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Best sub-$150 Android tablets available today (July 2014 edition)

A whole lot can change in the shifty tech décor in the space of nine months. Heck, even one month sometimes makes a world of difference. Take last month. Lenovo rolled out a slew of A-series budget-conscious slates, HP and Toshiba one-upped each other with the dirt-cheap 7 Plus and Excite Go, and Asus refreshed the increasingly successful MeMo Pad family.

Android shopping bag

Just like that, we got half a dozen of brand new contenders at the low-cost, lightweight crown, and in case our little listicle from back October 2013 wasn’t dated enough, all these exciting releases prompted an immediate update.

Since only one of the fresh title candidates fits the old budget though, we’ve decided to supplement it with 50 bucks. After all, you need to keep up with technological progress, and often, that means ponying up a bit of extra dough. Not a lot. Clearly, $150 is no small fortune.

Android money

Besides, our latest top picks for the best affordable Android tablets around still include a $100, $110 and $120 slab, so if $150 is too steep for your monthly spending plan, you’ve got options. Without further ado, here they all are:

7. Amazon Kindle Fire HD 7

I can just about hear Amazon admirers boiling with rage at Fire HD’s “offensive” number seven ranking, but you should actually take it as a compliment. A most flattering compliment, given the 7 incher’s advanced age. Mind you, four of its six rivals are barely a month old.

Kindle-Fire-HD-7

Meanwhile, the Fire HD is nearly ready to blow out its birthday candles for the second time. So yeah, it’s amazing it made the charts, but not at all surprising looking at some of its specs: 1,280 x 800 pix res IPS LCD screen, 1 GB RAM, 10-hour battery life (in “mixed” use). Too bad about its decrepit TI OMAP chip, microSD absence and clunky OS.

6. HP 7 Plus

Our sole sub-$100 contender offers exactly the kind of humble features we’ve come to expect from sub-$100 tablets. But hey, it’s one lousy Benjamin, so don’t even think of complaining about the laggy quad-core 1 GHz Allwinner CPU, crappy 1,024 x 600 pixels resolution display, painful 2 MP camera or minuscule 2,800 mAh battery.

hp-7-plus

If you really want something to bitch about, I guess the pre-loaded aging copy of Android 4.2 Jelly Bean best fits the description. On the bright side, HP discounted the low-ender to $84.99 for a second there, so similar deals are likely in the cards for the near future.

5. Lenovo IdeaTab A8-50

I could’ve just as well picked one of A8’s little A7 siblings, especially since they have the affordability edge, but ultimately, the richer screen real estate propelled the A8 in our top seven list. Also, the generous 16 GB storage space.

Lenovo A8

The 8-inch panel ain’t bad resolution-wise either, at 1,280 x 800, and the cameras are pretty impressive all things considered: 5 and 2 megapixels. So then why on Earth couldn’t Lenovo set up the A8 with KitKat out the box? Anyone?

4. Acer Iconia A1-830

Exactly as large and cheap as Lenovo’s bad boy, but boasting a crappier 1,024 x 768 display, the A1-830 prevails in the processing power battle, thanks to a dual-core 1.6 GHz Intel Atom Z2560 SoC, as well as in the battery life bout (up to 7.5 hours of continuous juice).

Acer-Iconia-A1-830

It’s also overall sleeker and more elegant than the A8-50, which sadly can’t hide the fact it too runs Jelly Bean. “Upgradeable to Android 4.4 KitKat when available”, Acer says. Yo Acer, KK has been available for roughly eight months now.

3. Toshiba Excite Go

Whoa, whoa, whoa, Best Buy sells the Excite Go for $99.99?!? That has to be a mistake. The MSRP is $110, and it’s way too early for discounts. Oh, well, maybe it’s a limited-time deal. In which case you better hurry up and order it.

