Why Cheap Android Tablets Are Rarely Worth It

Inexpensive Android tablets are on the rise, but you get what you pay for -- and what you pay for is a cheap screen, a stripped-down version of Android, and low-powered hardware.

Android tablets started off with a cost problem: they were way too expensive. Even more expensive than the iPad (who would have thought?) Now, though, as tablets are becoming more popular, a lot of manufacturers are trying to cash in on the trend with Android devices costing $100 or less. $100 is pretty tempting, but tech blog Tested notes that these devices probably aren't worth the money. Some will have resistive instead of capacitive screens, which require you to press hard and don't support multitouch. Others might not even have a full version of Android:

The software is going to be rough around the edges on the cheap tablet. There might be Market access, but there might not be. If the manufacturer decided to put Gingerbread on the device, the interface is going to be poor. If the tablet runs the browser effectively, though, that might be enough to justify the purchase in some cases.

Watch out for resistive screens, and know that even if you get a capacitive panel, [mediocre] WVGA resolution is where you're likely to be stuck. Assuming some small amount of optimization was done, even the older SoCs in these tablets should be able to run Android well enough, but don't expect great gaming performance.

They also note that even though sub-$100 is pretty darn cheap -- especially if you're just reading and browsing the web -- other cheap tablets are on the way. They might be closer to $250, but they'll have Ice Cream Sandwich, better hardware, and other perks.

We've made the point before that one of the benefits of Android is that devices appear at every price point, and that applies to tablets too. Some of the cheap options we've tested have worked OK, but it is definitely a case of being satisfied with what you get for the money rather than expecting a best-of-breed experience.

Hit the link to read more, and if you've ever tried out one of these budget Android tablets, let us know your experience in the comments.

Does it Make Sense to Buy a $US100 Off-Brand Android Tablet? [Tested]

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Comments

    You know, I reckon a slate with some thought put into the design could actually be a good product at that pricepoint:

    - 4" capacitive screen @ VGA or WVGA
    - Just enough memory for the ROM and a little bit of user-available space. Less than 1GB.
    - 512 MB RAM.
    - 800MHz-1GHz chipset w/ most basic GPU possible.
    - Vanilla 2.3 Gingerbread
    - Only microUSB and headphone sockets. WiFi for connectivity. Accellerometer. No memory expansion; no camera; mono speaker; no microphone; no 3G; no proximity sensor; no GPS; no Bluetooth; no NFC
    - Battery good for ~4 hours.

    Effectively it's a cheap thing that is pretty much only good for accessing the Internet through its browser. There're no extra radios or components for the stock 2.3.x OS to deal with, and it's cheap enough that it's almost disposable.

      4" screen is the same size as my phone... Why not just combine your budget for a phone and your budget for a tablet and get a 4" phone?

    I was thinking that it would be handy to have our family's google calendar on the door of the fridge, and a $100 tablet might be just fine for that. Only problem is we're running out of wifi slots on the router at home already.

      Stevo, this type of device is probably *perfect* for your purpose. All I can suggest is buy a AUD$65 (including postage) tablet from ebay (7-inch android 2.2) and play with it. After reading all the horror-story reviews about cheap tablets on the internet, I'm actually incredibly impressed with what they can squeeze into a $65 device. Reading ebooks, checking email, working with the calender, listening to music, remote-controlling home devices through wifi, and surfing most websites - all work beautifully (complicated web-2.0 websites get frustrating, though). Angry birds, although awfully jerky, is still playable if you turn off background terrain. I can't comment on video playback, but the youtube app works wonderfully.

      If you buy a $65 tablet, and you set your expectations for a crappy $65 tablet, you'll be impressed. If you set your expectations for it to be able to compete with a $200 tablet, then you're the fool for having such silly expectations.

      Due to the popularity of the cheap devices, there's a solid community of rooters (*teenage girl giggle*) out there.

        Thanks Tony - at this sort of price I'm going to give it a try.

    I bought a Ainol Novo7A and have had no issues with it.
    It even has ICS on it. 1.2GHZ Dual core, 512mb ram, miniHDMI, Capacitive screen (a good one).
    picked it up for 109 USD.

    It's great for reading in bed/toilet and watching Movies.

    I got a Kogan 7" Android tablet about 9 months ago for something like $150. I had fun playing around with it for a while but it is basically unusable. the browser takes on a life of its own, opening random links on page after page. online radio apps that work on my HTC desire will not work on it. the touch screen is finicky. maybe I got a particularly bad one? anyway I learned to really appreciate hire well my Desire works.

      I also got the Kogan for $150 and agree with Frank. Initially it was great, but a lot of apps in the market see it as generic "telelogic..." and consider it not supported. It also lasts only 3 hours before needing charging so is normally tethered to the power cable which is o.k. but more often than not I reach for my galaxy s2. I keep it next to the bed as a clock + weather station + internet radio + short time browsing + remote potato client + crackle viewer = great value (then) for $150 but also is limited.

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