A few years ago, tablets weren’t even on the radar. Long promoted by Microsoft, Apple single-handedly created the modern tablet market by launching its venerable iPad line. Nowadays, nearly every major tech company offers their own take on the tablet PC form factor.
The budget tablet sector in particular is seeing record growth. There are literally dozens of great budget tablets out there that can give you a great return on your investment and deliver a superb web-browsing experience. The following 6 machines represent some of the best value that can be found at the moment.
Apple iPad Mini
When most people hear the word “tablet,” they think “iPad.” Apple finally jumped into the budget tablet market with the iPad Mini, a slimmed down version of the iPad that’s nearly as powerful. It’s got a 7.9-inch display with 1024 x 768 pixel resolution, a dual-core Apple A5 CPU, 1GB of RAM and up to 64GB of storage. You’ll also get Siri, Apple Maps and access to more than half a million apps from iTunes. Renowned for its unimpeachable build quality and performance, the iPad Mini is a great choice for bargain hunters.
Google Nexus 7
Google finally joined the tablet PC fray with the Nexus 7, an appealing “pure Android” device starting at just $200. With its 1.2GHz quad-core CPU, 1GB of RAM and internal storage of at least 16GB, it packs a serious value punch. Specs aside, the main selling point of the Nexus 7 is its clean, unmodified installation of Android 4.2 Jelly Bean, which comes with the superb Google Now service. While the lack of an SD slot is disappointing, the Google Nexus 7 is still one of the best overall tablets you can get your hands on at any price point.
HP Slate 7
Though HP isn’t famous for their consumer hardware quality, the new $170 HP Slate 7 is a solidly built piece of machinery. It’s got a 7-inch display with 1,024 x 600 pixel resolution, a dual-core 1.6GHz ARM CPU, 1GB of RAM and 8GB of internal storage. Local storage limitations can be overcome with the included microSD slot, which can support up to 32GB of additional space. Equipped with the Android 4.1 Jelly Bean operating system and Beats Audio, it’s one of the best budget tablet choices out there.
Samsung Galaxy Tab 2
One of the most popular Android tablets on the market, the diminutive 7-inch Galaxy Tab 2 is an excellent budget buy. Packing a 1.0GHz CPU, 1GB of RAM, 8GB of on-board storage and a microSD slot, it’s a solid deal at roughly $180 for the Wi-Fi version. While the internal silicon isn’t the most up-to-date hardware you can get, the Galaxy Tab 2 delivers a slick experience thanks to Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich. Apps like Music Hub, S-Memo, Smart Remote and AllShare make this tablet a well-rounded tool for either work or play.
Amazon Kindle Fire HD
The Amazon Kindle Fire HD is a terrific option for budget shoppers. It runs a modified version of Android 4.0 and relies on the Amazon Appstore for programs. Tuned specifically for content consumption, the Kindle Fire HD comes with a free month of Amazon Prime as well as free cloud storage for any music, movies or books you buy. With a 1.2GHz CPU, 1GB of RAM, 16GB of Flash memory and a 7-inch screen, the hardware specs aren’t stellar. Regardless, performance is quite respectable thanks to Amazon’s Silk browser.
Just because a tablet isn’t a bestseller doesn’t mean it isn’t worthy of your disposable income. A PlayBook with a 7-inch display, dual-core 1.0GHz ARM processor, 1GB of RAM and 64GB of long-term storage can be had for just under $200. Throw in the fact that it runs the advanced, QNX-based BlackBerry Tablet OS and this bargain becomes all the more appealing. Thanks to some sophisticated default apps like Documents To Go, BlackBerry Messenger and BlackBerry Bridge, the PlayBook is another strong contender for the title of Best Budget Tablet.
Making the Call
Before you pull out the plastic, take a moment to ponder why you’re getting a tablet in the first place. Figure out if you intend to use your tablet for business, for pleasure or for both. For instance, enterprise users might be better off with a BlackBerry PlayBook. Consumers looking for the ultimate entertainment and content consumption tablet will most likely prefer an iPad. In any event, there’s no reason why you should have to spend a lot of money to get what you want from your tablet purchase.