Budget tablets in India force us to pay attention

The Indian market is flooded with budget tablet offerings from newly set-up Indian companies like Swipe TelecomMilagrow Humantech and Zync. I have noticed some refreshing and interesting trends in budget tablets over the past few months:

1. Budget tablets are no longer under-powered

1.2 GhZ and 1.5 GhZ chipsets are  becoming de facto on budget tablets, even those that cost under Rs. 10,000. The credit for this goes to Chinese SoCs like the Allwinner A1x series wihch uses a Mali-400 GPU. To give you a context, this GPU powers top smartphones like Samsung Galaxy S2 and Anandtech tests showed it to be the most powerful smartphone GPU last year. Allwinner sells its chipsets for as little as $7 and upwards, which explains why such high performance internals are now entering cheap tablets.The Allwinner series has revolutionised tablet technology by outclassing budget SoCs from established manufacturers. 

2. Active USB ports to connect 3G Dongles, and much more

Instead of raising the cost by incorporating an expensive 3G modem, budget tablets all support a 3G/EVDO dongle. This is not an optimal solution (imagine holding and reading from a tablet with a dongle sticking out) and I suspect that net access may not be as fast and seamless as it would be with an on-board modem. But it's a pragmatic solution and it enables them to keep costs low while making high speed net access optional. In India, a wi-fi only tablet is worse than useless as we have woefully few hot spots. 

As a bonus, the USB ports on these tablets will also support mounting of external memory and devices : Milagrow claims that its tablets will support a USB hub, enabling you to connect multiple devices simultaneously. 

To the best of my knowledge, most Android tablets require root access or a hack to implement this functionality which is innately present in the budget tablets

3. Running Android ICS or will promise upgrades

It is refreshing to see budget tablets offering ICS out of the box, when there are still few top-end smartphones that offer it! Milagrow already has the 4.0.4 upgrade available on their site for their Tab Top tablets. 

I am curious to see whether the Indian developers who are part of the rooting/ ROM-ming community will work on root solutions for these tablets. I don't think that the manufacturers have bothered with too much modification or skinning of Android, so root hacks should not be hard to develop.

4. Service Networks

What distinguishes the men from the boys in the hardware space is service capabilities. Among India's 100-odd phone manufacturers, the one's who will last the duration are those who can offer repair/ warranty  services efficiently - no small challenge when you think of the huge number of small towns and rural areas that they will have to cover.

It appears that most budget tablet manufacturers are taking the promise of service seriously. Zync is offering on-site pick up and drop under warranty. Swipe Telecom's service support page lists service centres even in small towns like Parbhani (Maharashtra) and Raipur in Chattisgarh. 

I cannot comment on the useability/ user experience of budget tablets, as I have not operated any of them. That's something which I strongly recommend for you to  check out for yourself before purchasing. What I can tell you is that in terms of specs, features, price and service support, this segment is taking itself very seriously and looking for big growth in the Indian market. And it's worthwhile  to check out these offerings. Maybe you can find a suitable tablet for your needs at half the cost of the big guys like Apple and Samsung. And that can't be a bad thing!


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