Tobold's Blog
Wednesday, March 11, 2015
How cheap do tablets get?

I own an iPad Air, that is a 5th generation iPad, and the third one my family bought. After having run into troubles with insufficient memory on the first two, I bought the 128 GB one. With WiFi and cellular. Current retail price for this is $929. Which means I am taking a certain care that I don't break the thing or leave it unattended. So I'm not taking it everywhere I go. So I was wondering whether I could buy somewhere a far cheaper tablet for more mundane purposes, like reading ebooks and pdf files.

Not being an expert on various systems, it is hard for me to figure out what the cheapest solution for my purpose would be. For example the Kindle Fire looks very cheap, but I'm not sure in how far it allows me to read pdf files with color and images (I have an early generation black & white Kindle where pdf functionality was very limited). Is a Samsung Galaxy Tab better? Are there even cheaper Android tablets with less known brand names, and are those reliable? How is the battery life when I use a tablet mainly as electronic book?

The internet is full of information, and some shops have well informed vendors, but it is hard to find anybody who is unbiased and isn't just trying to push a specific product onto you, regardless of whether that was the closest to your requirements. So I was wondering if one of you can give some recommendation on cheap tablets, or where the best place would be to find information on them.

The kindle fire is actually a fully fledged android tablet, just running off the Amazon app store. So PDFs should be fine.
There is also still the nexus 7 tablets around or even cheaper store branded things like the hudle.
Main problem is like always the os updates for anything but nexus things.
I wrote a review on my Asus Memo Pad last year. It can't really play Hearthstone, but it's great as a eReader, movie player, and so on. Biggest selling point for me was micro SD card slot (can take 64gb) and $125 price tag. 4 stars on Amazon.
I just bought a Linx 10" tablet running Win 8.1. It's brilliant. Cost me £150. Best of all I can just shove anything from my PC onto a USB drive and use it on the Tablet as-is.

Prior to that I was using a generic Android 7" tablet that cost me less than half that. Even that was absolutely fine for reading ebooks and watching video.

Having an iPad for general use is like insisting on only reading popular novels in leatherbound editions with gold trim instead of in paperback.
If you need tablet for reading, get e-ink bookreader instead. Your eyes will be grateful.
If you're used to an iPad, an iPad mini might be better for you since you wouldn't need to rebuy all your apps (such as the great goodreader). For Android tablets, a well supported one is a Nexus 7. It has a great high res colorful screen.

If either of those are too small because of bad eyesight, you could go the used route and buy an iPad 4 or a Nexus 10. Both are still well supported and are relatively cheap because of their age. The kindle fire 8.9 is a relatively good size for a good price. The app selection is minimal, though on my Fire phone, I was able to install google play without rooting.

DO NOT GET A KINDLE DX EBOOK READER IF YOU WANT UNICODE. One thing to note about android tablets, if you use them for reading, I have not found a single app like goodreader that opens all filetypes I would like in a single interface. Many apps don't have an integrated file viewer so new files don't show up in the app and you would have to use a file explorer app to open it. As a consequence, that also means you can't really manage your library from most apps and would have to manage it from the file manager. Sometimes this is harder because some certain file type wont have thumbnails in the file manager and long filenames that start the same may be cuttoff making all files look the same.
What are you doing with your "first two" iPads? I imagine you can purge a bunch of stuff from those now that you have an Air and that those should be suitable for reading ebooks and pdfs.

If you really think you need a new device, I think you will find that most android tablets from a known brand that cost over $100 can do most everything an iPad can. (over $170 if you are sticking to bigger 10-inch tablets)
Here's what I use and my advice on each:

For reading regular books without graphics I've gotten a ton of mileage out of my Nook with Glowlight reader and my Kindle Paperwhite (with backlight). Neither are good for color PDFs, however.

For color PDFs I primarily use a Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 10.1 which I got on a sale and quite like except for the 16 GB memory which is it's key restraint. It's otherwise got the best battery life of the color tablets I use.

For the best reading experience the Nook HD+ with the Google Play functionality on is impossible to beat. It's got an 8.9 inch screen with the highest resolution for its type of tablet, but is no longer being sold so you need to search for it. I like this one so much I own two.

For general purpose 7 inch tablets I've gotten a lot of mileage out of my Nexus 7, which has great resolution and works well with most PDF files unless they are poorly indexed or have too many graphical layers. It's main failing is the screen size can be annoying since I am used to the 10.1 inch screen of the Samsung.

