Gift Guide: 5 Tablets Under $100
The first tablet to win the hearts, minds, and wallets of the public was the Apple iPad, whose high price tag made a sub-$100 tablet seem like a pipe dream. An iPad is still a triple-digit proposition, as are several other high-end tablets, such as the Samsung Galaxy models. Many people gravitate to these pricey devices, but Cheapism.com has found five tablets under $100 that reviewers appreciate for what they are. Anyone in the market for a second tablet, or one for the youngsters, won't sacrifice much in performance or quality by opting for a cheaper model.
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Predictably, tablet makers sometimes cut corners to keep retail prices so low. The processors that power these ultra-cheap tablets are not on par with higher-end models, but they're fast enough to get simple jobs done. Most tablets under $100 have a dual-core CPU that runs at about 1.2 GHz, although a handful clock in at 1.5 GHz, which is closer to the speed of premium tablets.
Pricier tablets generally sport larger screens with higher resolutions than entry-level models. More money also buys more built-in storage: up to 32 GB versus 8 GB to 16 GB in most budget models. The ultra-cheap tablets featured here mitigate this disparity by including SD card slots or free cloud storage. Budget tablets are usually built on Google's Android operating system (these days, version 4.4, known as KitKat). Almost all tablets at the bottom of the price scale include USB 2.0 ports, and some offer Bluetooth connectivity. HDMI output is uncommon but not unheard of. The initial wave of sub-$100 tablets didn't include cameras, but the latest models do.
Amazon Fire HD 6 ($99)Amazon shook up the tablet world with the original Kindle Fire, which cost much less than the iPad and other popular competitors. It has since introduced even cheaper models. The svelte Fire HD 6 is almost certainly the best sub-$100 tablet. The 6-inch screen is a bit on the small side, but many buyers who have posted reviews on Amazon like the size because it's pocket portable. The screen has 1280 x 800 resolution and in-plane-switching technology for good graphics performance. The Fire HD 6 uses a quad-core CPU that reaches up to 1.5 GHz, faster than most tablets in this price range. The $99 version has 8 GB of on-board storage, plus unlimited cloud storage for Amazon content. A 16 GB version costs only $20 more.
HP 7 G2 ($99.99)This is a pretty classic $100 tablet. It runs Google's very popular Android 4.4.2 "KitKat" operating system and has a snappy 1.2 GHz quad-core CPU. The 7-inch screen uses IPS technology and has HD resolution of 1280 x 720. There's a front camera for video chatting and selfies, as well as a 2 MP rear camera. This is a very lightweight tablet, at 8.8 ounces. It supports Bluetooth 4.0 in addition to 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi connections.
Insignia 8-Inch Flex ($99.99)If you're looking for a Windows tablet on the cheap, this one's for you. The Insignia 8-Inch Flex from Best Buy runs Windows 8.1 with a 1.3 GHz Intel Atom CPU. This tablet is a bit larger than the others, with an 8-inch LED screen. It comes with 16 GB of internal memory and an SD card slot. In reviews on the Best Buy website, consumers say the tablet is plenty powerful and a cinch to use.
Monster M7 ($69.99)Consumers may recognize this brand as a purveyor of high-priced audio/video cables. The company's tablet includes some nice features for the price. The Monster M7 has a 7-inch IPS screen with 1280 x 800 resolution, as well as a 5 MP camera on the back and a 2 MP camera on the front. Inside is a 1.5 GHz dual-core CPU. Two caveats, though: First, it runs the somewhat outdated Android 4.1 OS. Also, Consumer Reports initially rated the M7 a "Don't Buy" but removed that designation when Monster released a firmware update to keep the tablet from locking up.
Linsay F-7HD4Core (starting at $74.99)You may not have heard of Linsay tablets, but big retailers such as Target carry the brand online. This 7-inch model has the typical specifications you'd expect to find on a tablet in this price range. It runs Android 4.4 and contains a 1.2 GHz quad-core CPU. The tablet has 8 GB of storage, a 1024 x 600 screen, a 2 MP rear camera, a front-facing camera, HDMI output, and 802.11b/g wireless support. Oddly, it does not seem to support 802.11n Wi-Fi, the latest standard, but that's the only significant drawback.