Sub-$350 Budget Tablet Spec Showdown

If you didn’t manage to get a price cut HP TouchPad, Android manufacturers are now offering a range of budget tablets that will cost you up to half as much as an iPad. The tablet price war is on at the lower-end spectrum of tablets, so if you’re looking for a value Android tablet bargain, you’ve come to the right place.

Some Android tablets retail for under $100 on Amazon, but we’ve looked at the tablets under $350 – a whole $150 less expensive than the iPad or top-end Android tablets from Samsung or Motorola. The offerings under $350 are not too shabby, from $250 for the newly announced Lenovo IdeaPad A1 to $330 for an Acer Iconia Tab A100. The other two tablets included in this comparison are the ViewSonic ViewPad 7 retailing for $300 and the original Samsung Galaxy Tab, now down to $280.

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To compare the tablets above you'll want to check out this comparison chart that gives you an at-a-glance snapshot of how these tablets rate against one another in the tech spec department.

Operating System

You will only get the latest version of Android for tablets on the Iconia Tab, namely Honeycomb 3.2. The other three tablets run on the versions of Android designed with phones in mind: the ViewPad and the Tab come with Android 2.2 while the IdeaPad A1 will come with the slightly newer Android 2.3. Right now the selection for Honeycomb apps is minimal, so you would have a larger offering of apps (though not as well optimized for tablets) from the Android 2.X tablets in this comparison.

Size and Display

The four budget Android tablets sport 7-inch screens with a resolution of 1024 by 600 pixels, with the exception of the ViewPad, whose screen has a lower resolution (800 by 480 pixels). These tablets also have the same thickness, at half-inch, while the ViewPad is slightly thinner and lighter at 0.45-inches and just over 13 ounces. Otherwise compared to their bigger counterparts, you could say these tablets are relatively chunky.

Performance

If you expect iPad-like performance from these tablets you’ll be disappointed. The IdeaPad and Tab run on 1GHz processors with 1GB or RAM. The ViewPad runs on slower 600MHz processor and 512MB of RAM, while the Iconia Tab is the most powerful of the bunch with a 1GHz dual core processor and 1GB or RAM.

Storage

You get the most storage for your buck with the IdeaPad and the Tab, both with 16GB onboard memory. The Iconia Tab pack 8GB, while the ViewPad has a meager 512MB. Nevertheless, all four tablets feature MicroSD card slots so you can put in a card up to 32GB.

Cameras and Connectivity

The Iconia Tab has the highest megapixel count out of the bunch, with 5MP on the back and 2MP camera for video calling. The other three tablets feature 3MP rear shooters and 0.3MP front cameras (1.3MP on the Galaxy Tab).

In the connectivity department you get WiFi, Bluetooth, USB ports and GPS on all four tablets. Notably, the ViewPad is the only tablet with 3G connectivity in this comparison and the Iconia Tab is the only one with a built-in HDMI out.

Battery

The claimed manufacturer battery life is the lowest on the Iconia Tab at 4.5 hours, moving upwards to 6 hours on the ViewPad, 7 hours on the IdeaPad and up to 8 hours on the Galaxy Tab. As with any battery life claims, it will depend a lot on what you will use the tablet for, display brightness and other factors.

Bottom Line

The upcoming Lenovo IdeaPad A1 seems to offer the highest performance for the lowest price, closely followed by the Galaxy Tab, which at $280 is a no-brainer choice over the ViewPad. But if you can spare the extra $50, the Iconia Tab A100 is well worth considering, as it add a dual-core processor, Android Honeycomb, a better camera, albeit less storage and battery life.

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For comprehensive coverage of the Android ecosystem, visit Greenbot.com.

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