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
NAND 16GB 8GB
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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  • VivekGowri - Wednesday, May 25, 2011 - link

    It's got some issues, granted, particularly with the camera, but on a hardware/software/usefulness level, anything running Honeycomb at this point is a better bet than the Galaxy Tab, HTC Flyer, or the like, bugs and minor instability included.

    Heck, that $50 is worth it just for the jump to Tegra 2 and the better screen, if you despise Honeycomb that much you can see if you can get someone to release a Gingerbread ROM for it.
    Reply
  • iphadke - Thursday, May 26, 2011 - link

    Hey Vivek...

    How about adding the Adam in the mix? I think with that, we're getting something at a USD350 price point which will outperform both the Nook and Galaxy Tab by a hugh margin. No IPS panel, though plenty of usability...

    Cheers
    Neel
    Reply
  • VivekGowri - Thursday, May 26, 2011 - link

    I've been trying to get Rohan to send me an Adam review unit for literally 6 months now, nothing yet. They're still pretty hammered on filling pre-orders, so we'll see when/if I get one. Reply
  • softdrinkviking - Wednesday, May 25, 2011 - link

    "no it didn't" what? what didn't it do? i don't understand! who are you replying to??!?

    "filled with lies?" that's a bit harsh. i see your point with the tab roms, but that's hardly "filled" with anything. i think the editorial nature of this article was pretty well laid out from the beginning. he likes the nook for cheap, thinks the tab is better and doesn't need custom roms to be good but the nook does. what's a lie about that?
    Reply
  • medi01 - Wednesday, May 25, 2011 - link

    He comes to the conclusion nook is better because, you know "40% higher price" and, you know, custom roms, that you don't need but could have with Samsung.

    And not that I would call Samsung Galaxy "a budget tablet" and not that I see a point in calling it "budget" besides somehow separating it from Apple's products that, you know, have very similar screen, less features, terrible restirctions in software, no rooting at all and a much higher price
    Reply
  • Stuka87 - Wednesday, May 25, 2011 - link

    Your comparison to the iPad is a bit off.

    1: The 9.6" display is really nothing like the 7" display on the Tab. Their quality is kind of similar, but the 16:9 aspect ratio makes the Tab unusable in landscape mode (And I have one sitting right here).

    2: What features are you referencing?

    3: I wouldn't say terrible. They are somewhat similar to Google's store regulations, only Apple does its best to keep out Malware, which Google doesn't seem to care much about.

    4: Who cares if you can root the device? You can jail break it if you really want to.

    5: Sure, it cost 150 dollars more. But the hardware is so much faster than the Tabs its not even funny. Not to mention its much more comfortable to hold with it being much thinner. And the battery life is top notch as well.
    Reply
  • VivekGowri - Wednesday, May 25, 2011 - link

    Did you not read the part where it said "In all honesty, the Galaxy Tab is the better device"?

    The Nook is a lot cheaper for something pretty close as far as usage model, simple as that. And if you look at the core hardware, the GT and NC are pretty similar, much more similar than the GT7 versus any one of the Honeycomb tablets. It's a better, more polished device as far as hardware and software, but that doesn't make it better value for money or a better buy, especially in light of some devices that don't cost a whole lot more and offer so much more power and functionality. Heck, just look at the 8.9" Galaxy Tab, if you dislike the Asus and Acer that much.
    Reply
  • Lukemcd - Thursday, May 26, 2011 - link

    Everyone just wants their favorite device to win. There's nothing wrong with this article. It made points for both sides.

    They're angry because they cannot make blanket "Your writing sucks" comments because it didn't. So they have to "rationalize."
    Reply
  • Samus - Thursday, May 26, 2011 - link

    I've had my nook color since january. Ever since CM7 went official with 2.3 last month its been super solid. Tethered to my phone for internet access when out and about, it's like having a 3G tablet and it cost me $200 bucks.

    I haven't held or seen the Galaxy Tablet, but it looks like its built like crap compared to the nook. It's thicker, the plastic looks korean and overall the finish isn't attractive. It looks like one of Samsung's cheap-ass phones that break the moment you drop them.
    Reply
  • MonkeyPaw - Wednesday, May 25, 2011 - link

    I have the NC, and it is fun to mess with. I read this article with mine (using CM7. Beta 3.1), and I'm posting this with it. Been using it for over a month and love it. Sure, a more expensive tab has better specs, but lets be realistic, a tab is for casual use in an easier form-factor. I can do email, web, gReader, games on the NC, and I will go to my PC if I really need to get something done.

    Nice to see thewrote this. There's quite a community around the NC. There may be a real HC build if Google ever releases the source.
    Reply

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