Dr. Penny Pincher founded the popular personal finance blog Penny Pincher Journal in 2013 and has published two books about saving money.
How good are Android tablets you can get for under $100?
You can easily find an Android tablet for under $100. You can get a lot of features for a little money, so I decided to get a cheap Android device and see what it can do. I got a $100 gift card, so I wanted to see if I could find an Android tablet and a keyboard for under $100.
My first thought was to buy one at a local store so I could return it if it didn't work, but none in the under $100 price range were for sale at Best Buy or Target. Kohls was sold out. K-mart and CVS had ads, but I decided to check on amazon.com.
There were many choices with similar features available. I went with a generic AllWinner A13 Q88 tablet with 7" capacitive touch screen, android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich,1.2GHz processor 512MB RAM, 4GB internal flash memory, webcam, and WiFi. This unit also has a mini USB port. The tablet size is 7.64 × 4.72 × 0.31 inches and weighs 9.86 oz. The package also included ear buds, a power adapter, a mini-usb to standard USB adapter cable, and a paper manual that few will read.
First Time Success with AllWinner Tablet
I was relieved that the tablet worked without any issues. For something this cheap, I was concerned that it would be dead on arrival. I was impressed by the thin profile and light weight of the tablet. It worked without any issues out of the box.
The touchscreen is "5 point capacitive" which means that the screen can track 5 individual points on the screen, useful to support hand gestures such as pinching gestures to zoom in and out. Screen resolution is 800 x 480 pixels (color TFT).
The USB keyboard was recognized automatically and worked the first time.
Battery Life and Touch Screen Issues for Cheap Android tablets
One issue specific to this product is battery life. Under continuous use, the battery life is about 3 hours. I normally use it at home where it is easy to plug in, but if you're moving around, on an airplane, etc. 3 hours is pretty short. I was hoping a device with such a small screen would have a longer battery life.
Another issue is that I am struggling a bit with the touch screen. Sometimes it takes several tries to click on an interface to achieve the desired effect. This will probably improve as I get used to working with a touch screen.
As you would expect for a product in this price range, the display is not high definition.
Below are a couple examples of Android tablets that you can find for well under the $100 price range. These bargain tablets were offered at a special price right inside the door at Best Buy.
Can I use a cheap Android tablet as a laptop replacement?
Adding a cover and USB keyboard makes a laptop computer- sort of. The USB keyboard is a nice addition, especially at $12.97. This allows the full screen area of the tablet to be available and not taken up by the on-screen keyboard. Also, I feel that I can type faster on the USB keyboard vs. the on-screen keyboard.
Unfortunately, the tablet does not have bluetooth, so the USB cable needs to be plugged in to use the keyboard. The tablet is so thin that it does not fit tightly in the cover- I added a couple small pieces of foam behind the tablet to hold it tight in the cover.
I would not consider this setup a viable laptop replacement- the screen is just too small, and the USB keyboard is also too small for very fast typing.
Is a cheap Android tablet for under $100 a good buy?
A cheap 7 inch Android tablet is suitable for web browsing, watching streaming videos, and simple games. For web browsing, free downloads of Chrome, Firefox, Opera, and other web browsers are available from Google Play. You can also get free Netflix and YouTube apps to play videos. Lots of free games are available from Google Play as well.
With all of the things a cheap Android tablet can do- you can't go too far wrong for under $100. However, as convenient as a small tablet can be, I have found myself going back to my laptop. I miss the larger screen and keyboard.
2015 Update: The price range for cheap android tablets such as Allwinner has now has dropped to under $40! If your budget for an android tablet in the $100 range, consider choosing a higher quality tablet such as the Kindle Fire HD for about $140. The extra money will get you a faster, more responsive tablet and a better display.
Overall, I would give this tablet a 3-star rating. The battery life is pretty short, and sometimes it runs very slowly. But the price is cheap and it does work. I am still using my cheap Android tablet after 2 and a half years. I use it in my shop as a clock, running a free app. I also use it occasionally for web browsing, although it can be slow.
Video: Unboxing of Cheap Android Tablet
Android Tablet vs. Android Smart Phone
If you are a cell phone user and have a cell phone anyway, you may want to consider getting an Android cell phone instead of a separate tablet computer. Some Android smart phones come with large screen sizes and run Android just like tablet computers. For example, the Samsung Galaxy Note has a 5.5 inch screen and can be used for many of the things you would use a tablet to do. You can get "free" Android phones with a 2 year cell phone service plan- my favorite free Android phone: the Droid RAZR M.
