Buyer’s Guide: Pick The Perfect 7-inch Tablet Under $250

With the release of the Galaxy Tab 2 7.0 there is now four great 7-inch Android tablets on the market that cost $250 or less. This is great news for consumers on a budget but does create a problem: which one should you buy?

It’s not just a matter of picking the least expensive, you also have to consider what type of tablet experience you want, whether you’re comfortable with Android or need something simple, and what kind of media you consume the most. Each of these devices — the Amazon Kindle Fire, B&N Nook Tablet, Lenovo IdeaPad A1 and Galaxy Tab 2 7.0 — have strengths and weaknesses that will impact your decision.

Below is a quick comparison of each with links to the full review and in-depth comparisons. If you still don’t know what tablet you should buy at the end, tell me why in the comments. I’ll do my best to help you make a decision.

Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 7.0 | $249 | Full Review

Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 7.0

Pros

  • Latest Android OS
  • Full access to Google Play Store
  • Multimedia content via Samsung Media and Music Hubs plus Google Movies and Music
  • Good performance and multitasking power

Cons

  • Screen gets dirty easily, makes it inaccurate
  • Disappointing Wi-Fi performance

The Galaxy Tab 2 is the best Android tablet under $250 available right now. Owners get the full tablet experience, a beautiful display, and access to a full range of apps. Plus, Samsung makes it easy to find and purchase video and music via their media hubs. Consumers comfortable with Android and who don’t want restrictions on content or apps should choose this tablet.

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Quick Specs: Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich; 8GB internal storage; microSD card slot (up to 32GB); front and rear cameras; 1GHz dual-core processor, 1GB RAM; 12.2 ounces

Read: Kindle Fire vs. Galaxy Tab 2 7.0

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Lenovo IdeaPad A1 | $199 | Full Review

Lenovo IdeaPad A1

Pros

  • Comfortable design and sturdy build
  • Good performance
  • Offline GPS capability

Cons

  • Android 2.3 isn’t made for tablets
  • Paltry media purchasing options
  • Display hampered by poor viewing angles

The Lenovo IdeaPad A1 is the choice for users on a tighter budget but who still want a full tablet experience. Though running Gingerbread, an OS that’s now a generation old, the A1 still offers access to the Google Play Store, which includes movies and music. Performance isn’t stellar thanks to the single-core chip inside, though it’s no slug..

Quick Specs: Android 2.3 Gingerbread; 16GB internal storage; microSD card slot (up to 32GB); front and rear cameras; 1GHz single-core processor, 512MB RAM; 14 ounces

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Barnes & Noble Nook Tablet | $199 – $249 | Full Review

Nook Tablet

Pros

  • Best display in the group
  • Comfortable, attractive design
  • Simple, attractive user interface
  • Large library of books, magazines, newspapers, comics, and enhanced kids books.
  • Great eReading experience

Cons

  • No on-board media purchasing options
  • Limited app selection
  • Basic hardware options

Despite its name, the Nook Tablet is less a tablet and more of an eReader with serious benefits. Customers used to the Android experience will find the limitations frustrating, but less tech-savvy buyers will appreciate the clean, simplified UI and focus on eReading. The IPS display works both indoors and out and ties everything together nicely..

Quick Specs: Android 2.3 with B&N interface; 16GB ($249) or 8GB ($199) internal storage; microSD card slot (up to 32GB); 1GHz dual-core processor, 1GB RAM; 14.1 ounces

Read: Kindle Fire vs Nook Tablet

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Amazon Kindle Fire | $199 | Full Review

Pros

  • Ties together all Amazon media services, including movies and TV
  • Simplified, attractive user interface
  • Access to Amazon App Store

Cons

  • Mediocre display
  • No microSD or other expansion option
  • No hardware volume button
  • Design isn’t as holdable as Nook or light as Tab 2

Customers already deeply tied to Amazon’s ecosystem — a large library of Kindle books, lots of Video on Demand or MP3 purchases — will gravitate to the Fire since it nicely ties all of this content together. Plus, it’s the only tablet that can (officially) play Amazon video via an app. The simplified user interface is good for less tech-savvy users but may annoy power users due to the closed, restricted nature of the environment. Though it doesn’t have access to the full Google Play Store, there are over 16,500 apps available..

Quick Specs: Android 2.3 with Kindle interface; 8GB internal storage; 1GHz dual-core processor, 512MB RAM; 14.6 ounces

  

Comments

    • Cwallen18 says

      Actually, Engadget says the Samsung is the best ICS  tablet at the price. 
       
      This is from that same review:
      But there’s another unpretentious 7-incher that’s been sweeping the market with its open arms, Android architecture and deeply integrated ecosystem : the Kindle Fire. That tablet, still running an unrecognizable build of Gingerbread, offers an identical wireless experience and costs $50 less, to boot. Backed by Amazon’s vast e-book, MP3 and on-demand video library, the Fire comes off as the indisputable king of this hill. There’s just no overwhelming reason why consumers would dole out extra money for a media consumption device that does the same duties without the vast content resources. Fanboyism aside, you’ll either want to pony up for a network-connected slate or get the best bang for your buck — and that would be the Kindle Fire.

      • K. T. Bradford says

         I disagree. Unless you’re already really into buying Amazon videos, there’s no reason why you should choose the Fire over the Tab 2. When it comes to new movies or TV shows, Samsung so far has a comparable library. And Amazon Instant Video for Prime users has very few things Netflix doesn’t.

        Also, that review completely ignores the fact that you can get the “vast eBook and MP3″ library on the Tab 2 just as easily as on the Fire. So… it’s kind of silly to use that as evidence that the Fire is better.

        • Jjtwomey says

          Just a small correction to the “just as easily” view.  If you want Calibre newspapers and magazines delivered effortlessly over wi-fi for free, you need a real Kindle wi-fi device, like the Kindle Fire, which you can register as your @free.kindle.com preferred e-mail device.  Just start Calibre and it checks your magazine and newspaper subscription schedule and downloads today’s content.  Then later, at your convenience (and on the same wi-fi network as your Calibre computer), turn on wi-fi on your Kindle device.  Voila, they arrive.

        • K. T. Bradford says

           Calibre newspapers and magazines aren’t Kindle content, though. Basically, Engadget is arguing that the Kindle is best because you can get Kindle Books and MP3s on it, but you can get those on the Tab 2 as well, so it’s not really an argument.

          The stuff you’re doing with Calibre is outside of that. It works with Kindle, yes, but is not Kindle content.

        • cwallen18 says

          I was only pointing out that “Choice is clear. As engadget says the samsung has no competition at this price.” was not correct.

  1. MARYANN says

    For the economy minded I would like to add that with the Kindle Fire you can not go to your public library and download free books for up to 2 weeks, instead of buying them! I bought the Samsung Tab 2 7.0 and have already downloaded a brand new top selling book, for free. Works for me…

  2. Joey says

    This is pretty old, but an addition: There are great 7 inch tablets now like the Nexus 7 and iPad mini. I personally think that the Nexus 7 is the best right now, but that might depend on what your needs are and what environment you got used to. There are even more great 7 inch tablets, and at http://www.best-7inchtablet.com, you can find 7 inch tablet reviews, comparisons, accessories and even more, and everything is in a safe environment because it is a direct partner of amazon.com

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