The new iPad's great but what's wrong with a good, inexpensive Android tablet?

The new iPad's great but what's wrong with a good, inexpensive Android tablet?

Summary: Great new display, check; faster processor, check; 4G mobile connection, check; better camera, check. Price, still starts $499 for a 16GB Wi-Fi model and $629 for 4G. Hmmm... How about a $199 Android-powered Nook Tablet instead?

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No,Barnes & Noble Nook Tablet is no iPad 3, but is it good and cheap enough that it might not matte?

No,Barnes & Noble Nook Tablet is no iPad 3, but is it good and cheap enough that it might not matte?

Don't get me wrong. I think the new iPad sounds wonderful. The retina screen, which Ray Soneria predicted, looks great. Even if its A5X processor isn't as fast as Apple claims, it's still amazing fast. And, while I really doubt that the iPad's battery will really last as long as they claim it will, even if comes close it will still be amazing battery performance. But, still the cheapest model, the 16GB Wi-Fi only, is $499. Might I suggest that at $199 Barnes & Noble's Android-powered Nook Tablet might be the better deal?

What's that? Of course, I know the Nook Tablet only has a 7-inch display, only has Wi-Fi, has a much slower processor, only 8GBs of storage, no camera at all, and it only runs a simplified version of Android 2.3 (Gingerbread).

If I wanted to, I could boot the Nook Tablet into Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwtch) with the brand new CyanogenMod 9. Once there, I've been able to add the usual Google Android apps to my modified Nook Tablet with the CyanogenMod 9 Google Apps package. But, while the geek in me rejoices in that, the ordinary user in me has found the simple Nook Tablet native interface to be just fine.

Still, there's no question in my mind that the new iPad is the better tablet. I'll get one. But, I can afford it. Can you?

All ZDNet iPad Coverage

Think about it. There's $300 of difference. Is it really worth it? Or, since Apple has decided to quietly keep selling low-end iPad 2s starting at $399, will the newly re-priced $399 iPad 2 overwhelm Android and the rest of the tablet market? I don't think so. $200 is still $200.

Oh sure, if you want to use a tablet for work, the iPad is the way to go. If you want to video-conference with your friends, buy an iPad. If you want to make a high-definition movie, you could try an iPad—after you attach it to a steadicam. But what are you really going to use a tablet for?

Well, I've been using a variety of tablets, including both the already shipping iPads and the 16GB version of the Nook Tablet, and here's what I use my tablets for: Reading e-books, watching Netflix and Hulu Plus videos; listening to music; playing some games; and lightweight Web browsing and writing. That's it. Guess what? For my purposes, I use my Nook Tablet about nine times as often as I do my iPads.

That's in no small part because I've found the Nook Tablet's smaller form factor to be ideal for when I'm lying in bed or just sitting back in a comfy chair. The iPad is indeed better in many ways, but sometimes bigger isn't better.

If you really want to have the best of the best and you have to have it Right Now and you can afford it, sure buy an iPad 3. I'll be in line behind you. I cover this the leading edge of technology for a living so I have to have the latest and greatest.

But, if all you want is a cheap, but good, tablet for entertainment and low-end Web play, then why not get a Nook Tablet or some other low-end Android tablet like Amazon's Kindle Fire? You just may find that one of those is all the tablet you really need. I have.

Related Stories:

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Apple's New iPad In The Enterprise: Laptop Replacement Gets Closer

CNET: Apple's new iPad: Hands-on

Topics: Tablets, Android, Hardware, iPad, Laptops, Mobility

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Talkback

117 comments
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  • It's the apps....

    Shouldn't that be obvious by now?
    dcborn61
    • How many do you need?

      It's not like I've had any trouble finding suitable Android apps.
      John L. Ries
      • it's not only the number of apps

        No doubt there are some great apps for Android. Yet, apps for iOS are better. The iPad user experience is consistently better. Most of the "you can't do that with iPad" are myths.

        When you consider the usability and unless you need the tablet for some very limited predefined purpose, you may end up buying several $200 tablets instead of one $500 iPad....

        In England they have the saying: I am not rich enough to buy cheap stuff.
        danbi
      • let me give a comparison

        Better is relative, so here's a head to head comparison.

        I have a Vizio 8 inch tablet (VTAB1008)
        My wife has an iPad 2

        We both bought astronomy programs.

        We compared how the programs function. Both show the correct constellations, directions and the rest.

        Difference is that the iPad was rock solid, the screen was smooth and when she held it up against the sky, movement was smooth and when she held it still, the display was rock solid.

        Mine on the other hand was incredibly shaky. The display was anything but smooth and when I held it still, the slightest movement caused the display to be unreadable.

        Yes, the Apple just works better.
        Cynical99
    • Huh?

      Never had a problem finding ANY app I need for Android. Not to mention that most major apps are released on both platforms. Keep drinking the kool-aid you'll be fine.
      Darkseider
      • then you got lucky

        My first tablet didn't have access to the Google Android Store and the apps I needed were murder to find. Made sure the second tablet had access to the Google Store and life got better.

        Fragmented markets spell problems for end users. The Kindles are limited to the Amazon store (imagine that?) so the selection is much more limited than the Google store.

        The apps I needed weren't on the Amazon store, so major headaches.
        Cynical99
      • Help me to find any good video player, and a usable drawing app?