Of course, with a cell phone, you have to pay about $60 per month for cell phone service- tablet computers have no monthly bill which is nice! Plus tablet computers have much larger screens, making them easier to use for watching videos or surfing web sites.
Android Tablet vs iPad
If you have a budget of $300 or more, you can get an iPad. iPad is Apple's brand of tablet computers and runs iOS instead of Android operating system. My wife has an iPad mini and uses it every day. iPads are fast and have great displays. If you are planning to use a tablet a lot, it may be worth spending a bit more to get a faster tablet such as a Kindle Fire or iPad.
© 2013 Dr Penny Pincher
Hugh Morrison from London, England on October 11, 2013:
Thanks, Dr Pincher. This is useful advice. I definitely need something to replace my 3 year old notebook (which was second hand then) which has started to slow down to a snail's pace...it hardly seems worth paying for it to be overhauled now.
Dr Penny Pincher (author) from Iowa, USA on October 10, 2013:
Hugh, I have not seen Word for Android OS, you can get a Microsoft Surface tablet that runs Windows OS if you need Word. You can get Android word processing apps, or you can use the word processor in Google Docs with an Android tablet.
For me, using a touch screen on a tablet is much slower than using a physical keyboard, but you can get inexpensive keyboards to plug in to a tablet.
Hugh Morrison from London, England on October 10, 2013:
Interesting article. Can these things work with software like Word? Or is there some rinky-dink secretarial programme that comes with them? All I need is something to do typing on which is compatible with word.
Dr Penny Pincher (author) from Iowa, USA on October 08, 2013:
Victoria, a tablet can be handy for web surfing and checking e-mail. Tablets do typically have built-in Wi-Fi. I use Wi-Fi on my tablet at home, at coffee shops, at McDonald's, etc. You can find free Wi-Fi at lots of stores and restaurants these days.
Victoria Lynn from Arkansas, USA on October 08, 2013:
Great review. I've thought about getting something smaller for travel. A tablet doesn't have built-in Wifi, though, does it. I sometimes visit my dad out in the country. He doesn't have Wifi, and I don't know where I the town to go for it. LOL. This tablet sounds decent for the price.
Dr Penny Pincher (author) from Iowa, USA on July 03, 2013:
Linda Bryen from United Kingdom on July 03, 2013:
Very useful info drpennypincher, Voted and pinned. Thank you for sharing.
Dr Penny Pincher (author) from Iowa, USA on July 01, 2013:
Hezekiah- Interesting. That small tablet sounds like an android cell phone without the cell phone... That could be handy, you could keep it in your pocket and use it where wi-fi is available.
Hezekiah from Japan on July 01, 2013:
Interesting, I got a cheap mini tablet or (Phablet) from China once. Only $50, Wifi and the lastest android operating system. The only minor issue was the display, not HD and not 100% clear pixels, but excellent for $50 though, can't really complain.
Dr Penny Pincher (author) from Iowa, USA on June 21, 2013:
Thanks ZachKaer- it's getting easier to find cheap tablets for sale, I have noticed that you can even buy them at drug stores like Walgreens.
Zach Kaer from Ohio on June 21, 2013:
I'm using a HKC tablet from Walmart.com that I got for $99. Works great but as you stated the battery life could be better. Good article btw.
Dr Penny Pincher (author) from Iowa, USA on June 20, 2013:
DATALOAD, a cheap tablet can provide hours of entertainment! You can download free apps or read e-books as you mentioned.
DATALOAD from Michigan on June 20, 2013:
It's amazing how cheap and powerful good technology is becoming. I recently bought a tablet for under $100.00. It was a great price on a good product. The free books and apps are great.
Dr Penny Pincher (author) from Iowa, USA on June 05, 2013:
prektjr.dc, thanks for your comment. I think a low cost Android tablet would probably be fine for completing a simple internet transaction if you have a good WiFi network at your craft show. You could visit Best Buy, Target, etc. and try running through the process on a tablet at the sales display to make sure it is compatible with an Android web browser.
Debbie Carey from Riverton, KS, USA on June 04, 2013:
Lots of good information! I have been thinking about getting a tablet to use for my direct sales business. Tell me, how do you think it would perform at a craft show type event for the purpose of completing sales? It would be similar to creating an ID and checking out on eBay. I would love your input. Thanks for sharing your review!
