Tablets For All Budgets (Part 1) - Google Nexus 7, Motorola Xoom 2, Acer Iconia Tab A200

9/11/2012 1:01:01 AM

You want a tablet, so what's a good choice? Whether you want to spend a lot or a little, we have some ideas that can help you choose

It should be clear to you by now that tablet computing was never the fad that some people believed it was. Not only are they fast becoming a must-have accessory for people in all walks of life, they're even shaping the next generation of operating systems. While they aren't a magic bullet computing solution, you can argue that they're particularly useful for students. They're cheap, wireless and powerful. More versatile than a smartphone, more portable than a laptop. And, of course, you can play games on them (between lectures and lessons, naturally).

There's a huge variety of tablets on the market right now, each of which has their own advantages, disadvantages, quirks and extras. Deciding which one is right for you is a choice that takes in multiple factors: how good is the tablet's support? What is its lifespan like? How well does it perform? Of course, like anything, the real practical limitations all boil down to one question: how much are you really willing to pay for what you want?

In this guide, we've separated out the most popular tablets into three categories: budget, mid-range and high-end, and we'll guide you around the available options at each of those price levels in the hope that it'll aid your decision making before term starts.

Budget Tablets

It wasn't so long ago that tablets were too expensive for all but the most dedicated early adopter. Now you can pick one up for prices you'd describe as almost reasonable. Budget tablets rarely have a full set of perks, but some of them are surprisingly capable, and there's a logic to keeping portable, easily stolen devices towards the cheaper end of the spectrum...

Google Nexus 7 - $254.4 - $318.4

Description: Description: Google Nexus 7

The only tablet device in this feature that runs Android 4.1 (Jelly Bean), the recently released Nexus 7 runs on a 1,2GHz Tegra 3, has 1 GB of RAM and a fairly modest amount of storage (either 8GB of 16GB). The 7" screen has a resolution of 1280x800, and there's a single front-facing camera. All things considered, it's quite clearly one of the best cheap tablets available at any price.

Apart from the pleasingly low cost, one benefit is the likelihood that it'll enjoy a fairly long lifespan. Although the hardware isn't fantastic, in software terms it's as cutting-edge as tablets get, so you should be able to comfortably squeeze a year or two's use out of it before the time to upgrade rolls around. Google has ensured the price remains low by dispensing with unnecessary tablet features, such as rear cameras and extra storage, rather than by cutting corners on the essentials. We can't recommend the 8GB, because that really isn't enough capacity to use comfortably, but the 16GB dutifully meets minimum tablet requirements. Presumably, Google hopes that you'll augment the device by using its cloud services instead. Even so, an SD slot would have really made this a must-buy, though. As it is, it's good enough to make almost any other choice of seven-incher seem pointless.

Motorola Xoom 2 - $448

Description: Description: Motorola Xoom 2

The original Xoom was a big hit for Android and was the first device to run Honeycomb. Its successor, the Xoom 2, courts far less fanfare. It was supposed to get Ice Cream Sandwich early on in the OS's lifes, but the latest news suggests that the update won't actually arrive until Q3 this year. Although the Xoom 2 is still in the running technically speaking (1,2GHz Tegra, 1 GB RAM, 1200x800 resolution), it's hard to recommend an Android 3.2 tablet when devices are starting to move onto Android 4.1. Still, if you're primarily after a cheap 10" tablet, you should be able to pick it up even cheaper than the price we've listed here if you shop around. Although 16GB of storage is adequate, it's still a point of contention that Motorola removed the SD card slot found on the earlier model Xooms. Of course, it shouldn't be long before there's a new Xoom tablet due, so buy with caution - the price could drop even further before long.

Acer Iconia Tab A200 - $479.98

Description: Description: Acer Iconia Tab A200

One of the cheapest 10" devices available, the Acer Iconia Tab A200 has a 1280x800 pixel display, which is the same resolution as the Nexus 7, but because it's a bigger device, the screen actually looks a little worse. The device's internals are fairly modest, and not that different to the much older A100 - a 1 GHz Tegra 2 with 8GB of storage and a 2MP front camera.

