We’re seeing somewhat of an arms race when it comes to cheap Android tablets, with retail outlets of all shapes and sizes pumping out slates aplenty to offload at eye-catching price points. In the US, there have been offerings from Best Buy, Walmart, Sears, and Target, to name but four, all with similar specifications and trumped-up descriptions. Maybe your hunger is so great, your pocket so ludicrously stuffed with free cash demanding to be spent, that nothing I can say could convince you not to race down to your nearest computational goods emporium and buy the first low-cost rectangular object you see. Slow down and endeavor to avoid a maelstrom of disappointment and questionably-functional electronics this holiday season. Follow these guidelines:
Temper Your Expectations
Perhaps you only want something to appease an unhappy child, or at least place in front of an unhappy child, or possibly just use to Google how to deal with an unhappy child. Regardless, what can you expect from your generic purchase?
Well, chances are you’ll get a 1GHz processor, a low resolution capacitive screen with poor viewing angles, a weak speaker and a creaky plastic body. Wi-Fi connectivity will be present, but probably not Bluetooth. It won’t blow you away with quality, but if you go into it with really low expectations to match the low price, you should be able to get your money’s worth. If you’re giving it to a kid, tell the little boy or girl beforehand that it’s going to be a plank of wood with some buttons drawn on it a la the classic Powerbook reverse scam. Once they find out it’s a working tablet, they’ll be so pleasantly surprised that they won’t notice how mediocre it is.
Good old China is always there to lend governments money, but did you know it also provides a host of wacky and wonderful gizmos? It’s true! Other countries have merely begun to create huge quantities of similar electronic products; China perfected it years ago. Since the items available in your area most likely come from China anyway, you really ought to give a cursory thought to the notion of importing something directly.
There are some obvious downsides to having something sent from overseas. You’re not easily able to return it if it’s defective, and you can’t test the model ahead of time to see what you think. Most troublingly for the buyer on a schedule, you have to wait for it to be shipped, a process which can take weeks or even months if you’re particularly unlucky. If you don’t mind waiting a while, though, for the same money or a little less, you could pick up something better than what you would likely get from a Walmart.
Good build quality, better screens, more features, less bloatware, extensive accessories, and easier software modification—if you do even a small amount of research, you will get most if not all of these things. Have a look at brands like Ainol, PiPO, or Ramos, and look for sites that ship their devices (one example.) Some people love proper Chinese tablets, some people hate them for being a bit glitchy and inconsistent. They’re absolutely worth a look, though.
Splash the Cash
If you want something that will perform truly well, and last you a long time… you’ll just need to pay more. Not necessarily a huge amount, mind, but you’re not going to get a quality Android experience for sixty dollars, and as an Android user I’m tired of people comparing their horrible cheap tablets to expensive Apple items and complaining that Android is too slow. You might as well mock a wedding video for lacking the visual fidelity of a Michael Bay CGI-riddled robot punch fest. I am aware that the Sears tablet purportedly offers “excellent performance and image quality,” but it’s a lie, a shameful lie. Corporate America is misleading you in a devious attempt to encourage you to buy Apple products. Well, possibly. I’m just speculating.
In conclusion, just buy a Nexus 7. Really. It offers a great screen, tremendous performance, and a convenient size, and won’t be such an enormous financial loss when your toddler dashes it to pieces against your mahogany table the day after the warranty has expired. What more could you ask for?