Nook HD Review

From $129 Best

The Nook HD from Barnes & Noble boasts a speedy operating system and a high-resolution screen. The library of media and apps has been expanded to include Google Play.

Barnes & Noble has mitigated a major criticism in Nook HD reviews by making the device compatible with the Google Play app store, with its vast selection of content. When the Nook HD (starting at $129, Amazon) first came out, an expert at CNET called it undoubtedly a top-quality tablet but lamented the somewhat limited media and app library, which didn�t match of the scope of offerings from Amazon. That said, the reviewer found a lot to like about the device itself. It has the sharpest high-resolution display among 7-inch tablet competitors and presents accurate color, minimal backlight bleeding, and clear text (a word of caution from CNET�s Nook HD review: Oily fingerprints can mar the effect). Overall, concluded the site�s expert, the performance is excellent, especially when playing games. A Nook HD review from Slashgear says the device feels more like an ereader than a tablet, but commends the vibrant screen, very wide viewing angles, and impressive-looking video.

The Nook HD sports a 7-inch screen with a resolution of 1440x900, which one of the highest among the tablets we researched. The battery is rated to play nine hours of video and just over 10 hours when displaying text. On the downside, the Nook HD has only 8GB of storage, of which about 5.5GB is available for actually storing data. The rest of the memory is turned over to the tablet's customized Android 4.0 operating system and other Nook-specific features. However, this budget tablet is one of few that include a microSD card slot, which lets you expand the tablet's memory by up to 32GB. Users can connect the Nook HD to a home network via a Wi-Fi connection.

The Nook HD lacks some features, such as an HDMI-out port, a USB port, and a camera, that you'll find in other entry-level tablets. But in sacrificing these extras, the Nook delivers the best small-tablet display while keeping the price well below the $200 threshold. The microSD slot is a real advantage because a cheap microSD card is a low-cost way to significantly expand the tablet's memory.

Google Nexus 7 Review

From $229 Best

The 2013 Google Nexus 7 is the tablet of choice among reviewers for its sharp, bright, and unparalleled 1080p HD display; fast performance; long battery life; and Android 4.3 operating system.

This tablet is the bargain buy to beat, according to Nexus 7 reviews. A reviewer from CNET is among those who declare that Google's Nexus 7, manufactured by Asus, bests all other 7-inch tablets. He lauds the superb display on the latest version, which is full 1080p HD, along with snappy performance and impressive battery life: 11.5 hours in the site's testing. The original 2012 model is still around and remains impressive relative to the competition. A reviewer from Engadget praised the fast performance and the screen's brightness and wide viewing angles, adding that 720p HD video and text look top-notch on the display. Noting that the lack of a memory expansion card slot is a minor flaw, a 2012 Nexus 7 review in PC World nonetheless declared the Nexus 7 the best 7-inch tablet on the market, citing the superb color reproduction on the display and the unusually long battery life.

The Google Nexus 7 (starting at $199, Amazon) takes its name from the 7-inch size; neither has changed with the 2013 update. The new Nexus 7 boasts a screen resolution of 1920x1200, compared with 1280x800 on the older model. This budget tablet is now outfitted with a 5MP rear-facing camera in addition to the 1.2MP camera, along with a newer, speedier 1.5 GHz quad-core processor and 2GB of RAM. It starts at 16GB of internal storage and connects to Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. Doubling the storage space to 32GB and/or adding 4G LTE capability puts the 2013 version out of our price range, but the 32GB model from 2012 has dropped to around $200. Both versions of this tablet are powered by the so-called "Jelly Bean" operating system, although the 2013 model has Android 4.3, the latest and fastest version.

It's rare to see such clear consensus among reviewers about a top product in any category, but in the case of affordable 7-inch tablets, the Nexus 7 is the undisputed favorite. On the latest model in particular, the display is striking, the performance is quick and responsive, and the battery outlasts the competition. If you want the best tablet you can buy for under $250, the Google Nexus 7 is it.