I like the wirecutter because they do fairly in depth testing and seem to really try to give the best recommendation possible.
Heartily recommend the Nexus 7 (2013 edition), if you can still find it. I use it for Kindle, Netflix and Hearthstone; no issues so far.
You can get very cheap Androids, but the battery life tends to be terrible, and for your purposes this won't do. If you will be using it mostly for reading, something purpose made for that like the Kindle Fire would probably be good IMO.
I would recommend the digital versus site ( of if you prefer the french version :

Those two brother sites are very well documented and neutral, and are my main reference for all Tech buy.
Or you could buy an Asus T100, a 300€ micro windows computer/Tablet, that will allow you to do whatever you can on a PC -even play older games such as Diablo 3, CounterStrike, or World of Warcraft - or most of the modern Indi games.
I bought a Kobo Arc 10 tablet a few months ago from

€130 bought me a tablet with:
-10" 2560x1600 screen
-16 gb
-Android 4.2
-Nvidia tegra 4
-2 gb memory
-Quad core

Considering the price I paid for it, I'm very happy. Mostly using it to watch youtube clips, read comics or play Hearthstone. And it works very well for that.

Joe Ursic has the right idea - ain't nothing wrong with using your older iPads as readers. If you've passed them on to family members, then vinciblegod has a good idea - get a used iPad 4 or 3.

I originally bought at Samsung Galaxy some years ago and a friend gave me his iPad 3 after he upgraded. I couldn't recommend the Galaxy for anything, to be honest. Just an ugly, unfriendly thing.
I use a Samsung Tab 2 7" nearly every day. Works great for PDF comics, Twitter and watching movies on the plane. I bought a couple of 32G micro-SD cards so lots of storage.
If you want just to read e-books, get an e-book reader, the e-ink makes all the difference.

If you want a full fledged tablet, you can get an older Samsung model (i.e. Galaxy Tab 3) for anywhere between 150 - 250€, without resorting to more obscure manufacturers. Don't mind the on board memory, you can just buy as many micro-SD cards as you need to store your movies, books or whatever.

I thoroughly disagree with Michael Baker above, Samsung Tablets are amazing if you're a more advanced user with tons of features, options etc. Also, since you already own an iOS device you are better served with an Android tablet as your 'spare', so that you get the chance to explore both app stores (i.e. in terms of gaming titles etc.)
As far as I know there aren't any e-ink tablets in color yet. I agree that the old Kindle I have is great for reading ebooks in black and white in locations with lots of light, like on the beach or next to the pool, where an iPad would be useless.

But for the pdf files I have bought from RPGNow with tabletop RPG rule-books and source materials, I would prefer a tablet with color. And as I usually play tabletop RPGs inside and in the evening, direct sunlight isn't going to be a problem. I plan to use it more for looking up rules without carrying lots of books around than "reading" in the traditional sense.

My first iPad (3rd gen) would have been a solution, but I gave that one to my nephew. And my wife is using the 4th generation iPad.

I think I'll go with some 10" Android tablet. I have your various recommendation, and will look what they have on offer in the Media Markt.
Here's another vote for both the Nexus 7 and Wirecutter for more in-depth reviews.
Ooooh! Chris K wants to start an Apple vs Samsung flamewar on your blog, Tobold.

I won't bite, both are useable, I just found the Apple ecosystem friendlier, is all.

Having said that, if anyone would like to see my smartphone app, iNeedHelp, here are the links:


It sends a text message and email to loved ones with your location at a press of a button.
Naaaahhh, I just think it makes sense to get a tablet with a platform/OS you don't own yet.

Also if you want to read colour PDFs then yes, e-ink readers will be suboptimal. Those things are for reading 'proper' books over long periods of time, due to having virtually zero eye fatigue.
For color PDFs I primarily use a Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 10.1 which I got on a sale and quite like except for the 16 GB memory which is it's key restraint.

After checking prices and availability with the local big chain electronics store, I ended up with this Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 10" tablet. Plus a microSD card to overcome the "key restraint", which means I can use the main memory for applications and put the pdfs I want to read on the microSD card. The Samsung tablet cost about a quarter of what I paid for my current iPad (plus Apple just raised prices in Europe by 15%-20%).
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