Tablets optimize

Are $100 tablets a waste of money?

A $100 tablet may sound like a great deal. But, low-cost machines often have outdated software and underpowered hardware. Does price trump functionality?

A wave of tablets is beginning to sweep across the tech world. The most-talked about devices will be high-end units, such as the Apple iPad and Motorola XOOM. But among the crowd will also be low-price, bare-bones machines, such as the LY-706 that I cracked open this week.

At $100 the LY-706 (also know as the MID 706) is roughly 20 percent the price of an iPad or Samsung Galaxy tab (sans contract). But even with such a low price, do you get enough bang for your buck? Neither TechRepublic's Mark Kaelin nor I think you do.

The LY-706 is underpowered, uses old technology, and the build quality is sub-par. Read Mark's full review for his complete opinion of the LY-706. Perhaps we expect too much for a device that costs about the same as a nice dinner for two. What do you think?

About

Bill Detwiler is Managing Editor of TechRepublic and Tech Pro Research and the host of Cracking Open, CNET and TechRepublic's popular online show. Prior to joining TechRepublic in 2000, Bill was an IT manager, database administrator, and desktop supp...

24 comments
martink
martink

I'd even buy a 1000 $ tablet if I had a use which is worth 1000 $

Realvdude
Realvdude

both in the poll as well with tablet reviews. There is nothing wrong with "outdated" tehcnology, as long as it was designed well in the first place. Case in point, my wife uses a Acer laptop with a 1.3Ghz Celeron, for her surfing and document processing needs. As long as the inexpensive tablet was designed for all those outdated components to work together, then it may fullfill the needs of some people. I did laugh at the specs for the tablet in question, having WiFi a/b, rather than b/g or a/b/g, showing it is very dated (or aimed at old WiFi markets). So the poll needs cheap and outdated, outdated but functional, midrange quality, and high end. Hopefully someone will share a good source of inexpensive tablet reviews or tackle the tack of creating such a source of information.

Frowie
Frowie

I agree that we need options as well. With respect to the poll we are only allowed to choose between "So long as it works, I don't care how slow or poorly-made the device is" and "I'm willing to pay more for a tablet with modern features and decent processing speed". In a technophile environment this normatively skewed language will bias the results. Not many people would want to be identified as favouring slow and shoddy technology. The fact is that every purchasing decision is a value judgement with (conscious or unconscious) comparison of percieved value relative to price. There will be a large segment of the market that will not be swayed by the status-enhancing benefit of the latest technology but will choose the most appropriate technologyfor their needs, viz the continued use of Windows XP.

carltonzone
carltonzone

The positive thing about this is the fact that we are obviously right around the corner from $100 tablet devices that have decent operating systems and processing power. Wait a year and ask this question again, and I'll bet it will be 70% saying "yes" and 30% saying "no"

Frowie
Frowie

Specs (at least the important/required ones) provide a binary go/no go decision. Either the device meets or exceeds the required specs or it is not worth considering. Once that hurdle is passed price is combined with specs to infer value which is the variable to be maximized. There is a very large range in subjective perception of value not to mention specific uses. Hence there will be a large range of price/specification combinations to satisfy those demands. Passing moral judgement on a niche product because we perceive it to be of low value to us misses the point. It will survive if it serves a need. Ain't capitalism grand! :-) Cheers, Frowie

bblackmoor
bblackmoor

Yes, a $100 tablet is a waste of money. I have yet to see one that isn't (and I have bought a couple). Still, you need not spend a fortune to get a good tablet. I have been very pleased with my Viewsonic G tablet, and for the brief time I owned one, the Archos 101 was also quite nice (I prefer the Viewsonic G, though).

dkenny
dkenny

It depends on what you are trying to do with your $100 investment. If you're looking to replace a $650 to $1200 laptop with a $100 tablet, then yes, it's a waste of money. If, however, you are a bleeding-edge technology advocate, then your $100 is an investment in moving the horizon of the bleeding edge. As a practical matter, I don't care how droolworthy a piece of hardware is (eg, iPod, iPad, Android smartphone, etc.), on general principle I never buy any new device in its first generation. I always wait for at least revision 1 (version 2) -- which in hardware generally means attention has been refocused on design/problems rather than adding new bells and whistles.

loewenkampl
loewenkampl like.author.displayName 1 Like

As another comment pointed out, it depends on what you need the tablet for. I purchased an inexpensive tablet to use primarily as an ereader, but I also surf the web and check my e-mail on it. It also functions as a music player and photo viewer, which makes it great for travelling. If my financial resources were unlimited, I would have purchased a smart phone or iPad, but given what I spent on this device, I am very satisfied with what it can do.

daboochmeister
daboochmeister like.author.displayName 1 Like

... than the LY-706 that you did a teardown on, Bill. FocalPrice, the site you mention, has 256M, 800MHz, Android 2.1 devices for $130. For $150, there's even a 2.2 device. :By "better", i mean "better specs" ... no idea on build quality. I have a Samsung WinCE netbook with the same basic hw as the LY-706 (not tablet form factor, obviously) ... for what it is, it's fine, and we got it at a CVS for $30. I can SSH, browse, etc. Is it going to rock the world? No, but hey, it's all about use cases. And finances.

