If you want to figure out how much can change in a year, take a look at the Indian tablet market. A year ago, a tablet was considered a luxury and a toy of the idle rich. Getting one for Rs 25,000 was next to impossible and those that did exist at more affordable price points had dubious antecedents and even more dubious components. Fast forward to today and the tablet is being considered as one of the best mediums for promoting education — albeit if used properly, as the Aakash fiasco proved — and has also got a whole lot more affordable.
Today, you can venture forth into the market with less than Rs 10,000 in your wallet and still come back with a decent enough tablet in your hands. It won’t perform quite as well as its high-end counterparts but all said and done, it will give you a decent Web browsing, e-mail and social networking experience, apart from playing videos and other multimedia. And that really does suffice for a number of users, who want nothing more than a device with a relatively large display that can connect to the Internet and is easy to use.
So if you are in the market for a sub-Rs 10,000 tablet, you could try the following: (statutory warning: these are not iPad killers!)
Mercury was among the early movers in the sub-R10,000 tablet category, launching its mTab almost six months ago. And notwithstanding the arrival of a number of new players, the mTab remains a decent option. It has a seven-inch capacitive display and comes with features like HDMI connectivity and USB-on-the-Go, besides packing in a 1 GHz processor, 512 MB RAM and 4GB onboard storage (expandable using a microSD card). It is built sturdily enough, (a tad heavy though at 400 grams) runs Android 2.3 and comes with Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity. We were puzzled by the fact that Back and Menu had hardware buttons, but the Home button was an onscreen one. But that eccentricity aside, the mTab is a sturdy performer for most tablet tasks. We found it a dab hand at browsing the Web in particular.
We like: All that it has inside
We hate: Slightly older version of Android (it is the age of Android 4.0)
It might not be the best-known name in Indian tech circles, but Zync was among the first manufacturers to come out with a tablet running Ice Cream Sandwich in India. And it did not do a bad job of it all. The Z-990 might not be the greatest looking tablet we have seen (it is a bit of a Plain Jane, truth be told) but packs a very decent punch — a 1.2 GHz processor, 1 GB RAM, a 7-inch capacitive display, 4GB internal storage (expandable to 32 GB) and a USB and HDMI port. Internet access happens through Wi-Fi or a 3G dongle. In a neat touch, all the ports have been labelled on the back of the device, letting you know which one is for what. Battery life was decent for about six hours of normal usage and it handled videos and web browsing very well. A handy option, we think — do think of picking up a special keyboard that comes with it for an additional Rs 999!
We like: The specs,
Ice Cream Sandwich
We hate: The build and design
Rs 6, 490
If we had to pick one device to recommend from all those that have been mentioned here, this one would be it. For, the Funbook seems to combine the best features of most of the tablets in this list and places them in a good looking frame for a very low price. In spec terms, it too runs Ice Cream Sandwich (the latest version of Android) and is powered by a 1.2 GHz processor. It has 512 MB RAM, 4GB onboard storage (expandable to 32 GB) and USB and HDMI connectivity as well as the option to connect to the Internet over Wi-Fi and using a 3G dongle (there is a tie-up with Tata Photon too). There is a lot of educational content onboard and full access to Google Play, the Android app store (something the ME U1 misses out on). And it is easily the best looking tab of this lot — barely 1 cm thick in a solid plastic casing. Looks, specs, performance, price — the Funbook does them all. For now.
We like: The looks, and what’s beneath them
We hate: The slight penchant for heating up and the odd stutters while browsing
Milagrow Women TabTop
Forget about the reference to Women in the name of the product — the truth is that this is a very decent device for anyone looking for a portable computer. At less than 300 grams, it is the lightest of the devices mentioned in this piece and is compact enough to slip into most overcoat pockets and handbags. And it is well-endowed in terms of both hardware and software — it packs in a 1.2 GHz processor, 1 GB RAM, a 7-inch capacitive touch display, 8GB storage, Android 2.3, a number of preinstalled applications (including some for the security of women) and a whole plethora of connectivity options, including USB, HDMI, 3G and Wi-Fi. Top that off with a battery life of about eight hours and we think that this is a very good deal. Yes, you will need to spend some time getting to grips with its slightly unusual interface and it does take a lot of time to start up, but that apart, a very decent device indeed.
We like: The surfeit of ports, the weight, and the apps.
We hate: The interface, which takes some getting
HCL ME U1
HCL’s ME Tab series has always been among the better options in the affordable tablet category. And it just got a whole lot better with the ME U1. The device runs the latest version of Android — Ice Cream Sandwich — which is not available on a number of high-end Android tablets, and backs it up with decent specifications: a 1GHz processor, 512 MB RAM, 7 inch capacitive display, 4 GB internal memory (expandable to 32 GB), and connectivity options that include Wi-Fi, USB and 3G (via a USB modem). HCL has also packed the device with stacks of applications and access to its own ME App Store. Battery life at around seven hours is decent, but the real spoiler for us is the absence of Google Play, Android’s standard application store, which limits the number of applications one can get on the device. That said, it looks good and works very well.
We like: The specs and the build
We hate: The absence of Google Play
WishTel Ira Thing
Not too many know that WishTel was in the running for making the Aakash tablet but got edged out by Datawind. The company has now come out with two tablets, the Ira and the quaintly named Ira Thing. Of the two, we think the Ira Thing is the superior one because it features a capacitive touchscreen. In terms of performance and specs, this is perhaps the weakest of this group — it has an 800 Mhz processor, 512 MB RAM and a 7-inch touchscreen. It comes with Wi-Fi connectivity and can support 3G over a dongle. For some reason, WishTel has gone for an older version of Android (2.2) on it, which further limits it. Its design is basic and at three-four hours, the battery life is just about adequate. The final unit will also have a lot of Indian and educational content although we have not seen it yet. Still, handy enough if all you need to do is browse the Web and check your e-mail on the move.
We like: The really low price and the promise of Indian content
We hate: The older version of Android and laggy performance (and the name!)