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Which 7" tablet should you buy?

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#1
PaulOBrien

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The 7" tablet market, which was somewhat 'bubbling under' until recently, has been lit on fire (pun intended) by Amazon with their Kindle Fire and Google / Asus with their Nexus 7. There's some great devices, but which one to buy? MoDaCo is here to help!

Choosing a 7" device isn't as easy as saying - 'BUY THIS ONE', because we're not a one size fits all world... everybody wants something different. So I thought i'd talk about each of the devices available on sale and the pros and cons of each. Please reply in the comments with your own input / suggestions!

Note that i've largely excluded the 'cheap Chinese tablets you can buy on eBay' because in my experience they are almost all flawed by sub-par software builds. Again, if you have experience with a particularly good device (e.g. some of the Ainol devices have some good press), let us know in the comments!

Acer Iconia A110
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Price: £179.98 + delivery
Storage: 8GB + microSD
OS Version: Jelly Bean
Pros: Latest OS, microSD expansion, Tegra3 processor, microHDMI, USB OTG adaptor included
Cons: 1024x600 screen, somewhat bland design, no guarantee of future updates

The Acer Iconia A110 is the device that is closest to the Nexus 7 in terms of specs (packing the latest OS and a Tegra 3 processor), however it also offers microSD expansion and HDMI output, key omissions from Google's own offering. The flipside is that the screen is only a 1024x600 panel (compared to 1280x800 on the Nexus and the Kindle Fire HD). Although the OS is Jelly Bean out of the box, Acer's upgrade commitments have been a little patchy in the past.

Amazon Kindle Fire
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Price: £129 + delivery (free delivery with Amazon Prime)
Storage: 8GB
OS Version: Ice Cream Sandwich with proprietary Amazon interface
Pros: Cheap! Well built, excellent content offering including LoveFilm streaming
Cons: Uninspiring design, custom OS, no MHL / HDMI, no front facing camera, no Play Store, 1024x600 screen

The real kicker in the Kindle Fire deal is the price. Not much can touch it for £129. That said, it does look pretty limited in this company and you have to make a judgement call about how you feel about the custom Amazon OS! As a tablet for a child for example, this is a great investment. It can run all the Android apps you might want for them, is built to last and is cheaper than a Nintendo DS.

Amazon Kindle Fire HD
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Price: £159 (16GB) / £199 (32GB) + delivery (free delivery with Amazon Prime)
Storage: 16GB / 32GB
OS Version: Ice Cream Sandwich with proprietary Amazon interface
Pros: Great value! Impressive hardware. Excellent content offering including LoveFilm streaming.
Cons: Custom OS, no Play Store

If the non-HD Kindle Fire is about hardware compromises, then the HD is the opposite. The screen is a 1280x800 IPS panel with glare reduction technology, the device gains a webcam and HDMI ports and provides impressive storage capacity for the price. Add in MIMO WiFi and Dolby Sound and you have a very desirable machine. As with the non-HD Fire of course, the main downside could be the proprietary Amazon OS.

Google / Asus Nexus 7
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Price: £159 (8GB) / £199 (16GB) + delivery, including £15 Play Store credit
Storage: 8GB / 16GB
OS Version: Jelly Bean
Pros: Pure Nexus device, great screen, nice build, Tegra3 processor, nice and hackable
Cons: No HDMI output, no USB OTG without root, no microSD, so-so WiFi reception

The elephant in the room... Google / Asus' Nexus 7 is probably the enthusiasts choice by virtue of it's pure Android build and it's likelihood to get future updates at the earliest opportunity. It IS a great device, but not without it's compromises - the biggest being the lack of microSD expansion and HDMI port.

Kobo Arc
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Price: £159 (8GB) / £189 (16GB) + delivery
Storage: 8GB / 16GB
OS Version: Ice Cream Sandwich
Pros: Good screen, wireless display support, relatively stock Android, changeable backs
Cons: No microSD expansion, no HDMI port (a wireless display dongle is possible tho) future upgrade path unknown

Previously Kobo Android readers have been underwhelming, but the the new Arc raises it's game considerably. All the key parts are there - 1280x800 IPS screen, proper Android (including Play Store), great pricing and an interesting design. Probably not the obvious choice, but intriguing!

Samsung Galaxy Tab 2
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Price: £199 (8GB) / £299 (8GB + 3G) + delivery, £30 cashback offer currently
Storage: 8GB
OS Version: Ice Cream Sandwich (Jelly Bean Beta has leaked)
Pros: microSD expansion, rear camera
Cons: Relatively poor screen (1024x600 TFT), TouchWiz

The Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 has been around a little longer than the others and it shows a little bit, particular in it's screen tech - it appears dimmer and much less clear than the IPS equipped units. That said, it's microSD expansion and rear camera might float your boat and it's the only unit here to have a 3G option.

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#2
Dan Mullen

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I have the original Galaxy Tab (GT-P1000), but I bought a 7" tablet for my daughter recently and it's fantastic for the price. The Sumvision Cyclone Astro+ has a 1.2GHz processor, 1GB RAM, 16GB storage, 7" capacitive multi-touch screen and accepts Micro-SD cards. Comes with ICS (4.0.3) pre-installed and has the Play Store too, (something a lot of cheap tablets don't have). Also has a front camera, mini-HDMI out and even ships with a USB OTG adapter. I paid £79.99 for it in July, it's currently £74.99 at eBuyer. If anything happened to my Galaxy Tab, I'd definitely buy one as a replacement - highly recommended!

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#3
netgroover

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Nice round-up, it's a question I'm asking myself right now and I'm edging towards the Kindle HD at the moment. Yes it has a custom OS, but it will likely 'just work' and it's in Amazon's interest to support it for a long time, something the 'others' have never really achieved. I'm also a Kindle and Lovefilm user, so I'm already in their ecosystem. But the BIG question for me is will it let me add the Play store and apps from it if I so choose. I'm not sure I can accept no control, as otherwise I would have bought an iFad!

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#4
simc1978

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There seems to be quite a bit of buzz about the Ainol Fire at the moment. It looks like it has a nice 1280 * 800 ips screen but I'm a bit put off by some of the issues people are reporting. I think I'll give it a few weeks and see if the issues are resolved by updates but will likely end up getting one.

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#5
PaulOBrien

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The tricky thing about Ainol (aside from the laughable name) is that they put out SO many devices it's confusing!

re: Amazon and Play Store, if we can root it we can put it on no problem. :)

P

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#6
Al_1604

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Thank you for the helpful information Paul.
Any plans to do a similar review for larger screen devices (sorry if you've already done something and I've missed it)?

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#7
PaulOBrien

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Not planned, I'm happy to do one tho! :)

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#8
Sere83

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Nice round up, good work. Although not particularly relevant to a lot of UK buyers it's worth noting theres some strong tabs coming out of china at the moment. SPAM just announced a 7 incher called the X7 running the TI Omap 4470 platform with 2Gb ram and a 1280x800 IPS display. Ramos also have a 10 inch sub £200 Quad Core Samsung Exynos tab in the pipeline called the W30. And teclast will soon have a quad core 8 incher too called the T88. All decent brands in china and all will be be fairly low cost and might be worth a look when they drop.

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#9
Sere83

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S.M.A.R.T.Q that was...don't know why it came up as spam

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#10
PaulOBrien

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I really hope the Chinese brands can sort their software out, the crappy builds are ruining their improving hardware...

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