If you happen to walk into your local JCPennys on Black Friday and you see a bargain bin filled with cheap Android tablets, you should probably just keep walking. I know that the iPad costs $499 and that the one in your hand is on sale for $80, but there is a very good reason for this.
After the original iPad was released in 2010, China flooded the market with affordable “bargain” tablets. Some of these aren’t that bad, but the majority are truly horrible. You can identify the really awful ones by their incredibly long and techy-sounding names. There is the 4Sight 9, the Mach Speed Extreme, the Mach Speed Trio Stealth, and the 10″ Google Android 4.0 Tablet 4GB Flytouch 10.1 VC882 ePad Laptop Wifi . . .
I had a brief experience earlier this year with the Idolian TouchTab 10. The screen resolution was so grainy that it actually gave me a headache when I used it. The processor worked fine, and the ports were great though. It had a full-sized USB port, a microSD card slot, and I could even plug it in to my Ethernet cable with an included adapter! In fact, I had to use my Ethernet cable to access the Internet as the Wi-Fi connection/signal did not seem to work. But all of these features couldn’t make up for the ghastly screen resolution. The nausea and eye strain became too much, so I sent it back to Amazon. The TouchTab 10 was not a bad deal though; a 10.1″ Android 4.0 tablet for just $179. If you aren’t phased by low display quality or the retina-burning backlight, the Idolian might be okay for you.
When it comes to most Chinese tablets, quality takes a steep plunge. That is how they can afford to price them so low (that and, well, slave-wage labor). Memory and storage space are extremely limited. Most of these tablets have resistive touchscreens, but the boxes will lie to you, insisting that they are 5-point capacitive touch. Resistive touch can make navigation, image quality, and speed of use a real pain.
Cheap Android tablets are bulky, heavy, and made from low-grade plastics. You really can’t compare these junk tablets to the $199 name brand devices, and now that the Nook Tablet and Kindle Fire can be had for around
$160 (eBay is offering refurbished Nook Tablets for a mere $99 now), there is really no reason for you to go for one. You will get that extra $60 back in device performance and longevity ten times over.
I have read a lot of Chinese tablet reviews on Amazon.com (there are a million of them listed), and the chief complaints I regularly see are about ports not working—or total tablet failure. Most seem to have a life span of just two months to a year. Some lucky folks receive flawless, fully-functioning devices, but this is sort of like winning the lottery. How do you like your odds?
Chinese tablets also throw in a bunch of extras, like different types of adapters and ear buds, but these don’t make up for the financial loss you will incur when your tablet dies.
A few customer reviews I have read online have even claimed that malware was pre-installed on their devices or that their email accounts were compromised after use. I’m not sure how I feel about trusting Chinese-installed software with my Google Wallet or Paypal passwords. If China could hack the Furby, who knows what they could do with a tablet computer?
If the guy from TechnoBuffalo doesn’t want to enter his passwords into a cheap Chinese tablet, then neither do I. Note the hilarious copyright infringement found on the ePad’s box in the video below. The ePad and aPad are one of the more popular cheap Chinese tablets on the market, and apparently they come with Windows and Internet Explorer. Interesting; they beat Windows 8 RT by two years!
Many retailers will be offering “deals” on no-name, knockoff brand tablets this holiday season. Please note: I’m not saying that everyone will have a bad experience, and Chinese tablets could definitely be good starters for kids (who don’t use password-protected accounts) or people on a very tight budget, but, most of the time, it will be worth it to spend that extra $100 for a Kindle Fire HD, Google Nexus 7, or a Kobo Arc.
Since my blog mostly focuses on using tablets for reading purposes, I’d have to say that I would not chose a tablet with a screen resolution of less than 1280 x 800. Most Chinese tablets average 800 x 480. A cheap tablet can be a fun toy, but it’s not really suited for long-form reading. Text looks blurry, faded, or grainy. The TouchTab 10 would have been a great device, if only it had a better screen.
Hopefully a new batch of Chinese tablets will hit the market with improved specs now that all of the major brands are stepping up their game. Until then, buy at your own risk.