Where to buy

$79.99   $139.99
$79.99   $149.99
$79.99   $149.99

Amazon Kindle Fire Review

From $159 Good

The newest version of Amazon's Kindle Fire is cheaper than most 7-inch tablets but has fallen behind the top models in both performance and features.

When Amazon first debuted its tablet, Kindle Fire reviews hailed the device as a potential iPad killer -- a cheap tablet that performed well. The latest generation of the tablet ($174 without ads; $159 with ads, Amazon) is still good, but reviewers aren't swooning this time around; other tablets have since hit the market with similar or better features and performance that match or exceed that of the Fire. The Kindle Fire review in PC Mag, for example, says the device is responsive and delivers good performance overall but is noticeably slower than the Google Nexus 7. Moreover, the Kindle Fire contains only 8GB of storage and less than 70 percent is available to the user. This wouldn't be a big problem if the Kindle Fire included a memory expansion slot, but it doesn't. Users can store content in Amazon's cloud service, however, which helps mitigate this shortfall.

Reviewers take other minor swipes at this model. CNET's Kindle Fire review points out that it can't play video at HD levels due to the screen's relatively low resolution. And tests by experts at PC Mag and CNET found that the Kindle Fire's battery life expired after about five hours, which is less play time than competing tablets.

The Kindle Fire has a 7-inch display with a resolution of 1024x600. It runs on a dual-core 1.2 GHz CPU and uses an Amazon-specific version of Android 4.0. It comes with 8GB of storage, of which only 5.5GB are available -- the rest is taken up by the customized Android operating system and other Amazon content. Amazon claims the Kindle Fire can run for up to nine hours per charge, although reviewers say otherwise. Wi-Fi connectivity is available.

The latest version of the Kindle Fire garners muted praise from experts, but it is faster than the previous generation and is cheaper than other tablets. If you can accept ad placements on the device, you can buy one for $159. Even without ads, the tablet is just $174, which is a pretty good value. For $40 more ($199 with ads or $214 without), you can step up to the Kindle Fire HD, which offers a higher-resolution display and more features than the entry-level Kindle Fire.

Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 7.0 Review

From $199 Good

Samsung's Galaxy Tab 2 7.0 is a good tablet, one that runs fast and includes a microSD card slot, but is held back by average screen resolution.

We combed through many Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 reviews to bring you highlights and shortfalls of this 7-inch tablet. You don't need a phone contract to use the Galaxy Tab 2 7.0 (starting at $199, Amazon), as you do with some other Samsung tablets. And according to a Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 7.0 review by Laptop Mag, this model is a little faster than some other Android tablets although a bit slower than the Kindle Fire. The Galaxy Tab 2 7.0's screen resolution is only 1024x600, but the expert review says the display still looks quite good, with nice contrast in video. The Android 4.0 interface is user-friendly and includes Google Play, which provides a quick and easy path to finding and installing apps from the Android store. A review in PC Mag notes that the CPU in this model isn't quite as powerful as the guts of other new tablets but still delivers smooth and responsive performance. In tests run by PC Mag, battery life measured 5 hours, 48 minutes while Laptop Mag managed to stretch the battery life to 8 hours, 32 minutes.

The Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 7.0 is a 7-inch tablet that runs a full version of the Android 4.0 operating system, unlike the modified versions of Android employed by the Kindle Fire and Nook HD. It runs on a dual-core 1 GHz CPU and includes 8GB of storage and a microSD card slot that lets users expand the memory. The Galaxy Tab 2 7.0 supports Wi-Fi connections and features a 3MP rear-facing camera.

A solid entry among Android tablets, this device delivers strong, though not outstanding, performance, according to Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 reviews. The Android OS is easy to master and gives full access directly to the Android app store. The fact that the tablet includes a microSD card slot is a big plus given that it has only 8GB of storage. For the price, though, the Galaxy Tab 2 7.0 doesn't measure up to Google's Nexus 7.

