Cheap Windows 8.1 tablets flood the market

Seven-inch Windows 8.1 tablets are available in Hong Kong for $65, with steep discounts on other cheap Win 8.1 tablets

The Dell XPS 10, which runs Windows RT. Credit: IDGNS

Want a cheap Windows 8.1 tablet? The field's already crowded and prices are in a tailspin. While you might wonder who in their right mind would tackle the Windows desktop with a 7-inch touchscreen, the race to the bottom accentuates Microsoft's problems with ARM-based Windows RT.

Chinese language site Padnews announced that a company called Emdoor -- perhaps best known for its $120 8-inch Windows 8 tablet EM-i8080 -- is now shipping a $65 (CNY 399) 7-inch Windows 8.1 device, the EM-I8170. It runs Windows 8.1 with Bing, on a 1,024-by-600 screen, with 1GB of memory and 16GB of storage (that likely leaves about 2GB usable once Windows is installed). PadNews says Emdoor sold 50,000 devices at the Hong Kong Electronics Fair, which opened yesterday. Several grains of salt are advised with that statement. HKEF is a trade fair, targeting wholesale buyers, not consumers.

The machine is said to run a respectable Intel Z3735G Bay Trail quad-core processor.

The EM-I8170 may never hit the United States (indeed, it isn't clear if there are any machines in the wild), but the knock-on effect is remarkable.

Toshiba's entry in the minuscule market, the Encore Mini WT7-C16MS, recently hit the skids. With a 7-inch screen at 1,280 by 768 pixels (per Microsoft), 1GB memory, a 16GB SSD, a MicroSD slot, and the same Z3735G processor, it hasn't taken the world by storm. The Microsoft Store started carrying it a month ago at $119. It's now listed at $99.

A week ago Micro Center reduced its price on the WinBook TW800 tablet from $139 to $99. It, too, is a Windows 8.1 with Bing tablet, Z3735D based, sporting 1GB memory, a 16GB SSD, and a MicroSD slot, but with an 8-inch 1,280-by-800 screen.

No word yet on the fate of the HP Stream 7, another 7-inch, Windows 8.1 + Bing, Z3735G, 1GB, 16GB finger folly. The screen is said to be 1,280 by 800. It's listed at $99, but the machine has yet to ship -- and when it finally ships, heaven only knows how soon it'll be discounted.

The Toshiba, WinBook, and HP stunted slates all include a one-year subscription to Office 365 Personal, which retails for $70.

With full-featured (if woefully under-aspirated) Windows 8.1 tablets going for $99, you have to wonder if Windows RT will even make an appearance this holiday season. Perhaps Santa can substitute them for lumps of coal.

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