The attack of the cheap Android tablets

Android attack!

Lately the internet has been abuzz with cheap Android tablet talk. This last week it was all about the Augen GenBook78 which appeared in a K-Mart circular for $150. This is not the first affordable Android tablet to get people excited, nor will it be the last. The thing that bothers us about this craze (and after the sheer amount of tweets and posts that the GenBook received last week, we’re comfortable in calling it that) is that people expect a good product for such a cheap price.

That that will never be the case.

Cheap tablets mean cheap parts. Cheap parts mean slow performance and aggravating interfacing. Ultimately, cheap tablets mean a poor experience. Paying $100 or $150 won’t get you the vital hardware that makes a tablet worthwhile; the processor will be to slow, the touch screen will be resistive, battery life will be minimal, memory pitifully weak and common ports will be mysteriously absent.

Then you have the multitude of problems with Android. There’s version fragmentation, application resolutions, lack of marketplace connection and a few smaller items. Some of these cheap Android tablet ship with Android 2.1, but most are still dredging up the past with bad quality builds of 1.5 or 1.6. Even if people buy these tablet and get past the performance issues, learn to enter the zen-like state necessary to operate a resistive touchscreen without turning a tablet into a Frisbee and have a near-constant power connect, you still have to struggle with applications to put on it. Sure, people can find ways around just about anything, but after a while is the time and frustration worth being able to open a Playstation emulator on a tablet that can barely run it?

To get a quality tablet you’re going to have to pay for it. You’ll have to pay for the faster processor, higher resolution screen, capacitive touch, larger SSD, bigger battery and better connection hardware. More importantly you’re going to have to find a manufacturer that is willing to create or modify an OS for that tablet, not just slap a “mobile” operating system on it and put it in a box. There’s no secret alchemist formula that turns junk into gold. The real formula is simple: you get what you pay for. And if you’re happy to pay very little for a tablet slightly more powerful than a digital picture frame, then the more power to you.

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9 Responses to “The attack of the cheap Android tablets”

  1. Very good points.

    So, if Augen is not good, what tablets meet your criteria as good, quality tablets?

    Interested to hear as I’m looking for one…



    • That’s the thing. There really aren’t any good tablet out now. Of course there’s the iPad, which is well-constructed and works nicely, but is limited in scope by Apple and regulated to a MID. The rest of what’s currently out isn’t worth mentioning. By the end of the year (finger’s crossed) we should have some tablets that fit our criteria like the ExoPC Slate, Innoversal Lattice and the Notion Ink Adam (if it ever comes out) to name a few. That’s speculation though until we can get our hands on them, but those there offer many of the things we think are vital to a good tablet experience: large screen, capacitive touch, great battery life, powerful processor and good connectivity.

    • Interesting set of generalization that I assume was the case in August. This is not the case in my recent review of a number of 7″ around 150$ and 10$ for around 220. These are not running the tegra2 architecture but perform very well..

  2. Wait for the MeeGo tablets probably by Q4. There will come many of them, and you may use the QT based Apps throughout all available MeeGo devices like phones (i.e. Nokia N9 with Dual Core ARM), home entertainment controllers or even car infotainment equipment (MeeGo plattform chosen by the GENIVI Alliance).

  3. The article image made me laugh, almost as hard as I did at the hype. You would think most consumers would be quite familiar with the ‘you-get-what-you-pay-for’ idiom by now, as well as being able to implement it in their lives without an obvious shove in the right direction. Ah, c’es la vie…

    Thank you for this informative piece, well spiced with subtlety wry humor. Tablets aside, I want to know what RIM’s cloak N’ dagger answer to the iPhone will be.

  4. I have to stand up for the Dell Streak. Its totally a quality Tablet. Its got a superfast processor, 16 gig sd card, its capacitive, front and back camera, its a phone, beautiful screen, extremely portable, access to Android, support from dell with regard to updates, mp3 player, photo viewer, video player, and 6 months ahead of any named brand tablet producer bar Apple. Having played with the Ipad I couldn’t find the killer feature the Streak doesn’t have. Oh and I forgot to mention a great Ereader, which is viewable outdoors if the light its turned right up. Completely viewable in daylight.

  5. I’m sorry, but “not just slap a “mobile” operating system on it and put it in a box” – Isn’t that the iPAD?

    Just to make clear that I Love iPad, but iPad it’s a bigger iPhone with no possibility of making phone calls. Isn’t it?

    António Trindade

  6. They are still working on making the Augen Gentouch actually usable :)
    Just released another patch:

  7. 1ghz will be the ante-up processor into 2011. Also RAM will need to be 256mb+ anything less than these specs (and NOT overclockable) will fall by the wayside along with hardware that can’t adapt it’s O/S. Much in the way that CMOS limitations of motherboards diallowed (hard drives, peripherals, processors, memory) hardware/software from being run, there will be a shakeup in minimum specs. However, if a company such as Archos can’t seem to get their product chain to operate properly.. What does this say about non-phone tablets? Are they still a niche or ready for prime time?

    From the reviews, consumers either really like or realy hate the raw o/s.. Those who like it or are inbetween are tinkerers who will jump through hoops to make the experience what they want. Larger tablets run the risk of overlapping their price structure to make people think they are on DRUGS.. $500+ is LAPTOP territory. You might woo the cult fans of Apple with Ipad Gen 2… but these touch tablets better come with alot more internal memory, multi o/s use & potential functions with an ease of use UI (when you even THINK about broaching laptop price)