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I have pretty much decided to buy a cheap Chinese generic / no-name tablet before I leave Taiwan.

This will be my first Android and my first touchscreen device of any kind. I'm buying something very cheap because right now I don't have much disposable money and don't need a serious bit of hardware. This will be more or less a toy to play with the tech.

That being said I still want to avoid the worst pieces of hardware and get the best value for my money. But of course reviews for generic devices are hard to find and sometimes they don't even seem to have brand names or model numbers.

So what should I do to evaluate an Android tablet that I physically can play with in a consumer electronics market?

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    One thing to be aware of is, due to legal wranglings, Chinese Android devices do not carry "Gapps" i.e. Google Play store and other services. You may need to root the device and manually install these services in order to be able to download apps the usual way and use other Google services (Google+, Youtube, Hangouts etc.). Perhaps factor in what tablet can you find that has a root method. Check the chipset/statistics on it and compare that way. Remember: if it is only for browsing/causal use it doesn't need to be fancy. If you can't try before you buy, there's not much you can do to compare. – RossC Jan 30 '14 at 10:06
  • The first one that grabbed my attention was a Cube U30GT which does have Google Play and I read was easily rootable. But when I looked at some others in other stalls at the same market I got a bit lost. – hippietrail Jan 30 '14 at 10:16
  • It is running an older version of Android, but one that can support all the newer applications. Ice Cream Sandwich 4.0.x and upwards is ok (and that's what this has). It woudln't be a blazing fast one, but the specs are pretty good, and the resolution is nice too. I looked on Amazon and for the same price you'd get a Nexus 7, I'm assuming in Taiwan they're a lot cheaper!? You really need to consider what you need, that tablet will surf internet, play video, stream media, allow you to play games and so on. If it's cheap it would do a causual user just fine! – RossC Jan 30 '14 at 10:52
  • I'd make sure it has a capacitive not a resistive screen - a lot of crappier tablets have the latter, and they tend to suck – Journeyman Geek Jan 30 '14 at 16:15
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Not easy to say. Android version is an obvious starting point and is much more important than with bigger names because with this cheap ones, you normally don't get any support and updates, so you will be stuck with the version that came with the tablet. Don't go below KitKat if you can afford it. Jelly Bean is the absolute minimum, never below that.

After having seen a couple of smaller tablets and related user problems, I'd say the second most important point is the memory. Cheap tablets come with smaller amounts of memory and while they usually offer a card slot, this can be very deceiving. Android only allows you to move apps between the first and second memory area (provided the app itself allows it, which is usually rare, so better not counting on it). And I saw quite a few tablets where the internal memory is already partitioned in two, the memory card coming in as third, for instance, a 8 GB tablet:

  • 1 GB internal memory
  • 5 GB secondary memory (usually named USB memory, even if that name is a bit misleading)
  • your memory card, say, 16 GB

In this setup, you can't move apps to the memory card, only to the secondary ("USB") memory. And because most of your apps will not move at all, you're practically limited to 1 GB of actual app storage that is hardly enough for the standard selection of browsers, video players, Facebook and similar stuff and the memory card won't help you, either. The problem is, the manufacturer will not tell you this, they will simply state that you have a 8 GB tablet, 6 GB available. Which is, of course, true, considering that 1 + 5 = 6 but this doesn't reveal the whole situation.

Somehow you have to make sure that it isn't partitioned this way, that you will have at least 2-4 GB of real, app-usable memory to play with. The more the better, of course. But you'll need either personal testing or at least a reliable review somewhere where they describe it precisely enough. If you can check it out in the flesh in a store, that would really help.

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