We all know that the recession has put a heavy load on our wallets but that doesn’t mean we should stop making purchases and dreaming of what gadget we could get next. Tablets are a big hit in 2010, despite the unfavorable economic climate, but that doesn’t mean everyone can afford one.

    I know that usually you get what you pay for, but in this post I’ll try and make a list with the best bargain Android tablets you can get online for under 200$. That’s right, there are models that cost less than 200$, some even getting close to the 100$ mark. Of course they cannot compete with the iPad, but that doesn’t mean they’re not worth every penny.

    You should know that cheap Android tablets have the main drawbacks of speed (slower, less expensive CPUs) and usually come with older Android versions (1.5 and the like), plus not all have the ability to install apps from the Android marketplace. That doesn’t mean you can’t browse some websites, read eBooks, listen to some music and watch videos on them, all at a very reasonable cost.

    Why I chose 200$ as the upper limit? Because I think it’s not much money to lose if the product is crappy (plus you can get a refund if you don’t like it). It’s one thing to get upset for spending 500+ dollars for a crappy Atom tablet running Windows 7 and it’s another thing losing 150 bucks for a slow, but still useful cheap Android slate tablet from mother China. Some prices may vary (going over $200) so you have to watch out, but all of the models here have retailed for under $200 at some point.

    As a reminder, all those products can be called clones from China, and you wouldn’t be wrong, but if you’re OK with this go ahead and buy them (after reading what customers have to say about them first).

    Google Nexus 7

    Right now the best affordable Android tablet under 200 bucks is the Google Nexus 7, a 7″ tablet meant to complete with the Amazon Kindle Fire, which is trashes thanks to much better hardware. For $199 you do get a quad core Tegra 3 processor, 1GB RAM, a HD Ready IPS display and the latest Android 4.1 Jelly Bean. All in a rubberised back case with a nice feel to it. If you don’t have much money to spend on a 7″ tablet, but don’t like the no-name models you can’t go wrong with the Google Nexus7.

    Google Nexus 7

    Google Nexus 7

    Ainol Novo7 Advanced II 3G (Android 4.0 ICS)

    This is probably one of the cheapest Android 4.0 ICE Cream Sandwich tablets, starting at under 150, and it’s not half bad, as it comes with a 1GHz Allwinner A10 CPU helped by a Mali400 GPU for 2D/3D acceleration, 512 MB RAM and 8 GB Flash storage which can be upgraded with microSD cards (up to 32GB).

    The 7 inch screen (800 x 480 px) is capacitive and supports 5-point multi touch. You get WiFi out of the box, and 3G. You can output video via HDMI and you get access to Google Android Marketplace. A 2MP front facing camera can be used for video conferencing. What more do you want?

    Ainol Novo7 Advanced II

    Ainol Novo7 Advanced II

    SuperPad3 x220 10.2″ Android 2.2

    That’s right: you can get an Android 2.2 tablet, with a 10 inch screen for only 178$. And it’s not your typical show slate, because it’s powered by an ARM 11 CPU at 1 GHz. RAM is 512 MB, just like the iPad 2, so expect to browse the same kind of websites on this one. You don’t get 3G for this kind of money (external 3G modules are supported), but you do get WiFi, GPS, 4GB of internal memory and one SD card slots that support microSD cards up to 32 GB, so you can store plenty of multimedia files on the Superpad3 x220 10.2″.

    Other ports include 2 x USB 2.0, MicroSD Slots, Mini HDMI, DC Jack, 3.5mm Headphone/Line-Out, RJ45 Ethernet, so you can even use the wired Internet connection you have laying at home. What’s interesting is the included GPS chip, so you can use Google Maps for navigations purposes. And the cherry on top is the external keyboard case that’s included in the package.

    SuperPad 10.2

    SuperPad 10.2

    Creative ZiiO – 7 inch10 inch

    Creative is a company most known for its multimedia products (speakers, sound cards and such), but for tablets, but that didn’t stop them to launch two affordable Android tablets, both under 200 dollars, both available in 8 and 16 GB versions, Black or White finish. The 7 inch models comes with a 800 x 480 pixels screen, WiFi, Bluetooth, Android 2.1 and HDMI out.

    The bigger model comes with a higher resolution screen, 1024 x 600, HDMI out, WiFi & Bluetooth. Both model take advantage of Creative’s sound legacy so there’s X-Fi Technology Restores Audio Detail, a technology that improves the depth of field for immersive audio when gaming or watching movies. Apt-X Codec is a technology that makes Bluetooth audio streaming possible to speakers and wireless headsets, also helping with creating a high fidelity sound.

    So if multimedia is your focus you won’t be disappointed with the Creative ZiiO tables, just pick the one that fits your budget best. Oh, and one more thing worth mentioning: there’s not official Google Marketplace/Play support, but you can still download apps from any marketplace and install them manually. More complicated that it needs to be, but is working.