Coby Kyros MID9742 Review

From $160 Think Twice

The Coby Kyros MID9742 features a large screen, but the 4:3 aspect ratio isn't ideal for HD video. The tablet's apps also have a habit of crashing.

This is a comparatively large tablet with a long list of features that can be had for a song, but judging by Coby Kyros MID9742 reviews, most experts would rather tune it out. The Coby Kyros MID9742 (starting at $160, Amazon) is criticized on a Computer Shopper review for the engineers' decision to use a program called GetJar rather than Google Play for finding apps. (Google Play offers direct access to Android's large app library, which far surpasses the selection of tablet apps available through GetJar.) Another problem noted in this review: the 9.7-inch screen has a 4:3 aspect ratio (think old TV) rather than the 16:9 aspect ratio used for HD movies. An expert Coby Kyros MID9742 review by PC Mag likewise protests the absence of Google Play and adds that the tablet's performance is buggy. Applications sometimes stopped responding during testing, which necessitated restarts, and the interface occasionally lagged. The reviewer further states that the large display just doesn't compare quality-wise to that of the Nexus 7.

With a 9.7-inch screen, the Kyros MID9742 is the largest tablet we researched. It features a resolution of 1024x768 and boasts quite a few extras, such as support for Wi-Fi, an HDMI mini-out, a USB 2.0 port, a front-facing .3MP camera, and a rear-facing 2MP camera. The Kyros MID9742 uses the Android 4.0 operating system and runs on a single-core 1 GHz CPU. It comes with 1GB of RAM and 8GB of storage.

Coby's Kyros is large and affordable, and sports more features than competing models, but its performance will likely leave you frustrated. The display isn't especially attractive at its native resolution and the 4:3 orientation simply isn't desirable for watching HD movies. This model seems to be nearing the end of its run but you may want to think twice even after it hits the resale market.

Where to buy

Acer Iconia A110 Review

From $200 Think Twice

Reviewers don't like the Iconia's display and some are disappointed with its performance and battery life.

Much like the Coby Kyros MID9742, this tablet (starting at $200, Amazon) offers a nice list of features but its performance simply doesn't stand up to the competition, Acer Iconia A110 reviews say. PC Magasserts that the screen is "low quality," with muted colors and poor viewing angles. The review goes on to critique the tablet's boring design and flimsy feel, and notes that the battery life tested out at a relatively short 5 hours, 10 minutes. This model does have some points in its favor, though. It performs quite well, according to the PC Mag Acer Iconia A110 review, and video plays without any hiccups at 1080p. Also, the interface is user-friendly. An Acer Iconia A110 review by Computer Shopper concedes that the many connectivity options are certainly welcome but the relatively low-resolution screen and 8GB of storage are underwhelming. This expert also says the battery life is limited compared to competing tablets. The bottom line consensus is too little tablet for too high a price.

A 7-inch tablet with a screen resolution of 1024x600, the Iconia A110 runs on Android's 4.1 operating system. It boasts several connectivity options, including support for Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, and a micro HDMI port, micro USB 2.0 port, and microSD card slot that's useful for expanding the 8GB of storage. A quad-core 1.2 GHz CPU powers the A110.

This tablet's laundry list of features will get buyers' attention, but its short battery life and subpar screen will leave users disappointed. The competition in the budget price range beats out this entry.

Where to buy

Buying Guide

The original Apple iPad set a high bar for performance but also price. These days, consumers don't have to search hard to find good cheap tablets bearing price tags of $200 or less. Competitors such as Amazon, Samsung, Acer, Barnes & Noble, and Google have responded with smaller tablets that have fewer features and cost about half as much but are still functional and fun to use for web surfing and multimedia.