Toshiba-Excite-Go

Then again, even at $110, this is a must-buy. It’s one of the very few in its class powered by Android 4.4 KitKat, it tips the scales at 354 grams and packs quad-core oomph, courtesy of an Intel Atom Z3735G. Yes, the 7-inch display is cringe worthy, sporting 1,024 x 600 pixels resolution, and yes, there’s only a disappointing VGA front-facing cam and no rear snapper.

But erm, KitKat for 100 clams? I’ll eat my hat if you find an OEM as high-profile as Toshiba that offers something similar.

2. Asus MeMo Pad 7 ME176CX

The newest MeMo Pad is by far the zippiest and most frugal, carrying an outstanding quad-core 64-bit (!) Intel Atom Z3745 “Bay Trail” processor beneath its hood. The chip delivers around eight hours of autonomy, and, with the exception of cameras, everything else about the MeMo Pad 7 is state-of-the-art… for mid-range standards.

Asus MeMo Pad 7

The 7-inch 1,280 x 800 IPS panel is as good as it gets, Android 4.4 KitKat is as smooth as it gets, and 1 GB RAM takes care of the multitasking business. Tech hoarders have 16 GB of internal storage to use, plus up to 64 gigs external, and not only is the tab elegant, it’s also stylish, rocking four distinct chromatic options: white, black, red and yellow.

1. Dell Venue 7

Believe it or not, we’re not done yet. Because as awesome as the ME176CX is, the Venue 7 is actually awesomer. How’s that even possible? Simple: 2 GB RAM. Sure, the Intel Atom Z2560 inside Dell’s 7 incher is considerably less punchy than MeMo Pad’s Bay Trail. And the software isn’t quite up to date: 4.3 Jelly Bean.

Dell Venue 7

Plus, the Venue 7 is somehow just as thin as the MeMo Pad 7, yet 20 or so grams heavier. But at the end of the day, the extra gig of RAM makes all the compromises worth it. For crying out loud, Dell used to charge a whopping $230 for the 7-inch Venue. Needless to say therefore that $144 is an extraordinary bargain.

What say you, bargain hunters? Agree with our list entirely? Only partially? Which parts would you alter? Sound off below. We’re all ears.

HP Seemingly Prepping ‘Bowser’ 10×2 Tab/Notebook Hybrid and Slate 6 Voice Tab with Android

HP may have caught plenty of people off guard with its return to tablets this past spring, but what’s even more surprising is the Palo Alto-based PC maker continues to drive forward with tremendous efforts of snatching a piece of the growing mobile pie.

hp-slatebook-x2

The rather underwhelming Slate 7 has clearly been only the first step towards something bigger, albeit the end game still looks rather foggy. That’s not to say devices like the Slatebook 10 x2, Slate 7 HD, 7 Extreme, 8 Pro and Slate 10 HD haven’t upped the ante, they’re just not real flagships, iPad “killers” or trendsetters.

And while the oft-rumored first HP smartphone to run Android remains a myth, at least the company shows increasing perseverance in the tablet and hybrid niches. On that note, it’s time to meet the HP Bowser 10 x2 and Slate 6 Voice Tab, two unreleased and unannounced Android-based gizmos that have showed their faces in public for the first time quite recently by paying GFX Bench a quick visit.

The former, in spite of its very unique codename, seems to be a clear-cut Slatebook 10 x2 doppelganger, at least based on the bits and pieces that we’ve been able to gather in regards to specs. There’s pre-loaded Android 4.3 Jelly Bean “butter”, a quad-core Nvidia Tegra 4 CPU clocked at 1.8 GHz and crystal clear hints towards the thing acting alternatively like a tablet and mini-laptop.

HP Bowser

Interestingly, Bowser’s 10-inch screen is not identical to the one on the Slatebook, or at least not apparently, being listed in GFX Bench as boasting 1,920 x 1,008 pixels resolution. In contrast, the already existing tab/notebook hybrid touts 1,920 x 1,080 pix res, or 1,920 x 1,128 with the customary on-screen buttons.

Bottom line, as odd as it may sound, the HP Bowser 10 x2 could miss out on Full HD resolution by just a dozen or so pixels.

