It’s a testament to modern technology that we can even contemplate the possibility of buying a lightweight touchscreen computing device for less than $100. Five years ago, the tablet didn’t really exist. We had netbooks and PDAs, but the former compromised on true portability and the latter largely failed to deliver on its promise. Apple changed the rule book when it introduced the iPod and the iPhone. They managed to do it again when they introduced the iPad in 2010. Here was a device that was sleek and powerful and it just worked. If it had one failing, it was the price. To cram all that power and sophistication into such a small device required cutting edge components, which came at a high price.
By the time the iPad was introduced, two things had happened to help pave the way for lower tablet prices. Firstly, Google’s Android had established itself as a strong competitor to Apples iOS in the mobile sector. Manufacturers could use Android without entering into expensive licensing agreements, whereas nobody but Apple could use iOS. Blackberry, Nokia and others were floundering, left behind in the race to produce a competent touchscreen mobile operating system, so Android was the logical choice for any handset vendor wanting to get into the smartphone/tablet space.
Secondly, Chinese manufacturers had become very skilled at manufacturing high quality electronics for Western countries, cheaply and with a short lead time. It was only a matter of time before we saw inexpensive Chinese Android tablets enter the marketplace.
While you’ll find a few of these tablets in certain retail outlets, the margins tend to bump the worthwhile ones over the magic $100 threshold. Better deals are available online, but you’ll need to do your research to make sure you get a good one. Realistically, at this budget, you’re looking at a 7″ tablet. Larger screens and the electronics to drive them are expensive, and currently a 10″ tablet selling for less than $100 may be tough to find. When researching, check online for reviews and known problems. A partial checklist might look like this:
- What is the display resolution?
- Is the touchscreen restive or capacitive?
- What is the processor?
- How much internal memory and storage?
- Is there a slot for a memory card?
- Does it have a camera, GPS, speakers, etc.?
- Is it running a recent version of Android?
Do your research, and you may be surprised at how much tablet your $100 can buy. Some sites such as TabletNinja offer authority guides on tablets under $100 that can help make your purchasing decision easier.