Remember when only cheap knock-off tablets ventured into the realm of affordability? That was forever ago, and thanks to the proliferation of 7-inch Android
slates that have been flooding the market, you don't have to search very far or wide to find a slate that won't kick your wallet in the gut. Just how low have tablet prices fallen, and are these low priced units any good?
According to Digitimes
, the lowest price point for a 7-inch brand-name tablet in the U.S. dropped to just $79 in June. That's great, but what's even better is that pricing is expected to decline even more as specifications in the 7-inch category gradually converge. At present, Samsung's
7-inch tablets tend to cost more than the competition, but even Samsung might be encouraged to compete at lower price levels as other manufacturers kick out more models.
That being the case, there are definitely some things you should pay attention to when shopping ultra-budget tablets, especially if you're poking around the knock-off section or looking at brands you don't recognize. We prefer to stick with name-brand models, but even then, it's important to pay attention to the specs and support.
For example, does the Android slate you're looking at support Google Play or is it a glorified e-book reader with its own proprietary app store? This is more of a concern if you're looking at knock-off models, but play it safe and double-check nonetheless.
Secondly, pay attention to the processor and RAM. A tablet with a single-core processor and 512MB of RAM is going to be vastly limited in what you can do with it. Look for at least a dual-core processor and 1GB of RAM, and research the GPU as well if you plan on doing a lot of gaming.
When it comes to storage, does it offer a microSD card slot or are you stuck with what you get? The lack of a microSD card slot isn't necessarily a deal killer, but if going that route, be sure the amount of built-in storage will be enough for what you plan to do with your slate.
Finally, pay attention to the display, and in particular its resolution. This is one of the areas where tablet makers can cut corners in order to offer a lower priced slate, but unless you're just in need of a basic model to post Facebook updates and surf the web, there's really no reason to settle for less than HD.
If your budget allows, consider shopping in the $150 range for a lower cost tablet than in the sub-$100 category. You'll find there are less compromises in the $150 range, a good example being Asus's MeMO Pad HD 7. It runs $149 street and sports a 7-inch IPS display with a 1280x800 resolution, Intel Atom Z3754 quad-core processor clocked at 1.33GHz, 1GB of RAM, 16GB of onboard storage, microSD card reader, 802.11n Wi-Fi, 2MP rear-facing camera, 0.3MP front-facing camera, micro USB port, headphone/microphone combo jack, and Android 4.4 KitKat out of the box.
You can also find some good deals in Acer's Iconia line, and of course there are usual suspects from Amazon and Barnes & Noble. However, the latter are heavily skinned and geared more towards content consumption rather than offering an unadulterated Android experience.