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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  • nomagic - Wednesday, May 25, 2011 - link

    Because it is so damned affordable... Reply
  • medi01 - Wednesday, May 25, 2011 - link

    Nah. Street price for WiFi Samsung Galaxy Tab is about 260$.

    Basically this article sounds like hidden advertisment / Samsung bashing.

    Galaxy Tab is vastly superior. Screen is NOT better than that of Nook (I know, I've used both). With contrast of 700+ you care more about max brightness, than max contrast.

    Samsung's device is solid.

    And "hacker undriendlines" of Galaxy Tab is sush a piece of bull**it, it's rootable for ages, and there are custom roms. Not that it's built in ROM really needs rooting, as Nook does.
    Reply
  • VivekGowri - Wednesday, May 25, 2011 - link

    Where are you seeing that street price? For a new one, the lowest I can see is $340 on Amazon, $345 on Google Shopping results, and $349 from most standard retailers. There's less out there for the Galaxy Tab as far as ROMs and the like, but just to root it, yeah just run SuperOneClick and you're all good. The point being that unlike the Galaxy Tab, you need to hack the Nook to make it useful, and once you do, you have more options than with the Samsung.

    Look, I like the Galaxy Tab, I've got two here and they're both great devices. I also like the Galaxy Tab more than the Nook Color, it says pretty clearly there that the Galaxy Tab is definitely the better device. If you can find it for $260 (the refurb deal on Woot, maybe), yes, no brainer right there. At $350, only $50 less than the ASUS Transformer, hell no. If you're looking for a cheap and cheerful barebones tablet, the Nook works better simply because it's a lot cheaper.

    And just for the record, the reason the screen is better has more to do with the viewing angles that come with the IPS display in the Nook, but as far as regular TN LCD panels go, the Galaxy Tab is one of the best. I can't wait to see the AMOLED panel in the next-gen Galaxy Tab 7".
    Reply
  • DJMiggy - Wednesday, May 25, 2011 - link

    The 3G/WiFi galaxy tab refurbished was 259.99 on woot today but that is sold out. Must be where you are getting that price from unless you mean with a two year contract which you can get it on Sprint's Network for $199.99 with a 2 year contract. Reply
  • zvadim - Wednesday, May 25, 2011 - link

    Overstock had a refurb Nook Color for $183 shipped a few days back & B&N sold brand new ones on e-bay a few times for $200. Reply
  • kkwst2 - Friday, May 27, 2011 - link

    Yeah, I recall some refurb prices for a little over $100. If you can put up with its speed, it is a great deal given the screen quality. Reply
  • redechelon - Wednesday, May 25, 2011 - link

    First off, great article! (in typical Anandtech fashion)

    But... the Asus Eee Pad Transformer seems like too much of a solid competitor to leave out of this budget category. I realize it's slightly more expensive ($399/$400) than these, but it seems th $50 difference from the Galaxy is well worth it, just a thought.
    Reply
  • redechelon - Wednesday, May 25, 2011 - link

    I also realize you talked about it, i just couldn't get over it =P. Out of the 2 though, I'd take the nook as well... would be fun to monkey with. Reply
  • VivekGowri - Wednesday, May 25, 2011 - link

    Yeaaaap, the Transformer's pricepoint just blew the 7" Galaxy Tab off the market. I mentioned it at the beginning and only really discussed it at the end, but I figured that it made more sense to compare these two, since they're pretty similar, instead of comparing to any of the Honeycomb tablets. Reply
  • medi01 - Wednesday, May 25, 2011 - link

    No it didn't. No GPS, no 3G, crappy software, unpolished hardware.

    I don't get where do you get your conslusions from, guys. From articles filled with lies/semi-lies like this one?
    Reply

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