How To Video: Choose the right cheap tablet
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How To Video: Choose the right cheap tablet

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There are some great tablets to be found under $300, but there's also plenty of garbage. CNET's Donald Bell offers his buying advice for choosing a low-cost tablet for your needs.

A year ago, if you spend less than $300 on a tablet, you are basically investing in a door stop. Nothing good can be found that cheap but today there are a handful of great options out there and then the CNET helps you, I'm gonna show you how to choose the best one for your needs. My first piece of advice is to stay away from the off brand stuff. I reviewed tons of this stuff last year, site like eBay are littered with cheap tablets that you have never heard of. They're always too good to be true. Maybe it's the battery life or a screen with a bad viewing angle or a goofy custom software. There's always something wrong. You're also giving up tech support or any hope for software updates. Now on the high end, you have products like the Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 7.0 or the Acer Iconia Tab A100 and these are full fledged Android tablets backed up by companies who have a reputation to keep. These also offer the broadest range of apps and the broadest range of features. You get Google's App Store, music, books, videos, Gmail, maps. All the stuff you'd find on a typical Android phone. The hardware and you're also getting things like cameras, GPS, Bluetooth. Sometimes even a video output. Now these make a lot of sense if you already own an Android phone or if you're used to the away Android works and if you already invested in Android apps. The bad news is these can be confusing to use and they're really overkill if all you want is a way to check e-mail, watch videos and play games. If you want a more streamlined option, that's when these come in. Devices like the Amazon Kindle Fire and the Barnes & Noble Nook Tablet cut the hardware down to just the essentials and run custom software. These are the least intimidating tablets you can buy. They have all the essentials like e-mail and web browser. They even have high quality screens. The catch is that they're both locked down to more limited app stores. Neither are gonna offer all the latest and greatest games but they both still have an impressive selection of entertainment. Now choosing between these two in particular comes down to whether or not, you're already happy Amazon customer or a Kindle owner in which case you go to Kindle Fire or whether or not you prefer the extra storage options offered by the Nook. Both of them have generous return policies, so try them both. So, that's the way of the land when it comes to tablets under $300. If none of these meet your standards, my advice is to wait. The category is moving very fast and there are bound to be more options by the end of this year. For CNET.com. I'm Donald (??).

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