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The best affordable tablets

While many people rave about the features and technical excellence of the iPad, few are so complimentary about the price. Starting at $499 for the 16GB Wi-Fi-only model and rising to $829 for the 64GB Wi-Fi + cellular version, the iPad is more expensive than many highly-rated laptops.

Not surprisingly, the high price of the iPad has left an opening at the lower end of the market that other manufacturers have been only too happy to exploit. While some of the early budget tablets were less than impressive, more recent offerings have gone a long way to closing the gap with the iPad in terms of features and performance.

The majority of these lower-priced tablets feature 7-inch screens, which is quickly becoming a standard for affordable or entry-level tablets, so much so that there are strong rumors that Apple is planning on releasing a 7-inch iPad Mini in time for this year’s holiday buying season.

However, if you are in the market for an affordable tablet now and don’t want to wait to see what Apple has up its sleeve, then there are plenty of excellent devices to choose from. Here are 6 of the best:

Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 7.0

Featuring a 1024x600 HD multitouch 7-inch screen and Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich), Samsung’s Galaxy Tab 2 is everything you would expect from a classic full-featured tablet but at a discount price. As well as providing access to the 600,000 apps and games in the Google Play Store, the Galaxy Tab 2 comes with the Samsung Media Hub app, which allows you to choose from thousands of popular movies and TV shows. If you want to watch your content on the big screen, then you can turn your Galaxy Tab 2 into a universal remote.

Price: from $249.99

Google Nexus 7

Manufactured by ASUS, the Google Nexus 7 has arguably done more to revolutionize tablet pricing than any other device. Featuring the latest Android Jelly Bean operating software and a NVIDIA Tegra 3 quad-core processor, the Google Nexus 7 includes all the features and processing power that you would expect in a tablet costing twice the price. The full 1280x800 HD screen is perfect for watching movies, playing games, displaying photos or just surfing the web, and the front-facing camera makes video chat easy. The battery provides up to 9 hours of HD video playback and up to 300 hours of standby time.

Price: from $199

Kindle Fire

Still the perfect entry-level tablet for kids and grown-ups, the Kindle Fire offers e-mail, web surfing, Facebook integration, and access to all Amazon’s movies, TV shows, books and music. Although you don’t have access to the thousands of apps you would get with an iPad or an Android device, there are plenty of games (Angry Birds, Where’s My Perry?) and entertainment apps, such as Netflix, HBO Go, Hulu Plus, Pandora and more. The new Kindle FreeTime parental control system allows you to set limits for screen time and filter content for individual users.

Price: $159

Kindle Fire HD

If you want a little more sizzle with your Kindle, then the Kindle Fire HD is definitely worth the extra $40. The 1280x800 HD display provides remarkable color and clarity and the built-in Dolby stereo system delivers a surprisingly rich sound for a tablet. Amazon claims that the dual antennas on the Fire HD provide the fastest Wi-Fi speeds of any tablet, which is exactly what is needed for downloading or streaming Amazon’s huge collection of movies, TV shows, books and music. The Fire HD comes with unlimited cloud storage for Amazon content and the Kindle FreeTime parental control system.

Price: from $199


Originally launched as an e-reader, Barnes & Noble’s NOOK has grown in sophistication and versatility to become a full-blown tablet with e-mail, calendar syncing and high-speed web browsing. While the emphasis remains on delivery content from Barnes & Noble’s huge library of books and magazines, there is also access to a wide selection of movies, TV shows and games, as well popular apps for business and leisure. There is also access to one of the largest selections of interactive books and other learning activities for kids. The NOOK HD is super-light and the perfect size for smaller hands.

Price: $199


If you like your screen a little larger, then you can always step up to the NOOK HD+, which features a 9-inch display that offers crisp and colorful viewing from every angle. As well as access to Barnes & Noble’s massive collection of books, magazines and newspapers, the NOOK HD+ emphasizes full 1080p HD movies and video, as well as a growing collection of custom apps. NOOK parental controls provide a “kid safe” experience and customized profiles are available for up to six different members of the family.

Price: from $269

Comment by Karen, posted 10/18/2012, 5:12 AM:

I'll show this to my son. He's thinking about buying a tablet with his own money. Thanks!
Comment by Julia, posted 10/12/2012, 5:42 AM:

The Samsung tablet is going to be the next one I buy. As much as I love my iPad, it's not in my budget unless I win one.
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