Now, you must understand from starters that you’re not going to get iPad like looks or performances from an under $200 device, and if you’re expecting these devices to be snappy and run pretty much all the apps and games you’ll want, you might get disappointed. On the other hand, if you need a tablet for daily light use: browsing, reading some books, watching some movies, chatting on Skype and listening to some music, these cheap slates can be exactly what you need.
Of course, I’m not going to tell you not to buy a cheap tablet PC, I’m pretty sure you would look at something better than the ones listed in here if the budget allowed. I will tell you though to carefully read tests and user reviews on the devices you’re looking at, just to make sure you understand what they can and cannot do, so you won’t end up unsatisfied with what you bought (luckily, you can easily return products in the US, but that can still involve shipping expenses and someassle).
Thus, when looking for a cheap tablet you should mainly expect smaller 7 or 8 inch devices, with decent but not great displays, less powerful hardware platforms and less features than the top slates offer today. With that in mind, check out the recommendation bellow, the best cheap tablets available ins tores these days. The items listed here earned it, based on my experience with tablets (I’ve seen most of them live), but also on reviews posted online by regular buyers like you and me.
Cheap Android tablet PCs for $200 or less
Looking for tablets in this price range, you’ll get a bunch of different options, with different features, platforms and screen sizes. Don’t forget these are cheap tablets though, don’t push them too hard or they’ll crack; but, as long as you know what you’re dealing with, they’ll do just fine.
Amazon Kindle Fire – the most popular cheap tablet – $199
There’s been a lot of stir around Amazon’s Kindle Fire 7 inch tablet. Launched in late 2011, it instantly became the second most popular tablet of all times (triling behind the iPad), and there are a bunch of reasons behind its success.
Amazon sells this one for only $199. In fact, they’re loosing a couple on bucks on each unit, but they hope to get it back from all the content packages they offer. Cause the Fire is indeed stuffed with all kind of multimedia content, from books to magazines, music and movies, all available through various Amazon services that require a monthly fee (although some are free). It can also access other video streaming sources, like Netflix, Hulu and other content stores, plus it comes with an excellent browser.
Physically, the Fire is a dumbed Playbook: the exterior is identical, but this one lacks cameras and some of the buttons on the side. There’s an excellent 7 inch 1024 x 600 px IPS screen and an OMAP platform with 512 GB of RAM and only 8 GB of storage space (only 5 GB available for content), that cannot be extended, as there’s no support for memory cards.
Let’s not forget though that the Fire is new and still has plenty of hiccups. The interface doesn’t run as smooth as it should and it sometimes crashes, the Cloud storage system that should make you forget you only get 5 GB of space for content doesn’t work as expected, the preinstaled apps aren’t finished, lacking some of the basic functions, some important third party apps like Netflix for instance are sluggish and so on. You can see this link for reviews left by those who already bought a Fire. Bottom point, if you want perfection, you won’t get it here, although future software updates will for sure fix most of the issues encountered by early adopters.
If you take it as it is though: a cheap tablet PC built for fun and multimedia, the Fire is up to the job and will meet expectations. And that’s why it is so popular these days, surpassing most other slates in sales and popularity.
Lenovo IdeaPad A1 – a cheap $199 Android slate
The IdeaPad is perhaps the best Android tablet you can get that cheap, as it sells for $199 from BestBuy and a couple of other stores. It’s not that cheap online though, you’ll have to search for it in brick-and-mortar stores and most of them don’t have it in stock anyway.
Now, why is this tablet so popular? First, it’s backed up by a brand, Lenovo. Then, it is available in a bunch of different colors and looks fairly nice. Furthermore, it boosts a decent hardware platform, with an ARM Cortex A8 processor, 512 MB of RAM and 16 GB of storage space and a proper 7 inch 1026 x 600 display. But while other similarly priced Android slates come with resistive screens, this one is capacitive, like it should be on a tablet. You also get cameras, a microSD card, Wireless N, Bluetooth and a decent sized battery for the complete package.
