When HP discontinued its fledgling tablet and slashed its price to $99 in a fire sale some three years ago, an uproar ensued. Never before had a tablet sold for so little. Its ironic success perhaps spurred the race to the bottom. Today, there are no lack of tablets hovering at the $100 mark or even below. The important question therefore is: Are they even worth your time?
Also read : The 20 Best Android Tablets 2014
A preliminary note before we begin would be the need to moderate your expectations. You wonâ€™t be finding iPad Air-like design or performance at $100. Despite its hefty mark-up, the iPad Air still costs far more than $100 to produce even for a huge mass-market player like Apple. That being said, you could probably still score yourself a decent tablet for the money.
Letâ€™s take a look at some of the compelling options for $100!
Amazon Kindle Fire HD 6 – $99
One of the smaller tablets out there, the Kindle Fire HD 6 possesses a quad-core processor with 1GB of RAM and a 6â€ display for $99. Running Amazonâ€™s proprietary Fire OS, you get access to Amazonâ€™s large app store and content catalogue, as well as the ability to load Android apps on the side. According to user reviews, performance and display quality on this tablet is respectable for the price.
The downside for the price is that the HD 6 comes with a measly 8GB of storage space (thereâ€™s no microSD card slot too), and the $99 version comes with advertisements on the lock screen. You can remedy these two problems by forking out an additional $20 and $15 respectively. If you find the screen size too small, thereâ€™s a 7â€ option available for $40 more as well. In addition, if you want to use Android apps that take advantage of Google Play Services, youâ€™ll probably want to look somewhere else.
Toshiba Excite Go AT7-C8 – $89.99
This is a 7â€ Android tablet that runs Intelâ€™s latest Atom (Bay-Trail) processor. It comes with Android 4.4 KitKat, which is about the latest you can get today (Android 5.0 Lollipop devices are just starting to roll out as we speak). Bay-Trail Atom processors are pretty fast, so youâ€™re getting quite some bang for your buck. Thereâ€™s only 8GB of onboard storage, which is thankfully expandable via microSD, and 1GB of RAM.
Do note that not all Android apps are compatible with Intel Atom processors, as they run on a different processor architecture. Certain games, especially, may refuse to run. Overall, the compatibility situation is improving, and the majority of non-game apps should function properly.
Among the trade-offs you have to make is the poor display quality and battery life, as reported by some users. Thereâ€™s also no USB charger included so you will need to get one of your own, as charging via a laptop may be painfully slow. For $89.99 though, itâ€™s probably not too much of a dealbreaker.
Dragon Touch K7 – $79.99
This tablet has similar specifications to the Toshiba Excite Go above, just that it uses an ARM-based Rockchip quad-core processor, which makes it more compatible with Android applications. According to reviews, performance is pretty respectable and the display is even an in-plane switching (IPS) one, which should provide great viewing angles. As usual, it has 1GB of RAM and 8GB of storage which is expandable via microSD. Though itâ€™s a relatively unknown, China-based brand, it seems one of the more reliable options as itâ€™s sold through Amazon and Dragon Touch also offers a 1-year warranty on this tablet.
This tablet comes with Android 4.4 KitKat, and though we donâ€™t know if itâ€™ll ever be upgraded to 5.0, at least you can be assured that your device wonâ€™t be that outdated upon purchase. If youâ€™re willing to exceed $100 by a little, you can also opt for its larger 10.1â€ cousin for $109.99, which uses a more powerful processor and has 16GB of RAM, although unfortunately, screen resolution remains at a measly 1024×600.
ASUS Nexus 7 (2012) – $80
The predecessor of last yearâ€™s Nexus 7, the 2012 model may be getting long in the tooth, but is still pretty competitive if you can find it at a bargain. The cheapest new ones Iâ€™ve seen are priced at around $80 for the 8GB version, and about $90 for the 16GB one.
The main thing going for it is that itâ€™s supported by Google, and is guaranteed to receive the latest version of Android, 5.0 Lollipop, early next year. Its screen resolution, at 1280×800, is the same as the Kindle HD 6 and better than the Toshibaâ€™s and Dragon Touchâ€™s 1024×600. It comes with 1GB of RAM and 8GB, 16GB or 32GB of storage, though there is no microSD card slot. It also has a 7â€ IPS+ screen display.
As the model is already two years old, donâ€™t expect amazing performance out of it. Itâ€™s equipped with a quad-core, Tegra 3 processor, which wasnâ€™t even that fast even back in the day. Still, it probably isnâ€™t slow when compared with its peers in the $100 price range.
HP Stream 7 – $99.99
Well, of course we got to save the best for last. The HP Stream 7 is not any other Android tablet. In fact, itâ€™s not even an Android tablet. Instead, it runs a full-fledged version of Windows 8.1 and also comes equipped with a yearâ€™s subscription to Office 365. Running Intelâ€™s latest Atom (Bay-Trail processor), it shouldnâ€™t have any problems running Windows, though the 1GB of RAM may be a limiting factor.
Apart from that, the Stream 7 is generous for it comes equipped with 32GB of storage space, further expandable by microSD. It has a 7â€ IPS display at 1280×800, similar to the Kindle HD 6 and the Nexus 7. The fact that it runs on Windows could be its biggest strength or weakness: If you use it purely as a tablet, the lack of apps may be frustrating. On the other hand, the possibility of running the millions of Windows desktop applications available makes you wonder how on Earth can this thing cost just $99.99?!
The only catch? Well, itâ€™s not available for sale as of yet. However, pre-orders are already up online such as on Amazon and you should be able to grab your hands on it soon.
In a Nutshell
We have just covered five options running three different operating systems. In truth, there are probably hundreds of other such tablets in the wild, but we hope that by highlighting some of the more compelling options out there, you will be able to make a better-informed choice.