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Velocity Micro readies three Android tablets

Velocity Micro announces plans to deliver three Android-based tablet computers between August and September including two Cruz e-readers and a Cruz multimedia tablet.

So far, the anticipated wave of Android tablets competing against the Apple iPad has been little more than a trickle. The unfortunately named Dell Streak--though promising--has yet to show its face in the U.S., and the dated Android 1.5 OS on the Archos 5 and Archos 7 Home Tablet leaves plenty to be desired.

The recently announced Velocity Micro Cruz Tablet renews our hope for an agile, inexpensive Android alternative to Apple's runaway hit. Due out in September with a 7-inch capacitive touch screen and an affordable price of $299, the Cruz Tablet delivers a (mostly) complete Android OS 2.1 experience, including compatibility with Flash 10.1.

You also get 802.11n Wi-Fi, an SDHC memory card slot with an included 8GB card, 4GB of integrated memory, 800x480 native resolution, multitouch, accelerometer control, a front-facing camera, speaker, microphone, headphone jack, and plenty of media playback support (music, video, and e-books).

Unfortunately, the caveat with the Cruz Tablet is the same for all current Archos Android tablets, which is the inability to use Google's Android Marketplace app to browse, purchase, and download any of the thousands of apps made for Android. Like Archos, Velocity Micro offers their own integrated storefront for apps they've handpicked for the Cruz, but the pickings are presumably slim and the idea of limited access sorta goes against the whole ethos of Android.

Regardless, it's good to see another horse in the race, and Velocity Micro isn't stopping with just one tablet. Set for an August release are the Cruz Reader ($199) and Cruz StoryPad ($149). As the names imply, both of these tablets are geared primarily as e-book readers, with the least expensive of the two designed as an interactive reader for children that includes preinstalled content.

Stylistically, the Cruz Reader appears indistinguishable from the Cruz Tablet, using a similar 7-inch TFT color touch screen, but it uses an 800x600 resolution instead of the Tablet's 16:9-optimized 800x480 resolution. The $100 difference between the two products comes down to the Reader's limited storage (256MB integrated, 2GB SD), slower Wi-Fi (802.11b/g), resistive screen, lack of multitouch, diminished video playback support, and half the system memory (256MB).

Processor specs haven't been made official yet, so there may be a difference in horsepower between the three tablets, as well. The Cruise Reader does come with a charging dock included, however, which Cruz Tablet owners will have to shell out for separately.

Hardware limitations aside, the Cruz Reader still strikes us as a capable little Android tablet, as demonstrated in the video below. It certainly ain't quick, but the price is right and the built-in eBook storefront doesn't look half bad.