Cheap Tablets Buying Guide

Our top pick is the Google Nexus 7 (starting at $199 for the original 2012 model, $229 for the new 2013 version), a tablet made for Google by Asus that consistently wins raves for its combination of price, performance, and features. The Barnes & Noble Nook HD (starting at $129) is an affordable tablet with a gorgeous screen, snappy performance, and a microSD card slot for expanded memory. The latest version of the Amazon Kindle Fire ($174 without ads; $159 with ads) is a step behind the top two cheap tablets in terms of features, speed, and battery life but costs less than either. (The Kindle Fire HD has more to offer but carries a price tag just north of $200 unless you're willing to accept ads on the display.) The Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 7.0 (starting at $199) is a solid tablet by all accounts, although its lower resolution display doesn't meet the standard set by our top two picks. Apple has released its own smaller tablet, the iPad Mini, with Retina display, but that model sells for $329 and up -- still outside Cheapism's comfort zone.

We also identified two cheap tablets that fail to make the grade: The Coby Kyros MID9742 (starting at $160) has a large 9.7-inch screen but is marred by performance problems and the display's 4:3 aspect ratio. The Acer Iconia A110 (starting at $200) is dragged down by mediocre reviews and a low resolution screen that just doesn't look very good.

Cheap tablets aren't known for having lots of frills -- a welcome strategy for frugal shoppers because it helps to keep prices low. Things are starting to change, however, and new tablets sport more features than their predecessors. There still aren't many to sort through, but some are worth noting: the tablet's operating system, amount of storage, and ports and connectivity, for example. The best cheap tablets also have fast processors, access to lots of apps and multimedia content, good battery life, and a sharp and responsive touchscreen.

There are limited options when it comes to operating systems. Inexpensive tablets run some version of Google's Android operating system, typically either Android 4.0 (whimsically nicknamed "Ice Cream Sandwich") or Android 4.2 (a.k.a. "Jelly Bean"). The Kindle Fire and Nook HD both use modified versions of Android that are designed to work with the online content libraries maintained by Amazon and Barnes & Noble, respectively. A hefty amount of memory is useful for storing space-hogging media files, particularly because the available space on a tablet's hard drive is sometimes less than the total storage listed in the specs. Absent a microSD card slot, cheap tablets fare only modestly well on this measure.

Note that cheap tablets rarely come with multiple ports or connectivity options. There may be a USB port in addition to HDMI and headphone ports, but don't expect much more than that. Any low-cost tablet worth buying should support Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth counts as a bonus. Some budget tablets also support 3G or 4G connections, but they tend to be more expensive and you have to pay your cell phone provider for 3G or 4G service.

In terms of processing power, the faster the CPU, the faster the apps will open and the smoother a tablet will run. The battery on the best cheap tablets should last for about eight hours when playing video and up to 10 hours when reading books. As with any electronics, though, the battery life depends in large part on how you use the device. Many tablets these days have high-definition screens for viewing video and photos, and the best also offer high-resolution displays. The physical dimensions of those displays vary in size and may be as small as 7 inches and as large as 10 inches.

Amazon ushered in the era of the cheap tablet with its first Kindle Fire. That device was a big hit and inspired a lot of competition. Today, consumers get their money's worth with the best cheap tablets: screens that are easy on the eyes, speedy performance, user-friendly handling, and plenty of available content.

Features Comparison Buying Guide continues below table

Android Tablet Reviews: Processor and Screen

Android tablet reviews indicate that two elements in particular separate a good tablet from a mediocre one: the processing speed and the screen. Reviews note that the CPU does more to affect performance than any other single component. Fast processing speed allows apps to open quickly and run smoothly and to zoom in on a photo or swipe to a new page with little, if any, lag. A high-quality tablet screen is essential for good-looking images and text and for interacting with the device. Most tablets today have high-definition screens, so in general videos and photos appear crisp and clear.

Tablet Speed.

In Android tablet reviews, experts say the budget devices on our list deliver sufficient to very good speed. Google upgraded the Nexus 7 (starting at $229) to a nimbler 1.5 GHz chipset for 2013, and the original 1.2 GHz quad-core processor was already fast, according to reviews. An expert from Engadget described the 2012 Nexus 7 (starting at $199) as quick and snappy, and a reviewer from PC World reported that it "excelled" in performance tests. The Amazon Kindle Fire ($174 without ads; $159 with ads) also contains a 1.2 GHz CPU, but of the dual-core variety. Reviews say the Kindle Fire tends to lag when opening apps and an expert Android tablet review at PC Mag concludes that its performance is not quite on par with the newest crop of budget tablets -- a point that's also made about the Kindle Fire HD (starting at $214 without ads; $199 with ads). 

