Android 4.0 tablets coming for under $US250

ViewSonic, Velocity Micro and Coby will ship tablets for under $US200 in the coming months

Inexpensive tablets with screen sizes up to 10 inches and Google's new Android 4.0 OS will soon become available at prices ranging from US$100 to $250. The prices are a breakthrough for users looking to get Android 4.0, code-named Ice Cream Sandwich, on tablets, which have so far been equipped with Android 2.x or Android 3.x. Some of the sub-$250 tablets run on smartphone processors and may lack the processing power of Apple's iPad 2 or Asus' Eee Pad Transformer Prime. But with cameras, high-definition video capabilities and HDMI ports, these devices could provide good value to budget buyers.

ViewSonic's $169 ViewPad E70

ViewSonic earlier this month said it would ship the ViewPad E70 with Android 4.0 starting at $169.99 later this quarter. The slim tablet will have a 7-inch screen, a front-facing camera and a microSD slot for expandable storage of up to 32GB. The company has not provided many details about the tablet, but said access to thousands of applications will be provided. Digging into some details on the website, the tablet will have a capacitive touchscreen that can display images at an 800-by-480-pixel resolution. The tablet will also have a micro-HDMI port to connect to high-definition TVs.

E Fun's $230 10-inch Nextbook

Of the sub-$250 tablets, the upcoming Nextbook Elite 10 from E Fun perhaps packs the most performance by incorporating a dual-core ARM processor. The West Covina, California, company said the tablet will become available in the spring this year at a street price of around $229. The tablet will have a 9.7-inch capacitive touchscreen that can display images at a 1024-by-768-pixel resolution, and run on Broadcom's dual-core 1.1GHz ARM Cortex-A9 processor, which is in most dual-core tablets today. The tablet will also have 8GB of storage, a 2.0-megapixel front camera, a 5.0-megapixel back camera and an HDMI port.

Velocity Micro Cruz tablets

Velocity Micro, known best for its high-powered gaming PCs, will ship the $150 Cruz Tablet T507 with a 7-inch screen, and the Cruz Tablet T510 with a 10-inch screen at an estimated price under $250. The tablets will have capacitive touchscreens and run on Cortex-A8 ARM processors with clock speeds of 1.2GHz. The tablets will have a front-facing camera and support Adobe Flash 11. The 3D acceleration will enable high-definition graphics, and HDMI ports will allow TVs to be connected to the tablet.

Access to the Android Market is yet to be determined as the company has not yet finalized licensing with Google, but Amazon Appstore will come preinstalled, a company spokesman said. The tablets will ship in late February to early March.

Coby's budget Android 4.0 tablets

Coby plans to introduce a new range of Android 4.0 tablets, with prices starting at $179 for a 7-inch tablet to $299 for a 10-inch tablet. The MID tablets will have a front camera, up to 1GB of RAM and memory up to 32GB. The 7-inch and 8-inch models will have 4GB of storage, while the 9-inch and 10-inch models will have 8GB. The tablets will run on a 1GHz processor based on the ARM Cortex-A8 design. The tablets will ship in the first quarter, the company said.

MIPS sub-$100 tablet

The first sub-$100 tablet with Android 4.0 was Ainol's Novo7, which is already shipping in China. The tablet has a 7-inch capacitive screen, a 1GHz single-core MIPS processor, and provides eight hours of battery for viewing video, seven hours for Web browsing and six hours for gaming. Other features include cameras on the front and back, 3D graphics capabilities, 1080p video decoding and an HDMI port.

The tablet is decent for its price and a good device for social media activities like Facebook, said Lorrie Jollimore, a graphic designer and Web developer in Canada who tested the tablet. The game Angry Birds also ran on the tablet without a hitch, Jollimore said.

But there are also some application issues with the tablet, Jollimore said. For example, the tablet crashed twice while running YouTube video.

Some other users have noted application compatibility issues on the MIPS tablet. But Robert Bismuth, vice president of business development at MIPS, said that more than 90 percent of the available Android applications will run on the device.

Most of the development revolves around ARM processors, which are found in most tablets today. Some applications may not run as they were originally compiled using a non-MIPS architecture Android Native Development Kit (NDK), Bismuth said.

"MIPS, Ingenic and its OEMs are working with partner companies to ensure that all Android applications run on MIPS-based devices," Bismuth said.

The tablet does not provide access to Google Mobile Services or the Android Market, which is the case with all mobile devices in China, Bismuth said. But applications are accessible through online app markets and websites such as Amazon.

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