Are eBooks a bargain in comparison to traditional books? Read our analysis to find out the pros and cons of each.
Cheap Android Tablets
Tablet Interface & Android Tablet Camera
Cheap Android Tablets.Almost every budget tablet runs some version of Google's Android operating system. The most popular versions are Android 4.0 and the newer and slightly faster Android 4.2.
Both Amazon and Barnes & Noble use modified versions of the Android 4.0 operating system on their cheap Android tablets.
The Google Nexus 7 is the only cheap Android tablet among our picks that uses the latest version of Android -- Android 4.2. The Galaxy Tab 2 7.0 and Coby Kyros 9742 both use Android 4.0. The Acer Iconia A110 uses the 'tweener Android 4.1.
Tablet Interface.Aside from running apps, operating systems also provide the structure -- i.e., the interface -- for interacting with a tablet. If you have an Android-based smartphone, you'll find that the interfaces on many cheap Android tablets are similar. (The same is true for iPhone fans who use the iPad 2.) Good tablet interfaces are intuitive. You don't want to muddle through a bunch of menus or flip through several screens to find your favorite tablet tools and apps. The interface on a cheap Android tablet should be quick and responsive, as well.
Reviewers generally agree that today's cheap Android tablets have well-designed interfaces that are easy enough to master. For example, an expert from PC World likes the user-friendly design of the Android 4.2 (Jelly Bean) interface on the Google Nexus 7. A reviewer from CNET calls the design of the Nook HD interface clean and intuitive. The interfaces on both the Kindle Fire and Kindle Fire HD provide no-hassle access to Amazon's services, and reviews say it's relatively easy to work through. An expert at CNET terms the Kindle Fire interface sleek and streamlined although occasionally sluggish.
The Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 7.0 interface earns a pass from a Laptop Magazine expert, who likes it well enough but says the Amazon tablet interface is more straightforward. Coby's Kyros MID9742 is also a cheap Android tablet with an interface that PC Mag expert says tends to lag and apps that sometimes stop responding. Reviewers had no complaints about the interface on the Acer Iconia A110.
Tablet Apps and Multimedia.Apps may very well be the soul of a tablet. Fortunately, Google, Amazon, and Barnes & Noble all offer a good selection of popular apps. Barnes & Noble's library for the Nook HD is the smallest but still contains hundreds of apps from which to choose and the library is not wanting for reading material, either. Amazon maintains a huge multimedia library just waiting for Kindle Fire and Fire HD users.
Other cheap Android tablets use either Google Play or another means of downloading apps and content. Google Play is preferable because this is Google's official online source of Android content. The Acer Iconia A110, the Nexus 7, and the Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 7.0 all access Android content using Google Play. The Coby Kyros MID9742 uses GetJar instead. GetJar offers a lot of free Android apps, but they're mostly designed for mobile phones rather than tablets, so it's a curious source to include on a cheap Android tablet. A CNET expert points out that users can ignore GetJar by installing Amazon's app store to obtain apps.
Tablet Cameras.Cameras were once popular features on tablets when they first hit the big time, but many new cheap Android tablets don't include cameras. Models that do come with a tablet camera usually have just one on the front, display side. This is typically a lower megapixel tablet camera that's useful for videoconferencing.
The Nexus 7 includes a 1.2MP front-facing tablet camera and the Acer Iconia A110 has a 2MP camera. The Coby Kyros MID9742 features a paltry .3MP tablet camera, but unusually for a cheap Android tablet, also a 2MP rear-facing camera. The only other budget model with a rear-facing camera is the Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 7.0, which lacks a front-facing tablet camera.
Don't Bother Cheap Tablets
Coby Kyros MID9742 Review
Acer Iconia A110 Review
Amazon Kindle Fire Review
Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 7.0 Review
Google Nexus 7 Review
Nook HD Review
Samsung Galaxy Tab
Barnes & Noble Nook Tablet
Asus Eee Pad Transformer
Acer Iconia Tab
Coby Kyros MID7015
Samsung Galaxy Tab
Find out the results for our Frugal Month Challenge.
Game on! Grab some deals before kickoff this sunday! Here are our favorite Super Bowl deals and sales.