The Apple iPads and Samsung Galaxy Tabs of this world don’t come cheap. Even the entry-level 16GB models will set you back £399.
While both of these tablets are pretty cool, they are way beyond what I’d pay for a portable computer right now (especially since I already have a smartphone and netbook).
I do like tablets though, and am a keen bargain hunter, so I’m always interested to see how cheap Android tablets perform in our tablet reviews, the ones that come in around the £100-£150 mark. I’m not overly bothered about the good looks of the premium tablets, and their slick marketing campaigns don’t hold much sway over me either. I’m definitely interested in day-to-day performance and ease of use, though. So how do these cheap Android tablets stack up?
A closer look at performance
One thing common to virtually all cheap Android tablets is the resistive touchscreen technology they use. These screens require a positive press to register, as opposed to the super light touch or swipe that is sufficient on a capacitive screen.
Add in a slow processor and limited RAM that seems to be prevalent on cheap tablets and it means that opening apps, switching between them, swiping, dragging, typing and generally getting around the tablet can at times be a slow and frustrating affair.
In our lab tests, the Binatone Homesurf 705 was one of several cheap tablets that suffered from these problems.
Where are the apps?
Most Android tablets have access to the excellent Android market, where you can find a wide range of useful apps. Unfortunately the cheap Android tablets we’ve tested disappoint here, as their app stores are limited.
Official versions of national newspapers The Telegraph, The Times, The Guardian and The Independent are all absent, as are official versions of the Facebook, Twitter and YouTube apps.
Ebay, Amazon and the Kindle ebook reader app are also nowhere to be found.
We have tested 34 tablets in total here at Which?, performing various battery life tests and checks.
One of the most eye opening (or occasionally eye rolling) ones is seeing how long the battery will run when playing back HD video. Results vary from a very poor 2 hours 15 minutes up to a mammoth 14 and a half hours.
Unsurprisingly, the two sub £100 tablets we tested a couple of weeks ago, the Binatone and the Arnova 8 came near the bottom of the pile and cheap tablets in general suffer in this category.
For me, these are the three major drawbacks of the cheap Android tablets I’ve seen to date. If these could be improved upon, even to a small degree, then cheap Android tablets would hold a lot more appeal.
Have you bought or considered buying a cheap Android tablet? What makes a good cheap Android tablet? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.