The 8 Best Budget Tablets
Costs Come Down, Quality Stays The Same
When those tech companies get a deep discount on the most slightly outdated parts on the market, they put them together to form the budget tablets you see on this list.
The only thing that changed is that something slightly fancier came along, knocking the price of these units way down.
Despite calls that there wasn't much of a market to speak of for a device that essentially split the difference between your smartphone and your computer, the tablet has proven that a significant majority of the population sees it as a necessary addition to the technology landscape. It makes sense that they've caught on, as they offer all the functionality of your phone with a lot more screen real estate, and they have the potential to provide all the power and usefulness of our lightest laptops.
Like all forms of such technology, however, manufacturers spend more time innovating toward the next great evolution of their tablet than they do bothering to market the ones they already have. Newer, faster processors; brighter, crisper screens; and smaller, longer-lasting batteries come out at such a pace that what's cutting edge today seems almost ridiculous to behold tomorrow.
All this spells good news for the savvy consumer, as manufacturers of specific parts are willing to dump loads of hardware off to their tech company clients the second that something newer (sometimes better) comes along. When those tech companies get a deep discount on the most slightly outdated parts on the market, they put them together to form the budget tablets you see on this list.
That means that the combination of speed, features, screen technology, and functionality that these companies combine to create their budget systems were the pinnacle of technical achievement just a few months prior. The only thing that changed is that something slightly fancier came along, knocking the price of these units way down.
Budget For The Future
Given the rate at which the hardware behind our favorite technologies changes, it still makes sense to look for a tablet that has specifications that will keep it competitive and functional for the next few years. It'd be a bad idea to take the notions expounded upon in the section above and apply them to tablets from 2012, expecting them to be anywhere near as capable as today's budget models.
If you don't own a laptop already, I'd say go for the keyboard.
When evaluating the budget tablets on our list, it's important that you do so with an eye toward the future. I have an ancient Powerbook G4 by Apple that still runs. Running, however, isn't enough. Sure, it'll power on, but its batteries don't hold a charge, everything takes minutes to load, and if you attempt to utilize any of the busier contemporary websites out there, its RAM dries up in an instant and the unit crashes. Still, it makes a fine word processor.
My point is that there's a limit to how far back you can reach for technology to operate within reason, and the tablets on this list are at the most recent end of that spectrum, giving you the longest theoretical lifespan from each. Maximizing certain stats will help ensure that that life lasts a good long while.
For example, a tablet with a great screen and a killer graphics card may sound like a steal, but if it only has enough RAM to handle streaming in 1080 HD, you're going to be out of luck when 4K finally takes over all the platforms. You'd have been better off upgrading to a tablet with more RAM or getting something less flashy for now that wouldn't hurt your budget to offload later in favor of a more recent budget tablet.
With all those stats in mind, you still have to consider the same basic features that any tablet consumer would consider, like which operating system you'd prefer, or whether you'd want a detachable keyboard to be a part of the system. If you don't own a laptop already, I'd say go for the keyboard. With it, your tablet will become your primary personal computer.
As for the operating system, the first place you should look is your home computer (if you have one), and then your phone. If you're a Windows user at home or on your phone, going with a tablet that also runs Windows will give you the smoothest experience when syncing devices and sharing information across your network. Mac users would likely prefer an Android system, both for the slightly more familiar layout and to satisfy the excellent brainwashing job that Apple has done to get so many users to disdain Windows.
Believe The Hype, Or Don't
Before Apple released their first iPad, I remember reading a sentence in the Wall Street Journal that Steve Jobs actually quoted for the unveiling. It said, "The last time there was this much excitement about a tablet, it had some commandments written on it." Truthfully, the reason I never forgot it was that I thought it was inaccurate. In my memory, Moses came down from Mount Sinai with two tablets of stone containing the ten commandments, not one.
He may have been the only one to see it, but Jobs correctly predicted that there was a definite place in the market for tablet devices.
Either way, it was an exciting time, when half of the tech industry was sure that the device would fail, and the other half was sure that Jobs could put anything in front of his consumer base and they'd become instant acolytes. Sure enough, the latter bunch was right, but not just because of the cult-like following Apple had developed over the years, a following that exploded after the release of the iPod and the iPhone. He may have been the only one to see it, but Jobs correctly predicted that there was a definite place in the market for tablet devices.
Since then, a few major competitors have come along to chip away at Apple's share of that market, sometimes offering innovations beyond what Apple had originally envisioned, other times falling well short of successful bids. In either case, the increase in competition has led to an environment in which near-monthly technical improvements leave behind hardware that makes for some great budget machines.