Bare minimum tablet needed.
June 25, 2011 6:02 AM   Subscribe

I'd like to get a cheap Android tablet as a toy. If you've bought a cheap tablet and had a not-terrible experience, help me choose one.

My budget is $200. If I can get OMG SO MUCH MORE for $300 I might consider it.

I don't really have a need for a tablet, so I'm just looking to get a cheap, crappy tablet to play around with, maybe read some ebooks, and if I'm lucky watch South Park Studios. I realize you get what you pay for, so I'm just looking for something that's barely functional. I just want it to display web pages and maybe play some flash video. A good, responsive screen and solid build quality are optional and probably out of my price range. Frankly, if all I get is the ability to read kindle ebooks and color web pages on a screen larger than my phone, I'll be happy.

So: of you've bought a crappy tablet as a toy and it didn't completely disappoint you, which did you get?
posted by Tehhund to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (20 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 6:24 AM on June 25, 2011 [1 favorite]

I was going through old questions on tablets last night, funnily enough, and somewhere in there I found this article about the Galaxy tab vs the Nook color.
posted by Medieval Maven at 6:24 AM on June 25, 2011 [1 favorite]

If you're after a dirt cheap thing to play with, check out AliExpress. It's a Chinese wholesale to the public kind of website, and they have a ton of weird little android based toys. Just don't expect a warranty or support after it arrives. Oh and when you order from them, be careful to notice the minimum order (some sell individual items, but others only sell in lots). Also, shipping takes a long (3 to 4 weeks) for ground mail from China. But it's dirt, dirt cheap.
posted by msbutah at 6:44 AM on June 25, 2011 [2 favorites]

Most definitely the Nook Color. I rooted my yesterday and it was very straight forward. You can always keep the standard Nook functions but run the tablet software off an SD card. It's $250, but worth it for the reader functions alone.
posted by Mr_Thirdworld at 7:26 AM on June 25, 2011 [1 favorite]

I am happy with my rooted Nook color, but cannot comment on others like the Galaxy tab. You can definitely read Kindle books and full color web pages on the whole screen.
posted by kenbennedy at 7:43 AM on June 25, 2011

The Nook Color is really nicely made. I haven't rooted mine yet (haven't found a reliable, up-to-date way of doing it) but it's solid with a nice screen.
posted by scruss at 8:16 AM on June 25, 2011

I got a Viewsonic gTablet and immediately put new firmware on it and have been pleased with its functionality. I paid $270 from but I'm sure you can get them cheaper on the aftermarket.

VEGANTab and TNTLite are the best alternative ROMs for this tablet, and there is a dependable and easy-to-follow procedure that I have followed several times:

I use GMail, Google Listen, and the Kindle and Nook apps the most. Angry Birds is really good on that touchscreen.
posted by Kakkerlak at 9:17 AM on June 25, 2011

Response by poster: to those recommending the Nook: how do you deal with the lack of android buttons, and can it play flash videos (like on South Park Studios)?
posted by Tehhund at 9:36 AM on June 25, 2011

I verified that South Park Studios runs fine with the Flash installation in the XDA-Developers link above.

While I haven't witnessed it in person, the April 2011 update to the stock factory Nook Color firmware included Flash Player.
posted by Kakkerlak at 10:32 AM on June 25, 2011

The Nook plus CyanogenMod7 (Gingerbread). This plays Flash video, and the Honeycomb-inspired tablet mods they've done with CM7 work fairly well with soft buttons to deal with the lack of hard buttons.
posted by chengjih at 11:08 AM on June 25, 2011

how do you deal with the lack of android buttons

There's a virtual button strip that stays loaded in memory that performs all the "regular" android actions. If you install Gingerbread this is all unnecessary, as Gingerbread is optimized for tablets (without the four buttons).
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 11:22 AM on June 25, 2011

nthing the Nook color. I've seen refurbs as low as $190 from B&N.

Stay away from the gTablet. Viewing angles are terrible and screen quality is poor for reading.
posted by wongcorgi at 12:28 PM on June 25, 2011

there's this askme as well
posted by Not Supplied at 12:45 PM on June 25, 2011

Nook Color.
posted by blue_wardrobe at 3:37 PM on June 25, 2011

And to answer the question about buttons, root it and put Cyanogen CM7 on it. It's awesome, and gives you the soft buttons.
posted by blue_wardrobe at 3:38 PM on June 25, 2011

I have an iPad and love it, but it would not be for mucking around with. I would actually recommend checking out They seem to have new Android tablets for really cheap prices fairly often. Since it often only updates once a day, you have to check it out fairly often, but you might score a pretty good deal.
posted by Nackt at 4:13 PM on June 25, 2011

My husband has a rooted Nook colour he got for pretty much the same reasons you did. He just followed some online instructions and had that baby running android within 30 minutes. He says the only thing you have to have to root it is a micro SD card. He followed these instructions, though I am sure there are plenty of other sites with instructions out there.

He says that while the buttons would be nice he doesn't miss them $200 worth and there are software/aps to help get around it.

I have been "allowed" to touch his new toy a grand total of twice and he hovered like a nervous dad the whole time, but he seems very happy with his new "toy" and has no complaints about taking a cheaper route.
posted by wwax at 7:16 PM on June 25, 2011

One of the best things I like about the Nook is that it's just about impossible to "brick". If you do somehow goof up a rooting, upgrade or whatever, you just turn it quickly off & on 8 times in a row & it runs a special restore sequence that downloads the default install package over the otherwise useless 3G modem & restores the OS to a pristine state. As long as you don't care about the functions it doesn't have (mainly GPS, camera) it can't be beat.
posted by scalefree at 7:43 PM on June 25, 2011

Archos makes a wide variety of well regarded and (relatively) inexpensive Android tablets, all the way down to $99 if that's your thing.
posted by wierdo at 11:23 PM on June 25, 2011

Since this is still open, I will add that I followed msbutah's link to aliexpress and got myself a 4GB Flytouch 3 back in July for $147 with free shipping that took about 18 days and required me to pick it up at the post office in person. I love it! I replaced the firmware with Tim's the third day I had it. It is great for ebooks, wi-fi browsing and watching tv on an airplane from a usb flash drive. The seller I bought it from has a picture showing a 3G sim card being mounted inside the unit, so I guess that is an option.

The hubby doesn't like the screen as it is resistive and not capacitive like our iPhones, so you have to press a little harder and can only accept one finger input at a time. I didn't discover the stylus until I'd had it for several weeks, but it makes some tasks easier, so I switch off between fingers/stylus.
posted by soelo at 2:07 PM on September 29, 2011

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