When you think of tablets, you think of high-end ones like the iPad, Eee Transformer, Galaxy Tab, Xoom and so on. Being at the top of the food chain, these tablets are also at the top of the retail price range. A few manufacturers have sought to change that mindset by introducing tablets that still perform quite well without eating a hole in your pocket.

If you’ve been pondering on a tablet purchase for some time now but don’t want to break your budget, let us help you out. Here’s a list of the best sub-$200 tablets out there.

Amazon Kindle Fire ($199)

This has got to be one of the top picks this coming Thanksgiving holiday. It’s from Amazon, makers of the well-established line of Kindle reading devices. The online retail giant is also known for great service and exceptional return policies so you know that the Kindle Fire will really be all it’s cracked up to be. Let’s throw up some specs first.

  • Display: 7-inch capacitive Gorilla Glass IPS touchscreen, 1024 x 600 px
  • Processor: dual-core 1GHz TI OMAP
  • Size: 7.5″ x 4.7″ x 0.45″ (190 mm x 120 mm x 11.4 mm)
  • Weight: 0.912 lbs (0.413 kg)
  • Storage: 8GB internal (6GB usable), free cloud storage for Amazon content
  • Battery Life: 8 hours for reading, 7.5 hours for video, less if you intend to browse the web
  • Connectivity: WiFi-N, microUSB 2.0
  • Audio: 3.5 headphone jack, stereo speakers
  • OS: Customized version of Android with Silk browser, Amazon Appstore

It’s a dual-core tablet running on top of a custom Android OS and unlike the past Kindles, this one does way more than just ebook reading. It also has good battery life, a comfortable 7″ IPS screen and 8GB internal storage. Add to the mix Amazon Silk which, as the name implies, will give you one of the smoothest browsing experiences on a tablet. For the price, the Kindle Fire is definitely a good deal.

Okay, so it’s not your usual Android tablet with the stock apps but don’t pass it over just yet. Amazon does have a great store in itself, the Amazon Appstore, which carries almost all of the popular apps in the Android Market. What’s more, it gives away a free app a day as well and who can say no to free apps?

It does have a couple of downsides: it’s not yet available (it will be released on November 15) and it’s US only. But you can visit the link up top right now to reserve one today.

Arnova 7 G2 ($199.99) and Arnova 10 G2 ($199.99)

In case you are wondering, the Arnova line of tablets comes from the makers of the Archos device line so there’s a solid reputation behind it. This is their budget array of mobile gadgets and the company is aiming to give a more affordable alternative to their Archos tablets.

Arnova 7 G2

  • Display: 7-inch capacitive touchscreen, 800 x 480 px
  • Processor: 1GHz ARM Cortex A8
  • Size: 8.0” x 4.2” x 0.5” (203 mm x 107 mm x 12 mm)
  • Weight: 0.812 lbs (0.370 kg)
  • Storage: 4GB internal, microSDHC slot
  • Battery Life: 5.5-6 hours approx.
  • Connectivity: WiFi b/g, microUSB 2.0
  • Audio: 3.5 headphone jack, integrated speakers and microphone
  • OS: Android 2.3 Gingerbread, no Android Market
Arnova 10 G2
  • Display: 10-inch capacitive touchscreen, 104 x 600px
  • Processor: 1GHz ARM Cortex A8
  • Size: 10.6” x 5.9” x 0.47” (270 mm x 150 mm x 12 mm)
  • Weight: 1.3 lbs (0.540kg)
  • Storage: 4GB internal, microSDHC slot
  • Battery Life: unknown
  • Connectivity: WiFi b/g, microUSB 2.0
  • Audio: 3.5 headphone jack, integrated speakers and microphone
  • Camera: 5MP camera
  • OS: Android 2.3 Gingerbread, no Android Market

These models are actually the second generation of the Arnova line. The specs are at par with many of the other tablets of this range, so no surprises there. Having a capacitive screen and a 1GHz processor will ensure that you have a smooth and familiar computing experience.

One thing to remember about Arnova tablets is that they do not have direct access to the Android Market. Archos has its own apps market called AppsLib, which is a tablet-specific marketplace. There are plenty of fixes for that though with custom ROMs if you are adventurous enough.

Between the two, we’d suggest you try getting the 10-incher since it has a larger screen and a camera built-in. The smaller version has its perks though, being almost-pocketable and lighter, though we have to admit that it’s not up to snuff compare to the rest of the tablets in this list. And if you’re scratching your head as to why the 10-incher and the 7-incher are at the same price, we’re wondering the same thing.

Coby Kyros MID7125 ($174)

If there’s an electronic appliance you want, Coby probably has it. Because of that, it’s no wonder that this brand now carries tablets as well. If you’re looking for a top-of-the-line slate, you best move along since all they have here are tablets that match the budgets of its appliance buyers. That doesn’t mean that their devices won’t be worth your while though. Here’s what you will be getting

  • Display: 7-inch resistive touchscreen, 800 x 480 px
  • Processor: 1GHz Telechip Cortex A8
  • Size: 7.68″ x 4.75″ x 0.53″ (196 mm x 121 mm x 14 mm)
  • Weight: 0.820 lbs (0.394kg)
  • Storage: 4GB internal, microSDHC slot
  • Battery Life: 4000mAH, 5 hours approx.
  • Connectivity: WiFi b/g, miniUSB 2.0, mini HDMI
  • Audio: 3.5 headphone jack, integrated speakers and microphone
  • Camera: front-facing VGA
  • OS: Android 2.3 Gingerbread with AppsLib

It seems that resistive is still the way to go for some tablet makers who want to churn out low-priced tabs. But the Kyros ups the ante by baking in Gingerbread into their device. On top of that, they also included mini HDMI which makes it a great buy for folks who want to share their Facebook videos and their personal pics on a bigger screen.

