It’s no secret that Apple set the bar high when the iPad was introduced into the marketplace back in April 2010. Of course, with the release of the iPad 2, the standards of tablet computing were raised to almost insurmountable heights.
However, while the iPad is still considered by most to be the best tablet computer available today, it’s sometimes tough to fit “the best” into your budget. If you are looking to add a tablet to your gadget collection, but can’t afford the $500 price tag, consider one of the best iPad alternatives available for about half the cost.
Best Alternatives to the iPad
1. Amazon Kindle Fire ($199)
The Amazon Kindle Fire is a relative newcomer to the tablet arena this year, and although it lacks some of the functionality of the more expensive models, it is a solid performer and has earned its spot as one of the best budget tablet computers available.
- Allows access to one of the largest and most comprehensive collection of digital content available anywhere, including music, videos, ebooks, and magazines
- Is very user-friendly
- Includes a powerful web browser
- Offers access to thousands of apps, including Netflix, Hulu Plus, and Pandora
- Has a vibrant seven-inch screen
- Lacks premium features, including 3G support, camera, an external microphone, and GPS locator service
- Only includes 8GB of internal storage, and no way to expand
- No Bluetooth connectivity
- App selection is paltry compared to iTunes and Google
Despite these shortcomings, the Amazon Kindle Fire is a great addition to any collection where entertainment is the main focus.
2. Barnes & Noble Nook Tablet ($249)
The Barnes & Noble Nook Tablet is comparable to the Amazon Kindle Fire with a few notable differences.
- Packs 16GB of internal memory into its sleek chassis, in addition to offering an SD slot for memory expansion
- Supports Flash content, something the iPad still can’t do
Of course, the Nook cannot access the huge library of content at Amazon, but the Nook Store is no slouch, offering its own wide array of digitized content and apps.
- No Bluetooth connectivity
- Does not include a camera or GPS locator services
All in all, this is a solid alternative to the Apple iPad.
3. Samsung Galaxy Tab Wi-Fi ($349)
Samsung was one of the first (and most successful) companies that took a gamble on an Android-based tablet. The release of the Samsung Galaxy Tab Wi-Fi was timed to take advantage of the popularity of the iPad, and gave Android fans a highly functional yet inexpensive iPad alternative. This lightweight seven-inch tablet includes a few features that are missing from the lower-priced options.
- Touchscreen is bright and highly responsive
- Includes GPS location technology
- Has Bluetooth connectivity
- Contains an integrated camera
- Offers access into the highly desirable Google suite of apps, including the Android Market
- Poor operating system
The only real drawback to this particular tablet is its OS. The Galaxy Tab Wi-Fi runs on Android 2.2, while many of its competitors have already incorporated Android 3.0 into their OS.
So, what does this mean? Today, not much. The Samsung Galaxy Tab is a powerhouse that offers access to thousands of the latest and greatest apps. But, with the vast majority of third-party app developers moving to the Android 3.0 model, buying a Galaxy Tab today means that at some point in the future, the coolest apps will no longer be available.
4. Vizio Tablet VTAB1008 ($299)
Vizio is known for offering great consumer electronics for a fraction of the cost of its competitors, and the Vizio Tablet VTAB1008 is no exception. While this is not the fastest, prettiest, cheapest, or most up-to-date tablet on the market today, it is definitely worth consideration.
- Features an 8-inch screen that offers consumers another option in a sea of 7-inch and 10-inch models
- Includes integrated GPS location technology
- Access to the YouTube and Google App Market
- Can be used as a universal remote control, a feature few other tablets can claim
The Android 2.3 based OS is jam-packed full of all the trimmings you would expect to see in higher-end tablets. It has done away with the confusing Android desktop feature, dropping you directly into your app collection, a style familiar to iOS users. You also get access to Google’s massive app suite, just like other Android-based tablets.
- Only includes 4GB of internal storage
- Relatively slow and stocky compared to other tablets
Despite its downfalls, the VTAB100 is a strong contender as one of the best budget tablets.
There’s no doubt that the iPad is (and will continue to be) the leader in tablet computers for quite some time. However, for those who are on a budget, the $499 price tag is a bit much. These very functional alternatives can get a tablet computer in your hands for a fraction of the cost.
Which tablet computers do you recommend?
(photo credit: Shutterstock)