The Need For Budget Tablets

When Apple announced the iPad in January 2009, the entry price for the tablet market was set at $499. I saw (and still see) the web tablet as the successor to the netbook, so I assumed that it would go down over time, and we would eventually see tablets settle in the $350-400 range that netbooks sold for in their brief period of atomic glory (see what I did there?) ASUS and Acer are pushing that agenda for the moment, with the $399 Eee Transformer and the $449 Iconia A500. It’ll take some time for the market to settle, but all trends point to there. I’m sure at some point in the next 18 months, Steve Jobs will get on a stage in the Bay Area and proclaim to the world that he has decided to drop the price on the iPad. “We’ve decided to make this magical device accessible to even more people. How great is that?”

So we’re going to see prices go down, as with any new technology that matures over time. But what about the people that want a $350 tablet now? Like, this minute? Well, there’s a lot of choices, but surprisingly few that aren’t terrible. The Viewsonic we briefly looked at in December was Dreadful, with a capital ‘D’. Worst screen in the world. It’s not the only one, there’s a fair number of $150-200 tablets sold by assorted companies you’ve never heard of, with awful screens, mediocre processors, and some really buggy version of Android. A simple search of Amazon for tablets brings up three or four on the front page - the Superpad, the Coby Kyros, the iRobot APad iPed EPad (seriously), the Zenithink ePad, etc. I swear I didn’t make any of those up. 
So there’s technically plenty out there, but when you start looking for high quality devices, your selection gets much smaller. The WiFi-only version of Samsung’s 7” Galaxy Tab is the first one that comes to mind, offering most of what the previous 3G versions did, now at a $349 price point. Next is the Barnes & Noble Nook Color, which is surprisingly easy to hack and makes for a capable Gingerbread tablet with a few simple mods. And that's about it.
Budget Tablet Specsheet
  Samsung Galaxy Tab (WiFi) Barnes & Noble Nook Color
Height 190.1 mm (7.48") 205 mm (8.1")
Width 120.5 mm (4.74") 125 mm (5.0")
Depth 12.0 mm ( 0.47") 12.2 mm (0.48")
Weight 380 g (13.4 oz) 449 g (15.8 oz)
SoC TI OMAP 3630 TI OMAP 3621
CPU 1 GHz ARM Cortex A8 800 MHz ARM Cortex A8
GPU PowerVR SGX 530 PowerVR SGX 530
RAM 512MB 512 MB
Cameras VGA Front/3.2MP Rear None
Screen 7.0" 1024 x 600 LCD 7.0" 1024 x 600 IPS LCD
Battery Integrated 14.8 Wh Integrated 14.8 Wh
MSRP $349 $249
Between the Nook Color and the Galaxy Tab, we’ve got two rather promising budget tablets, legitimate options for those looking to get in on the tablet movement without breaking the bank. First up, the Nook.
Meet the Contenders - Nook Color
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  • MossySF - Monday, May 30, 2011 - link

    The specs for Archos 70 say:

    • High resolution screen, WVGA 800 x 480 pixels, 7'' TFT LCD, 16 million colors
    • Capacitive multitouch screen

    Yes on the resolution. No on resistive.
  • medi01 - Wednesday, May 25, 2011 - link

    " Overclocked kernels, custom skins and launchers, updating the ROM to the latest nightly build, anything you could possibly dream of. That's something you just won't get with the Samsung..."

    Samsung Galaxy Tab was rootable even back in 2010.
  • ironmb - Wednesday, May 25, 2011 - link

    I will never understand this new fad of tablets.. to each is own i guess.
  • mi1stormilst - Wednesday, May 25, 2011 - link

    Bought one for my wife, rooted in about 15 minutes she uses it for reading and gaming and surfing. Not everything works perfectly, but the battery life is more than decent and it is very much a usable product. We read from both the Kindle App and the B&N App with no trouble. I got it during the Ebay B&N sale for $199 enough said :-)
  • IdBuRnS - Wednesday, May 25, 2011 - link

    My wife uses my rooted CN all the time for playing Angry Birds. lol
  • dukepeter - Wednesday, May 25, 2011 - link

    It seems like the WiFi-only Galaxy Tab packs OMAP3* as well, not Hummingbird.
    this was reported here:

    can anybody confirm?
  • DanNeely - Wednesday, May 25, 2011 - link

    Did you read the article before posting this? It does so.
  • Stanil - Wednesday, May 25, 2011 - link

    In the original it said Hummingburd and PowerVR 540, they changed it post factum :) Thx for the specs, I wasn't sure if the castrated version was only for Europe.
  • dukepeter - Wednesday, May 25, 2011 - link

    yes, i read the article, and i remember clearly it said Hummingbird and PowerVR SGX540.
    But yes, they have changed it now. i wish i had been wrong =|
  • VivekGowri - Wednesday, May 25, 2011 - link

    Yeah sorry, I had changed it on my document file but apparently not the actual article engine before posting - sorry guys, that was a big time proof-reading error by me.

    It felt very bait-and-switch to me, I never noticed it was SGX 530/OMAP3 until I ran the gaming tests and went o_O. I don't mind too much about downgrading the Bluetooth, but the SoC downgrade is pretty terrible.

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