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Budget Tablet Comparison Chart

A review of our recommended slates

Amazon's top 10 bestsellers tablets - a review

Alex Fergusson Architects

Look for - 1GHz or higher

'Budget' tablets - are they worth the saving?

Selection of AllWinner-powered devices Click here for a selection of AllWinner devices

With the market for tablets continuing to grow (not as rapidly as some had hoped, but but still pretty fast), the arrival of a number of budget offerings is inevitable - click here to see our pick of the bunch. These devices are far cheaper than the big brand competitors - and far cheaper than they were last year, with quite a selection now below £80.

..but is there a market for these inevitably lower-specced models? Well - looking over's best sellers, many of these budget tabs are actually selling better at the retail giant than the more widely known iPads, Galaxy Tabs and Eee Pad Transformers of this world. We obviously can't infer that they are anywhere near better sellers overall, since many of these budget slates likely are not selling anywhere else but Amazon, but this new strain of budget offerings are definitely worth investigating - especially if you haven't bitten the bullet and bought anything yet.

The market now has very similar-looking tablets, some of which are the newer models, mostly based around the cheap and cheerful AllWinner architecture, and some left-over staock from last year, which is much less desirable, but offered in pretty much the same price range. So when we pay £100 or less for a device, what exactly do have to give up, and what should we look out for to get the best possible offerings?

To get a clear idea, let's go through these budget models spec-by-spec to determine how they've cut their costs, and what difference it'll make to the user experience.


One easy way to cut costs as a budget manufacturer is to issue your device with a resistive, rather than a capacitive, touchscreen.

Only capacitive screens allow multi-touch movements that you may be used to from iPhones or iPads - such as pinch zooming. They are also generally more responsive to the touch and don't reflect as much sunlight when used outdoors. It is these characteristics that have led to a capacitive screen becoming standard in medium to high end models.

Things aren't all bad for resisitve screens, however. They don't require direct contact with your fingers to function; styluses work OK, as will a gloved hand. However, the lack of multi-touch capability may prove too much of a sacrifice for many users. Remember that some games require multi-touch screens.

However, this isn't much of a problem for the bargain-seeker since you'll see from our chart of budget tablet specifications that when getting above the £80 mark, most tabs do in fact come with capacitive screens.

Look for - Capacitive Screen



A quick browse of specs on our respective comparison charts for mainstream and for the cheaper models will reveal that when it comes to processors, there is no substantial difference between the two price levels in terms of GHz.

However, most higher range slates feature dual-core or quad-core processors compared to the single-core ones found in the cheaper models, and as a result running multiple processes and switching between them (multitasking) is likely to be a laggier experience. However, a dual core device is nowhere near twice as fast as a single core one. To be honest, if you want to keep the price down and buy new, you will almost certainly be getting a single-core processor. Don't worry about it too much.

As for the processsor speed, this too has improved massively over the past few months. Some models last year had sppeds as low as 600Mhz, but the new models are almost all faster than 1GHz, so look for that (1,000MHz = 1GHz)

Look for - 1GHz or higher


RAM (Think of it as Short-term Memory)

Many cheaper slates come with a memory of either 265 or 512MB. With the exception of the iPad + iPad 2 (which can get away with 256/512MB respectively since using Apple's own iOS, optimised from the ground-up for the devices in question, is far less demanding) higher end tablets come with at least 1GB of RAM. It is clear that this is one of the main cutbacks made by budget manufacturers, which will lead to a slower user experience overall, but particularly when running several apps at once. There are now several cheaper models with 1GB of RAM and since this amouunt is almost essential to run the newer Android 4 (see below), it's prbably worth the extra money. (1,000MB = 1GB)

Look for - 1GB or higher


Operating System / Platform Version

This is one of the easiest ways to tell good from *not so good*. Google released the source code for Android 4 (often called Ice Cream Sandwich and sometimes 4.0.3 or 4.0.4) late in 2011. Pretty much all newer devices - even quite a few of the cheaper ones - now come with this version of the platform pre-installed. Last year's stock - still in the box - may have Android 2.2 or 2.3 installed. On a cheaper machine, upgrades are a very tricky business and it's probably not wise to try - unless you have some experience already. Support for apps on these older versions of Android will be increasing shaky as time goes on and really they are best avoided.

There are other platforms - IoS only comes on Apple iPads which don't count as cheap, and the rest - QNX, WebOS and even Windows (which so far performs very badly on tablets) should be avoided.

Look for - Android 4 (Ice Cream Sandwich)

Battery life

It is expected that the cheaper devices would save a bit of money with smaller batteries, a prediction that is confirmed by the specs of our featured budget offerings. While most top-end machines feature batteries of over 6000 mAh (very roughly translating into around 8 hours of reasonable use - something that's very difficult to define), most cheaper tabs have batteries more in the 3500-4000 mAh range (~4 hours). This could or could not be a dealbreaker, depending on how much you are intending to use the device while out and about. Around the house, a shorter battery life is less of an issue. If the users are younger children, a little less chance to stay fixed in a game app could even be a good thing.


Anticipating that no one is really going to expect their < £200 slate to take high quality snaps, these tabs typically come with only one ~1.3MP cameras, compared to front and back cameras on the higher-end models that can typically feature 5MP rear cameras, with 2MP on the front. Again, how much difference this makes to you depends on how you intend to use your camera - budget cameras will get the job done but don't expect to get the same high-resolution you'll get from superior models.


It may seem like a cop-out to answer the question with 'it depends': but as with any budget device, it truly does. For example, for those who have no real experience with using smartphones/Android, the differences outlined above may not even register. There is a significant demographic of people who simply want to browse the web, play Angry Birds and watch BBC iPlayer. If you are one, or know of one, these models could be sufficient.

However, for those looking to

  • show off their fondleslabs to their friends,
  • take them to work (known as BYOD - or Bring Your Own Device);
  • generate content - for instance writing larger blocks of text or manipulate pictures anything more that the most basic way
  • use them for accessing a virtualised corporate Windows environment from home

it would probably be best to stick to the major brands.

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