The Barnes & Noble Nook HD (starting at $129) runs on a 1.3 GHz dual-core processor and a review at CNET asserts that its processing muscle shines while playing games. A 1 GHz dual-core CPU graces the Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 7.0 (starting at $199), resulting in performance that Laptop Magazine asserts is slower than competing models. Still, reviews contend the Galaxy Tab 2's performance is decent even though the CPU is hardly a speed demon.

Somewhat mixed assessments of tablet speed attach to the Acer Iconia A110 (starting at $200) and Coby Kyros MID9742 (starting at $160). The quad-core 1.2 GHz CPU guts of the Iconia A110 should be pretty quick, and reviews generally say its performance shows no lags, but in testing Computer Shopper found it a tad slow compared to others in its class. Inside the Kyros MID9742 is a 1 GHz single-core CPU that isn't always up to the task. Posts at Amazon say this model has a tendency to lag and applications sometimes crash. Similarly disappointing results were recorded by an expert Android tablet reviewer at PC Mag.

Tablet Screens.

A high-quality tablet screen is essential for the best user experience, be it movie watching, photo viewing, online surfing, or text reading. Generally, the higher the tablet screen resolution, the better the display will look.

Among the tablets we researched, the new Nexus 7 boasts by far the highest resolution, at 1920x1200 -- good enough for 1080p HD video. At Ars Technica, closeup images show how sharply the tablet renders text relative to a certain pricey competitor, as well as its 1280x800 predecessor. Reviewers also pay tribute to the 1440x900 display on the Nook HD. An expert from Slashgear says video looks "awesome" on this tablet screen and goes on to commend the all-around vibrant and crisp display and wider-than-average viewing angles. A review by CNET declares that the Nook HD delivers excellent clarity for both text and HD movies.

The Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 7.0, Kindle Fire, and Acer Iconia A110 all feature a resolution of 1024x600. An Android tablet review at Laptop Magazine says the screen on the Galaxy Tab shows nice contrast in video but displays some fuzziness around text. A CNET review concludes that the Kindle Fire's display is OK but bested by both the Nexus 7 and Kindle Fire HD (no surprise, there). At PC Mag, an expert pans the Acer Iconia A110 tablet screen for its muted colors and poor viewing angles. The display also fails to impress a reviewer at Computer Shopper who notes that it lacks the clarity and detail of competing, higher resolution tablet screens.

In reviews of the Coby Kyros MID9742 by PC Mag and Computer Shopper, experts complain about the tablet screen's 4:3 aspect ratio. Most tablet screens use the familiar wide 16:9 aspect ratio, which is ideal for widescreen video such as HD movies. The 4:3 aspect ratio on the Coby Kyros MID9742 means you'll see space-wasting sidebars on the top and bottom of the screen while watching widescreen video. Reviewers are also lukewarm about the display's 1024x768 resolution.

Cheap Android Tablet Interfaces, App Stores

Almost every budget tablet runs some version of Google's Android operating system. The most popular versions are Android 4.0 and the newer and slightly faster Android 4.2. The 2013 Google Nexus 7 is the only cheap Android tablet among our picks that uses the latest version of the operating system -- Android 4.3. The Galaxy Tab 2 7.0 and Coby Kyros 9742 both use Android 4.0. The Acer Iconia A110 uses the 'tweener Android 4.1.

Both Amazon and Barnes & Noble use modified versions of the Android 4.0 on their cheap Android tablets. These customized operating systems tightly integrate the Amazon Kindle Fire, Kindle Fire HD, and Nook HD with their respective online content libraries, although Barnes & Noble lately opened up the Nook HD to Google Play, Google's online library of Android content.

