Photo: Steve Kovach, Business Insider
One of the best ways tablet makers have been able to set themselves apart from the iPad is by selling their devices at steep discounts.Since the $199 Kindle Fire’s launch last year, it has become clear there’s a market for people who don’t want to spend $500 or more on a tablet, no matter how good it is.
We did some shopping around and picked out the best tablets you can buy for under $500.
Barnes & Noble's Nook colour started out as just a colour version of its black and white Nook reader. But thanks to a major software upgrade last year, the Nook colour became a fully-functional Android tablet.
The Nook colour now runs the same operating system as the company's top-of-the-line Nook Tablet. That means you get a ton of popular apps, including Netflix and Hulu. It's also cheaper than Amazon's Kindle Fire.
The Pantech Element may be priced for those on a budget, but it has some premium features packed in. The Element can connect to AT&T's speedy 4G LTE network, meaning you'll get download speeds that feel like you're connected to a Wi-Fi connection. The tablet is also waterproof, so you don't have to worry about exposing it to the elements. (Get it?)
Acer's Iconia Tab A200 is a modest Android tablet. It has a 10-inch screen, 16 GB of storage, and a very capable dual-core processor from NVIDIA. You can also upgrade the Iconia Tab to the latest version of Android, Ice Cream Sandwich.
Price: $349.99 on Best Buy
The Nook Tablet is nearly identical to the Nook colour in every way, at least on the outside. However, its guts are a lot faster than the Nook colour's. The Nook Tablet's dual-core processor is powerful enough to make sure your movies and apps run smoothly. It's available in two models, one with 8 GB of storage and one with 16 GB.
The Eee Pad Transformer, the prequel to Asus' excellent Transformer Prime, is still on sale at a very reasonable price. We think Asus makes some of the best Android tablets around, and the original Transformer still holds up pretty well after being around for more than a year. You can also upgrade the tablet to the latest version of Android, Ice Cream Sandwich. (The keyboard dock is optional).
Price: $400 at Best Buy
Samsung's 10-inch Galaxy Tab 2 will launch on May 13 for a very reasonable $400. That's not bad for a 10-inch tablet running the latest version of Android. It'll have all the same features as the 7-inch Galaxy Tab 2, including the handy Peel remote app that acts as a universal remote control for your entertainment centre.
Price: $399.99 (available starting May 1)
Amazon's Kindle Fire is perhaps the most successful non-iPad tablet. While we don't think the overall experience is as good as the iPad's, the Kindle Fire acts as a great way to get all your Amazon content in one place. All your movies, books, music, and apps purchased through Amazon will automatically sync with your Kindle Fire.
Just know the Fire is better as a content consumption device. You're not going to get a lot of productivity out of it.
Samsung's new Galaxy Tab 2 is our favourite 7-inch tablet right now. It's Samsung's first tablet to ship with the latest version of Android, and includes a handy app called Peel that lets you control your home entertainment centre. If you have a Samsung Smart TV, you can also watch TV on your tablet over your home's Wi-Fi network.
Price: $249.99 on Best Buy
After launching the new iPad, Apple decided to keep last year's iPad 2 around for at least another year.
You can only get the 16 GB model, but its available in a Wi-Fi or 3G version. (The 3G version is still pretty pricey at $529). We think the new iPad is still the best tablet you can buy. But if you don't want to shell out an extra $100 or more for the new it, the iPad 2 is a solid choice.
Price: $399 (Wi-Fi only)
Google is supposedly very close to launching its own tablet via an online store. The device is said to be built by Asus and priced to beat the Kindle Fire. (Probably $199).
We're guessing Google's tablet will follow the precedent set by Nexus phones and run a clean version of Android. (Most tablet manufacturers modify Android and add their own apps).
The latest rumours peg the launch around June.
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