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How to Find a Cheap Android Tablet That Doesn't Suck

Authored by: Steven Blum — Nov 2, 2011

The original Galaxy Tab.

The internet is filled to the brim with offers on cheap tablets from manufacturers like Acer, Archos, Lenovo and Viewsonic. Recently the AndyPad and Kindle Fire have been introduced, bringing the price of entry-level Android tablets down to a mere $200.

But as the number of tablets running Android has expanded exponentially, so has the confusion surrounding them. How can you tell if a cheap tablet is worthy of your cash? Do all Android tablets have Android Market? What's the minimum processor speed an adequate tablet should have? In the following post, we'll help you navigate the world of cheap tablets to find one that  fits both your budget and your life. Here are a few of the questions you should pay special attention to: 

Does it have Android Market?

When looking for your next Android tablet, be sure to pay special attention to the marketing information surrounding the tablet. If it doesn't mention the words Android Market, it may not have access to Google's app store. Some tablets don't ship with Android Market and the store can only be installed via a workaround. Other tablets like the AndyPad have access to Android Market but the Market is not officially licsenced to run on the tablet, which could cause problems if you have any billing issues with Google. Amazon's Fire tablet does not have access to Android Market, which is fine so long as you're comfortable downloading all of your apps, music and books from Amazon.

Of course, with all of these tablets it is possible to install your own ROM and – with it – an up-to-date version of Android Market. It just depends on how tech-savvy you are, or how big of a time investment you'd like to make learning these sorts of things.

How fast is the processor?

Don't just pay attention to screen size; make sure the tablet you're buying has the processing power to accomplish the tasks you want it to. Anything less than 1GHz is probably too slow; these tablets tend to drag even when performing basic tasks. 

What version of Android is it running on?

While many tablets boast that they run Android, pay special attention to the version. Some cheaper tablets actually run on Gingerbread, which is technically not built for larger displays. This can result in a very ugly homescreen. By now, any reputable tablet maker should be creating devices that run on Honeycomb. Nothing less should suffice. While advanced users can always flash a custom ROM, beginner Android users (those whom cheap tablets are arguably pursuing) might not have the time, technical expertise or motivation to do so.

Is the memory expandable?

Many cheap Android tablets come with a modest amount of memory on board (like 8GB) which is fine so long as you can expand that memory with an MicroSD card slot. MicroSD is becoming the standard mode of storage and you should check to see if the tablet you're buying has the capacity for expandable memory. Most likely it won't. Then you'll need to store media files to a cloud like the kind Google Music uses and monitor your app downloading habbits. You can also root the tablet to get rid of firmware, which often takes up a lot of storage space.

Is it recommended by tech-savvy folks?

Plenty of cheap Android tablets have rabid fanbases despite their flaws. Viewsonic G-Tablet, Archos 10 and Nook Color are the old standbys and there are particularly vibrant and active communities dedicated to modding these devices. 

Are you wiling to settle for a refurbished model?

Certain tablets that have been out long enough are now being re-sold online at a fraction of their previous price. Certain tablets, like the Nook Color, are being sold used online for as little as $150. When buying from a private source, make sure to read reviews and make sure they are reputable.


A good cheap Android tablet is one that can be modified. Likely, you won't be able to find the perfect tablet for under $200 but you will be able find the perfect tablet to mod. Certain factors like fast processor speed and expandable memory are essential but everything else can be changed if you have the time necessary to do so. Good luck out there!

Steven Blum has written more than 2,000 blog posts as a founding member of AndroidPIT's English editorial team. A graduate of the University of Washington, Steven Blum also studied Journalism at George Washington University in Washington D.C. for two years. Since then, his writing has appeared in The Stranger, The Seattle P-I, Blackbook Magazine and Venture Villlage. He loves the HTC One and hopes the company behind it still exists in a few years.

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