    Creative ZiiO 10 inch (left) and 7 inch (right)

    Creative ZiiO 10 inch (left) and 7 inch (right)

    PanDigital 72-70FW 7 inch

    If you want a very inexpensive Android tablet then I might just have the thing for you: the PanDigital 72-70FW, a 7 inch tablet with yesterday’s specs, but certainly a price that won’t make your wallet thin. For under 100 bucks you get a 7 inch display (probably resistive) with 800 x 600 px resolution, 1 GB storage (expandable via SD cards up to 32GB), WiFi, a USB port. I don’t know the CPU or the Android version, but the 3.5 stars on Amazon means it’s better than a lot of models with high expectations, making it probably the best cheap Android tablet on market.

    PanDigital 72-70FW

    PanDigital 72-70FW

    Lenovo IdeaPad A1

    If you liked last year’s Samsung Galaxy TAB 7 then you can opt for the Lenovo IdeaPad A1, a cheap 7 inch tablet with good specs that sells for only $199, significantly lower than Samsung’s offering (form this year and last year). You do get stock Android 2.3, dual cameras, a single core 1GHz processor, capacitive display (1024 x 600 px resolution, just like most seven inch slates), 1 GB RAM and 16 GB storage you can extend with up microSD cards. What sets this slate apart from most cheap Android tablets is the access to the Android Marketplace and the availability of more than one color options (Black, White, Pink, and Blue). [detailed preview]

    Lenovo Ideapad A1

    Lenovo Ideapad A1

    Amazon Kindle Fire

    You wouldn’t believe, but you can purchase a brand new tablet that’s made from a renown name like Amazon for under 200 bucks. Their beauty is called Kindle Fire and is a media consumption device, 7 inches in diagonal with impressive looks and a customized user interface built on top of Android.

    The Amazon Kindle Fire offers access to all the company’s services for eBooks, Music and Movie streaming (Amazon Prime 30 days trial is available for free). There are over 18.000.000 items in Amazon’s library, including eBooks, Magazines, Movies, TV Shows and Music that you can purchase. They all remain in your Amazon account and you can download any item you want from the Cloud at any time. You can still install Android apps from the Amazon App store and play games, check you email, browse the web and so on.

    And speaking about browsing the web, Amazon Silk is the browser the Kindle Fire uses and it’s an interesting piece of engineering, providing pre-rendering for CPU and bandwidth intensive elements from the cloud. Browsing is much faster this way, as part of the burden is taken by Amazon’s servers. [our preview]

    • 1GHz dual core CPU by TI
    • 1 GB RAM
    • 7 inch IPS screen (1024 x 600 px resolution)
    • 8 GB internal storage
    • Size: 7.5″ x 4.7″ x 0.45″
    • Weight: 14.6 ounces
    • Battery life: 8 hours continuous reading or 7.5 hours video playback
    Amazon Kindle Fire tablet

    Amazon Kindle Fire tablet

    Coby KYROS MID7024

    This is the one of the newest 7 inch Android slates to hit the market. It sells for an astonishing low 170$, and for that you get a 1GHz CPU, ARM Cortex A8 made by Samsung, a 800 x 480 pixels 7 inch screen, rezistive and 4GB of internal storage that you can update with up to 32 GB microSDHC cards. You can even connect USB flash disks to increase storage. The Android OS version is 2.2 Froyo, so you do get an updated OS. The package (the case in this case) is pretty slim at 4.75″ x 0.53″ x 7.68″ and weights very competitive to other brand name tablets: 0.87 lbs.

    And because it doesn’t have official access to the Android marketplace you can install apps and get ebooks from the Aldiko E-Book store and the AppsLib marketplace, supported by Coby KYROS. This is the cheap Android tablet to get if you’re into the 7 inch form factor. More versions of the Coby KYROS can be purchased from the product link. [Read more about the Coby KYROS MID 7024 here]

    Follow this link to find more cheap Coby tablets from the KYROS series, all with different diagonals and slightly altered internals. There’s also the $99 Coby Kyros 7012 with Android 2.3

    Coby Kyros MID7024

    Coby Kyros MID7024

    Viewsonic ViewPad 7e with Android 2.3

    The Viewsonic ViewPad 7e is proof cheap tablets don’t have to be boring in design and can really offer some performance for little money. In the case of Viewsonic’s tablet we’re talking about last year’s $500+ specs of the Samsung Galaxy TAB with a sub 200 price tag. The Android 2.3 Gingerbread is powered by a 1GHz ARM Cortex A8 CPU, 512 MB RAM, a 7 inch touchscreen with good performance (500:1 contrast and 250 cd/m2 luminosity), 4GB internal storage (expandable with up to 32 GB MicroSD cards). You also got dual cameras, WiFi N, Bluetooth, microHDMI and microUSB connectors along with a 3300 mAh battery rated for 5 hours of use.

