We predicted early in 2013 that entry-level Android tablets with list prices under $100 were imminent—and soon. Sure enough, budget-friendly models such as Hisense’s $99-list Sero 7 LT began to show up at Wal-mart, Sears, and Amazon. But then, everybody knows that “list” prices (a.k.a. manufacturer-suggested retail prices, or MSRPs) are merely guidelines that give you the perception of a bargain when you pay less. Most outlets sell their wares for less than the MSRP, often undercutting each other in attempts to entice you to buy from them. The result, of course, is that the actual sale price (the “street price”) turns out to be significantly less.
Take the subject of this review, ValueChain’s $99-list ValuePad VP112. As we wrote this in late March 2014, we found the VP112 online for as little as $69.99. That makes us wonder whether under-$50-list compact slates are coming in 2014, but we’ll hold off on predicting that for now. Still, even if that doesn’t happen, it won’t be long before almost everybody will be able to afford a new Android tablet of some kind.
But are these super-cheap slates any good? The answer depends on your response to these two questions: (a) Compared to what? And (b) what do you want to use your tablet for? By today’s standards, these extreme-entry-level tabs come with the bare minimums in terms of CPU, display resolution, battery life, and storage space. Both this ValuePad and the Sero 7 LT, for instance, run on dual-core processors, compared to the much snappier quad-core CPUs found in higher-end mainstream models, such as Google’s $229-list 2013 version of its Nexus 7 and LG’s more recent $349-list G Pad 8.3 and G Pad 8.3 Google Play Edition.
These higher-end slates also come with much nicer, higher-resolution display panels. The Nexus 7 and the two G Pads, for example, sport gorgeous full-HD 1,920×1,200-pixel screens, compared to the meager 1,024×600 screen on our ValuePad test unit. (The Sero 7 LT’s screen has the same resolution.) With HD, you get nearly four times the overall number of pixels in much the same screen area, making a huge difference in overall display clarity, detail, and vibrancy. (We’ll look at screen quality and several other issues, such as battery life and storage space, later in this review. And we’ll address overall performance and capabilities in the Performance section near the end.)
Now, we expect under-$100 tablets to skimp somewhat on hardware and processing muscle, and this ValuePad does demand some trade-offs in that regard. But it has what we consider a bigger problem—it runs Android, but it’s not a Google-certified slate. While that entails many things, the primary drawback for end users is that you can’t access the Google Play store, the world’s largest repository of Android apps. Instead, you’re relegated to relying on one of the third-party app stores, such as the Amazon Appstore or 1Mobile Market. These aren’t as restricting as they used to be, but Google Play provides by far the largest selection.
That said, given its price, this ValuePad is a good buy for children and first-time tablet buyers. Granted, there’s no magic going on here: You’re getting less for less money, notably a small dollop of storage space (just 8GB) and short battery life (under 4 hours). But if you shop around, you can pick up the VP112 for under $70. At that price, as long as it’s built reasonably well and runs stably, it’s hard to go wrong if you need a basic, near-disposable tablet.
Read the entire review at Computer Shopper.