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How to spot a bad Android tablet

If that cheap Android tablet seems too good to be true, it probably is. CNET's Donald Bell shows you what to look for when evaluating whether a budget tablet is a good deal, or a lemon.

Photo of Maylong M-150 Android tablet.
The Maylong M-150 Android tablet is barely worth its weight in plastic. Donald Bell/CNET

Cheap Android tablets seem to be popping up in the oddest places these days. While holiday shopping over the weekend, I randomly came across budget-priced ($100-$200) Android tablets at Kohl's, Bed Bath & Beyond, Target, and even Toys "R" Us.

I understand the appeal. The iPad is going bonanzas, but it's priced out of reach for most people. Android smartphones like the Motorola Droid franchise have been heavily promoted on TV, extolling the virtues of the OS and its iPhone-killing "does" philosophy. Throw in our existing love affair with e-book readers, and you've got yourself a perfect storm for cheap Android tablet demand.

There's just one problem--many of these tablets just plain suck. At best, they give Android a bad name (I've got your back, Android fanboys). Consumers go in expecting the app-devouring, lightning-fast interface they see on TV, and often end up with a slow, clunky slab, running a hobbled app store filled with junk.

Sure, maybe you could root it, hack it, overclock it--but your typical Kohl's or Bed Bath & Beyond shopper just isn't up for it. They want an iPad on an iPod Shuffle budget, and the results are almost always disappointing.

Still, even the most tech-savvy among us can be fooled. All it takes is an eye-popping spec sheet, a suspiciously low price, and a moment of weakness, and suddenly you're ordering the Maylong M-150 from Walgreens. I should know, because we did the same thing.

Fortunately, you can learn from our mistakes and painful lessons learned. Using the infamous $99 Walgreens tablet as our example, here's a slideshow that walks you through many of the telltale signs of a Android tablet disaster.