Android Central

Sometimes holiday deals are best ignored — we've got your guide to get the most bang for your buck

It's that time of year. Everywhere you look, you'll see incredible deals on "official" tablets that run "Google Android," often times starting at well under $100. Huge retail discount sales — whether real or imagined — during the holiday season are part of American culture. But we're here to help you not get burned by falling into the trap of buying a craplet.

Android is free. People can debate about that issue all they like, but the fact that we see Android installed on pieces of hardware from companies we've never heard of for sale at the local gas station pretty much proves the point that anyone can use Android in any way they like. Free software is a wonderful thing, and we're glad that anyone can build it and use it.

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That doesn't mean we think you should buy just any cheap tablet, though. Money doesn't grow on trees, right?

We've got your guide to the best low-cost tablets we'd be willing to spend our own hard-earned cash on.

Android Central

Take it from all of us here at Android Central. These ultra-cheap tablets can be a nightmare

When you buy one of these super-discount tablets, you're usually dealing with something that has no access to Google Play. Even though Android is free Google wants things to meet certain standards before the manufacturers can include their non-free apps and services. Some may have other application stores installed, some will just leave you high and dry when looking for new apps.

As often as not you're looking at pretty sub-standard hardware specifications. This means you're not going to enjoy using the thing to play games, watch videos or surf the web. Google is trying to work on this by building Android for lower spec devices, but none of these tablets you will see at your local pharmacy will be running KitKat, so they aren't taking advantage of it. You're not going to be happy with the way that $49.99 tablet plays Angry Birds — if it even can.

We've tried to talk you out of buying one of those no-name tablets (we really think you'll be unhappy with that purchase), but what should you buy? The great news is that there are options that are affordable, supported by their manufacturer, have all the Google services you need, and will deliver an experience that makes you, or the person you're buying it for, happy. Our "A list" of budget tablets:

  • The Samsung Galaxy Tab 3. Samsung's budget experience doesn't offer all the bells and whistles, but with the 7-inch model starting at just $159 at Amazon, it's a solid device for the price.
  • The HiSense Sero 7 Pro. It's a clone of the original Nexus 7 for all intents and purposes, and has seen many favorable reviews. It's also priced right if you look around online.
  • The Nexus 7. The standard all Android tablets are measured against is also a great deal. This is how Android was meant to be, and while it's not $50, it's also not some crazy Apple price either. Available starting at $229 on Google Play, you can also find it a good bit cheaper at retail shops like Staples or online.
  • The LG G Pad. While not exactly a budget tablet, the G Pad is an amazing deal at $350. The excellent screen and the fast CPU make for a great experience and the awesome battery life tops it off. It's worth considering spending a little more on this one.

We're certain that some of these super-cheap tablets would turn out to be a good buy. But we're even more certain that the majority of them won't, and the experience they leave behind makes you feel like you've wasted your money. Let people like us waste our money and sort through the good and the bad.

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