If your looking for a lightweight computing companion, the Kyros is a good choice. It will dutifully execute light computing work like reading PDFs, editing documents and play flash games without missing a beat due to its 1GHz processor. For access to the Market though, you’re out of luck. Like other low end tablets, this one comes with AppsLib instead and while that does restrict your choices, you at least know that every app here has been tested to work with your bigger screened Android.

Coby also sells other tablets with heftier screens like 10.1 and 8-inchers, for a few extra bucks. Not surprisingly, the only difference between the models is the screen size so expect lower battery life for these. And even if the Kyros doesn’t seem to be a compelling buy compared to the others, it’s one of the more readily available tablets and a quick trip to your local big box or checking online will likely get you one in a snap.

MSI Enjoy 7 ($199)

We mentioned the Enjoy 7 a while back when it hit the FCC. MSI, while not known for great design, does try to make great value devices. The Enjoy 7 is no exception, a solid tablet that delivers more than you expect. Here are a few specs to keep you informed.

  • Display: 7-inch capacitive touchscreen, 800 x 480 px
  • Processor: 1.2GHz ARM Cortex A8, 512MB RAM
  • Weight: 0.87 lbs (0.395kg)
  • Storage: 4GB internal, microSDHC slot
  • Battery Life: 4000 mAh, 4-5 hours approx.
  • Connectivity: WiFi b/g, miniUSB 2.0, Bluetooth 2.1+EDR, mini HDMI
  • Audio: 3.5 headphone jack, integrated speakers and microphone
  • Camera: front facing 2MP, rear 2MP
  • OS: Android 2.3 Gingerbread, no Android Market

The Enjoy 7 is no slouch, showing off a 1.2GHz processor that’s pretty hefty at this price range. That alone should tell you that this is a good buy, but MSI didn’t stop there and also crammed in a capacitive screen, mini HDMI and Bluetooth. You also get dual cameras, something that you only get with higher end devices.

Again, like other budget slates, this one has no Android Market but you can get around that by installing GetJar, Amazon Appstore or any of the dozens of trusted third-party marketplaces out there. We know it’s already available but we can’t seem to grab hold of one. If you find one, let us know if it’s as great in real life as on paper.

Velocity Micro Cruz T408 ($199.99)

Velocity Micro might be a new player in the tablet market but they’ve been an established name in the desktop scene for some time. The Cruz T408 is their latest tablet and does give a compelling argument on why this should be your tablet of choice.

  • Display: 8-inch capacitive touchscreen, 800 x 600 px
  • Processor: 1GHz ARM Cortex A8, 512MB RAM
  • Size: 8.1″ x 6.6″ x 0.5″ (206 mm x 168 mm x 13 mm)
  • Weight: 1.1 lbs (0.498kg)
  • Storage: 4GB internal, microSDHC slot
  • Battery Life: 8-10 hours approx.
  • Connectivity: WiFi N, microUSB 2.0, mini HDMI
  • Audio: 3.5 headphone jack, integrated speakers and microphone
  • Camera: front facing VGA
  • OS: Android 2.3 Gingerbread with Amazon Appstore

The specs above seem to speak for itself. An 8-inch capacitive screen, WiFi N and Gingerbread already should convince you to snatch up one of these. Velocity Micro was also thoughtful enough to include a few must haves with the T408 like the OI File Manager, QuickOffice, Kindle for Android and Angry Birds.

Don’t get confused with the interface though. That’s just some mock Honeycomb theme that Velocity Micro cooked up for the Cruz to make it look snazzier. Overall, this is a promising tablet for your mobile computing needs and it doesn’t hurt that the battery life lasts up to 10 hours on a single charge, making sure you keep on playing, watching and socializing until the day ends.

Viewsonic ViewBook ($164.99)

If you’re thinking monitors right now, that’s because monitors are what Viewsonic’s bread and butter is. In the minds of many people though, a tablet is just a monitor that’s unplugged so it certainly makes a bit of sense for the company to expand into this market. Again, a bit of specs candy first:

  • Display: 7-inch resistive LED-backlit touchscreen, 800 x 480 px
  • Processor: 1GHz Cortex A8, 512MB RAM
  • Size: 8.19″ x 5.23″ x 0.56″ (208mm x 132.8mm x 14.1mm)
  • Weight: 0.959 lbs (0.434 kg)
  • Storage: 8GB internal, microSD slot supports up to 32GB
  • Battery Life: 5000mAH, 6-7 hours approx.
  • Connectivity: WiFi b/g, miniUSB 2.0, Bluetooth 2.1, mini HDMI
  • Audio: 3.5 headphone jack, integrated speakers and microphone
  • Camera: Front facing, VGA
  • OS: Android 2.2 Froyo with Made for Amazon apps
  • Stylus included

It might have older hardware inside it but that doesn’t mean it’s past its prime. The battery life, while not great, is above average compared to other similar devices. Another nice feature is the speakers; though tinny at times, the speakers are front facing which makes sounds come out better compared to other tablets.

The ViewBook also has a few neat extras. You have a front facing camera that’s good enough for some video chatting, a mini HDMI for connecting the tablet to an actual monitor or TV and Bluetooth for some wireless connectivity if you have a compatible headset or input device like a keyboard.

It doesn’t have the Android Market but relies on Amazon for its apps, just like the Kindle Fire. Also, and this is a big downer for many, the screen is resistive like those touchscreens of old. It’s quite responsive though and there’s an included stylus for better control. And since it is resistive, there’s no multitouch here so no pinching and dragging for you.

Nevertheless, this is still a good tablet for those who just want a mobile computer that will do most of their digital chores like checking email, watching movies, reading book and so on.

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