A quintessential bottom-of-the-barrel tablet with barebones features, the simple 7-inch RCA Voyager III is sold exclusively through Wal-Mart for only $50. That's a helluva bargain when compared to, well, any tablet other than the Amazon Fire.
Amazon caused quite a frenzy in 2015 when it released the $50 Fire tablet. For a (then unheard of) jaw-droppingly low price, the Fire turned out to be a pretty decent tablet -- for its price. (The Fire retails for $50, but you can currently find it on sale for $40.)
It's hard to be disappointed in a cheap tablet, because, really, what do you expect for $50? Aside from checking email, light reading, casual web surfing and maybe streaming a movie or two, a $50 tablet can't do much. (And anyone who thinks a budget tablet can be used as an everyday laptop replacement or a great video-watching device is highly delusional.)
Yet, the RCA Voyager III doesn't hold a candle to the the Fire. In comparison to the Amazon tablet, it's an unattractive, slow and lackluster tablet. The only thing is has going for it (besides it rock-bottom price) is its Google Play Store access. If you're strapped for cash and can't afford anything more, take my word for it, you're better off choosing the Fire (which you can side-load Google Play apps onto anyway).
This is the fugliest tablet I have ever seen. And I've seen a lot of tablets.
Maybe it's because I'm fresh off reviewing the Samsung Galaxy Tab S3, one of the best-looking Android tablets ever, that in comparison the RCA Voyager III looks like a crime against the evolution of tablet design.
It's not even the outdated, girthy, all-plastic design that offends, that's to be expected of a budget tablet. It's the other bewildering design choices that perfectly exemplify why RCA (or the low-rent electronics company that licensed the old RCA name) should probably leave tablets to the experts.
The biggest aesthetic assault happens on the tablet's bottom edge, where there are three highly visible screws interchangeably sandwiched between the power button, volume rocker and headphone jack. I cringe every time I look at them. What is this, a prototype? Even as ugly ducklings, most tablets avoided such an ugly faux pas.
The speaker on the back of the tablet is also an unsightly eyesore. It has a grill with holes so large, food crumbs and other debris easily fall into it. (Not to mention the speaker quality is crap.)
To be sure, all cheap tablets have to cut corners somewhere to meet their low price point, and design is often one of them. Even the Amazon Fire is homely at best, however the RCA tablet's crude construction is appallingly bad.
The RCA Voyager runs a mostly pure version of Android 6.0 with a few pre-loaded apps, like Wal-Mart and Vudu, as well as Google's suite of apps, including Gmail, YouTube, Google Maps and Google Docs.
Even though it's an outdated version of Android, the uncluttered OS is a nice feature. In comparison, the Amazon Fire runs a custom version of Android that works great if you're a Prime member, since it allows for easy access to the free TV shows, books, movies and games that are included in a Prime membership. However, if you're not a Prime member, you're left with a limiting experience.
Importantly, the RCA tablet has access to the Google Play Store. This is one big advantage over the Fire. Amazon tablets are limited to the ultra-curated Amazon App Store, which doesn't have as many apps available as the Play Store.