Cheap, Fast or Good – Pick Any Two

The title of this post can apply to almost anything. You can get something cheap and fast, but it won’t be any good. Or, you can get something fast and good, but it won’t be

Back in the day, this is what you meant when you said you had a cheap tablet…

cheap. Lastly, you can get something cheap and good, but it won’t be fast.

Same rules apply to technology – only more so as cheap usually equates to being neither fast nor good and you hardly ever hear of something being cheap and good, as good and fast typically walk hand in hand. As a public librarian, I have seen the gamut of tablet and e-reader devices walk through our doors. At a glance, I can easily tell whether or not the patron’s user experience in trying to get at our e-book collection will be a dream (“Great, you have an iPad/Samsung Galaxy/Kindle Fire/insert-pricey-but-good-and-fast-item-of-your-choice-here!”) or a nightmare (“Great, you have an insert-cheap-but-bad-and-slow-item-of-your-choice-here…”).

Let the buyer beware, as this CNET (via Yahoo!) article outlines Three tech gadgets you might be tempted to buy, but shouldn’t

The part on tablets particularly caught my eye:

A tablet is a tablet is a tablet, right? Why spend $500 on an iPad or even $200 on a Kindle Fire when you can get the Pandigital Planet 7-inch Android tablet for $99? Or a MID 70009 Android tablet for $72.95?

Because they’re terrible. Most of these dirt-cheap tablets have excruciatingly slow processors; you tap an icon, and nothing happens for several seconds. Scrolling a Web page can be an unresponsive exercise in frustration. The usability here pales in comparison to what you get from a more mainstream tablet.

What’s more, some bargain tablets employ resistive touch screens, which require physical pressure. That’s in contrast to the capacitive screens used in better tablets, which respond to the slightest brush of your fingertip. With a resistive screen, you have to push — and that ruins the entire experience. Plus, with those slow processors, it’s very difficult to tell if the tablet has registered your input, so you end up push-tapping again — often with unwanted results. Bleh.

Another big issue: no Google Play (aka Android Market), meaning you’re severely limited in the apps you can add. They might have knockoff app stores, but with none of the apps you’ll want. No Angry Birds, No Kindle, no Facebook. Double-bleh.

Recently I’ve seen some attractively priced 7- and 10-inch models with fast processors, capacitive screens, and even Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich), but still no Google Play (or, for that matter, Amazon Appstore). Trust me: You won’t be happy without at least one of them.

So, be careful out there! The technology landscape is littered with lots of cheap, bad junk. Don’t give in to the temptation to purchase because the “price is right”. Save up your pennies and hold out for the best that you can buy!

-Tony L.

3 thoughts on “Cheap, Fast or Good – Pick Any Two

  1. It really comes down to what you want out of your tablet. I have a “cheap” one with which I am more than pleased. It does have the Amazon App store, even though that’s not all that important to me. (I even have Angry Birds Rio and Facebook!) I have four different e-reader apps installed (including Kindle), so I am not limited to where I can find ebooks to read. Would an iPad be fabulous? Absolutely. Will I ever have one? Probably not. I am content with what I have.

    • Hi, thanks for your response. When I was blogging about cheap tablets, I meant the ones you can pick up for $100 or less. We’ve had a lot of people come into the library with these really bargain basement tablets that are nearly unusable. Sounds like you have an Amazon Fire, which is one I wouldn’t put into the “cheap” category I was talking about. You’ve got a good one there, on par with a Samsung Galaxy Tab or Barnes & Noble Nook Tablet.

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