In the current tablet world, there are only two real platforms to consider: Mac iOS (iPad) and Android. This blog focuses on tech for the budget-conscious consumer, so I am going to discuss options in the $250 or less range. That eliminates the iPad and any tablets with a stand alone data connection. (Side note: you don’t have to spend $500 to have an iPad. There are options.)
The $250 price point also eliminates 10 inch Android tablets. My first blog post “Choosing Your Tablet: How to Decide Which Tablet to Buy” briefly discussed the advantages of the 7 inch and 10 inch sizes. Unfortunately, you can’t have a tablet that is 10 inches and costs $250 or less. So there will be no talk of tablets like the awesome Asus Transformer Prime. The 7 inch size works well for most purposes, so thats not a big deal for most people.
I will discuss what I think are the top three options available for purchase now.
Barnes and Noble’s Nook Tablet and Amazon’s Kindle Fire
In my last post, I called these souped-up ereaders. That is what they are and I stand by that term. However, they keep coming up in tablet talk, so I reluctantly include them in this discussion about Android tablets. The Kindle Fire is $200 for 8GB. The Nook Tablet is $200 for the 8GB and $250 for the 16GB. Having played with both, I can say each is speedy and nice to hold. They are great for reading, light web-surfing, and checking emails. So far as ereaders go, don’t waste your money buying anythings else.
Because they are just ereaders, neither has access to the full Android market. Each is limited to it’s respective stores for apps and book purchases.
Full Tablet Option 1
The Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 7.0 is a great tablet. Released in April 2012, it is available from major retailers for $250. It comes with 8GB of internal memory and is expandable to 32GB via microSD card. I played with this thing at Best Buy and HHGregg. The screen is amazing; clear, vibrant, and ultra responsive. The Tab 2 has front and rear cameras, which is great for Skype and taking quick photos. It is slim and light in the hand; very portable.
Editorial and personal reviews rave about this tablet. The negatives that I am aware of surround saving things to the microSD card. Apps can only be saved on the tablet’s internal memory. I don’t imagine this would be a problem for most people as apps don’t consume that much memory. Someone mentioned in a personal review that you can’t save documents to the SD card either, only photos and videos. If true, it’s weird for Samsung to not allow that basic functionality. I have been unable to locate any official documentation to back up the second flaw.
Full Tablet Option 2
The latest Android contender is the Google Nexus 7 tablet. It is available for preorder from the Google Play store for $199 for the 8GB model and $250 for the 16GB model. Supposedly, it will ship later in July. From the editorial reviews, it looks like it will be pretty nice. Google is only selling it through their online store, so I can’t speak to how it feels and moves. The Nexus 7 is intriguing because this is Google’s example of what an Android tablet can and should be. If you remember, this was supposed to be the Asus MeMo 370t. Some of the promised features were dropped to get it to a lower price point.
Compared to the Galaxy Tab 2, this tablet lacks expandable memory and only has the front facing camera. I imagine that most people won’t need more than 16GB, especially for a tablet this size. So far as the rear facing camera goes, its nice to have, but not absolutely necessary. I think its stupid to want to use a tablet as your primary camera.
What would I Buy?
For me, it’s a close race between Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 and Google Nexus 7. For $250, I give the edge to the Galaxy Tab. It has two cameras, expandable memory, and has been field tested. We won’t really know what the Nexus 7 can do until it’s in the hands of consumers being put through daily uses. That being said, the Nexus 7 is the best you can get for $200. It’s that your max, go for it.
Did I miss something? Leave your comments below.