The operating system provides the structure -- i.e., the interface -- for interacting with a tablet. If you have an Android-based smartphone, you'll find that the interfaces on many cheap Android tablets are similar. (The same is true for iPhone fans who use the iPad 2.) Good tablet interfaces are intuitive. You don't want to muddle through a bunch of menus or flip through several screens to find your favorite tablet tools and apps. The interface should be quick and responsive, as well.

Reviewers generally agree that today's Android tablets have well-designed interfaces that are easy enough to master. For example, a reviewer from CNET calls the design of the Nook HD interface clean and intuitive. The interfaces on both the Kindle Fire and Kindle Fire HD provide no-hassle access to Amazon's services, and reviews say it's relatively easy to work through. An expert at CNET terms the Kindle Fire interface sleek and streamlined although occasionally sluggish.

The Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 7.0 interface earns a pass from a Laptop Magazine expert, who likes it well enough but says the Amazon tablet interface is more straightforward. The interface on Coby's Kyros MID9742 tends to lag, a PC Mag expert says, and apps sometimes stop responding. Reviewers had no complaints about the interface on the Acer Iconia A110.

Tablet Apps and Multimedia.

Apps may very well be the soul of a tablet. Fortunately Google, Amazon, and Barnes & Noble all offer a good selection of popular apps for their cheap Android tablets. Barnes & Noble's library is the smallest in terms of apps, games, and video, but now the Nook HD can also access apps and content from Google Play. Nook users are not wanting for reading material, either. Amazon maintains a huge multimedia library just waiting for Kindle Fire and Fire HD users.

Other Android tablets use either Google Play or another means of downloading apps and content. Google Play is preferable because this is Google's official online source of Android content. The Acer Iconia A110, the Nexus 7, and the Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 7.0 all access Android content using Google Play. The Coby Kyros MID9742 uses GetJar instead. GetJar offers a lot of free Android apps, but they're mostly designed for mobile phones rather than tablets, so it's a curious source to include on a tablet. A PC Mag expert points out that users can ignore GetJar by installing Amazon's app store to obtain apps.

Tablet Memory, Battery Life, and Connectivity

Tablet Memory.

Most budget tablets have either 8GB or 16GB of storage. Some, such as the Nexus 7, offer as much as 32GB of tablet memory. If you're willing to go with the older 2012 model, you can get a tablet that size starting at $199. Otherwise a 16GB model will keep you in the Cheapism range (new 32GB Nexus 7's start at $269). A handful of tablets also include a microSD card slot that can expand the tablet memory by 32GB, which is a feature worth considering. The only other alternative is buying a tablet with a larger hard drive that commands a premium price.

Among our picks, the Nook HD, Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 7.0, and Acer Iconia A110 boast a microSD card slot -- a good thing, as each of these models only contains 8GB of tablet memory. And in the case of the Nook HD, about 2.5GB of that memory is reserved for the customized Nook operating system and Barnes & Noble content.

The Kindle Fire, like the Nook HD, also has an 8GB hard drive, of which about 5.5GB is available for users, with the remainder taken up by the customized Android OS and other Amazon content. Although the Kindle Fire and the Fire HD (with 16GB of tablet memory) both lack a microSD card slot, Amazon lets users store all their Amazon-specific content in its cloud storage service at no cost. The Coby Kyros MID9742 also has 8GB of tablet memory and likewise lacks a microSD card, but it contains very little preloaded content.

Tablet Battery Life.

As with smartphones and laptops, the amount of time a tablet runs between charges is affected by how you use it. Most manufacturers claim eight to 10 hours of tablet battery life with typical use. Reviewers use different means of testing the battery life of tablets, so one reviewer may find that a tablet lasts about eight hours while another finds the same model only runs for, say, six hours.

