Will Leader's $179 Android tablet live up to its name?

New 9.7 and 7-inch Android tablets undercut the competition and up the ante with beefier specs.

Leader's new tablets look to undercut the competition... you know, the leaders. Eric Mack / CNET

LAS VEGAS--Leader International is hoping that a pair of new Android tablets could change the fact that the company isn't exactly, well...a leader when it comes to slates.

The California-based company debuted its new "Impression" tablets Monday night at the Pepcom Digital Experience--an independent event that runs parallel with kickoff eve of CES. I got my hands on both the 9.7-inch and 7-inch tablet models, and they seemed snappy enough, especially for the price--$299 for the bigger model and a mere $179 for the 7-incher.

You might notice that the price point on that smaller tablet is $20 lower than the much-ballyhooed Amazon Kindle Fire , and it arguably comes with more bang. To start, the Impression is loaded with Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich, which is infinitely more sexy to even beginning Android fans than Amazon's forked and locked-down version of the Google mobile OS.

There's also Bluetooth, HDMI, a front-facing camera, and an included case that you won't find on that better-selling budget tab. The WSVGA 1024x600 capacitive touch display isn't exactly IMAX in the palm of your hand, but it's more than sufficient for a budget device--Leader reps told me it's identical to the screen used in the Galaxy 7 Tab.

The larger tablet comes with a 1GHz Nvidia Tegra 2 dual-core ARM A9 processor and 2 megapixel cameras in both front and back. The touchscreen on the 9.7-inch model is a 1024x768 IPS panel.

In the few minutes I got to spend with both Leader tablets, they performed well under pressure. But unless the devices can find a way to rise to the top of what seems like an inevitable onslaught of budget Android tablets in response to the Kindle Fire's success, the company may need to change its name to Middlin' International.

Both tablets are expected to ship to retailers "sometime in the first quarter" of 2012.

 

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