        I tried all the video players on Android and none of them works consistently. They are useful, but are just far from useful as AirVideo in ipad.

        I also tried very hard to find a good drawing/notetaking appl. The AutoDesk's Sketchbook pro comes out as the best. Even it is working worse than its ipad version, which is no comparison to other better ipad apps like noteshelf and paper from 53.

        FYI, I have both ipad 2 and touchpad with CM9. The touchpad discharges itself by 40% per day sitting there by itself, while ipad discharges by about 10%, BTW. From what I see, the difference is very wide from ipad to android 4.0. Of course ICS 4.0 is usable, and the smoothness is greatly improved comparing to Android 2.x, but it probably is not as smooth as ipad 1 yet, let alone ipad 2/3.
        rice2999
      • For starters, it does not display fonts in other languages

        For starters, I cannot get an Android tablet to display pages that use Asian or Indian languages. I cannot go to hindi.samachar.com or prajavani.net, two of the thousands of sites in Indian languages. There is no known way of downloading a font and make it work. I am a techie, all the phones in our home are Android. Any iOS device navigates sites in other languages without any botheration about downloading fonts or showing "boxes" instead of content.
        GoForTheBest
    • It's the apps....

      All I can say is WOA! Coming soon and well worth the wait!
      Rob.sharp
      • Need to say more

        If it's the apps then you need to tell us how many are available for WOA if it's going to be the solution for all.
        non-biased
    • For starters, it does not support other language fonts

      For starters, I cannot get an Android tablet to display pages that use Asian or Indian languages. I cannot go to hindi.samachar.com or prajavani.net, two of the thousands of sites in Indian languages. There is no known way of downloading a font and make it work. I am a techie, all the phones in our home are Android. Any iOS device navigates sites in other languages without any botheration about downloading fonts or showing "boxes" instead of content.
      GoForTheBest
  • iPad 3

    Hard to read with all the blue...Is this an article or just something that is trying to capitalize on iPad 3 search?

    Also, please proof read. The sentence structure here is sometimes hard to follow and there are a few spelling errors.

    Don't mean to sound overly critical, I find it rude when articles are covered with links to past articles (and when subject and sentences are structured around these references).
    thejellymon
    • not suitable for iPad?

      Don't use your iPad for reading. Apple is not approving of Steve's articles. It is equated with a GPL'ed app, you know.
      AMOF, I have no problem reading it at all.
      eulampius
  • Well for starters no one has shipped one yet.

    So yeah the extra 200 for the ipad2 is entirely worth it. If you only have 200 just hang o to it. The new color nook and brick like kindle fire suck even just as book readers. Forgot about outdoors, the screens unreadable. Plan on being tethered by your charger after 4 hours. Plan on a minute to load a webpage and 5 for a reboot after a crash. There's a reason target, best buy, etc. have made these non returnable, even the next day. Not worth $29. Door stop. Junk. Save your money, there will be a whole new world of tablets out this fall.
    Johnny Vegas
    • I Have a Nook Color

      It's true that the screens aren't great outdoors on sunny days, but I have no evidence to indicate an iPad's is any better for those conditions. The battery lasts more than 7 hours, though I'm unsure how much more (I can often go two days before I need to charge it). Web pages don't take a minute to load, and I rarely need to reboot it. Of course the Internet does work better on mine with Cyanogenmod 7 than it did with the stock firmware.

      Still, I know several people now who have a Kindle Fire or a Nook Color. They all seem to love them. I have seen a Kindle Fire need to be replaced though. It was exchanged at the store just before the 30 day exchange policy ran out (of course it can be exchanged after that, but it has to be sent to Amazon).
      CFWhitman
      • I have an iPad 2 and Kindle Fire

        The screens are equally unreadable in sunlight. And they're not supposed to be.
        Aerowind
      • Kindle Fire is horrendous

        Outside of the form factor I see nothing redeeming in it, glad it is a work device! You can't read while scrolling, apps are sketchy, and worse yet the cobbled version of Android on it has it all confused (older codebase with some newer features bolted on). Also, it doesn't support our office encryption scheme ... fun, fun, fun.
        mobile_manny
      • Wife just bought a Nook

        I was shocked but I didn't object, due to the $149 price.
        That's a great price.
        Yep, price is everything.
        If she had purchased a $500 Android device, I would have pleaded for it to be returned to store.

        Price is the key.
        I don't hate Android, I love it! But only in the cheaper price range... where it deserves to be.
        A $350 Android is pushing to the extreme upper price range. (A co-worker bought the $800 xoom when it first came out... either he sold it, or just doesn't talk about it. Most of us don't like to bring-up our bad purchases.)

        I'm all in favor of there being two major operating systems on tablets. iOS for the upper price range (is $500 to $800 really upper now?), and Android for the below $300 devices.
        We can all live in harmony with these numbers, it's only when a device crosses the boundary that the harmony becomes fuddled and problems brew.
        camcost@...
  • It might not matte?

    Sure, but will it gloss? Look at the caption under the picture.
    grant@...
  • Simple answer

    "what's wrong with a good, inexpensive Android tablet?"

    Which tablet running what version of Android. The market is so fragmented that maybe a forth of the apps available work on any given tablet and distro of Android.
    NoAxToGrind