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The low-end tablet PC: A cheap hook-up and a killjoy affair

Last updated on: April 9, 2012 12:53 IST

The low-end tablet PC: A cheap hook-up and a killjoy affair

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Priyanka Joshi

Going for a tablet purchase? Don't let price points persuade you. Frugal innovation in tech may be grabbing headlines these days, but the bottom line remains very much the same -- 'cheap ain't better'. The 'affordable' breed of tablet PCs are in stores, but their ilk may not be relied upon.

Surfing, browsing, emailing, tweeting and Facebooking -- at least 15 times a day -- could be the chief reasons behind a tablet purchase. One could also factor in video streaming, picture editing and even updating a video blog as additional causes. But, the ability of your tablet PC to carry out each one of these tasks is contingent upon the the hardware it has and the software it runs.

In this context, it becomes important to talk about the affordable tablets from Datawind, HCL, Mercury, Milagrow, Wishtel, Zync and, more recently, Micromax. By lowering the price points, IT has lowered the bait, but, should consumers be really going for the bite?

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Photographs: Pichi Chuang/Reuters

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The low-end tablet PC: A cheap hook-up and a killjoy affair

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Resist the lure

The display of any tablet PC should should 'wow' you. The buttons (if any) shouldn't be rickety. None of the sub-10k devices could be possessing these abilties. Moral: Don't succumb to the price.

Test the faith

The overall user experience on low-end devices isn't even close to what Apple or Samsung manages to deliver. We are talking about the responsiveness of the touchscreen, the ability to handle multiple apps and the ease with which tasks can be switched. Most low-end tablets have slow processors. The result: You tap on an icon and nothing happens for several seconds.

Or, while scrolling through a web page, the lag in response to a touch can only add to your frustration. The stated specifications, therefore, could be misleading. To avoid getting duped, preview the performance of the tablet yourself (test its faith!).

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Photographs: Adam Hunger/Reuters
Tags: , Samsung

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The low-end tablet PC: A cheap hook-up and a killjoy affair

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Avoid knockoffs

Although Android is manifest (as an operating system) in most tablets, the low-cost models typically lack access to the MarketPlace (an online app store). This means the user's options for apps gets severely limited. There might, however, be knockoff app stores, featuring dubious content.

The usage of the tablet PC gets further restricted if the usual bunch of apps such as Angry Birds, Instagramaren't available for as low as $0.99.

Even though most low-cost tablets promise educational content, or even pre-load songs and videos, yet, this is insignificant compared to the hundreds of apps that get loaded to the Apple App Store or the Android Marketplace.

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Photographs: Danny Moloshok/Reuters
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The low-end tablet PC: A cheap hook-up and a killjoy affair

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Think sane

Any Android tablet that's been made by a brand you never heard of, that has a processor slower than 800MHz, that runs on Android 2.2 or an earlier version and that has a TFT or a resistive touch screen – spells gloom.

The only sane reason we can think of you buying such a device is that you have a specific purpose in mind – say video chatting, or watching videos, or carrying cloud-based data.

Although the newest Android version, Ice Cream Sandwich, is out, upgrading is not as simple. New versions of Android are distributed to smartphones on a device-by-device basis.

In other words, the release of Android 4.0 is not something a user can download directly from Google. Instead, the update would be delivered by running 'Software Update' in the 'Settings' menu. Caveat: We haven't seen too many upgrades being pushed for entry-level Android tablets.

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Photographs: Reuters
Tags: , TFT

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The low-end tablet PC: A cheap hook-up and a killjoy affair

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Decode the device

Most low-end tablet retailers insist their devices allow to stream and view high-definition (HD) videos. That's probably stretching the truth. The accepted HD video resolution is 1920x1080p and 1280x720p, whereas these tablets come with a resolution of 800 480 or even less.

Also, due to the limited hardware video decoding capabilities of these, watching HD videos on YouTube could be far from simple.

Playing compressed videos (from external memory cards) can burden the processor to the point of overheating, the output being nowhere close to satisfactory.


Photographs: Lucas Jackson/Reuters
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