenty of decent inexpensive tablets out there

There are plenty of decent inexpensive tablets out there

Those being said, I see cheaper tablets as good travel companions and devices targeted towards a younger crowd. When you get a slate for $100 or similar, you won’t care that much if it scratches or gets broken, thus you’ll be more comfortable grabbing it along when traveling or commuting, throw it in your backpack, in your car or in your boat.

Now, there are actually plenty of tablets that offer a good bang for the buck in stores. I’ve recently put together a list of my favorite tablets you can get for under $200, so you might want to check it too. If not, check out the posts on the Coby Kyros, the Pandigital Nova , the Amazon Kindle Fire and the Lenovo IdeapAd A100 here on the site.

Just don’t expect them to be flawless, you do get what you paid for in the end. If that’s going to be enough is only up to you and your needs, that’s why I advise anyone to go online and look for reviews on the slate they’re planning to buy, especially reviews from other buyers that got one and shared their views on it. This way, you can really see if that device is going to give you what you need or not.

That’s about it for now, but I’m really curious for your input. Did you buy a cheap tablet already? Would you buy one? Why? Please let me know, as I’m looking forward to reading your comments.

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