8 best sub-$300 tablets to splash some cash on this holiday season

November 25, 2013

The original iPad mini

Last month Apple took the wraps off the iPad Air and iPad mini with Retina Display, but that doesn’t mean you should discount the firm’s older models.

Indeed, the original iPad mini remains and, starting at just $299 for the 16GB WiFi model, represents reasonable value. Not only do you get the super slim form factor and the relatively recent dual-core A5 chip but it also sports dual-facing cameras, Siri and supports all the features from iOS 7.

Kindle Fire HDX

Amazon has also been active in the tablet market of late, introducing the super powerful – and more expensive – Kindle Fire HDX tablets.

The company actually kept the 7-inch Kindle Fire HD on at a very reasonable $139, but — depending on your budget — the same-sized Kindle Fire HDX is a worth a step up starting at $229.

The tablet has an excellent 1920 x 1200 resolution display (323 pixels per inch), a powerful quad-core 2.2GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 processor with 2GB of RAM and runs Android 4.3 (with the slick Kindle Fire OS 3.0 over the top). Even better still, the tablet has the 'Mayday' assistance button for those wanting almost-instant advice on how to use the slate, packs some great media content, and can be equipped with the innovative 'Origami' cover.

HP Slate 7 Extreme

HP is increasingly hedging its bets with Android in the tablet space and that was no more evident in October when the world’s second largest PC maker unveiled no fewer than six Android slates.

Although all of these are reputable, the Slate 7 Extreme, a rebrand of Nvidia's Tegra Note, is a stand-out model at only $199. (It doesn't appear to be available yet from the HP website but that could change any moment now)

The entry-level tablet has a 7-inch 1280 x 800 resolution IPS display, the Tegra 4 ARM Cortex A-15 quad-core processor, dual-facing cameras, a micro SD slot and comes with a super-sensitive stylus which is based on Nvidia’s DirectStylus technology.

(Worth reading: The big bucks are going on smaller and cheaper tablets this holiday season & 3 reasons why Android tablets are catching up with the iPad)

Archos 101 XS 2

The 101 XS 2 is the follow-up model to the original 101 XS and is a worthy model for those seeking a hybrid tablet but at a particular price point.

Starting at an inexpensive $279, the 101 XS 2 has a faster 1.6GHz quad-core processor, an improved 1280 x 800 resolution IPS display and runs a later version of Android – Android 4.2 Jelly Bean.

Best of all, all this comes for under $300, which might cause some consumers to swerve away from more expensive Windows 8 models.

Google Nexus 7 2013

Google really upped its game this year with the second-generation Nexus 7, a tablet which promises great specs for competitive prices.

Starting at $229 for the 16GB Wi-Fi version and progressing to $279 for the 32GB edition, the tablet has a dazzling 1920 x 1200 resolution IPS display (323 pixels per inch), a punchy, quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 Pro processor and 2GB of RAM as well as Android 4.3 (never fear you can instantly update to Android 4.4). It’s also extremely light at just 0.64lbs, can last for 9 hours when watching HD video and has stereo speakers and dual-band WiFi (4G LTE is optional).

Add into the mix the fact that the tablet supports multiple users and you have a strong tablet for all the family.

Lenovo S5000

The S5000 was one of 13 new mobile products Lenovo announced at IFA in Berlin in September, but it stands out because it is an Android tablet that boasts reasonable specs, a good price and a flattering design.

The tablet is super slim at 7.9mm thick, has a slick aluminium silver bezel design, and offers Android 4.2, a Mediatek 1.2GHz processor and a reasonable 1280 x 800 7-inch display which promises high brightness at 350 nits.

It comes with 16GB of storage, 1GB of RAM and has dual-facing cameras (1.6MP front, 5MP rear), which is all pretty good for the price of $299. The only downside is arguably the battery life, quoted at a pedestrian six hours when watching videos.

Samsung Galaxy Tab 3 8.0

Samsung has a scattergun approach to Android tablets and that can make it difficult to distinguish one from another.

One of the latest products to be added to that family was the 8-inch Galaxy Tab 3, which debuted in June and which starts at $279.99 (for the 16GB Wi-Fi only version).

The tablet is a stylish looking device with slim bezels, a reasonable 1280 x 800 resolution display, the Android 4.2.2 software and a dual-core 1.5 GHz processor. The dual-facing cameras are OK quality (1.3 front, 5MP rear) while the battery excels at an excellent 11 hours.

Iconia W4 *

*(Editor's note: Unlike the other models featured here, the Iconia W4 is actually priced a bit higher than $300 at $329.99, though it wouldn't be surprising to see it available over the holidays from some retailers for under $300).

The price of Windows 8 tablets is falling, and that’s thanks in part to smaller screen sizes and Microsoft discounting OEM license fees.

As a result, you can now pick up a Windows-powered slate in the region of $300 like the Acer Iconia W4.

Better equipped than its predecessor, the Iconia W3, the Iconia W4 boasts an improved 8-inch, 1280 x 800 resolution display (with excellent sunlight readability), a 1.8GHz Intel Atom Bay Trail processor as well as connections for micro USB and micro HDMI.

The tablet, which is also lighter than the Iconia W3, also runs Windows 8.1 and comes pre-loaded with Microsoft Office Home and Student 2013.

(Using or planning to buy a Windows 8 device? Sign up for the free TabTimes for Windows newsletter for news, reviews, apps, insights and advice)

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