Suppose you want to showcase visuals or a presentation, and carry your information in a memory card or a USB drive, but your budget is no more than Rs. 12,000. What sort of a device can you use?
A laptop, or even its cheaper cousin, the netbook, are priced out of your budget. Expensive tablets such as Apple’s iPad are also ruled out (it does not accept a memory card anyway). Thanks to an explosion of digital devices, you can find lots of cheap look-alikes and act-alikes on gizmo websites and the grey market — but then, many of these gizmos (often sporting Chinese names and all-Chinese manuals) offer no guarantee or warranty, though at prices as low as Rs. 3,000, this absence should not come as a surprise.
Do these things work? I did spend good money on one of these to try and gauge quality, but it stubbornly refused to boot up when I took it home. Hindi-Chini is not bhai-bhai in this, I thought.
Jokes apart, though, there are indeed a few tablet devices that still figure in the above-mentioned budget range — and are known brands, at that. Let us look at three of these.
Zen Ultrabook - Rs. 6,199
The Ultrabook doesn't feel low-cost at all: the build quality is superb, and this is the first tablet designed for the latest version of the Android OS (Ice Cream Sandwich), on which the others in this review also operate.
It looks much more sleek than the Micromax tablet, and does not sport any front-facing hardware buttons. Hardware specifications are similar to the Micromax Fun Tab — 1.2GHz processor, 512 MB RAM, 4GB on-board storage, TF card slot — but the front-facing camera is 1.3 MP, which can take decent pictures. Alas, there is no rear-facing camera.
It can also connect to 3G networks using an external dongle. And, while Zen too has gone in for some partnerships, Micromax wins hands down on this count, though the Zen scores on sound quality and sheer looks.
Micromax Funbook Rs. 6,499
One of the more established players, and the first to bring a price-sensitive tablet to the market. Finished in silver and black, this tablet feels nice in the hand, and works efficiently. There are three hardware buttons (home, return, menu) on the front panel, and volume control buttons. Input slots are HDMI, micro-USB and TF card. Powering it is a 1.2 GHz processor with 512 MB RAM on board, and 4GB of in-built storage. The camera is only front-facing with 0.3 megapixels — just for video calls.
The connectivity is through WiFi and 3G, the latter using a dongle. Micromax has a bundled Tata Photon+ data card offer with the tablet, and also has a lot of content partnerships. The performance is reasonably fast.
Zync z999 Rs. 11,990
In performance, though, it gave the impression of actually lagging the other two tablets. It has three features that sets it apart — a built-in SIM card slot (bye-bye dongle), two cameras (front- and rear-facing) , and 8 GB of on-board memory.
Zync lets you make voice-calls (if holding it like a phone is clumsy, one could use a bluetooth handsfree), and the 2MP rear-facing camera can come in handy in an emergency.