Bill Detwiler
Bill Detwiler

You're exactly right. I think the specs outweigh price, up to a point.

john3347
john3347 like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 6 Like

In the smartphone and tablet market, like the rest of the overall computer market, the hardware is outdated by the time you get it configured and learn how to use it. Then, the question becomes, would you rather buy outdated, EXTREMELY expensive hardware or outdated, inexpensive hardware? If you are buying a toy, you have to have the most expensive item available, because bragging about how much it cost is part of the appeal. If you are buying a tool, you buy whatever is capable of doing whatever you need done and at the lowest cost possible.

martink
martink like.author.displayName 1 Like

Definitely agree with John. The poll question gives the feeling that you have to get hurt when you get IT. The same thing with laptops the price is not a measure how well your specific needs are met.

Vulpinemac
Vulpinemac like.author.displayName 1 Like

... And you pay for what you get. I learned that phrase from a co-worker almost 30 years ago and it holds just as true today as it did then. You can go out there and buy the cheapest thing that can do the job, but can you be sure it's going to last long enough to meet your needs? You can buy the most expensive thing out there, but will you really get enough use out of it to make the cost worth it? Balance is the deciding factor, not "Mine is better than yours!" childishness. For me, mine IS better--it's proven itself many times. For you?

daboochmeister
daboochmeister like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 3 Like

... Bucci's 2nd Law is "You get no MORE than you pay for; you frequently get less."

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

the original cost of the hardware is only a small percentage of the total operating costs over the life of the system. Sure, you could go with a WiFi-only model and hope you can get a connection. But if you're buying something you want to use with a cellular connection, why skimp on the hardware? $350 or so is maybe 20% of a 2-year service contact; for some people even less if they're on a usage-based plan.

user support
user support like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 2 Like

I have read all the negative comments. For a media device meaning connect to the internet, read email, listen to music and carry some photographs my Coby Kryros M7015 bought at $140 from Kmart in Nov 2010 it was a good deal. As for working with Office Suites, Quicken, TurboTax and software for home, I use an Apple or Windows Desktop and tablet pc. Our work organization is still using Windows machines and if you get an exception to policy, you maybe able to use a custom device with no support.

weserphillip
weserphillip like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 4 Like

If you can't upgrade the old OS then they are useless. If you can get at least 2.2 on there they are fine.

oldbaritone
oldbaritone like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 2 Like

It's hard to say what the real practical requirements will be for a viable tablet machine, but I'm sure there must be a "middle ground" between the traditionally-overpriced apple offering, and a bottom-of-the-line, cheapest-of-the-cheap tablet. With the tablet market still trying to define itself, jumping into the dregs is probably a bad move. But there will be ample reasonably-priced, cost-effective machines to fill a niche, if the concept proves itself viable.

Vulpinemac
Vulpinemac like.author.displayName 1 Like

So far, there doesn't seem to be that " middle ground" you mentioned. You either get " throwaway cheap" or, according to you, overpriced. Personally, I'm not a fan of the cheap things currently available. In particular, you mention Coby, who has a reputation for the lowest prices and the shortest lifespans of their electronic products. To me, quality trumps low price almost every time; but that doesn't mean I'm going to buy the most expensive thing on the market, either.

user support
user support

This is a good point. The Coby M7015 has Android 2.1 and I am not sure it is upgradeable but it may not matter if the device serves my purpose. I have already been at this point in the mid 1990's when Linux was not readily defined. I have since given up on Linux for a home pc.

Bill Detwiler
Bill Detwiler like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 2 Like

A $100 tablet may sound like a great deal. But, low-cost machines often have outdated software and underpowered hardware. Does price trump functionality? Take the poll in the above post and let me know: http://www.techrepublic.com/blog/itdojo/are-100-tablets-a-waste-of-money/2389

maxwell edison
maxwell edison like.author.displayName 1 Like

I've sat in on some of those tables. Strategy is the same. The only difference is the color of the chips.

AnsuGisalas
AnsuGisalas

someone voted that one down! *glare of shame* You know who you are! Hopefully the tablet will last longer than a single evening ;)... less chance of coming away richer, though. [For the record, at the moment of this posting, the above post had a score of -1]

dogknees
dogknees like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 3 Like

Isn't it possible that there are people that have specific needs that are completely met by a very low-end tablet? Just as it's possible there are users for whom none of the existing or announce models are sufficient. It's not like there's a single unified set of requirements that everyone needs, so how can you say these are not useful? Or that they aren't even worth $100? I can think of several uses for a low cost basic tablet. At $100 you could buy several for different purposes around the home, so you don't have to carry your "good" tablet around with you and your family can have access to them as needed. Price doesn't trump anything. Like everything, it's a balance. Does this do all I need? vs Am I prepared to pay that price. Myself, I work out exactly what functionality I need in anything I'm going to buy, the only question then is am I prepared to pay the price. Changing the specs is not negotiable.