Acer tends to modify Android installations extensively, so don't expect a bare-bones version of the OS. The lack of storage is a problem and the battery life is also poor, so even though the inclusion of micro-USB, micro-HDMI and micro-SD ports mitigates some of the device's shortcomings, it doesn't quite do enough to convince you it's worth dropping £300 on - especially in a world where the Nexus 7 exists. Ultimately, its only real place in the market is for those who want a 10" device but don't want to spend more than £300, but then isn't that what the Xoom 2 is for? 

  •  Samsung Galaxy SIII : Live up to the hype (Part 3)
  •  Samsung Galaxy SIII : Live up to the hype (Part 2)
  •  Samsung Galaxy SIII : Live up to the hype (Part 1)
  •  Samsung Galaxy S III - Samsung's Most Successful Phone
  •  Idisk - The Most Versatile Component Of Mobileme (Part 2)
  •  Idisk - The Most Versatile Component Of Mobileme (Part 1)
  •  Programming the iPhone : Progressive Enhancement - Location Awareness
  •  Programming the iPhone : Network Connectivity
  •  Optimus 4X HD Battery Life Appears Unconvincing
  •  Let's Try The New Features Of Android 4.1
  •  10 Things You Need To Know About...Mobile Banking
  •  Can You Improve Your Drawing Skills With Your Android Device?
  •  Droid Report: Behemoth 22-inch "tablet"
  •  JCB Toughphone Pro-Smart
  •  Kingston 64GB Wi-Drive
  •  LG Optimus 4X HD
  •  LG Optimus L3
  •  Orange San Diego - The First Intel Phone
  •  Samsung Galaxy Xcover Extreme
  •  Sony Xperia Active : For outdoor sports
    Top 10
    Nikon 1 J2 With Stylish Design And Dependable Image And Video Quality
    Canon Powershot D20 - Super-Durable Waterproof Camera
    Fujifilm Finepix F800EXR – Another Excellent EXR
    Sony NEX-6 – The Best Compact Camera
    Teufel Cubycon 2 – An Excellent All-In-One For Films
    Dell S2740L - A Beautifully Crafted 27-inch IPS Monitor
    Philips 55PFL6007T With Fantastic Picture Quality
    Philips Gioco 278G4 – An Excellent 27-inch Screen
    Sony VPL-HW50ES – Sony’s Best Home Cinema Projector
    Windows Vista : Installing and Running Applications - Launching Applications
    Most View
    Google’s Data Liberation Front (Part 2)
    Upgrade your Android tablet (Part 2) - Bricked
    Mobile Application Security : BlackBerry Security - Local Data Storage
    Windows Server 2008 : Domain Name System and IPv6 - DNS in Windows Server 2008 R2
    Windows 8 Special (Part 5)
    Yamaha BDX-610 - Home Cinema
    Windows 7 : Using Windows Defender (part 3) - Using Windows Defender Tools & Troubleshooting Windows Defender
    Windows Server 2008 : Configure NAP
    AMD FX – Can They Challenge Intel’s Mid-Range?
    Windows 8 Hardware (Part 4) : Logitech Wireless Rechargeable Touchpad T650, Logitech T620, Microsoft Sculpt Comport Keyboard
    Snake-Oil Solutions For Electrosmog (Part 2)
    How To: Does Your Camera Need A Fast SD Card? (Part 1)
    Personalizing Windows 8 : Choosing Your Language
    Programming Windows Services with Microsoft Visual Basic 2008 : Extending the WMI Implementation
    Galaxy Tab 10.1 - Touchy-feely
    How To Buy Graphics Cards!
    ASP.NET 4 in VB 2010 : Membership - Role-Based Security
    Windows 7 : Zero Touch Installations - Identifying and Targeting Machines for Rebuilding
    Windows Tips & Tricks (Part 2)
    Flora - Nature - Photo Expert (Part 5) - Creative blur