Those days are gone when a tablet was considered an extravagance, when prices remained floating above 20-25K levels.. In the past few months, several new competitors have evolved and along with this, there came new launches from the existing manufacturers. This has made a considerable impact on the market. Now, you can just walk-in to a store and pick up a good quality tablet for less than half what you had to pay earlier.
So the good news is that tablets market is flourishing with products that have become more affordable for the masses. With decreasing price points, there's bound to be some compromises to the hardware specs of tablets, which could impact functionality and performance. That's what you have to watch out for while picking up one for your needs. You need to analyze the specs and features offered by these devices instead of falling prey to their attractive price points. Here are a few points to keep in mind before you opt for a tablet.
SCREEN: CAPACITIVE IS BETTER THAN RESISTIVE
You will find that most of the low cost tablets provide an option of a 7-inch display. But more than the size, it's the type of touchscreen that will determine how enjoyable your experience will be. Resistive touchscreen is very rarely used these days. Capacitive touchscreen is far easier to use and also it compliments Android better. However, the quality of touchscreen differs from device to device. You will find the screen of Milagrow TabTop 7.4 much better in terms of responsiveness if you are comparing it with Zen Ultratab 7.0 A100. In terms of resolution, anything below 800x480 pixels should not to be considered.
OS SHOULD BE UPGRADABLE TO NEW VERSION
Most budget tablets we see today are based on Google Android 4.0 ICS (Ice Cream Sandwich OS). It is free and helps in keeping the cost of the tablet low. In tablets like Milagrow TabTop 7.4, it is possible to upgrade the Android 4.0 ICS (Ice Cream Sandwich) to the newer version, Android 4.1 (Jelly Bean). While in most other tablets, it is still unclear whether they are upgradable or not. Upgradability is a nice feature to have as it would mean more optimized performance on these tablets which are anyways low on hardware.
800 MHZ CPU, 512 MB & EZPANDABLE MEMORY ARE BARE MIN REQUIREMENTS
When it comes to processor speed, the faster the better. Most budget tablets come with single core processors with speeds in the range of 600 MHz-1.2 GHz. We would advise you to go with the fastest possible processor, though we have seen 800 MHz processors do a decent job. Internal memory and storage are important components which are responsible for some degree of user experience. A larger amount of RAM would mean better functioning of the tablet and lesser amount of lag whereas larger internal memory would mean more space to store apps and personal data files which do come handy on the move. 512 MB RAM would be a good spec to go for in case of low cost tablets. Anything over and above would be a boon for the price whereas anything less would render the tablet useless. Internal memory is substantiated with a memory card. A higher capacity memory card would mean more storage on the go. Hence it makes sense to buy a tablet which supports an expandable memory card. One could look for bundled offers on memory cards which would reduce overhead costs.
AT LEAST 3000 MAH BATTERY RECOMMENDED
Battery is a very important part of all delo portable devices. A good amount of battery life will make life easier. Essentially, budget tabs being 7-inch display devices, require more battery capacity than smartphones to last a respectable amount of time before one has to charge them again. A battery capacity of 3000mAh would be able to last around 5 hours on Wi-Fi with average usage. Another thing to consider could be the type of charger. Though proprietary chargers mean that one can not borrow a charger. A mini USB or micro USB charger would be ideal.
GO FOR LOTS OF CONNECTIVITY OPTIONS
With the advancement in the operating system and improved feature set, budget tablets are not meant only for basic browsing and surfing the net while on the move. Like, they can be used for live video streaming or they can be used for some business works on the cloud. Limited amount of apps would be the other use case. Wi-Fi connectivity, Bluetooth support is a basic spec that is present in all. GPRS/ 3G connectivity could be a differentiator in terms of portable usability of the tablet. 3G capable devices also support phone calls which are a nice add-on. USB device support is a nice add-on as external keyboards and thumb drives could be operated out of that.
LOOK FOR FRONT-FACING CAMERA & GOOD VIDEO PLAYBACK
The tablets in this division are unlikely to be multimedia powerhouses but will, in most cases, play videos and music decently well. In a perfect scenario, we would recommend a device with dual cameras with the capacity to play HD video, but barring this, we would insist that you go for a device that has at least a front-facing camera as tablets are handy for making video calls. Most tablet displays are good to play DVD quality videos.
CHECK IF YOU REALLY NEED ALL THOSE PRE-INSTALLED APPS
No matter which tablet you purchase, it is likely to come with some pre-installed applications. These could vary from browser variants and special application stores to full-fledged office suites. One can always access the Google play and download and install free or paid apps from there. While having a lot of software pre-installed on the tablet might appeal to many who are on a tight budget. The downside is that it eats up storage and can slow down the performance of your tablet. So, it makes sense to opt for a tablet that comes with applications that you need and are likely to use.
HCL Me U1
In case you are looking for a tablet below 10k, you can go for HCL's latest tablet called Me U1. It is a decent looking compact device. Its price and features like the latest Android OS, usability and multiple connectivity options make the HCL tablet an eye-catching rival to the likes of Micromax Funbook and Zen UltraTab.
