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

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?
Written by Steven Vaughan-Nichols, Senior Contributing Editor

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:

New iPad is bad news for Android tablets

Apple's next-gen iPad: New battlefields emerge

A low-cost iPad 2 would decimate the tablet market

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

CNET: Apple's new iPad: Hands-on

Editorial standards