The A1 runs Android 2.2, with a couple of customizations that should improve the overall experience. The tablet can handle most of the things you might push at it, including video playing, some games, music, books, browsing. And it also comes with access to the official Android Market, another feature most other slates in this price range lack.
Bottom point, this is a solid budget tablet and that’s mainly the reason you’ll have a hard time actually finding it for $199. If you do though, you should go for it.
Factory refurbished RIM BlackBerry Playbook – $199
It’s a bit odd how a tablet that was launched for $499 a while ago now sells for only $199, and factory refurbished, but I was actually expecting that.
The Playbook is an excellent 7 inch tablet, it’s powerful, solid built and it offers a great screen. It has one big flaw though: it lacks apps. The QNX OS running on the Playbook is snappy and intuitive, but unless you’re fine with the basic apps you get on it, you’ll find almost no useful 3rd party applications in the market.
For $199 though, the Playbook is an excellent deal. The tablet looks a lot like the Kindle Fire and has a couple of extra features (like cameras, physical volume buttons, more memory), but having a powerful slate won’t help you much when you don’t have things to run on it, like useful apps or fancy games.
The 16 GB Wi-Fi Playbook usually sells for about $250-$270 these days, but BestBuy has some factory refurbished units, available mostly in stores though. Factory refurbished means you’ll only get 6 month Warranty, instead of 12 month like you get for the new products, and as long as you can live with that, going for the discounted Playbook is a good decision.
Still, I feel like the Playbooks might get even cheaper in the near future, as RIM will try to clear out unsold units, so you’d better keep an eye on this one in the near future.
Coby Kyros 8 inch and 10 inch Android tablets – from $159
The Coby Kyros line of tablets are actually quite popular these days between budget shoppers. They make a bunch of different tablets, from 7 to 10 inchers, with a couple of different configurations. What we have here are the 8 inch and the 10 inch devices, their top of the lines.
Both run Android 2.3 Gingerbread on an ARM platform with 1Ghz processors, 512 MB of memory and 4 GB of storage space (expandable with 32GB extra via an SD card). Both offer decent connectivity and a front-facing video-camera for Skype and video calls. On the dark side, neither has access to the official Android Market, so you’ll have to get apps from the preinstalled AppsLib marketplace, or Amazon’s Android store.
As for the screens, both come with resistive displays. The 8 incher offers a 4:3 800 x 600 px resolution, while the 10 incher is wide, boosting 1024 x 600 px resolution. Resistive screens are used mainly on cheap tablets and are less responsive than the capacitive screens you get on modern tablets thee days. On the other hand, they work fine with a stylus and can be used for taking notes.
Both these tablets are fairly popular and appreciated for what they are: cheap slates for casual use and entertainment. The 8 inch Coby Kyros starts at $159, while the 10 incher starts at around $200 (making it perhaps the cheapest Android tablet that’s worth a look), both with discounts only available online. Check this link for more details.
Le Pan TC – an affordable iPad like tablet PC
With this tablet, it looks like the producers tried to copy the iPad as closely as possible. The result is a decent 9.7 inch tablet that runs Android and it’s way cheaper than the Apple tablet.
For about 200 bucks you get quite a capable slate here, with a 1 GHz ARM A8 processor, 512 MB of RAM and up to 32 GB of storage space via an SD card. On the front there’s a 9.7 inch 1024 x 768 px display, but it’s a regular LCD, not an IPS like on the iPad, thus colors and viewing angles are poorer.
The device runs Android 2.2, thus it supports Flash, and can run for up to 6 hours on a single charge.
On the outside, the Le Pan is definitely better looking than other tablets in this price range, with a metallic shell and rounded edges, measuring only 0.5 inches and weighing 1.6 pounds.
What’s really surprising though on a tablet like this one is the amount of good and great reviews it received from those who bought it already, scoring around 4.5/5 out of 100+ reviews. That’s something not even the premium tablets get these days, so people really appreciate what this one offers for the money.
Cheapest Android tablets for under $100
These are the cheapest and still decent slates you can find in stores right now. Expect older hardware, small storage space, pretty poor screens and overall shabby bodies, but these toys are really inexpensive and will do the job, as long as you don’t throw much at them.