    There’s even access to the Amazon AppStore that gets you one free app per day (one that usually costs money).  I’d say it’s almost a steal if it weren’t for our number one cheap tablet: Kindle Fire.

    Viewsonic ViewPad 7e

    Viewsonic ViewPad 7e

    Nook Tablet – 8GB, Nook Color - 8GB

    This is actually one tablet that can compete with the Amazon Kindle Fire, featuring the same price and specs, but with a more daring design that people seem to like. Just like Amazon’s Kindle Fire this one features a customized operating system User Interface, but built on top of Android. From here you can do any kind of multimedia oriented tasks, as you have access to Barnes and Noble’s own ecosystem of content (music, eBooks and movies), but it’s less than what Amazon has to offer. You have to pay for content in both cases, so diversity might not be the only thing  you should consider before making a decision.

    You can expand the 8GB of storage with microSD cards, or you can get the 16 GB model from start as it also doubles RAM from 512MB to 1GB, something that matters if you browse a lot of install powerful apps and games. In case you want to step down in price you can get the lower specs Nook Color: [buy the 8GB WiFi from here for $169]. For more buying options and complete specs sheet for these two tablets look here and here.

    Nook Tablet

    Nook Tablet is identical looking to the Nook Color

    Vizio VTAB1008

    If you look at the specs of Vizio’s VTAB1008 it’s like looking at a smaller 1st gen iPad (a 1.2 pounds one): 1024 x 768 pixels resolution, a 1GHz CPU, 512 MB RAM (double the first gen Apple iPad), 4GB storage expandable via microSD cards, HDMI (v1.4), micro USB and up to 10 hours battery life. It’s one of the best cheap Android tablets you can get right now, and what’s best is that it comes with version 2.3 Gingerbread, that might also be upgraded to Honeycomb sometime.

    The best feature of Vizio VTAB1008 is the IR sensor mounted on top bundled with a custom remote app that transforms the 8-inch tablet into an universal remote able to control TVs, DVRs and Blu ray players. All for less than 200 bucks. [read our initial preview]

    VIZIO VTAB1008

    VIZIO VTAB1008

    Archos 7 G2  – 4 GB

    Archos is well known for its multimedia tablets (and short naming schemes), and the Archos 7 G2 is an very good example of that. Even if specs are top notch the focus is clear on multimedia capabilities (see the HDMI out port, OpenGL ES 2.0 support, a fast 1GHz CPU and support for numerous multimedia formats). The OS of choice is Android 2.3 Gingerbread, but there’s Google Android Marketplace support, which is a serious thing for a cheap tablet. A kickstand is something you won’t see on many slates, especially cheap ones, so I’m glad to see Archos offering one on the 7 G2 multimedia tablet.

    • ARM Cortex A8 at 1 GHz with DSP
    • Graphic accelerator: 3D OpenGL ES 2.0
    • 7” TFT LCD Capacitive Touch Screen, WVGA 800 x 480 pixels
    • WiFi (802.11 b/g/n)
    • 1080p playback and amazing video/audio codec support
    • USB 2.0 host, microSDHC port
    • Dimensions: 8 x 4-1/5 x 1/2 inches (H x W x D)
    • Weight: 13 oz
    Archos 7 G2

    Archos 7 G2

    Archos Arnova 10 G2

    Let’s continue with another brand name tablet, from Archos this time, the known French manufacturer of multimedia devices. From them comes this amazing 10″ tablet that supports most audio and video codecs you’ll ever need. Sure it’s got only 4GB of internal memory, but you can always expand that with up to 32 GB microSDHC cards and even USB Flash Drives, as the Archos Arnova 10 G2 supports USB 2.0 host functionality. It’s the best multimedia tablet out there that won’t cost an arm and a leg to buy and it even ships with Android 2.3 Gingerbread (which could be upgraded to a better version soon) so you can do browsing and a little bit of gaming too, not just watching movies.

    And speaking of media playback, this thing will last 6 hours on one charge when looking at video clips, and up to 4o hours of audio playback if you turn the screen off. It’s a very good deal you shouldn’t miss.

    • 10 inch multi touch screen with 1024 x 600 pixels resolution
    • ARM Cortex 8 1.0GHz processor
    • 4 GB Internal storage, microSDHC card slot
    • Android OS 2.3 Gingerbread
    • WiFi
    • Front facing Webcam
    • Full HD 1080p playback
    • Weight: 540 grams (19 ounces)
    • Dimensions: 10.6 by 5.9 by 0.47 inches (H x W x D)
    Archos Arnova 10

    Archos Arnova 10 G2

    Closing thoughts

    I’m sure some of you will question my sanity for presenting cheap Android tablets that are clearly iPad clones, but there’s a reason I did it: because people love cheap stuff. The only thing is to understand what you’re getting and not hope for a cheap iPad. It’s not that, but is enough to get you a taste of a slate tablet and that’s what matters. And because we live in a fast paced world I’ll be updating this post with new android tablets once worthy cheap models come to market.