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Tablet PC’s are the newest category of mobile device on the market. Although they’ve existed in some form for years (think Apple Newton) the Apple iPad has almost single-handedly created the category of tablet PC’s. Soon after the market was flooded with low end knock offs from China using the Android operating system. By early 2011, there were some serious contenders to the iPad, such as the Motorola Xoom. Surprisingly enough though, the iPad 2 is still one of the less expensive of the high end tablets, starting at $500 – compared to the Xoom starting from $600 to $900(!) depending on whether it’s subsidized by a wireless plan and where you get it. The iPad 2 is a great bargain, even at the $500 price point, but some people would rather pay less than that. You can get a tablet PC for under $200, but you’re not going to get iPad quality, still to some people price is the overriding factor. Keep in mind, you’re not going to find a capacitive screen, or too many 10 inch tablets either.
So let’s take a look at some of the tablets under $200 and what you get for the money. Just so you know, you might have a hard time finding these from U.S. vendors, but there are plenty of suppliers from China. If you’re in Europe or Asia then you’l probably have an easier time finding these. If you’re willing to buy from a Hong Kong/Chinese vendor, you’ll get a much cheaper price, but then you might have to deal with customs depending on your country, and returns or repairs might cost more than the device itself.
The MID 7 Tablet
This is a 7 inch (usually) Chinese Android tablet, running Android 2.2-2.3 depending on where you get it from. Some of them are branded Eken, or Apad, or Epad, some are just called MID 7 or VIA 7, you might also see them called WM8650, or VIA 8650, or just about any combination of those. WM8650 referst to the chipset, the Wonder Media 8650, replacing the 8505 chip. The WM8650 runs at 800Mhz which is a decent speed, but most of the original firmware is not very effecient, although there have been quite a few manufacturer updates. You can also find the Vestinious, and Uberoid firmware updates on several of the Android forums (Slatedroid, etc). You’ll find these on eBay, Sears, sometimes Amazon, and several brick and mortar stores (CVS, Big Lots, Toys ‘R Us, are all places people on the fourms have found them.)
Another “branded” Chinese tablet, this is also a 7 inch tablet. It’ running the Telechips TCC8902 720MHz processor, so it’s the equivalent to the VIA tablets. Most of them come stock with Android 2.1, but there are plenty of custom ROMs out there again check some of the Android forums, or Google for your particular tablet. When you search “Haipad” on Amazon you get several hits, but the item page doesn’t even say Haipad, so it’s a little suspect. Of course the import places have them too.
There are several models of the Kyros, all under $200. Ranging from the MID7015 to the MID7022 and MID7024. Word on the street is that the 7024 isn’t as nice as the 7022, the 7022 has a capacitive screen, although both will run Netflix according to users on various Android forums. The 7015 is about $50 cheaper, and with tipsters Honeycomb ROM performs very well. Some users feel that the 7015 is a better deal than the 7022 if you’re willing to add a custom ROM. If you don’t mind tinkering, then you can make all they Kyros tablets better, although most report that they’re pretty good out of the box. Add to that you don’t have to get them from China, and they’re carried by major U.S. retailers, they’re probably the best choice for users that want a decent tablet out of the box and don’t want to pay Samsung Galaxy prices.
You can find a lot of info on this tablet online, Androidforum even has a forum devoted to it. The only problem is actually finding one for sale. This particular tablet is based on the Rockchip 2818 a 633Mhz chip that’s a little slower than the WM8650. People report it plays video ok, but not at higher bitrates. This is a 7 inch tablet and it comes with Froyo (2.1) and can also be upgraded to Gingerbread (2.1) Many people report seeing them in CVS drugstores in the U.S., but you can’t find them by searching CVS online.
One of the “branded” no-names. I know, it seems like an oxymoron, but there are plenty of Chinese Android tablets out there that go by only the processor name. If you’re looking to buy from a brick and mortar store then the Augen is available at K-Mart and at Amazon. No word of what the chip is, but at 800Mhz possibly the WM8650, although it’s been around before that chip was released. Out of the box, reviews aren’t good, but with a new ROM it seems to be a pretty decent tablet.
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