Coby Kyros – cheap 7 inch tablet with Android 2.3 – $99
This is one the best budget slates out there, and it only goes for $99 online these days, with a 25% price cut over its list price.
For that kind of money you get a slate running on an ARM platform, with only 256 GB of RAM and 4 GB of storage (can be extended with a micro SD card), running stock Android 2.3 GingerBread. The 800 x 480 px display is resistive, so touch input won’t be as smooth as on more expensive tablets, plus you don’t get access to the official Android market, so you’ll have to use the pre-intalled market or install Amazon’s store for apps.
Will deal fine with browsing, reading, Youtube or Skype, although it can get sluggish quite fast. Battery last for a couple of hours and the overall experience is solid for the buck. Just don’t expect to play 3D games or run NetFlix, those won’t work on this cheap slate.
All in all though, there’s a lot of value for the money, and that’s why the Coby Kyros is one of the most appreciated budget tablets out there now.
Pandigital 7 inch budget Android tablet – only $89.99
Pandigital’s electronics are fairly well known between budget shoppers and their 7 inch slate is one of the best inexpensive tablet PCs and the best sold in its class these days. It’s far from perfect, but you can’t ask much from a under 100 bucks tablet, can you?
Now, you get a similar ARM processor, 256 MB of memory and a 7 inch capacitive screen, only it’s not wide like the Coby Above, it has a 4:3 display with 800 x 600 px resolution, which makes it more comfortable to use in portrait mode.
The fact that it only runs Android 2.0 is the biggest issue with this slate though, as that means no Flash support. It also doesn’t offer Android Market access, but you can install 3rd party stores. There’s only 1 GB of storage space, but the Pandigital slate offers a SD card slot, so you can easily add an up to 32 GB SDHC card in there.
Overall, think of this one as a light and very cheap tablet with Android that you can carry along, without caring that much if it gets dropped or damaged. For light use, watching some SD videos (will require conversion in MP4 though), listening to some music, reading books and magazines or going online via Wi-Fi, it’s going to be fine. If you want more, you’ll have to pay extra.
Pandigital also offers an improved tablet, the Pandigital Nova, going at BestBuy for $149 these days, with Android 2.2 and twice the amount of memory, so you can check that one out as well if you need something a bit faster and able to run Flash video content, but still affordable.
These are just some of the cheap tablets you can get for less then $200. There are some other good ones that weren’t included, like the Archos 70, the Velocity Micro Cruz , the HeroTab C8 or Creative Ziio. While decent, they don’t have the good reviews the ones that got to the list have, and don’t offer the same bung for the buck. Oh, and you might come along some Sylvania tablets that sell very cheap, do yourself a favor, don’t buy them, those are really crappy slates.
In the end though, it’s obvious none of these gadgets are iPads, Galaxy Tabs or Xooms. They’re here for budget oriented customers and will do fine if not pushed hard, without offering the looks, power and features of the premium tablets. Books, some movies, music and browsing, that’s what you can expect to use them for. The more powerful ones can also handle streamed content from websites like NetFlix and Hulu, plus some 3D games, so can be called portable multimedia devices.
Bottom point, I see the items listed here perfect for a younger crowd or as secondary gadgets you can grab along when traveling, for some fun or even some work. They’re not as good as the premium tablets, but they cost 2-4 times less and they are smaller and lighter, thus easier to throw on the back seat or in your bag.
As time goes by, more and more cheap tablets will hit the market. You might notice that the big brands aren’t yet here, on the sub $200 price class, with just a few exceptions, but they’ll be here by this time next year.
Expect cheap tablets to become more and more popular, as they’ll also get improved. I’ll update the post periodicaly in the future so stay tuned, if you’re on a budget and would like to buy a good inexpensive tablet PC, this article is here to give you a helping hand.
And if you need more details or got any questions on these cheap tablet pcs under 200 bucks or others, don’t be shy, that’s why the comment form below is there for.