With the barrage of new and updated slates released each month, finding the right entry-level Android-based tablet is trickier than ever. Think of all the things in flux: a new version of the Android operating system (OS), more powerful processors, so many different types of screens and expansion options. Taken together, those make shopping for any slate—budget model, or otherwise—like aiming at an erratically moving target. What’s a good buy today could be on its way out tomorrow.
The cost difference between a high-end, full-featured Android-based tablet with a 10.1-inch screen (such as the $499 Asus Eee Pad Transformer Prime) and a budget model, like Acer’s recently released $349 Iconia Tab A200, typically runs between $100 and $150. The question, of course, is what you sacrifice for the savings. Some low-cost tablets are constructed with inexpensive materials and feel cheap, or they come with older versions of the Android OS. One way or another, an entry-level price means a compromise or two.
You won’t see these trade-offs at first sight on the Iconia Tab A200. It looks and feels sturdy and well-built. It’s also the first $350 slate to come with the latest version of Android, version 4.0 (more commonly known as Ice Cream Sandwich, or ICS). But the trade-offs are there.
On this slate, they come in the form of a mediocre display, the lack of a rear-facing camera, and the absence of an HDMI port. In addition, the A200 is built around Nvidia’s Tegra 2 dual-core processor, which, now that the quad-core Tegra 3 is coming into wider use, will soon become a last-generation CPU.
Aside from these trade-offs, we found the Iconia Tab A200 a well-performing, capable slate. However, considering the state of today’s tablet market, its timing is somewhat concerning. Right now, full-size slates at around $350 with 16GB of storage and running ICS, like our review unit, are rare—but for how long? (Acer also offers an 8GB model for $329, but opting for twice the storage for only $20 more seems like a no-brainer to us.) Plenty of ICS slates are on the horizon, and we expect to see a few under-$400 entry-level models before long running quad-core Tegra 3 processors.
While we’re not overly excited about the A200 in terms of technology and features, we still think it’s a good buy—at least for now.
Read the full review at Computer Shopper.