For the past four years Android tablet have been a hot market niche, with dozens of device makers releasing new models willy-nilly. Some were good, many were bad, and as a result the tablet market in July 2014 is glutted with tablets.
There are so many tablets on the market that it is difficult to tell which ones are good; even a reviewer such as myself can’t test more than a tithe of what’s available.
But as I sat here this morning, looking for a tablet to buy and review, I realized that my process for choosing a tablet included a number of rules which might be useful.
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In shopping for a budget tablet, I set a hard upper price limit of $99. Anything more than that gets out of the budget market and into the same price range as the Kindle Fire HD (2013), which at $139 I do not see as a budget tablet.
I also set a lower price limit of $60. As I explain below, most of the tablets that cost less than $59 do not offer a good value. As a general rule, I also avoid refurbs.
Here’s a short list of the specs I want in a $99 Android tablet:
- 7″ screen, with a screen resolution of 1024 x 600 (or higher)
- a Dual-core ARM CPU (or a single-core Intel CPU)
- 1GB RAM (minimum)
- 8GB internal storage
- Google Play (or Amazon Appstore)
You could buy a tablet with less RAM, but that will limit its performance. You might also skimp on storage, but that’s simply not a good idea. As I and a number of other users have discovered, the tablets that ship with only 4GB internal storage fill up real quick. A microSD card will be required, and that adds to the price so I say go for the extra storage in the first place.
You might notice that I insist on Google Play, but don’t mention cameras. The latter are a crap shoot for budget tablets; a tablet might have them but there’s no guarantee that the cameras will be good. And as for Google Play, most budget tablets will ship with it so you can ignore the tablets that don’t have it. They’re not even worth considering.
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Best Tablet Value for July 2014
If you want a safe tablet purchase for under $100, I would go for the Kobo Arc (2012). This is probably not the only good value for $99, but it is one I have had my hands on and can recommend without concern.
The Kobo Arc was initially released in 2012 as a competitor to the Kindle Fire HD. As such it was a mid-grade tablet with specs that justified its $199 price tag. Now that it costs $99, it’s a great deal.
The Arc has a better quality screen than you will find on most tablets in its price range. With a screen resolution of 1280 x 800, it is both sharper and higher quality.