Spending $150 to $200 on a tablet won't get you much these days: In most cases, you're looking at an off-brand Android product with a single-core processor, barely any RAM and a low-resolution, low-quality display. Depending on the device, you might not even have access to Google's app market or other basic services -- and while that approach may work with retailer-backed, limited-use products like Amazon's Kindle Fire, when it comes to more traditional Android tablets, it doesn't usually lead to the best user experience.
It's a stark contrast from what you get at the high end of the tablet spectrum, where $500 and up will buy you quad-core processors, a full gigabyte of RAM and eye-popping screens. Even midrange devices, which tend to have last year's hardware, are capable of delivering decent results. But once you hit that sub-$200 range, it's like you've entered a different dimension -- one filled with glorified e-readers and sluggish, subpar slates.
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Get ready, though: That dimensional difference is due for a change. A major shift is brewing, and it could bring about the biggest transformation we've seen to the tablet class divisions. Put simply, budget-conscious buyers are about to get a lot more bang for their buck.
The tablet class shift
The first signs of the pending tablet class shift showed up in January, at this year's Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. There, hardware maker Asus showed off a 7-inch tablet powered by Nvidia's Tegra 3 quad-core processor.
"One size doesn't fit all," Nvidia CEO Jen-Hsun Huang declared, citing the need for "different strokes for different folks."