Moving on, though it looks less technically impressive on paper, the Slate 6 Voice Tab might actually be the gadget with the best chances of hitting it big at the box-office of the two. As the codename suggests, we’re probably looking at a 6-inch tab with voice support here, or, as people like to call it, a phablet.

HP Slate 6

Mind you, this means HP’s first ever Android smartphone is very much real and looming on the horizon, albeit its makers will likely try to market it differently so as to not build too much pressure. And you can’t blame them, since the handheld also known as “Pomegranate” (yummy) and “Bedana” is in no way a high-ender.

Mid-ranger tops, with a modest Cortex A7-based quad-core 1 GHz Marvell PXA 1088 CPU under the hood and Vivante GC1000 GPU. Then there’s the even more disappointing 720p panel, which due to its size, will boast a sub-par pixel density of 240 ppi or so.

The on-board software doesn’t sound all that great either, with Android 4.2 being now officially two generations behind the times, but don’t be so quick to write the Slate 6 Voice Tab off. It’s bound to be cheap as chips and I’d like to see you snubbing it then.

Via [GFX Bench] (1), (2)

HP ‘Bodhi’ Becomes Slate 8 Pro: 8-Inch Tablet with Android 4.2 and Tegra 4 CPU

Remember the enigmatic HP “Bodhi” device that we tracked down in a benchmark just 24 hours ago, but didn’t really know how to describe it and what to expect of it? I mean, it was clearly powered by Android and had a Tegra 4 CPU beneath the hood, but it could have been a tablet as much as a smartphone, all-in-one PC or God knows what kind of quirky hybrid thingamajig.

hp-slate-7

Luckily, GFX Bench, the benchmarking website where we first spotted the “Bodhi”, filled in the blanks for us between yesterday and now, changing the mystery gadget’s name to… Slate 8 Pro.

Since a Slate 7 is already out and about, though not so very successful, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to forecast this Slate 8 Pro will be a follow-up of some sorts, with a larger, higher-res display, zippier processor, up to date software and all the works.

Some folks with a richer than average imagination might even assume the Slate 8 Pro will come capable of dual-booting Android 4.2 and Windows 8 Pro, but I for one don’t really see the point of such a thing. Then again, you can always count on HP to come out with pointless devices (the Slate 21 is just the first example off the top of my head).

HP Slate 8 Pro

Anyhow, let’s not forget to mention the Bodhi/Slate 8 Pro is expected to pack a Tegra 4 SoC clocked at 1.8 GHz and sport a rather bizarre 1,600 x 1,200 pix res (aka UXGA) panel. Bizarre, but crazy crisp if it’s to measure 8 inches, as the resulting pixel density would be 250 ppi.

On the whole, if all the above proves legit and HP will also cram 2 GB of RAM and a larger than 5,000 mAh battery inside the Slate 8 Pro, plus microSD support, I can see it give the new Nexus 7 or at least Samsung’s Galaxy Note 8.0 a run for its money. “Money” being the key word there, as HP will need to price the 8-incher sensibly as well.

Who here thinks Hewlett-Packard will pull the entire thing off and become a worthy contender for the smaller than 10-inch tablet crown? And who reckons HP is simply throwing its money into a pit by trying to play catch up in the Android world? We’re all ears.

Via [GFX Bench]

HP Bodhi Emerges with Android 4.2, Tegra 4 CPU and UXGA Screen, But What Exactly Is It?

Historically speaking, HP has always had a moody love-hate relationship with Android, but it appears that’s bound to change. The Slate 7 might not be the most popular tablet in the world and the SlateBook x2 looks like a niche device unable to ever break into the mainstream.

HP-Android

And yet rumors of an Android-based smartphone being prepped by HP have intensified of late. Plus, something carrying the cryptic HP “Bodhi” codename has been spotted in GFXBench’s database just a few hours ago.

By “cryptic” I mean we really have no idea what this Bodhi is. It could well be a smartphone, maybe even one tied with that “Brave” fellow, it could be a tablet or, knowing HP, it could just as well be a hybrid, all-in-one PC, Android-powered laptop, etc, etc.