Google's Nexus 7 has earned the most praise for tablet battery life. A reviewer at CNET lauds the 11.5-hour battery life the 2013 tablet demonstrated in the site's testing lab. An 8.5-hour result for the Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 7.0 proved better than average in testing by Laptop Magazine. The tablet battery life of the Coby Kyros MID9742 clocked in at a respectable 8 hours, 25 minutes, according to Computer Shopper but only 5 hours, 36 minutes, according to PC Mag. The same review source also tested the battery life on the Acer Iconia A110, which ended its run after 8 hours, 5 minutes. The Nook HD lasted for 7.3 hours in CNET's battery tests, which is about average for battery life. The Kindle Fire only managed 5 hours, 11 minutes in PC Mag's battery test and 5 hours, 24 minutes in the CNET tests; its sibling Kindle Fire HD managed seven hours in a PC Mag tryout.

Tablet Connectivity.

Tablets are designed to be portable, handheld devices so you won't find many ports for connecting to other devices. All tablets should have Wi-Fi capability (as do all those on our list), and some, including the Acer Iconia A110, Google Nexus 7, and Kindle Fire HD, support Bluetooth connections as well. The Nexus 7 and Acer Iconia A110 also have a micro USB port. Somewhat ironically, the cheapest tablet we researched, the Coby Kyros MID9742, offers the most frills. It contains a mini HDMI output and a USB 2.0 port. The Nook HD can also output video via HDMI if you purchase a separate dongle.

Some tablets, such as the Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 7.0, are available in 3G or 4G versions that you can use with your wireless service. You'll have to buy the tablet from a wireless provider, though, and sign up for a service plan, just as you would with a cell phone.

Tablet Cameras.

Cameras were once popular features on tablets when they first hit the big time, but many new cheap Android tablets don't include cameras. Models that do come with a tablet camera usually have just one on the front, display side. This is typically a lower megapixel tablet camera that's useful for videoconferencing.

The new Nexus 7 has a 1.2MP front-facing camera plus a 5MP rear-facing camera for taking photos; the 2012 version doesn't include the latter. By comparison, the Coby Kyros MID9742 features a paltry .3MP front-facing camera and a 2MP rear-facing camera. The only other budget model with a rear-facing camera is the Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 7.0, which lacks a front-facing camera. The Acer Iconia A110 has a 2MP front-facing camera.

Additional Products We Considered

Amazon Kindle Fire HD Review

From $199

Amazon's Kindle Fire HD (starting at $214 without ads; $199 with ads, Amazon) is an upscale high-def version of the Kindle Fire, but still available at a near budget price. The Kindle Fire HD review in PC Mag says the tablet is very user-friendly and will appeal to consumers who frequently dig into Amazon's massive content library. The Kindle Fire HD review also touts the screen's wide viewing angle and excellent color balance. Although the Kindle Fire HD's performance is generally good, the PC Mag review reports that it lags a little when opening apps. A Kindle Fire HD review by Laptop Magazine enthuses about the bright and crisp display and the built-in speakers that deliver "booming sound." The reviewer also appreciates how simple it is to find content. Kindle Fire HD users have easy access to Amazon's library, which this reviewer says includes more than 120,000 movies and TV episodes, as well as some 20 million songs.

The Kindle Fire HD is a 7-inch tablet with 1280x800 resolution, which surpasses that of its entry-level sibling and enables 720p high-def video playback. The Kindle Fire HD runs on a modified version of Android's 4.0 operating system and a dual-core 1.2 GHz CPU. The version we researched comes with 16GB of memory and users also have free access to Amazon's cloud-based storage. Amazon says the Fire HD can run up to 11 hours on a single charge, although testing by PC Mag pegged the battery life at about seven hours when playing back video non-stop, which is still a decent stretch of time. This model also features Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity, a mini HDMI port, and a front-facing camera.

This is the perfect device for folks who want quick and easy access to Amazon's huge media library of movies, TV shows, and music. Amazon's app library, though not nearly as extensive as Google Play, still offers more than 50,000 apps. That said, if you don't want to be tied so tightly into Amazon's world, you'll probably prefer a different top tablet, such as the Nexus 7 or Nook HD.

Where to buy

$12.99   $39.99
$12.99   $29.99
$12.99   $29.99