As the number of tablet computer models available to consumers explodes it makes sense that prices would drop. But a tablet for the bargain price of US$35!? That’s now the reality—if you happen to be a student in India and qualify for a subsidy. But even for the rest of us, we live in the world of sub-$80 tablets.
When Amazon announced their new line of Kindles, the basic model prices out at $79! Of course, that price is for more of an eBook reader. What about a true tablet of the sort that runs Android, a tablet on which you can watch movies, surf the web and play Angry Birds? Those can be found within an $80 budget too.
Aakash Tablet Computer
The India Institute of Technology, together with the Montreal-based electronics company DataWind, didn’t design the Aakash Tablet for profit. Their motivation was to help the underprivileged students and the poor of rural India connect to the internet and, thus, to the world. (Only 8% of adults in rural India have internet access, compared to 40% in rural China.)
Developing the Aakash Tablet—”Aakash” translates to “Sky” in Hindi—was hugely challenging. Not only did the tablet have to be super inexpensive, it had to be dust proof, rugged enough for the conditions of rural India and able to operate for prolonged periods in temperatures exceeding 48°C (118°F).
The tablet DataWind came up with runs on a Conexant 366MHz processor with 256MB of RAM, making it a bit sluggish to use. The 7-inch, 800 x 480 pixel screen doesn’t wow. But the Aakash does have wifi and Bluetooth and a 3-hour battery life. And the price is right: US$35 for students at an Indian university who qualify for a subsidy, $60 at a retail store.
Future versions of the Aakash currently being designed include 3G connectivity and a built-in solar charger!
ePad Tablet Computer
While a store-bought Aakash Tablet for $60 is very cheap, the plane ticket to Delhi you’ll need to get to the store (unless you happen to already be in India) tacks a rather large surcharge unto the price. So what’s the cheapest tablet you can buy online?
The cheapest Spot Cool Stuff found is the no-frills version of the ePad, a Chinese knock-off of the iPad.
Though the ePad is meant to look like the iPad (it even comes in a shamelessly iPad-copied box), all semblance to the popular Apple product drops away once you turn the ePad on. The device runs on Android 2.2, not the Apple OS. Specs include:
- Wifi, 3G and Bluetooth connectivity
- 800MHZ processor
- 2 hour battery life
- 256MB RAM
- 2-point, 7-inch touch screen
- 4GB internal storage
While the build-quality of the ePad doesn’t feel cheap, we wouldn’t call it rugged either. In our bit of time playing around with the ePad, we found the touchscreen to be responsive. The ePad seems to be a good device for checking email, watching video and surfing the web. Using apps on the ePad, however, was a sub-optimal in our experience. Loading apps is a bit tricky, and some apps that supposedly worked with Android 2.2 didn’t run on our test ePad.
In short: an ePad is no iPad.
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