Its front panel features a 7-inch bright capacitive touchscreen display and an ordinary 0.3 MP front camera (which is also the only camera in the tab). It has several useful connectivity ports, such as USB 2.0 port, USB modem support for direct plug-in 3G dongles, a 3.5 mm universal port, mini USB and micro SD card slot. On the side panel, it has keys for volume, an on/off switch and a charging indicator.
For just 8k, it offers plenty of connectivity features and the Ice-cream Sandwich, the latest Android OS. It has an intuitive user-interface with smooth wobbling amongst home screens, apps and while browsing. For Internet, it has Wi-Fi and 3G support. HD video playback is smooth, but was marred by low sound output. While playing games, the sound appeared a lot better. HCL Me U1 comes with their own app store Me Apps instead of the popular Google Play store app.
It comes with 1 GHz processor, which is what more or less most of its rivals have. The single core processor with 512 MB RAM may appear low but it keeps the tablet running most of the time except when multiple apps are open. It has a decent battery back-up of up to 4 hours.
Bottomline: HCL's latest budget tablet U1 is a decent performer powered by Android 4.0 OS, and boasts of 3G and a lot more to keep you engrossed
Milagrow TabTop 7.4
The TabTop 7.4 is built on Android 4.0.3 (Ice Cream Sandwich) and weighs around 361 gms. It's also a very slim tablet (6.5mm) and has a dimension of 131x180x6.5. Although the display is a 7” touchscreen (800x600) but because of the aspect ratio of 4:3, it looks like having a bigger area of screen for use. Overall, build quality is sturdy and it seems like it is superior to all others like HCL ME U1 or Zync Z990. There are only three physical buttons on the tablet with front facing camera placed on the top left corner. There is no dedicated button for volume control. It has different ports which include mini HDMI port, power socket, a micro SD card slot and a 3.5 mm Jack. It supports dual-screen via the HDMI port. It supports video playback of 2160p and also external hard disks of upto 500GB.
It performed better than other tablets in the shootout. The bootup time of the tablet was 32 sec. In the Antutu test, it scored 2893 which is the highest amongst all tablets. It scored 6585 and 22851 in An3DBench and An3DBenchXL tests respectively. For Vellamo Mobile Web BenchMark, the score was 804 which is again very good.
Touch response on the screen is very smooth and you can zoom to greater levels. The tablet runs on Android 4.0.3 (Ice Cream Sandwich) which is upgradable. There are additional features like built in face detection and 55 different preloaded apps. Battery is 4000mAh which can last for more than 10 hours.
Bottomline: An excellent tablet with loads of features. Also, one of the slimmer tablets with 55 preloaded apps.
Zen Ultratab 7.0 A100
Ultratab is heavy but still a compact tablet with plastic body coated with black color and matte finish. It has a 7” capacitive touch screen display with multi touch and pinch to zoom ability. On the top of touch screen, there is a camera of 1.3MP. A TF card slot is at one side of the device. Just above it, there is a volume button and headphone jack.
We conducted a couple of tests on the Ultratab and the results were satisfactory. It took about 55 sec to be in the user ready mode from switch-off mode, which is a bit higher than usual. In the Antutu test, it scored 2496 which is good. It got a score of 6585 in An3DBench and 20806 in An3DBenchXL tests, which is decent. In the Vellamo Mobile Web BenchMark, the score was 729 which is average as compared to other tabs.
Users can customize its Live Panel menu to display a variety of content on the home screen. In addition, the interface includes an application tray of commonly used features such as task manager, calendar and music player which can be launched while other major applications are also in use.
Zen Ultratab 7.0 is based on Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich) which is powered by 1.2 GHz processor. However, the 2800mAh battery is not particularly impressive and is on lower side as compared with other tabs.
Bottomline: An affordable tablet with decent features and satisfying performance.
Zync Z990 is another tablet which is priced below 10k and powered by Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich). Infact, it is supposed to be the first tablet in India with ICS Android.
The tablet doesn't impresses with the build quality, look & feel. The plastic body does not feel great in hand. It has a 7'' capacitive touchscreen display. You'll find a microSD card slot, HDMI, 3.5 mm jack, main power port, microUSB and a standard 2.0 USB port running along the right side. And on the right-upper side, you will find mic, power, menu and an Esc button. Speakers are on the backside. There is a front facing camera which can be used for video calling.
The boot-up time from switch-off mode to ready-to-use state was about 43 sec. It got a score of 2264 in the Antutu test for CPU, memory and database performance evaluation. It scored 6905 and 20,616 in An3DBench and An3DBenchXL tests respectively. Zync Z990 scored about 740 in the Vellamo Mobile Web BenchMark, which tells you about its Web browsing efficiency.
The tablet is powered by a 1.2 GHz with 1GB RAM and runs on Android ICS 4.0.3 operating system. Inspite of all these, at times the user interface seems to be inactive. The homescreen has three touch buttons – Back, Home and Apps on the bottom-left corner. Some of the apps which come preloaded with the tablet are Astro file manager, Play store, calculator, calendar etc. For video playback, It managed to play 720p and 1080p videos quite well. The viewing angles are fine, and it supports file formats like MP4, XVid AVI and more.
Bottomline: Decent performance with low-price, go for it if budget is the constraint.