Judging by the codename, we can definitely assume HP has high hopes for it, since “Bodhi” in Buddhism is the understanding possessed by a Buddha regarding the nature of things, being traditionally translated into English as “enlightenment”.

In terms of specs and features, we only have a few bits and pieces for the time being, but they’re enough to pique my curiosity. An Nvidia Tegra 4 CPU clocked at 1.8 GHz is listed as juicing the device, while the display boasts an exotically-sounding 1,600 x 1,128 pixels resolution.

HP Bodhi

That’s most likely 1,600 x 1,200 (aka UXGA) with on-screen buttons, which as far as I know is a very unusual resolution for smartphones or tablets. In fact, according to Wikipedia, UXGA is not used in laptops in recent times either, but only in 20 to 22-inch monitors.

Hmm, does that mean we can narrow it down to Bodhi being either a gargantuan tablet or an all-in-one PC (probably running both Android and Windows)? It sure looks like it, though deep down I’ll still be rooting for this to be a smartphone.

On the software side of things, Android 4.2 Jelly Bean is easy to spot in the “system” section of the gadget’s description, although I’m afraid we’ll have to wrap things up there. Again, for the time being only, because if HP plans to “enlighten” us, chances are we’re in for a leak bonanza. Starting in 3, 2, 1…

Via [GFXBench]

HP Unveils Android-Powered SlateBook x2 and Windows 8-Based Split x2 Tablet/Laptop Hybrids

Say, do you remember that mystery HP SlateBook 10 X2 that leaked out courtesy of a fairly suspicious benchmark a little while ago? Well, as it turns out, the thing is real and coming our way very soon, only it’s not going to be alone.

Instead, there will also be a gizmo called Split x2, with the duo targeting both Android and Windows enthusiasts. But what exactly are these crazy little things? At first glance, you might be fooled in calling them run-of-the-mill laptops.

HP_Slatebook_x2

Only their screens are detachable (or the keyboard docks, depending on how you look at them), meaning you can either use the SlateBook x2 and Split x2 as notebooks or as tablets. The concept is not exactly groundbreaking, as the word “hybrid” has entered our tech vocabulary a while ago, but what HP seems to have up its sleeve is a never before seen quality-price ratio.

At least as far as the SlateBook is concerned, we’re very much wondering if HP isn’t manufacturing the tab/laptop at a loss. Then again, with the company’s first attempt at garnering attention in the Android décor, the Slate 7, failing with flying colors, a gamble was to be expected.

Set to go on sale sometime in August, the SlateBook x2 will cost a mere $479.99 with the keyboard dock included. That’s about as much as a high-end-ish slate used to go for a year or so ago without any kind of transforming accessories to go, but the even more amazing thing about the SlateBook is it’s not high-end-ish.

It’s actually ready to capture the crown for the most technically impressive Android slate, as it’s going to be powered by Nvidia’s spanking new Tegra 4 platform. The explosive quad-core processor has only flexed its muscles in a few benchmarks so far, but that’s been enough to put Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 600 CPU to shame.

There will also be 2 gigs of RAM to go nicely with the Tegra 4 inside HP’s hybrid, plus Android 4.2.2 Jelly Bean and a pretty impressive 10.2-inch IPS panel with 1,920 x 1,200 pixels resolution. The 16 GB of on-board storage might not sound all that great, but you will be able to expand that via the tab’s microSD slot or through the dock’s full-sized SD slot.

The docking station will also come with an HDMI port and a much needed battery boost, as the actual tab will apparently only be able to run for a modest four hours on a single charge.

HP_Split_x2

Moving on to Windows aficionados, these will likely be a little disappointed with the Split x2. Not only is the thing a tad pricey, at $799.99 with the keyboard dock, but it’s also fairly low-end by certain standards, sporting a meager 13.3-inch display with 1,366 x 768 pix res and packing an Intel Core i3 processor.