Dr Penny Pincher (author) from Iowa, USA on June 03, 2013:
iguidenetwork from Austin, TX on June 03, 2013:
Very useful information... I will buy myself a tablet one of these days. A USB keyboard is nice too, I still prefer the "real" keyboard. Up and useful. :)
Dr Penny Pincher (author) from Iowa, USA on June 02, 2013:
Thanks, Missy Mac. For me, the battery life is not a big issue since I can usually keep mine plugged in when using it at home. I think it would be neat if there was a little crank that would pop out and you could charge it by cranking...
Missy Mac from Illinois on June 02, 2013:
Great information. I am interested in the tablet and did wonder if my lab top is a better purchase. I was surprised with the 3 hour battery life. Thanks for the information.
Dr Penny Pincher (author) from Iowa, USA on April 24, 2013:
Thanks FullOfLoveSites and others who have commented. I tried to make a sort of laptop using a tablet and small keyboard, but it isn't as good as a real laptop for serious typing and webpage design. I still use the tablet for web browsing and games, but I'm not ready to give up my laptop...
FullOfLoveSites from United States on April 24, 2013:
Yes, me too, I still prefer the laptop. I've gotten used to it. Netbooks/notebooks area on the way out because of the tablet but I hope the laptop will never get phased out. I love to do serious typing and looking at the big screen, since i'm a bit near sighted.
For simple web browsing, checking email or blogs, or general browsing, a tablet is perfect.
Thanks for the very informative hub. Up and useful. :)
kidscrafts from Ottawa, Canada on February 06, 2013:
One of these days, I will by myself one of those android tablets...but I was waiting for the price to go down! I can't believe it's possible to have all that for under $100. For me it would be a good tool while traveling because I wouldn't be able to work on one of those because I work with a lot of different programs (Photoshop, Dreamweaver, Flash, Avid Studio, etc.) and I need something powerful and a big screen!
Thanks for your review! Voted up and useful!
PiYe19 on February 03, 2013:
This was very informative and interesting for anyone wanting to make an initial investment in a tablet to get their feet wet without digging into their pockets deeply to start out. Tablets like these are excellent backups for everyday usage. Thank You !
Dr Penny Pincher (author) from Iowa, USA on January 31, 2013:
Hard to believe you can get one for under $100...
Joe Poniatowskis from Mid-Michigan on January 31, 2013:
Nice review. I have used these low-cost Android tablets with success - including watching netflix, web browsing, email, and my favorite, they make great little book readers.
androidwalls on January 16, 2013:
If you are low on budget I would advice you to get some decent older tab like galaxy tab 10.1 from second hand store. I bet it can still beat these lower-end tablets in performance.
Joseph Mitchell from Nashville TN 37206. on January 14, 2013:
What exactly are we talking about? At first I thought we were talking about something like what I saw, like sort of a tablet maybe or notebook or netpad or whatever, then I thought we were talking about a smart-phone-cell-phone, now I am not sure what we are talking about. I just was looking at an Android phone at Dollar General for this same price, but it is a small phone with the touch screen. I am assuming that you would have to pay $50 per month in order to fool with Wi-Fi, unless you buy minutes, no Wi-Fi, I assume? idk? Not sure what I want, I think maybe something like a small lap top? Anyway, you got me researching, on line, looking at Androids and others. thanx.
ElleBee on January 14, 2013:
Interesting, I've been considering getting a tablet and/or netbook, this defintiely brought up a few points for consideration with the battery life. I had also been wondering if the touch screen worked well and how good of quality you get in a tablet that costs less than even a smart phone!
Ruminta Sari from Sleman on January 13, 2013:
my experience with cheap android phone is the short battery life. and it's not easy to find the battery replacement on the shops.
Joseph Mitchell from Nashville TN 37206. on January 11, 2013:
Thank you. I need to get something like a lap top. I am strapped for cash, a huge understatement. I rely on library equipment to write Hubpages articles and do everything else, a huge problems plurality. I am a very accomplished typer, I like to roll w-it. I like to think-type 100 wpm. I also want my "lap-top" or whatever I get, to be my entertainment station-t.v., movies, songs, etc. I need a spreadsheet. I also want to write programs. It used to be basic, A, and C. not sure what they do now. i also want to learn DOS. i am just a learn and fool with it kind of freak. idk, not sure what to buy, thank you for the article, studying it.