Still, there’s a whopping 500 GB of storage, on-board Windows 8, 4 GB of RAM and a far more impressive battery than on the SlateBook, so all in all the Split x2 might be the better machine of the duo, at least when used as a notebook. I think now would be the right time to say HP still has it, right?

Via [The Verge]

Microsoft Surface Tablet Worries Acer, HP, Dell

While tech enthusiasts are waiting for the release of Microsoft Surface Tablet which is set on October 26th, original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) are wary Microsoft might be taking their place on the shelf. Tensions between the software giant and OEMs are starting to build up just as Surface is nearing release.

Taiwan-based computer manufacturer Acer said recently that Microsoft should think twice about its plans on Surface tablet but it seems too late for that now.

“It will create a huge negative impact for the ecosystem and other brands may take a negative reaction. It is not something you are good at so please think twice,” J.T. Wang, Acer CEO, told Financial Times.

For decades, Microsoft OEMs like Acer, HP, and Dell never had any sort of competition against the software giant; they build hardware that would run Windows OS and other applications from Microsoft.

Campbell Kan, President of Personal Computer Global Operations at Acer, said that they might be looking for better alternatives as they could no longer rely on Microsoft. The fact that it becomes their competition on the hardware business is evident things will never remain the way they were.

A few weeks after Surface was unveiled, Hewlett-Packard (HP) said they will no longer continue building tablets based on ARM processor, instead they will set their focus on building x86-based slates to stay away from the competition they knew they can’t win. Likewise, Dell also shared their intentions to stop producing ARM-based tablets following the footsteps of HP. This is evident that Surface tablet has a negative impact on the ecosystem as far as these companies are concerned.

The pricing is the determining factor whether Microsoft is trying to take away the piece of the pie of these OEMs. If Surface will be marketed around $1000 to $2000, it may just be targeting the high-end market and manufacturers offering their device lower than $1000 could probably survive. But if Microsoft goes below the 1000-dollar range, everybody knows what it’s after.

HP Ditches Immediate Plans for Windows RT Devices

Hewlett-Packard Co. (better known as HP) confirmed reports that it will not be jumping into the Windows RT realm… at least, not now. The company said Friday that while it is trying to rebuild its momentum in the world of technology, it will manufacture more tablets based on Microsoft’s new operating system, Windows 8, and chips based on Intel’s x86 architecture.

Rumors spread last week about HP’s desire to launch devices based in Windows RT that will pose as competitions to Microsoft’s own Surface tablets. The company has a good reputation in building PCs and laptops and while it is still a hatchling in the tablet market, tech enthusiasts as well as analysts believe it will do better in competition provided it will jump into the x86 bandwagon and build up its reputation in such market before going further.

Last week, Microsoft revealed the existence of Surface. While there is no information as to the specific release date of the device, it started speculations that other manufacturers would also jump into the new market and HP is just one of them. But to put the rumors to rest, an HP representative confirmed that it is indeed looking forward into building devices based on ARM processors but the realization may come later as it will set its focus on x86 market.

“I can confirm that at HP, we continue to look at using ARM processors in business and consumer products. However, our first Win 8 tablet will be on the x86 platform focused on the business market,” said the representative.

As much as HP wants to be among the few manufacturers to take the lead in new markets, it has seen great potential in the current market where it can easily attract new consumers, satisfy its loyal patrons and gain great following.

“The decision to go with x86 was influenced by input from our customers. The robust and established ecosystem of x86 applications provides the best customer experience at this time and in the immediate future,” the rep added.

Basically, HP didn’t scrap for good the plan of building ARM-based tablets, instead it’s putting it to rest while trying to build a momentum and perhaps take the lead in the x86 ecosystem.

A report from PCMag suggested that HP has actually gone as far as building a prototype tablet based on ARM processor using Qualcomm’s Snapdragon SoC but it was ditched around two weeks ago, just before Microsoft revealed its Surface tablet. If such report was true, the company has already taken a huge step to realizing such plan only to ditch it for the time being.